Kermit Weeks’ goal has been to create an authentic version of the Benoist airboat flown by legendary pilot Tony Jannus in his historic New Year’s Day hop across Tampa Bay almost a century ago.
For Weeks, founder of the Fantasy of Flight attraction in Polk County, where vintage and rare aircraft attract thousands of visitors, that meant commissioning a built-from-scratch engine that matched the one in Jannus’ plane. Wednesday, he showed off the six-cylinder, two-stroke, 300-pound, 478-cubic inch engine, issuing ear plugs to help mute the ear-splitting reverberations of the fired up machine.
“I think when I start in St. Pete, they will know I’m coming in Tampa,” he joked. Weeks will pilot his reproduction Benoist in a Jan. 1 re-enactment of the 1914 Jannus flight that launched the world’s first scheduled commercial airline.
For video and the complete story by Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, click here.