DULUTH, MINN. – January 1, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the world’s first airline, St. Petersburg Tampa Airboat Line. In celebration, the “Lark of Duluth,” the Benoist Type XIV Flying Boat replica of the first airliner, which was built in Duluth, Minnesota, was on exhibit inside the Duluth International Airport terminal during the month of January, 2014.
Duluthians Julius Barnes and W. D. Jones owned the original Lark of Duluth. They gave the pilot, Tony Jannus, and manufacturer, Thomas Benoist, permission to use the aircraft over the winter to develop a flying service. The airplane was modified and shipped by rail to St. Petersburg, Florida arriving on December 31, 1913. On January 1, 1914, it was launched from the St. Petersburg waterfront and flew the inaugural flight as the world’s first “airliner.” The airline flew 1,205 passengers, one at a time, between January 1 and May 5, 1914. The Lark returned to Duluth the following summer for the 1914 Lark O’ the Lake Carnival.
The Lark of Duluth replica was built over the last 5 years in preparation for the centennial and to document Duluth’s contributions to this important era in aviation history. The Duluth Aviation Institute built the replica.
The institute’s replica was damaged during a test flight on July 16, 2013. The airplane has been repaired and is ready to resume flight testing this coming summer (www.duluthaviationinstitute.org).