Tony Jannus

//Tony Jannus

Tony Jannus

Inducted in 2006

World’s first airline pilot

1889 – 1916

Anthony Habersack Jannus was born in 1889 in Washington, DC. Tony Jannus was just twenty-one years old when he taught himself to fly and soloed in a Rexford Smith biplane at College Park, Maryland. Quickly becoming a skilled aviator, Jannus moved to St. Louis in 1911 to serve as the chief pilot for the Benoist Aircraft Company.

On March 1, 1912, Jannus and his passenger, Albert Berry, did something that had never been done. Although Berry was a parachutist, experienced in jumping from balloons, no one had ever jumped from a moving airplane. With Jannus at the controls, Berry dropped from the airplane at an altitude of fifteen hundred feet. His history-making jump was perfect. Later that year Jannus received worldwide newspaper coverage for his record-setting, 1,973-mile flight from Omaha, Nebraska, to New Orleans, Louisiana. In the process, the flight provided thousands of people with their first exposure to aviation.

On January 1, 1914, with the inauguration of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, Tony Jannus entered history books as the world’s first airline pilot. Three thousand people crowded St. Petersburg’s waterfront in anticipation of the big event. With a high bid of $400, former St. Petersburg mayor Abe Pheil won the honor of being the first passenger to travel from St. Petersburg to Tampa by air. Tony Jannus and the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line showed the world that passengers could be carried on a scheduled basis and that a demand for such service existed. Jannus had proven the dependability, practicality, and safety of scheduled air service.

On October 12, 1916, the veteran test pilot lost his life when the Curtiss H-7 flying boat that he was flying crashed into Russia’s Black Sea. In a career that spanned less than a decade, Tony Jannus had accomplished more than many aviators do in an entire lifetime. His achievements left a lasting mark on the world of commercial aviation.