Today, travellers like to take the ability to fly anywhere in the world for granted. However, 100 years ago, flying in the sky for commercial purposes was a new concept. In fact, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the very first commercial flight. The very first flight that was ever flown for commercial purposes was flown from a yacht basin in Florida.
The flight took place on January 1, 1914. It was handled by a small, wooden Benoist XIV flying boat. The plane got its power from a 75-horsepower engine. This little six-cylinder took off from St. Petersburg, Fla., and travelled to Hillsboro River, just outside Tampa. Not many people had the opportunity to fly on the first flight. In fact, it was just a pilot and one passenger. Not only that, but this was truly a “no-frills” flight. The passenger sat on a wooden bench on the outside of the plane, completely exposed to the elements.
The plane travelled at 60 mph. The journey would have normally taken the passenger about two hours by steam ship to reach Tampa Bay. However, thanks to the plane, the passenger was able to make the trip in just 23 minutes. This opened people’s eyes and made them really take notice that planes were the way of the future. This journey would soon change the travel industry forever.
So who was the passenger on this flight? It was the former mayor of St. Petersburg. The former mayor paid $400 to fly on the plane. This may not sound like much, but this would be about the same as paying $9,323 at the current dollar rate. This little flight was repeated many more times over the next four months. This really made the pilot of the plane a rich man.
This one route was run by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. This was believed to be the first commercial airline ever. During its life, historians say that the airline carried at least 1,200 passengers. The airline started charging just $5 for the trip. This was the same as charging about $116.53 today.
Believe it or not, the first commercial flight was achieved over a decade after Orville and Wilbur Wright took to the air during their famous flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C. To commemorate this event, St Petersburg was going to re-enact this first flight with a reproduction of the plane. However, they pulled out of this at the last minute for fear that the plane was unsafe.
St Petersburg still ran a plane on this route. It was handled by a 34-year-old monoplane that was outfitted with a modern engine. The flight was flown by 62-year-old architect Eddie Hoffman. It was his farther who built the seaplane that handled the first flight ever.
During the last 100 years, flying has been made safer and better. The industry will just continue to improve over the next 100 years as well. The first flight only held two people; now flights can handle over 800 passengers at a time. Planes can also travel at speeds of over 600 mph and can go 8,500 nautical miles without needing fuel.