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Celebration of first paying passenger flight launches year of reflection on contribution of aviation to modern life

Commercial aviation turns 100 years today. The first paying passenger flight was launched exactly 100 years ago, which has changed the aviation and contributes significantly in modern day life.

On January 1, 1914, a team of four visionaries combined efforts in the first scheduled commercial airline flight. Percival Fansler organised the funding for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line which provided the first scheduled air service across Tampa Bay, Florida. Thomas Benoist’s airboat conducted the first flight, piloted by Tony Jannus. Abram Pheil, then mayor of St. Petersburg, paid $400 at auction for the 23-minute flight.

These pioneers could not have envisioned the transformational changes that would follow. The industry began with only one passenger on one route on January 1, 1914. Today, the global aviation industry provides unprecedented connectivity and positively impacts people in all corners of the world.

“Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914. The first flight provided a short-cut across Tampa Bay. Today the aviation industry re-unites loved ones, connects cultures, expands minds, opens markets, and fosters development. Aviation provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world,” said Tony Tyler, Iata’s director-general and chief executive.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) invites everyone with an interest in aviation to join a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary and take part in a conversation about what needs to happen to make the next 100 years even more momentous.

“Aviation is a force for good. And the potential of commercial flight to keep changing the world for the better is almost unlimited. Aviation has always been a team effort,” Tyler said. “Growing and sustainably spreading the benefits of connectivity will require the industry, governments, regulators and local communities keep true to the ‘all-in-it-together’ ethos that was the bedrock of that pioneering first flight. And we should be guided by the long-term interests of all whose lives are positively transformed by commercial aviation every day. A hundred years is something worth celebrating.”

Key statistics

>>On average, every day more than eight million people fly. In 2013, total passenger numbers were 3.1 billion — surpassing the three billion mark for the first time ever. That number is expected to grow to 3.3 billion in 2014 [equivalent to 44 per cent of the world’s population].

>>About 50 million tonnes of cargo is transported by air each year [about 140,000 tonnes daily]. The annual value of these goods is some $6.4 trillion, or 35 per cent, of the value of goods traded internationally.

>>Aviation supports over 57 million jobs and generates $2.2 trillion in economic activity. The industry’s direct economic contribution of around $540 billion would, if translated into the GDP ranking of countries, place the industry in 19th position.

>>Global airline industry turnover is expected to be $743 billion in 2014, with an average industry profit margin of 2.6 per cent.

Commemorative activities

>>A website will be launched on January 1, 2014, to host the centennial celebration. Along with historical and economic reference materials, the website will also be an interactive information hub depicting the value that commercial aviation provides from personal, economic and other perspectives.

>>Twitter conversations about aviation’s first century can be linked through #flying100.

>>Iata is one of the sponsors of Flight 2014 which is planning to re-enact the first commercial passenger flight using a replica of the original Benoist airboat. Pilot and aircraft constructor Kermit Weeks will take off from St Petersburg, Florida and fly across the bay to Tampa at 10:00am US Eastern Standard Time, re-tracing the exact path taken by Jannus and Pheil 100 years ago.

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Tags: iata

Photo credit: Delegates of the 68th IATA annual general meeting look at a model of new Boeing 747 aircraft in Beijing. Jason Lee / Reuters

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