A century of commercial flight

A replica Hoffman X-4 flying boat celebrated a century of commercial flight on Wednesday 1 January 2014. It took off from St. Petersburg, FL.  (Image © Brian Blanco / AP Images for the International Air Transport Association)
A replica Hoffman X-4 flying boat celebrated a century of commercial flight on Wednesday 1 January 2014. It took off from St. Petersburg, FL. (Image © Brian Blanco / AP Images for the International Air Transport Association)

Has it been a hundred years? It has, in fact. On 1 January, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) celebrated the birth of commercial aviation, as on 1 January 1914, the first ever scheduled commercial flight took to the skies over Florida, connecting St. Petersburg and Tampa. It was an airboat that performed this very first flight, lasting 23 minutes. Among the paying passeners was the then mayor of St. Petersburg.

A century later, commercial flight took off in more ways than one. According to IATA more than 8 million people fly on an average day. In 2013 total passenger numbers were 3.1 billion—surpassing the 3 billion mark for the first time ever. That number is expected to grow to 3.3 billion in 2014. That’s the equivalent of 44 percent of the world’s population.

About 50 million tonnes of cargo is transported by air each year (about 140,000 tonnes daily). The annual value of these goods is some 6.4 trillion USD. Aviation supports over 57 million jobs and generates 2.2 trillion USD in economic activity. Global airline industry turnover is expected to be 743 billion USD in 2014, with an average industry net profit margin of 2.6 percent.

“Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914. The first flight provided a short-cut across Tampa Bay. Today the aviation industry re-unites loved ones, connects cultures, expands minds, opens markets, and fosters development. Aviation provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“Aviation is a force for good. And the potential of commercial flight to keep changing the world for the better is almost unlimited. Aviation has always been a team effort. Growing and sustainably spreading the benefits of connectivity will require the industry, governments, regulators and local communities keep true to the ‘all-in-it-together’ ethos that was the bedrock of that pioneering first flight. And we should be guided by the long-term interests of all whose lives are positively transformed by commercial aviation every day.

A hundred years is something worth celebrating. And we look forward to creating an equally remarkable legacy for commercial aviation’s second century,” said Tyler.

Source: IATA.