Replica of World’s First ‘Airliner’ Makes Oshkosh Debut

 - July 28, 2014, 12:50 PM
The Lark of Duluth, a fully flyable replica of the first airplane to carry a paying passenger, is making its EAA AirVenture debut this week. It was built with volunteer labor contributions from Duluth Aviation Institute trustees and local EAA members. (Photo: Brady Lane)

Visitors to the 2014 EAA AirVenture this week in Oshkosh, Wis., can view an unusual aircraft making its first appearance at the air show: The Lark of Duluth, a fully flyable replica of the first airplane to carry a paying passenger. It is being featured in front of the show site’s vintage red barn for the entire week.

Over a span of five-and-a-half years the Minnesota-based Duluth Aviation Institute constructed the Benoist Type XIV flying boat as a tribute to the memory of the Duluth residents who owned the original Lark, which on Jan. 1, 1914, carried a lone passenger from St. Petersburg, Fla., across the bay to Tampa. The replica airplane, which was built with volunteer labor contributions from Institute trustees and local EAA members, recreated that historic flight exactly a century later.

“2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of commercial aviation,” said Sandra Ettestad, president of the educational organization’s board of trustees. “It is fitting that exactly 100 years later the replica of the world’s first commercial airplane, The Lark of Duluth, reminds us how primitive aircraft of that era were and yet how profound the vision of aviation pioneers was to set a course for the future.” A similar replica of the pioneering airboat exists in the collection of the St. Petersburg Museum of History.