The Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society received a record number of essays from high school students in 2011.  The following composition was anonymously judged by the Society’s Essay Committee and ruled the unanimous winner of the Statewide Essay Contest.

The Past and Future of an Influential Dream

by Farhan Hiya

Gaither High School

From the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1912 to Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity and the start of World War I, the 1910s have changed the world over.  One of the most prominent of these changes began on a not-so ordinary day, the day of the first scheduled commercial flight, January 1, 1914.

The idea of commercial flight was rather remote for most people since flight had just been achieved a mere decade ago, luckily for us, Tony Jannus, Percival Elliott Fansler, and Tom Benoist were not any of those people.  Tony Jannus, having began his career in aviation when he was just 22 years old with the successful flight of the amphibious plane, Lord Baltimore II, was not a stranger to the realm of the birds.  Jannus completed hundreds of flights and aviation endeavors including air races, air shows, prototype flights for the U.S. Army, and even piloting the aircraft of Albert Berry, who completed the first parachute jump from a moving plane.  His legacy grew over time, making him the best fit for the icon for the first commercial flight.

On the morning of January 1, 1914, a new chapter of our history would be written.  At 10 a.m. Tony Jannus, along with the mayor of St. Petersburg, Abram C. Pheil, took flight from the present-day St. Petersburg Pier on Second Avenue North1.  The flight lasted for about 23 minutes with a temporary landing on the water due to engine trouble.  The airboat maintained a velocity around 75 mph and an altitude of nearly 50 feet above the water level, an extraordinary feat of the day.  The inaugural flight arrived in Tampa to an enthusiastic crowd of two to three thousand spectators; history had been forever changed.

The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line went on to be subsidized by the city of St. Petersburg on December 17, 1913, the 10th anniversary of the Wright Brother’s Flight.  Although many people were still cautious about the safety of the new means of transportation, the Airboat Line maintained a steady flow of passengers for its daily flights, with a charge of five to twenty dollars per flight.  The flights would be booked weeks in advance and the airboat line had a crude system of “frequent flyer miles” which allowed discounts and payment for flights without the use of monetary currency.  The airboat line grew and established a routine that involve Jannus to pilot the airboat twice a day for 6 days a week, for three months1.  Jannus held “Safety First” and did his best, along with Percival Elliott Fansler and Tom Benoist, to create a safe and comfortable environment for the pioneer passengers2.  This maxim has led to the present-day results such as a closed air cabin, security checks, and licensing of pilots.  A lack of any one of these traits of current aviation standards would dramatically increase the risk of flight transportation.

The most beautiful dream that has haunted the heart of man since Icarus is today reality3.  Although the industry matured slowly, it has grown steadily to eventually become a multi-billion dollar industry that is engraved into the fabric of the entire world.  Currently, it is said that the United States sector of the industry brings in over 64 billion dollars annually4, employing nearly 380,000 workers5 as of July 2011.  Commercial airlines are expected to grow even more over in coming years due to increased population6 and international business networking.  None of these milestones would ever have been achieved had Tony Jannus not pioneered commercial flights.

Florida is one of our states that is setting the pace for the future of the industry.  Florida has dozens of colleges and over 200 independent flight schools that train the average individual to be an FAA certified pilot7 including Broward University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Memorial University, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University8, the latter of which is home to students from over 126 countries9.  The “Sunshine State” is also filled with seemingly endless land and dozens of scenic tourist attractions making it an ideal location for airports to spring up.  Florida is host to over 120 airports including the Orlando International Airport which serves as the transit for 35 million people yearly, averaging 95 thousand daily.  Furthermore, aerospace manufacturing is a byproduct of the growth of the airline industry and our state is one of the upcoming states that is now the base of operations to a large portion of aerospace manufacturers10 such as the Harris Corporation and the Lockheed Corporation, which individually pull in over 50 million dollars each year.

Florida has also had a large share of inventors and innovators in aeronautics, besides Tony Jannus and his comrades, such as Inglis Uppercu.  At the end of the World War I, the United States had a surplus of airplanes that Uppercu then bought and converted to luxury aircrafts that he used to fly from Florida to Havana, Cuba11. He later expanded to the Bahamas, New York, and to the Midwest. Ingles’ company, Aeromarine Airways, was a successful business until, in 1923, one of its planes crashed as the result of an engine failure.  Other innovators of merit are Henry H. Arnold and Carl A. Spaatz, the founders of Pan American Air Airways (1927).  Based in Miami, they won the first contract from the United States government for the international transport of mail and brought the widespread use of jet aircrafts into the industry.  Yet another innovator is Arthur Burns Chalk, whom Jannus had trained Chalk in Kentucky and had inspired him to take to the skies and to start Chalk’s Flying Service in 1919 that flew from Miami to Biminis, Bahamas.  Chalk’s Flying Service, now renamed Chalk’s Ocean Airways, is held in the Guinness Book of World Records to be the oldest, continuously flying airline in the world12.

We often fail to truly understand how much our lives would have been different had commercial flight had not been innovated.  Commercial aviation has become integrated so much so that if the aviation industry should fail, every aspect of the world economy would drop tremendously.  For instance, commercial aviation calls for an increased demand for mechanical and aeronautical engineers as well as the materials used to make airplanes such as aluminum and cotton.  Aviation also enables the everyday individual to travel the world and experience its cultures thereby increasing the demand for foreign goods (for our people) and our goods (to foreigners).  This industry also allows potential workers to travel to a new city or country in search of employment.

Commercial aviation also allows the specialization of countries in terms of trade.  Economics tells us that in order for the economy to achieve its full potential, its components must function with productive and allocative efficiency, in our case, the individual countries; some countries are better suited for the production of agricultural goods while others are better for technological productions, economics urges us “to do what we can do best”.  The innovation of commercial aviation allows economic and business ties to form and strengthen between the citizens of different countries allowing the economy to reach its full potential.

Travel has also been greatly altered by the introduction of commercial aviation because it allows people to travel greater distances from home in shorter spans of time.  Florida, for example, is the ideal destination for people from all over the country and the world.  During the summer and spring months, Disney, Universal Studies, and all of the beaches of Florida are packed with tourists from Japan, India, New York, and Brazil.  All of these peoples are looking for an experience unique to Florida, but they would not be able to satiate their desire if commercial aviation had not been created.

Tony Jannus has not only affected the world, but he has also had an effect on me because I have been looking at commercial piloting as a possible career choice for me.  As a child I was never very outgoing because I was very shy and quiet.  When I was in the second grade, my mother wanted to take me with her to see her parents in Tanzania, Africa.  After some encouragement my parents convinced me that I should go.  We had left Tampa late at night so I was very tired and couldn’t see out of the airplane window.  The flight took nearly 14 hours and the sun was rising when we were over Lake Victoria, Tanzania.  I gazed out of the window and I saw the sunrise glistening on the lake and, at that moment, I decided that I wanted to see that view whenever I could get the chance.  Without commercial aviation, I would not have had the opportunity to experience the breath-taking sunrise.  I also want others to have that same experience, if not better, not so that they look into piloting, but so that they can be all that they can.



3 Louis Bleriot;