Duluth, Minn. (December 16, 2013) January 1, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the world’s first airline, St. Petersburg Tampa Airboat Line. The Duluth Aviation Institute is pleased to announce The Lark of Duluth, the Benoist Flying Boat replica of the first airliner, is currently on exhibit inside the Duluth International Airport terminal, in the baggage claim area, through January, 2014.
Duluthians Julius Barnes and W. D. Jones owned The Lark of Duluth, a Benoist Type XIV flying boat. They gave the pilot, Tony Jannus, and manufacturer, Thomas Benoist, permission to use The Lark over the winter to develop a flying service. The airplane was modified and shipped by rail to St. Petersburg, Florida arriving on December 31, 1913. On January 1, 1914, it was launched from the St. Petersburg’s waterfront and flew the inaugural flight as the world’s first “airliner”. The airline flew 1,205 passengers, one at a time, between January 1 and May 5, 1914. The Lark returned to Duluth the following summer for the 1914 Lark O’ the Lake Carnival.
The Lark of Duluth replica was built over the last 5 years in preparation for the centennial and to document Duluth’s contributions to this important era in aviation history. Duluth Aviation Institute's President, Sandra Ettestad, stated, “We are proud to present this beautiful replica to our community in honor of the visionaries who developed commercial aviation 100 years ago.”
The Institute's replica was damaged during a test flight on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. The airplane has been repaired and is ready to resume flight testing this coming summer.
The Institute would like to acknowledge all the support they received from the community during the building process. The replica was built for the Institute by its Trustees and experimental aircraft builders from EAA’s Duluth-Superior Chapter 272 and Cloquet Chapter 1221. Mark Marino, an award winning builder, led the effort along with Tom Betts, Mike Shannon, Mike Gardonio, Jim Nelson, John Vanderhorn, and Sandra Ettestad. Cirrus Aircraft, HydroSolutions, Poly-Fiber Aircraft Coatings, Aluminum Cabinet Company, SCS Interiors, and Hangar 10 Aero contributed significantly to the replica project.
Celebrating our city’s aviation centennial, the Institute is enhancing area schools science curriculum with Duluth’s legacy of inventors and entrepreneurs. Our AeroSTEM (aviation, science, technology, engineering and math) program has been presented to 1,500 sixth grade students in Duluth schools and has expanded this year to Hermantown and Proctor for a total of 900 students per year.
If you share our passion for aviation and STEM education, please send a donation to: Duluth Aviation Institute, Hangar 10, Sky Harbor Airport, 5000 Minnesota Avenue, Duluth, MN 55802 or donate to the Spirit of the Lark Fund through our website at www.duluthaviationinstitute.org.
About The Duluth Aviation Institute
The Duluth Aviation Institute’s vision is a community inspired and enriched by the art and science of aviation. Its mission is to preserve Duluth’s rich aviation history and educate with this history and knowledge of aviation and aerospace. The Path to Aviation AeroSTEM program is presented to sixth grade students in Duluth, Proctor and Hermantown schools.