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St. Pete council approves final design of historic Airboat monument

We’re proud to be involved in realizing the Benoit Monument, set to be completed in August.

Joan Karins, wife of Karins founder Bud Karins, sits on the board of Flight 2014, an aviation organization set out to bring wide-spread public recognition to the story of the First Airline and St. Petersburg’s and Tampa Bay’s unique association with it.

The Flight 2014 group has raised about $1 million for the monument while community members like Karins, Hennessy Construction and Phil Graham Landscape Architecture have contributed significant in-kind contributions.

Covering the monument’s creation, sculpted by Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio, Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay Times writes:

“The monument featuring a replica of the airboat, with figures of pilot Tony Jannus and his passenger, former St. Petersburg Mayor Abe Pheil, is being created by St. Petersburg artist Mark Aeling and is expected to be finished by August. The airplane sculpture, which has a wingspan of 45 feet and will rise more than 20 feet, including base elements, will be installed in what will be known as the Benoist Centennial Plaza. The plane is being made with surgical-grade stainless steel. The figures of Jannus and Pheil will be cast in bronze.

Theirs is ‘a wonderful collaboration,’ Aeling said of his work with Karins, founder of Karins Engineering in St. Petersburg. ‘We've been working hard to figure how to make this thing work. The result has been very successful.

This is an airplane that replicates the wood airplane, and all the stainless steel pieces are welded together,’ Karins said. ‘We set out doing all the structural design. We started with the wings, assembled as one piece.’ The monument that is being made to withstand a Category 2 hurricane.”

Stay tuned as news about this incredible project develops.