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January marks 100 years of commercial aviation

By Staff Reports on January 2, 2014

January marks 100 years since the birth of commercial aviation.

The International Air Transport Association invites everyone with an interest in aviation to join a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary.

On Jan. 1, 1914, a team of four people combined efforts in the first scheduled commercial airline flight. Percival Fansler organized the funding for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, which provided the first scheduled air service across Tampa Bay, Fla.

Thomas Benoist’s airboat conducted the first flight, piloted by Tony Jannus. Abram Pheil, then mayor of St. Petersburg, paid US$400 (293 euros) at auction for the 23-minute flight.

Today, the global aviation industry provides unprecedented connectivity and affects people in all corners of the world.

“Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, said. “The first flight provided a shortcut across Tampa Bay. Today, the aviation industry reunites loved ones, connects cultures, expands minds, opens markets and fosters development. Aviation provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world.”

About 50 million tonnes of cargo is transported by air each year (about 140,000 tonnes daily). The annual value of these goods is some US$6.4 trillion (4.6 trillion euros) – or 35 percent of the value of goods traded internationally.

On average, every day more than 8 million people fly.

Aviation supports over 57 million jobs and generates US$2.2 trillion (1.6 trillion euros) in economic activity.

“Aviation is a force for good. And the potential of commercial flight to keep changing the world for the better is almost unlimited,” Tyler said. “Aviation has always been a team effort. Growing and sustainably spreading the benefits of connectivity will require the industry, governments, regulators and local communities keep true to the all-in-it-together ethos that was the bedrock of that pioneering first flight.”

As for commemorative activities, a website (www.flying100years.com) was launched on Jan. 1 to host the centennial celebration. Twitter conversations about aviation’s first century can be linked through #flying100.

IATA is one of the sponsors of Flight 2014, which re-enacted the first commercial passenger flight Jan. 1 using a Hoffman X-4 “Mullet Skiff” amphibious flying boat, similar to the original Benoist airboat that performed the first flight. The Hoffman took off from St Petersburg, Fla., and flew across the bay to Tampa, re-tracing the exact path taken by Jannus and Pheil 100 years ago.