Fantasy of Flight founder to pay tribute to historic flight - WFLA News Channel 8

Fantasy of Flight founder to pay tribute to historic flight

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POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - Tucked away in a hanger surrounded by classic planes, work continues on a reproduction of an aircraft that helped launch an industry.

Kermit Weeks, who founded Fantasy of Flight in Polk County, is the man behind all the action.  He loves flying and wanted to pay tribute to the 1st commercial flight.

"The flight started the whole industry,” said Weeks.

Related content: Polk aviation enthusiast to re-create first commercial flight

In 1913, Tony Jannus flew a Benoist airboat from St. Petersburg to Tampa's Davis Islands, before there were bridges to link the communities.  He took one passenger on a round trip that last about 40 minutes. The cost:  $5.

Kermit Weeks enlisted his team from to rebuild the plane to the same specifications of the Jannus aircraft.  His plan was to re-create the flight to pay tribute to the 100 year anniversary.

The whole idea took off nearly three years ago, and crews are now working around the clock to meet the deadline on January 1st.

Andy Salter has been along for the ride.  He says he has been working 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day for months.  He is excited about the idea of putting something together that hasn't existed in years.

The original Benoist that made the initial flight is gone.  Kermit Weeks says there were no blueprints or designs. He made trips to the Smithsonian in Washington DC to study a similar aircraft.  His team fabricated parts and used materials that would have been on the Jannus plane.

The crew is waiting on approval from the FAA so they can take the Benoist for a test flight. Weeks says he expects to get the approval and have his reproduction up in the air this weekend.

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