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Arts / Culture

Airboat Flies from St. Pete to Tampa to Mark 100th Anniversary of Flight

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Fantasy of Flight

An airboat replica landed safely Wednesday in Tampa Bay, marking the 100th anniversary of the world's first commercial flight.

Eddie Hoffman Jr. flew the aircraft from the waters off the St. Petersburg Museum of History to the waters near Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa. The flight marked the centennial of the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.

Hoffman's father built the replica, a Hoffman X-4 Mullet Skiff airboat.

On Jan. 1, 1914, pilot Tony Jannus carried former St. Petersburg Mayor Abe Pheil and a bag of mail across Tampa Bay. A replica of the original Benoist airliner that Jannus flew had been scheduled to make Wednesday's flight, but that aircraft failed to get airborne during testing.

Creator Kermit Weeks tells The Tampa Tribune (http://bit.ly/1l1v0di ) that he hopes more modifications will allow him to fly his airboat across the bay later this year.

Weeks powered up the Benoist replica Wednesday for the takeoff event in St. Petersburg.

Thomas Benoist supplied the airplane for the 1914 flight. About 20 of his descendants came to Florida to join the commemorative events.

"This is an event you just couldn't miss if you're part of the family," Debra Benoist Jarvis told the Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/1bAAkfQ ). "It's special. He did a lot for aviation, and it's unbelievable