Saturday, April 27, 2013

Worlds First Airline onto Frye's Aero Corp.

Before we move into the Boeing L049 Constellation and Jack Frye's important role in its development, I wanted to set a brief background of history leading up to his beginnings in the airline industry..
When thinking about passenger air travel you would assume the first passengers boarded and flew on an airplane over land to their destination. Well, believe it or not, this isnt the case. The first daring passengers actually flew aboard an Airboat! And this is the very airboat that was commissioned for the first paid passenger flight in the world.
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Thomas Benoist model XIV, 1914

In 1913, just eleven years after the Wright Brothers flew under power making worldwide history, Tony Jannus came to St. Petersberg Florida with his brother Roger, and his mechanic, to pilot Thomas Benoist's "Flying Boat" No. 43 into aviation history. On January 1, 1914, Percival Fansler's "St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line" became the world's first scheduled passenger airline service to use heavier than air aircraft, carrying passengers between the yacht basin in St. Pete and the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa. The line lasted 3 months carrying just one passenger at a time that sat next to the pilot! What is the old addage? - "One baby step at a time." St. Petersburg Mayor A. C. Phiel paid $400 for the honor of being the first passenger on the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The flight occured January 1, 1914 and took 23 minutes, 11 hours shorther than traveling by rail. In total, the line carried 1,204 passengers.
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Worlds first paid passenger flight over Tampa Bay.

Since 1911, the US Post Office had been flying various yet dangerous air mail deliveries exploring the new mode of mail delivery. May 15, 1918 was the first scheduled air mail flight from Philadelphia to Washington piloted by Lt. James Edgarton.

New in 1916, the Curtiss JN-4D Jenny was widely used for Barnstorming demonstrations and carrying mail. And as we know the Jenny was Jack Frye's and Paul Richter's plane of choice of their company Aero Corporation of California at Burdett Field training new pilots, carrying mail and barnstorming themselves in the 20's.
Black Cats aerial team flying Jenny's

Jack Frye's Curtis JN-4D Jenny ferrying mail to Catalina Island.

Next in the history line of airline advancement was the US Governments role in establishing scheduled air mail flights across the country. Starting May 15, 1918, the Army Air Service commissioned two Jenny's to fly from Washington DC and Long Island New York respectively. The idea was to establish a Washington-Philadelphia-New York route. They were to meet in Philadelphia, trade mail bundles and continue onto each respective destination. Well, it didnt go so well. One of them got lost while following railroad lines and roads with no maps and a compass that had failed, and had to land. Upon landing the Jenny was damaged. The connecting flight made it to his destination but without the mail he was supposed to receive from the damaged plane.

Continuing on, the Army Air Corps withdrew from air mail service flights and the US Post Office decided to enlist their own pilots and aircraft. After many trials and fatal incidents, 1920 began with the First Transcontinental air mail service flights with a Capt. Benjamin Lipsner helping to establish the new service. This historic first began in September 1919 which reached Omaha, Nebraska. By 1920 the new service had reached San Francisco. The outcome was a dramatic reduction in mail deivery times from 3 days by rail to around 29 hours by air! A huge milestone in airline aviation.

The next hurdle of overnight air mail service was very dangerous and difficult to overcome. Can you imagine flying without navigation tools or a way to follow the stars in weather, and at night? The pilots had to be tough, talented and daring far beyond ever imagined. Consequently more fatalities occurred. Soon bonfires and lighted beacon's were lit along routs and landing strips. Also the planes began to be equipped with flares, crude landing lights and lighted instruments. The pilots also utilized fhe following of landmarks, waterways, familiar towns and anything that was easy to recognize from the air.

To see how pilots found their way, follow this link

I would like to notice another airline that flew flying boats with passengers aboard with great frequency and success in the 1920's. This company was called Aeromarine Airways. One of our contributors to the Jack Frye blog is Mr. Daniel Kusrow who makes it possible for us to display his early airline images. These are some fantastic shots of early transcontinental flying at its best just prior to Jack Frye (age 16) coming to California to persue his dream.

Visit Daniel Kusrow and Bjorn Larsson's excellent website here

(Following images courtesy by permission, Daniel Kusrow)
A view of the Aeromarine Airport on the beach at Atlantic City, N.J., in the summer of 1920 or 1921. A Model 50 has been driven up on the beach for easy loading. The big sign says:
"Aero-Marine 20 Passenger Flying Boat
Standard Flights $12.00
New York flights $75.00
Information Tickets Here"

The Ambassador in New York harbour, passing the Lapland (18,565 grt, 620 ft. long) of the Red Star Line. In the early 1920s this liner, built in 1909, plied the Atlantic Ocean between New York and Antwerp.
(Photo from the "Aviation and Aircraft Journal" of November 28, 1921)

Photo dating to the days of Aeromarine West Indies Airways, taken from the looks of it in Florida, possibly at Key West. The aircraft is an unidentified Model 75. The man smiling on the dock is Edwin Musick, later legendary Chief Pilot of Pan American, but then an Aeromarine pilot. The tall person standing in the background in white is Aeromarine's Chief Test Pilot, Cyrus J. Zimmermann
(brother of Chief Engineer Paul G. Zimmermann).


Photo taken from a passing ferry between Key West and Havana, March 1922.

 Photo of the Aeromarine arrival in Havana Bay, where the harbour is situated.
The ramparts of the Fortaleza de la CabaƱa can be seen to the left.

A flown cover from the first U.S. mail and passenger flight of Aeromarine West Indies Airways on November 1, 1920, from Key West to Havana.

Airlines began taking over the Air Mail for the US Post Office in 1925. By 1927 the airline system was providing a reliable schedule of air mail service. It continued to lead and shape the industry by regulating the airways and guiding its growth promoting safety and technology. The Air Mail Act of 1925 allowed the Post Office to pay private airlines to deliver the mail. Payments were based on the weight of the mail carried. The Post Office later added a subsidy to help offset airline operating losses, until more efficient aircraft could be developed.

Jack Frye is now 21 years old upstarting his aviation career by beginning his own transcontinental airline company, The Aero Corporation of California. The rest is history!

Aero Corp in 1927. Jack Frye second from left.

We have come full circle from the very first powered flight and the first airline in the world up to Jack Frye's point of entering the airline business. Go to the first post on the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog to read Jacks beginning's in global aviation... Thanks for reading.


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