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!

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.

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 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

Here’s a short time lapse video of our Aircraft Department removing wing panels from the Benoist reproduction. The wings still need to be prepped, covered with fabric and then doped.

Tick Tick Tick Tick

Progress is being made in leaps and bounds as the end of the year looms. Here are some more visual updates from Kermit. Do you think we’ll make it in time?!

All of the fabric for the wing panels have been sewn up and Ken is preparing to cover some of the first pieces. Once we figure out exactly how we’re going to do this (how we attach it, glue it down, tack the under-surfaces, and the number of coats of dope) he’ll turn it over to someone else to grind them out. He’s got to get back on the hull for the final planking!


Paul and Dave have been jammin’ on prep-ing and priming all the fittings.

Once the fittings are media blasted, they dip them into a prep solution for a specific amount of time, dip them into the black oxide paint, and then hang them up to dry!

Andrea’s been varnishing and prep-ing the wings for cover. Kermit dug out some pics from our research trip to the Smithsonian that will help determine how it was originally done as they had another model Benoist in the collection. Once we decide on what material we’re going to use for the “drag and anti-drag” straps, we’ll install them on the wings and begin the process of covering 23 pieces!

Progress on the Benoist is happening faster and faster! Check out these progress photos from Kermit’s Facebook Page. Here, Andrea works on making cable ends for control cables and all the numerous wires that hold it together.


This is a special wire-wrapping tool, used to form and solder the cable ends, of which there are almost a hundred!


Here are two completed cable ends about to be tested for strength. Of course, they will all be tested again once the turnbuckles and fittings are all incorporated.


Here, Paul gets ready to test the cable strength and the newly formed ends with the testing device that Dave (the welder) made!


Seems they’re got it figured out. Since the airplane with Kermit and a passenger should weigh about 1700 lbs, so this ought to be strong enough!


Here, Andy works machines another part for the prop hub drive system.


And here’s the product of his handwork!  Looks like we’ve now got some nice spacing for the prop drive chain to clear the propeller.


And here’s another piece of art that Andy, Rick, and Dave made: the fuel cap and filler neck for the fuel tank!


Here, Ricky sorts out fitting and polishing the fuel tank ends.


It took us awhile to figure out how to properly make the turnbuckle ends out of wire spokes, as per the original. Here, Dave wraps a spoke around itself in a way that it is strong enough for the job, using the most modern tools available!


It seems we’re making ends meet … and making progress!


Here, Paul primes and paints the turnbuckle ends by dipping them into a paint can.


While everyone else is working on the parts needed, Ken connects up and rigs the aileron control cables to the stick.


Ken ponders, “OK, now where can I run this cable to make it work?”


Here, Ken attaches an aileron slave strut to interconnect the two ailerons on the right side.


Here, Ken checks to see that we have enough aileron deflection. They didn’t use pulleys back then, so all the control cables are routed through bent pieces of tubing where they turn. Kermit says that he hopes we can find a way to cut down the friction in the system so he can move them if he ever has to use them!


Time marches on… January 1, 2014 will be here before you know it! are you making plans to join us for this historic occasion?


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