Commercial aviation celebrates 100th anniversary

Yesterday marked the centennial of commercial aviation, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has invited everyone interested in aviation to join a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary.

The celebrations will include debates and discussions on what needs to happen to make the next 100 years even more momentous.

On January 1, 1914, a team of four visionaries – Percival Fansler, Thomas Benoist, Tony Jannus and Abram Pheil – came together to organise the first scheduled commercial airline flight, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat across Tampa Bay, Florida.

Beginning with only one passenger on one route on January 1, 1914, today the global aviation industry provides unprecedented connectivity, positively impacting on lives of people across the world.

To cite key statistics:

On average, every day more than 8 million people fly. 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, almost 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, or 35 percent of the value of goods traded internationally.

Aviation supports over 57 million jobs and generates $2.2 trillion in economic activity, and the global airline industry turnover is expected to be $743bn in 2014.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, said: ‘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.

‘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.’

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

To host the centennial celebration, a website ( was launched on January 1, 2014. In addition to providing reference materials, the website will also be an interactive information hub, depicting the value that commercial aviation provides from personal, economic and other perspectives.