Reenactment of first flight on New Year's Day still seeks clearance by FAA

7:21 PM, Dec 27, 2013   |    comments
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Polk City, Florida -- A part of the Bay area's past will hopefully come back to life this New Years Day.

On Jan. 1, 1914, Tony Jannus trekked across the Bay in the world's first scheduled passenger flight.

Now, a local pilot is looking to re-enact that famous moment in time by flying an aircraft that is an exact reproduction of the plane 100 years ago. But could the FAA ground the flight before it ever takes off?

Working around the clock, pilot and owner of Fantasy of Flight, Kermit Weeks, has been tightening the final screws on the Benoist.

"This was first paid scheduled passenger flight. It started the modern airline industry," says Weeks.

This plane is an exact reproduction, up to the engine of the plane that took off in 1914.

"We've spent a lot of time and effort. I've worked seven days a week the past three months," says Weeks.

But even Weeks admits they could use more time.

"We think we can make it. We just don't know how this is going to fly," says Weeks.

There's four days until this plane is supposed to be up in the air making the flight from St. Pete to Tampa, and it has yet to even leave the hangar until Friday afternoon.

"The engine arrived a week-and-a-half ago," says Weeks.

An engine that was suppose to arrive six months ago which is making work days longer as time runs out.

"We underestimated the time it would take," says Weeks.

The FAA has so far approved phase one which allows them to test fly the plane, but they have yet receive approval to fly New Year's Day.

"If it's not safe, I will pull the plug. If it's not safe I won't fly it," says Weeks.

Now there is a backup plane if the plane isn't ready by New Years Day. The reenactment of the first flight will takeoff from the Yacht Basin in St. Pete at 10 a.m. and land at the seaplane basin at Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa.

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