The First Commercial Flight
“The first commercial flight in the United States occurred in Florida on Jan. 1, 1914, when Tony Jannus flew A. C. Pheil the 21 miles across the bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa in a two-seat Benoist at an altitude of 15 feet” (McDowell, 1995). It was no doubt an amazing breakthrough in the way that travel would be conducted from that very moment on. From 1783 when Jean Pilâtre de Rozier ascended about 500ft in a balloon and traveled approximately 5 ½ miles in 20 minutes (infoplease.com) to the dawn of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Air Line in 1914 was not an easy journey; this is the story of the men that made it possible.
In the time between that daring ascent made by Jean Pilâtre de Rozier and the first flight of the Wright Brothers in the infamous Kitty Hawk in 1903 (infoplease.com), all air travel and exploration was done with a balloon of some sort. The expedition of Jean Pilâtre de Rozier is described by BelleStar (1995) as;
The first recorded manned flight in a hot air balloon takes place in Paris. Built from paper and silk by the Montgolfier brothers, this balloon was piloted on a 22 minute flight by Jean Franois Piltre de Rozier and the Marquis Franois-Laurent d'Arlandes. From the center of Paris they ascended 500 feet above the roof tops before eventually landing about 6 miles away in the vineyards. Local farmers were very suspicious of this fiery dragon descending from the sky. The pilots offered champagne to placate them and to celebrate the flight, a tradition carried on by balloonists to this day.
The material makeup of the first balloon ride is similar in every way to the materials utilized to construct the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk airplane in 1903; wood and cloth (National Air & Space Museum, n.d.). These materials were not being used totally because of its light weight and durability for the design, but also due to the lack of propulsion during the time period. Without the combustion engines that more modern technology produced, there simply was not enough power generated to lift something made of the heavier metal that today’s designs possess.
The lack of the need of the time is what may have caused an overall lack of progression from 1783 to 1903. The simple fact of the time was that the people were more or less happy with the current methods of travel and had no desire or concept to travel great distances in a short amount of time. The average person throughout this time frame had very little to do with outside of their local area and left exploration to the explorers and merchants to trade. Everything that was desired and required in life was brought to the people and families usually remained within the same area. It wasn’t until the expansion of civilization in America and the Industrial Revolution that the idea for using air travel became something on paper.
After the development of the first air plane by Wilbur and Orville Wright, the plans started to be laid out as to how to...