ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A massive plane sculpture is being installed Tuesday at St. Pete Pier to honor St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, the world’s first commercial airline.
The monument is a full scale replica of a plane made out of surgical grade, stainless steel, according to Mark Aeling the artist who created it. Aeling owns MGA Sculpture Studio in St. Pete.
“This is where the story will be told. They’ll see an exact replica of the original, the first airliner, the first airliner in the world right here in St. Petersburg,” said Will Michaels, a historian with Flight 2014.
On New Year’s Day in 1914, pilot Tony Jannus flew his first passenger, former St. Pete Mayor Abe Pheil across the bay to downtown Tampa.The flight took 23 minutes, and thus the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was launched. It only lasted one season ferrying a total of about a 1,000 passengers in its short time.
“It gave other people the idea of organizing aviation into a business and creating a new form of transportation,” Michaels added.
The City of St. Petersburg was behind the project, which cost $1 million in funding from private donors.
“We tried to create something that had something for everyone,” said Ed Montanari, a St. Petersburg city councilman and a pilot for American Airlines.
The monument is located at the launching point near the St. Pete Pier.
“This is a major history component, but it’s something else to see out here,” said Montanari.
Visitors can learn more about the first airline and see artifacts from its launch at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
More information is available on airlinecentennial.org.
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