Fans of Fantasy of Flight and it’s creator Kermit, have been following along for quite some time now, the progress of our Benoist project.  It’s no secret that on January 1st 2014, Kermit will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of The United States’ first commercial flight in quite a special way; by flying a masterfully put together reproduction of a 1913 Benoist XIV flying boat from Tampa to St. Pete!

Tony Jannus Award Plaque

The Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society held a banquet and honored Kermit this month, with a special award for his dedication and contributions to recreate aviation history in such an outstanding way.  Kermit and the aircraft team have been building the Benoist here at Fantasy of Flight, and Kermit can’t wait to have the honor of flying it and recreating that groundbreaking historical flight.

This was only the fourth time in this Society’s 50 years of existence that a presentation as special as this one has been made.  Kermit was able to share in this honor with our distinguished aircraft team and recognized each of them for their contributions to this history making project.  Keep following our progress here or visit us at Fantasy of Flight to see us in action.

Posted by on Friday, December 6, 2013
Filed in: Benoist 2014, Roberts Engine
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A Visit to Ohio

This week, Kermit and Andy headed up to Ohio to the engine shop to check out the first Roberts engine’s running characteristics and to pack up the components for the flight engine they’ll be assembling in Florida soon. The engine is a wicked-loud beast that rivals any dragster engine you’ve ever heard. Just check out this clip of her on the test stand. The train whistle signals the rest of the plant that the engine is about to be started so as not to startle anyone doing delicate work. You can hear why when she starts up!

Here are a few shots of the engine after test and tear down. No metallic debris was found on inspection, so things look good so far! Not much time left though…

E) Torn apart!

F) Cylinders

G) Pistons

H) Hardware

I) Crank and Case

 

While we here at Fantasy of Flight toil away on the Benoist reproduction, our friends at Flight 2014, Inc. are busy planning a number of exciting events to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the World’s First Airline. Flight 2014, Inc. is made up of three founding organizations including the Florida Aviation Historical Society, the St. Petersburg Museum of History, and the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society. Here is just a small sample of what you can expect:

New Year’s Eve, 12/31/2013
The City of St. Petersburg is dedicating its annual “First Night” Celebration to the First Airline (“First Night, First Flight”). Headquarters for Flight 2014 will be the History Museum on the Waterfront. Balsa wood airboat gliders will be given to the first 500 young people. Kermit Weeks will speak at 8PM. An auction will be held for two round-trip tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines. Stamp Collectors can get a special First Airline cancellation.

New Year’s Day Re-enactment, 01/01/2014
At 10:00 AM, precisely 100 years after Tony Jannus’ historic flight, founder and CEO of Fantasy of Flight, Kermit Weeks, plans to fly his full scale reproduction of the original.

Visit www.airlinecentennial.org for a complete list of events and to learn more about the First Commercial Flight.

“The Airboat Line to Tampa will be only a forerunner of great activity along these lines in the near future…what was impossible yesterday is an accomplishment of today—while tomorrow heralds the unbelievable.”
- Percy Fansler, St. Petersburg – Tampa Airboat Line, 1914

Posted by on Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Filed in: Benoist 2014, Fantasy of Flight
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Hitting the Homestretch

As the holidays approach, the countdown to our New Year’s Day flight recreating the first commercial airline flight on 1/1/1914 is becoming almost audible. The entire Aircraft Department at Fantasy of Flight is working hard on making sure we have an accurate AND airworthy craft! The engine continues testing up in Ohio, the last coats of dope are covering the fabric on the wings and control surfaces, and soon it will be time to rig it up and test fly it!

If you would like to see details of the building process, Kermit is producing near-daily updates on his Facebook page so you can follow along.

For a quick summary of our progress to date, check out the video:

So will you be joining us for this historic flight from St. Petersburg, FL to Tampa, FL?!

Posted by on Thursday, November 7, 2013
Filed in: Benoist 2014, Roberts Engine
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Rounding the Last Turn?

Progress is happening fast now, with the whole Aircraft Department pitching in. Plus, our engine-making friends in Ohio have hit a major milestone by starting up the engine for the first time! Here’s a video of big moment… this is a sound that no one has heard for decades!
 

That massive engine tops 478 cubic inches, weighs nearly 300 pounds, and produces a whopping… 75 horsepower. Yes, apparently technology marched on and left the poor Roberts Engine behind. For a modern comparison, the 2013 Corvette Z06 has a 400-pound, 427ci engine that produces over 500hp! But hey, in 1914, this was the cutting edge.

Keep in mind this engine was built from scratch! Casting, milling… we had no existing engine, only a 4-cylinder reference model. Steve Littin and his team really produced a work of art! Have a look:

a1) Roberts

 

b1)

 

c1)

 

d1)

 

e1)

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