DULUTH, Minn. — Jan. 1, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the world’s first airline, St. Petersburg Tampa Airboat Line. To commemorate the anniversary, The Lark of Duluth, a replica of the first airliner, is now on exhibit inside the Duluth International Airport terminal, in the baggage claim area, through January 2014, according to officials with the Duluth Aviation Institute.
Duluthians Julius Barnes and W. D. Jones owned The Lark of Duluth, a Benoist Type XIV flying boat. They gave the pilot, Tony Jannus, and manufacturer, Thomas Benoist, permission to use The Lark over the winter to develop a flying service. The airplane was modified and shipped by rail to St. Petersburg, Florida, arriving on Dec. 31, 1913.
On January 1, 1914, it was launched from the St. Petersburg’s waterfront and flew the inaugural flight as the world’s first “airliner.” The airline flew 1,205 passengers, one at a time, between Jan. 1 and May 5, 1914. The Lark returned to Duluth the following summer for the 1914 Lark O’ the Lake Carnival.
“We are proud to present this beautiful replica to our community in honor of the visionaries who developed commercial aviation 100 years ago,” said Duluth Aviation Institute’s President Sandra Ettestad.
The Institute’s replica was damaged during a test flight on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. The airplane has been repaired and is ready to resume flight testing this coming summer, institute officials noted.
The replica was built for the Institute by its trustees and experimental aircraft builders from EAA’s Duluth-Superior Chapter 272 and Cloquet Chapter 1221. Mark Marino, an award-winning builder, led the effort along with Tom Betts, Mike Shannon, Mike Gardonio, Jim Nelson, John Vanderhorn, and Sandra Ettestad. Cirrus Aircraft, HydroSolutions, Poly-Fiber Aircraft Coatings, Aluminum Cabinet Company, SCS Interiors, and Hangar 10 Aero contributed significantly to the replica project, according to institute officials.
Another effort by the institute to celebrate the city’s aviation centennial is the enhancing of area schools science curriculum with Duluth’s legacy of inventors and entrepreneurs. The AeroSTEM (aviation, science, technology, engineering and math) program has been presented to 1,500 sixth grade students in Duluth schools and has expanded this year to Hermantown and Proctor for a total of 900 students per year.
For more information: DuluthAviationInstitute.org