Jay Dee Smith
Jay Dee Smith

This is from George Lawrence's time in Tampa, Exact dates not sure, but probably 1915-18. In this picture he has a mustache. One of the people I talked to said everyone hated it and kidded him about it.
Photo & Text Courtesy of Tom Yanul

Jay Dee Smith
Jay Smith in his Benoist Flying Boat
from the 1916 Aerial Age Weekley mag.
Photo & Text Courtesy of Tom Yanul


A Florida businessman named P. E. Fansler wrote Benoist regarding the feasibility of an airline between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. Benoist liked the idea and in his reply stated that the new Benoist "Safety First" airboat would be the craft to use. On December 12, 1913, just ten years since the Wrights flew at Kitty Hawk, Tom Benoist arrived in St. Petersburg and signed the airline contract. He spoke these words, "We are going to do something here this winter which never has been done before and which will attract attention from all the world---". Roger Jannus, Tony's younger brother, had graduated as an excellent pilot and mechanic at Kinloch Field and became part of the airline crew.
     On December 31, 1913, a Benoist "Safety First" airboat was set up and test hopped by Tony Jannus with a James Foley as passenger. Then on January 1, 1914, the first trip of a regular scheduled airline was made. First flight tickets were auctioned off, and the proceeds given to the Benoist Co. Ex-mayor of St. Petersburg, A. C. Pheill, became the world's first scheduled airline passenger when he bid $400 for the first flight. Mr. Noel E. Mitchell was second, with a $175 bid. Pheill got the seat, Tony called to Jay Dee Smith (Smitty) to "crank her up", and they were off to the wonderment of thousands who crowded the waters edge for the event. Tampa is 21 miles across the Bay, and on the first flight, a brisk wind was faced, with the flight taking 23 minutes. The return flight was made in 20 minutes.
     The line which was subsidized by Florida business men, made two flights daily, six days a week. The regular fare was $5 per person and $5 per one hundred pounds of freight or express carried. Shortly after the opening of the line, a new Benoist airboat was added which had an improved front on the hull that protected its occupants from water spray during take offs and landings. The line then extended and flights made to Manatee, Bradenton and Sarasota. It operated successfully for four months and even made a night flight between St. Petersburg and Tampa carrying a Miss Marian Ames as passenger. George Ade, the famous humorist was among many notables who used the line. A total of 1205 passengers were carried without injury and while the line did not make any money, the airline idea of Benoist was proven sound.


You will find a delightful anecdote by Jay
on the AEROFILES website.
It is one of a collection of remembrances
which come from the July 1953 Aero Digest
You can visit his story, and several other EB's
by clicking on:
Jay Dee Smith
and using the "Find" function on "Jay"
Plan to spend some time on this wonderful site.

Jay Dee Smith
Jay Dee Smith, Tampa, FL. 1914?
Photo Courtesy of Tom Yanul

Jay Dee Smith died in 1963
From The Early Birds of Aviation
Roster of Members
January 1, 1993

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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