Jannus & Pheil  
  Jannus & Abram C. Pheil prior to takeoff
during operations at St. Augustine, FL

A Florida businessman named P. E. Fansler wrote Benoist regarding the feasibility of an airline between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. Benoist liked the idea and in his reply stated that the new Benoist "Safety First" airboat would be the craft to use. On December 12, 1913, just ten years since the Wrights flew at Kitty Hawk, Tom Benoist arrived in St. Petersburg and signed the airline contract. He spoke these words, "We are going to do something here this winter which never has been done before and which will attract attention from all the world---". Roger Jannus, Tony's younger brother, had graduated as an excellent pilot and mechanic at Kinloch Field and became part of the airline crew.
     On December 31, 1913, a Benoist "Safety First" airboat was set up and test hopped by Tony Jannus with a James Foley as passenger. Then on January 1, 1914, the first trip of a regular scheduled airline was made. First flight tickets were auctioned off, and the proceeds given to the Benoist Co. Ex-mayor of St. Petersburg, A. C. Pheil, became the world's first scheduled airline passenger when he bid $400 for the first flight. Mr. Noel E. Mitchell was second, with a $175 bid. Pheil got the seat, Tony called to Jay Dee Smith (Smitty) to "crank her up", and they were off to the wonderment of thousands who crowded the waters edge for the event. Tampa is 21 miles across the Bay, and on the first flight, a brisk wind was faced, with the flight taking 23 minutes. The return flight was made in 20 minutes.
     The line which was subsidized by Florida business men, made two flights daily, six days a week. The regular fare was $5 per person and $5 per one hundred pounds of freight or express carried. Shortly after the opening of the line, a new Benoist airboat was added which had an improved front on the hull that protected its occupants from water spray during take offs and landings. The line then extended and flights made to Manatee, Bradenton and Sarasota. It operated successfully for four months and even made a night flight between St. Petersburg and Tampa carrying a Miss Marian Ames as passenger. George Ade, the famous humorist was among many notables who used the line. A total of 1205 passengers were carried without injury and while the line did not make any money, the airline idea of Benoist was proven sound.

On December 4, 1953, St. Petersburg, Florida honored the fiftiteth anniversary of powered flight, and the organization of the first scheduled airline together. Many notables, Early Birds, and friends of Benoist attended. At the luncheon in the Soreno Hotel, Col. Eddie Rickenbacker and Representative Carl Hinshaw praised the work of the Benoist Company. Hinshaw stated that in his opinion, the 1914 Airline was the first practical use of the airplane and second in importance to the first flights of the Wrights. Col. Rickenbacker presented a flag to the City of St. Petersburg which was raised over a monument marking the take off site.
From a very yellowed copy of AERO, about 1954+

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