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Duluth Aviation Institute
preserving yesterday, inspiring today, exploring tomorrow

Lark O' the Lake Festival
July 12-14, 2013 Sky Harbor Airport Come for Fun!

The World's First Airliner


"That winter I let these two instructors take the ship and fly to develop an air ferry." Julius Barnes, 1954

Those two instructors were Tony and Roger Jannus. They brought the Lark back to St. Louis to lengthen the wings. After the modifications were completed, they brought her to St. Petersburg, Florida to develop the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.  The Lark arrived on December 31, 1913 by rail and on January 1, 1914, flew the inaugural flight of the first commercial air ship line.

"We are going to do something here this winter which never has been done before and which will attract attention for all the world." Tom Benoist, 1913

On January 1, 1914, The Lark of Duluth flew 
the inaugural flight of the first commercial air ship line.

"When the airboat arrived yesterday morning, a crowd of 2,000 was waiting near the temporary landing, another 1,000 saw what they could from the Lafayette Street Bridge, and 500 more were across the river. When the dock was reached, an enthusiastic cheer went up, and there was a clapping and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs. A moment later, there was a rush down the three narrow planks connecting the platform with the shore; men, women and children fighting to get down to the boat and its two occupants." Tampa Tribune, January 2, 1914

In addition to the scheduled flights, about 100 charter and sightseeing flights were reported in the two airboats. An estimated $12,000 in fares was taken in, but the freight cost of getting the planes to Florida, employees wages, gas and oil allowed only a small profit. The last official airline flight was made on May 5, 1914.

The Lark of Duluth returned to Duluth the following summer for another Lark O the Lake Carnival. Roger Jannus toured throughout the surrounding territory conducting general exhibition and passenger service. 

Julius Barnes, The Lark of Duluth, the Jannus pilots and the Benoist Aircraft Company inspire a new economy of air travel. Although St. Petersburg, Florida takes credit for her flight and proudly displays her replica in their museum, Duluthians now know it truly began in the hearts of men and on the shores of Lake Superior.







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