F ansler wrote of his idea of running a scheduled service between two points to Thomas W. Benoist, aviator and aircraft manufacturer, and the two corresponded through the summer of 1913, ultimately settling on Tampa Bay as the ideal spot for operations.

After approaching the city of Tampa and finding no one there interested in investing in an airline franchise, he ventured across the bay and approached St. Petersburg in December 1913, a city of only about 9,000 at the time. “They thought I had a mighty clever idea,” Fansler later wrote, “but they didn’t believe there was any such thing as a flying boat.”

H owever, he managed to convince them, and the city fathers backed the airline with a promise to build a hangar and a pledge of $1,200, and the Board of Trade came in with a like amount. On December 17, 1913, Tom Benoist; P.E. Fansler; and L.A. Whitney, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce; signed a contract, and the world’s first airline company was born – ten years to the day from the Wright Brothers’ historic first flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The day after the contract signing, the St. Petersburg Times reported that “a fleet of hydro-aeroplanes” would make regular trips between St. Petersburg and Tampa, and predicted that the service would “prove to be of great benefit to the city.” And the Jacksonville Metropolis editorialized that “St. Petersburg is now a city of pelicans, porpoises and planes.”


"Travel between Tampa and St. Petersburg took close to two hours by steamboat and more than 12 hours by train. With Benoist’s Flying Boat travel took only 23 minutes."

Have an immersive experience at the brewery. Our Tasting Room is adorned with St. Petersburg's rich aviation history from the 1900s on! Learn about the World's Commercial Flight and other stories unique to the Sunshine City!

We want to thank the St. Petersburg Museum of History for being an amazing partner and resource. The insight, education and firsthand look that you provide for our little slice of St. Pete history is incredible, and we are forever grateful to you! Cheers to you, SPMOH!