The Art of Flight


Considered to be one of the most brilliant mathematicians of all time, Archimedes (287- 212 B.C.) is responsible for many of the math formulas used today. This Greek mathematician devoted his time to research and experiment. He loved math and formulating theorems. His abilities in geometry were phenomenal, especially at computing area and volume. Archimedes was devoted solely to mathematics and thus harbored an extensive fascination for it. Thousands of years before flight became a reality, Archimedes developed laws governing the flotation of objects through liquids and gases.


Tony Jannus

Born in 1889, in Washington D.C., Tony Jannus was an important contributor to the birth of the commercial aviation industry. Jannus' interest in aviation was sparked when he was sent to install a marine engine in a modified Curtiss-type airplane in 1910.

He was hired by Benoist (pronounced benwah) to be a flying instructor in 1911 and demonstrated Benoist planes through numerous exhibitions. The following year, in 1912, he set a record for carrying three men on a ten-minute flight. This instituted an American passenger-carrying record. He also set a distance record for aircraft, traveling 1,973 miles from Omaha to New Orleans. Another record was set in 1913 when Tony transported a passenger 251 miles in four hours and 15 minutes.  Unfortunately, Tony Jannus did not live a long life.

This mural depicts Tony boarding a Curtiss H-47, which he was testing for the Russians, on October 12, 1916. The plane had engine trouble and crashed into the Black Sea.  Jannus was only 27 years old. His body was never found.


Otto Lilienthal

The "German glider pioneer", Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) was a brilliant engineer and designer. He investigated the mechanics and aerodynamics of Bird Flight.  He gathered and tabulated data from his multiple experiments on different wing shapes. This research provided the best aerodynamic data of his time. Many future inventors (including the Wright Brothers) used his data to help with their own designs.

Otto made over 2,500 successful glider flights between 1891 and 1896. He flew and designed as many as 18 different models. His greatest achievement was gliding more than 985 feet, staying airborne for 12 to 15 seconds.


History’s First Scheduled Airline Flight Arrives in Tampa

On December 4, 1913, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line was founded by Percival E. Fansler.  This was the first airline to operate a scheduled service: a 23 minute flight across Tampa Bay. The first flight took place on New Years Day, 1914.  The aircraft used was a single-engine, 75 horse power, Benoist  (pronounced ben-wah)

Flying Boat, piloted by Tony Jannus. This event put the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg in the history books as the first two cities in the world to have regular scheduled airline service.

The new St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line operated six days a week, offering two round trip flights daily. The fare for scheduled flights was $5.00 each way, $10.00-$20.00 for nonscheduled flights. The Airboat Line operated for four months. In this short period, a total of 1205 passengers were carried, proving to the world that air travel could be a desirable business.

Each year, the Tampa and St. Petersburg Chambers of Commerce present an award in Tony Jannus' name to an individual who has contributed to the growth and improvement of commercial aviation.


The Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers, Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912) were two of America's most celebrated inventors. With Orville as the skilled engineer and Wilbur as the creative mind, the pair set forth to create a powerful and functional machine that still flies today. Wilbur first became interested in the idea of mechanical flight after reading about Otto Lilienthal's successful gliding experiments in Germany.

Orville and Wilbur announced that on December 17, 1903, they would fly the world's first airplane: The Wright Flyer. Everyone was skeptical. Only five people were present on the beaches of Kitty Hawk, NC to see the brothers make history with the first successful powered flight, staying airborne for fifty-nine seconds and traveling a distance of 852 feet.

Three years after this first flight, the brothers were awarded a patent for their flying machine and in 1908 they signed a deal with Theodore Roosevelt to build and fly one of their machines for the US Army Signal Corps.  On August 8, 1908, Wilbur made his demonstration flight around a racetrack in France with a perfect landing. This short flight of two minutes left the small crowd of spectators in awe and won the Wright Brothers worldwide recognition.


Icarus & Daedalus

As the Greek mythological tale goes, Daedalus and his son, Icarus, were called from Athens to the island of Crete, by King Minos to build a palace to hide the king's treasures. They succeeded, building a maze of corridors and rooms, called the Labyrinth.

After completing the task, Daedalus and Icarus were held captive, within the walls of their own invention, the Labyrinth. He used his skills, as an inventor and craftsman, to build giant wings for them. The two planned an escape from the tower by flying into the sky, away from King Minos. Daedalus, using wooden lattice, created the framework for the wings, then covered them in feathers. After testing his invention, Daedalus warned his son, Icarus, not to fly too high because the heat from the sun would melt the wax, which held the feathers on the wings and cause him to crash into the sea.   Icarus did not listen. Excited by flying, he ignored his father’s warning and flew too close to the sun.  The myth of Daedalus and Icarus is sometimes used to teach the virtue of moderation, of not going to extremes.


Montgolfier Brothers

Jacques Etienne Montgolfier (1745-1799) and Joseph Michel Montgolfier (1740-1810) were among the many experimenters and inventors of aircraft. The brothers were natives of France and produced much of their work there. These imaginative brothers are responsible for the creation of the hot air balloon.

In September 1783, the Montgolfier bothers launched a balloon carrying a sheep, a duck and a rooster, introducing the world to the first accompanied flight. This incredible achievement is captured here in this mural.

A few months later, on November 21, 1783, Pilatre de Rozier, a science teacher and Marquis d'Arlandes, an infantry officer became the first human travelers in one of the Montgolfier Brother's hot-air balloons. They flew for 9km over the city of Paris.    

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