December 11, 2014 – Fantasy of Flight (FOF) Owner and CEO Kermit weeks hosted members of the media for the first public running of the custom-built reproduction of a Roberts engine. The machine will power the reproduction of the Benoist flying boat that is being meticulously built at Fantasy of Flight.
According to Mr. Weeks, the aeroplane is to first take wing “on December 25.” Kermit and his employees, and the Florida Aviation Historical Society (FAHS) and other organizations, are hoping the event will be an unforgettable Christmas present. “I have to fly the Benoist for 5 hours to be legal and to carry a passenger,” said Kermit Weeks.
Time is of the essence for Kermit and the Benoist are to reenact the first commercial airline flight at 10:00 AM on January 1, 2014. Mr. Weeks aims to recreate the first commercial airline flight by flying from the North Yacht Basin in downtown St. Petersburg to the Seaplane Basin at Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa. The route will mirror that of the original January 1, 1914, service.
Kermit and staff also pointed out the wings, which Mr. Weeks himself labored to complete, and FOF-crafted turnbuckles utilized to connect and tighten the rigging wires. The Roberts fired promptly and ran smoothly. “The Benoist fuselage should receive a coat of ‘sea green’ paint this Friday,” commented Weeks. “Everyone is working diligently and feverishly to be ready on time,” added Kermit.
All is part of the Centennial Celebration of the World’s First Airline (the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line) that operated scheduled flights across Tampa Bay in 1914. The Mayors of St. Petersburg and Tampa plan to be on hand for the take-off and landing. The public is invited to view the event. The program is to begin sat 9:00 AM. Parking will be at the Pelican Parking lot on the approach to the Pier.
Flight 2014 Planning is a coperative effort of FAHS, FOF, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, and the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society, the Cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa, the respective Chambers of Commerce, and other sponsors.
Sources and Suggested Readings
Fantasy of Flight
Flight 2014 – Airline Centennial
Flight 2014 – FAHS
Florida Aviation Historical Society (FAHS)
Roberts engine – Benoist 2014