New Year’s Day marks 100 years of commercial aviation

Wednesday, 1 January 2014 07:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

On 1 January 1914, a team of four visionaries combined efforts in the first scheduled commercial airline flight, marking the launch of an industry that now flies eight million people every day. On 1 January, 2014 the world marks exactly 100 years since the birth of commercial aviation. What started as a pioneering beginning has turned into a global force: Percival Fansler organised the funding for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line which provided the first scheduled air service across Tampa Bay, Florida. Thomas Benoist’s airboat conducted the first flight, piloted by Tony Jannus. Abram Pheil, then mayor of St. Petersburg, paid $ 400 at auction for the 23-minute flight. These pioneers could not have envisioned the transformational changes that would follow. The industry began with only one passenger on one route on 1 January, 1914. Today the global aviation industry provides unprecedented connectivity and positively impacts—directly and indirectly—people in all corners of the world.   Some key statistics In 2013 total passenger numbers were 3.1 billion, surpassing the 3 billion mark for the first time ever. That number is expected to grow to 3.3 billion in 2014 (equivalent to 44% of the world’s population). About 50 million tons of cargo is transported by air each year (about 140,000 tons daily). The annual value of these goods is some $ 6.4 trillion, or 35% of the value of goods traded internationally. Aviation supports over 57 million jobs and generates $ 2.2 trillion in economic activity. The industry’s direct economic contribution of around $ 540 billion would, if translated into the GDP ranking of countries, place the industry in 19th position. Global airline industry turnover is expected to be $ 743 billion in 2014, with an average industry net profit margin of 2.6%. The International Air Transport Association (Iata) is planning a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary and is inviting everyone to take part in a conversation about what needs to happen to make the next 100 years even more momentous. “Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914. The first flight provided a short-cut across Tampa Bay. Today the aviation industry re-unites 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,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Aviation is a force for good. And the potential of commercial flight to keep changing the world for the better is almost unlimited. 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. “And we should be guided by the long-term interests of all whose lives are positively transformed by commercial aviation every day. A hundred years is something worth celebrating. And we look forward to creating an equally remarkable legacy for commercial aviation’s second century,” added Tyler.   Commemorative Activities A website ( will be launched on 1 January, 2014 to host the centennial celebration. Along with historical and economic reference materials, the website will also be an interactive information hub depicting the value that commercial aviation provides from personal, economic and other perspectives. Twitter conversations about aviation’s first century can be linked through #flying100. IATA is one of the sponsors of Flight 2014 which is planning to re-enact the first commercial passenger flight using a Hoffman X-4 “Mullet Skiff” amphibious flying boat, similar in many respects to the original Benoist airboat which performed the first flight. The Hoffman will take off from St. Petersburg, Florida and fly across the bay to Tampa at 10 a.m. US Eastern Standard Time, re-tracing the exact path taken by Jannus and Pheil 100 years ago.