Plan B for special New Year's Day flight - FOX 13 News

Plan B for special New Year's Day flight

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Benoist Airboat Benoist Airboat
Hoffman X-4 Mullet Skiff Hoffman X-4 Mullet Skiff
ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Bouncing across the water in the Vinoy Basin, the tiny flying boat finally caught air and lifted into the cloudy and rainy skies over Tampa Bay.

Aviation enthusiast Eddie Hoffman Jr. piloted the craft marking the centennial anniversary of the world's first regularly scheduled commercial airline flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa. Famed aviator Tony Jannus piloted that first flight on New Year's Day 1914.

"It's a privilege," said Hoffman. "It's about the heroes of a hundred years ago, the guys that believed in St. Petersburg, and Tony Jannus."

READY FOR TAKE-OFF?

Just as some doubted Jannus a hundred years ago, there was doubt this re-enactment would take place. First, an expensive replica of Jannus' airplane wasn't ready to fly; then, blustery, rainy weather arrived this morning. Some doubted that Hoffman's re-enactment flight could take place.

"A little bumpy," said Hoffman. "The water is rough."

But, with new helicopters off his wings, he made the flight across the bay in about 20 minutes and touched down in the water off Tampa's Davis Islands, not far from where Jannus landed in 1914.

RELIEF

After the trip, Hoffman said the flight was dicey at times and he quipped, "It's good to be in Tampa!" He carried photos of his father with him.

The elder Eddie Hoffman built a replica of Jannus' flying boat Benoist, which now hangs in the St. Petersburg History Museum. Kermit Weeks, owner of the Fantasy of Flight aviation attraction, says he will continue to work on his replica of the Benoist and hopes to fly it later this year.

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