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Published: January 9th 2012
Albert Whitted Airport
A view of Alber Whitted Airport from north.
Albert Whitted Airport AWAPS
451 8th Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: 727-822-1532 • Fax: 727-820-0303
The relics and mementos of history are all about you. You just have to recognize what they are. For the curious, finding a true connection to history is personally rewarding. If you are in St. Petersburg, Florida and are seeking aviation history then you need not look further than Albert Whitted Airport. Situated on a promontory jutting into Tampa Bay, Albert Whitted Airport forms part of the shoreline of downtown St. Petersburg.
It was from St. Petersburg that Tony Jannus began the first scheduled commercial airline flights way back in 1914. Jannus made the less than a half hour flight to Tampa and return trips in an open cockpit Benoist flying boat, a bi-wing aircraft that flew across the bay almost skimming the water.
The airport is named after Lt. James Albert Whitted, a St. Petersburg native who was one of the United States Navy’s first 250 Naval Aviators. A bit of a barnstormer, his aerial maneuvers were a thrilling introduction to aviation for St. Petersburg. The airport was named in his honor in 1928.
Entrance to the patio of the AWAPS club house is through the security gate.
T. Baker founded National Airlines in 1934 and for a time was headquartered at Albert Whitted Airport. After the World War the airline grew and added many routes. It became the first airline to introduce domestic jet service and the first airline to have all turbine-powered fleet. National Airlines was acquired by Pan Am in 1980 and slowly lost its identity.
The Goodyear Company operated part of its lighter-than-air fleet from Albert Whitted Airport. The airport was one of the first chosen to conduct blimp operations. In 1934 Coast Guard Air Station St. Petersburg was commissioned and it provided a critical link in the air sea rescue duties of the Coast Guard. IN addition to land aircraft, the Coast Guard operated amphibious aircraft including the PBY Catalina and the Martin PBM Mariner and Marlin aircraft. The Coast Guard switch to helicopter and C-130 aircraft prompted the Coast Guard to station the aircraft at Coat Guard Air Station Clearwater, the facility at Albert Whitted becoming a non-flying Coast Guard facility.
During the Second World War Albert Whitted was a very busy base for training Navy and Marine Airmen as well as providing a base for antisubmarine patrols in the
Hamburger with cheese, lettuce and tomato. On the side are potato salad, baked beans and a Coca Cola.
Gulf of Mexico.
Albert Whitted Airport is owned by the City of St. Petersburg. It is a self-supporting operation. It provides business and personal aircraft travelers with convenient access to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, the densest populated area in Florida, as well as the surrounding areas of Tampa Bay. It is estimated that Albert Whitted Airport operations provides the local economy with approximately 35 million dollars, provides employment for over 300 people with a payroll of over 12 million dollars.
Oh! And don’t forget. The airport provides the space needed to operate the annual Honda Grand Prix Indy Car Race… And that is a snapshot of a cultural and historic icon, a jewel convenient to everyone in downtown St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately there are people with self interests that go beyond cultural and historical assets. All too easily those self interest groups find politicians who would plow under one thing to make another for profit, a short term gain while ignoring the long term damage. Fortunately there is a watchdog group, a volunteer organization that keeps the public informed about back alley deals that would end the life of Albert Whitted Airport. More than once they have
A nicepiece of cherry pie for dessert.
been successful in thwarting nefarious plans bringing the issue to the voters who voted to preserve the airport. Greed has a way of perpetuating itself and will be back and hopefully the Albert Whitted Airport Preservation Society, AWAPS, will still be there to stop them.
The Alfred Whitted Airport Preservation Society, AWAPS, is an all volunteer organization with an office on the airport that also serves as a small museum that houses many displays from the National Airlines era. Funded through membership and donations, the Society also conducts fund raising events. In the past the Society held a pancake breakfast on the first Saturday of the month. Today, January 7th
, they are doing something different, a cook-out lunch, from 11:00AM until 2:00PM. The menu includes hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, chips, beverages and a dessert table. For the admission price of $7.00 per person you get either one hamburger (or cheeseburger) or two hot dogs plus all the other fixings. Considering what you would pay per person for a hamburger, fries and a drink at a national chain, the price is quite reasonable.
The wife and I both chose the hamburger option, mine with cheese and
Grilling the hamburgers and hot dogs.
hers without. The large patties, ¼ pounders I believe, were cooked just right, the pink was just gone from the middle, what you need for ground beef, but were not overcooked. They were still moist and juicy. Condiments, self-applied, included catsup, mustard, lettuce, a slice of cheese and tomatoes. The potato salad, self serve, was a deli style mustard and vinegar, nicely done and tasty. The barbecued beans were served in individual cups, a nice touch helping to keep the plate a bit neater. Drinks were cans of sodas on ice and some juices. I chose a nice cold can of Coca Cola; after all, things go better with Coke.
The food is prepared in small batches as needed. The lettuce is crisp, the tomatoes fresh and the burger patties have just come off the barbecue grill. Once in awhile a lot of people will arrive at the same time and there will be a short wait, certainly not longer than at your favorite restaurant, but the freshly prepared food is worth the wait.
Dessert is self serve from the dessert table. On this day the selections included cherry pie, pumpkin pie, brownies and an assortment of cookies.
The volunteers hard at work keeping the hot food coming to the hungry crowd.
After all was said and done, we had a nice tasty meal and were comfortably full. We had a chance to visit with some old friends and get back in touch with our aviation psyche.
All of the workers at the AWAPS functions are volunteers. They are there very early getting set up. They are there all the while the proceeding are going on. They are there late, after everyone else has gone home, cleaning up and putting things back to normal. They do it because they love aviation, they love the airport and they are dedicated to preserving the airport form those with greed at heart and self interest at hand. If you have an interest in flying or just an interest of St. Petersburg in general, check the AWAPS website for the next cook-out or other function. Join in and become part of the aviation community. Better yet, Join AWAPS, volunteer and make your voice heard for what is right. You will find that you are among some very nice and very dedicated people, many of which you will come to call friend.
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