Florida Aviation Historical Society

Image Gallery

Tony Jannus

Project 2014, the 100th Anniversary of the World's First Scheduled Commercial Airline, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, was hi-lighted in 2014. Pilot of that airboat line was Tony Jannus and his brother Roger. 

After leaving St. Petersburg, Florida, Tony went to work for the Curtiss Aeroplane Co. and became the test pilot for Curtiss seaplanes that were sold to the Russian Government in Sevastopol, Russia during WW 1. During a test flight, in 1916, Tony's plane crashed into the Black Sea and his body was never recovered.

The picture shows two Curtiss F-boats and the Grigorovich M-4 at Sevatopol, Crimea. Note the roundels on the wings used by Russia in WW 1. 

Tony Jannus and Tom Benoist

Pictured here on the left is Tom Benoist with Tony Jannus, right.

In St. Louis, Missouri, Thomas Wesley Benoist (1874-1917) energetic manufacturer of sparking batteries and self-starters for autos, had gone into the airplane manufacturing business. His two pilots were Antony Habersack Jannus (1889-1916) and Roger Weightman Jannus (1886-1918). His engineer was James D. Smith (1889-1963), commonly referred to as "Jay Dee."

The company's young test pilots, Tony and Roger Jannus were sons of Franklin Jannus, New York and Washington, D.C. patent attorney. Their maternal grandfather was General Roger Weightman, former mayor of Washington, D.C. from 1824-1827. 

Tony Jannus was born in Washington, D.C. and learned to fly at College Park just across the District line in Maryland. Roger was a graduate of Lehigh University and learned to fly at the Benoist flying school in St, Louis, in early 1913.

The Flight

Jannus' first airline flight lasted a total of twenty-three minutes and successfully carried the world's first airline passenger, St. Petersburg Mayor Abe Phiel.

The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line demonstrated that commercial airlines could be successful, greatly reduce travel time and create a potential market for air travel and transport.

Jannus was designated "A Great Floridian' by the State of Florida in 2010 and the American Institute of Aeronautics (AIAA) designated the Central Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg, Florida as a Historic Aerospace Site - site of the world's first commercial airline flight.

First Airline Monument Plans

Flight 2014 has met with the Mayor of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg City Council regarding the proposed new First Airline Monument. Ideally the monument will include a full-size replica of the original Benoist Airboat. The Benoist Monument will be located on a plaza surrounded by panels telling the story of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. Flight 2014's goal is to raise approximately $700,000 for the sculpture, surrounding plaza, educational panels and monument maintenance. 2014's goal is to have the new First Airline Monument in place by the end of 2019 to coincide with the opening of St. Petersburg's New Pier and Pier Approach District.

© Florida Aviation Historical Society Inc. 2023

 Florida Aviation Historical SocietyAlbert Whitted Airport, 451 8th Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software