Kermit Weeks' Benoist Replica Sits Out 100th Anniversary

First 'airline' flight commemorated.

Benoist Replica

Benoist Replica

** Benoist Replica**

On New Year's Day 1914, pilot Tony Jannus took off from St. Petersburg, Florida, on a scheduled passenger flight to Tampa. On the centennial of that flight, the departure city held a ceremony marking what was the first airline flight in the U.S., and it was planned that a historically accurate replica of Jannus's Benoist flying boat, under construction for the past two years at Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight aviation attraction, would recreate the flight.

The replica is powered by a reverse-engineered version of the "Roberts 6" inline engine that powered the original. But it appears the team was unable to get the engine to produce enough power to get the small biplane off the water.

Weeks said on his Facebook page, "Seems we are dealing with the same problems they did over 100 years ago." Despite valiant attempts to solve an array of last-minute issues, Weeks and his team were unable to have the replica ready in time. He was able to water-taxi the two-place flying boat biplane, but could not get it to lift off. As in a celebration in 2000, a similar aircraft made the commemorative flight in place of the Benoist, which was trucked to the celebration and placed on static display.

Will Michaels, president of the Flight 2014 Planning Board in St. Petersburg, said, "Kermit Weeks has made a monumental effort to complete his reproduction of the first airliner in time for the centennial anniversary on January 1. We look forward to…cheering his flight across the bay at some later date in 2014."

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