Monday, July 15, 2013

Gustave Whitehead



The question of who was the first to fly is not nearly as clear as one would believe from reading High School text books. We have all been taught that the Wright Brothers were the first to achieve powered flight in 1903. More recently, some doubt has arisen, and there is some strong evidence that Gustave Whitehead achieved powered flight in 1901. The evidence is strong enough that the prestigious aviation magazine "Jane's" appears to be coming out in support of Whitehead being the first to fly. Adding intrigue to the controversy is the contract between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian Institute. The contract legally requires the museum to declare the Wrights the first to fly . . . "The Smithsonian shall [not state] any aircraft ... earlier than the Wright aeroplane of 1903 ... was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight, . . ." Well, once you get the Smithsonian to sign something like that, you are pretty much Golden, whether or not you were really the first to fly.

8 comments:

  1. That contract kind of sounds like the Wright brothers knew something that they didn't want the rest of the world to know!!

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  2. What a coincidence, I spent my vacation last week in DC. and saw the Wright flyer at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. The whole museum is amazing!

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  3. The size and scope of this revelation is mind boggling to me. We were always taught O&W were the first to fly , but that's not true anymore. Documentation is excellent and the flight longer, so I think we need to adjust the history books over the next 15 - 20 years to correct the information. I would like to see some biographical work being done to further secure whitehead's spot in history

    Always a surprise around the corner on OPD.

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  4. history is like that, it seems it is sometimes stolen rather then earned...in this case I have seen reports that he was not able to ever show a running engine. We will never know for sure

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  5. I'm in Orville & Wilbur's corner.

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  6. In Brazil Alberto Santos Dumont is known as the father of powered aviation. Most Brazilians have never heard of the Wright Brothers, but they know Santos Dumont. For those in the know, he is said to be the first one who flew a plane under it's own power, for both take off and landing. The Wright Brothers are said to have needed tracks and a catapult to launch their plane.

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  7. The first MANNED powered flight. Balloons of course had been around a long while, as unpowered but manned flight. But there were powered flying machines as well, but not carrying a human pilot.

    I like this one -
    http://xplanes.tumblr.com/post/42863315893/gustave-trouves-oiseau-mecanique-via-the
    Not only an ornithopter (flapping wings!) but the "engine" was powered by gunpowder!

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  8. Given the difficulty of communication at the time, each f these people were probably "first" in their particular location. Certainly a remarkable feat, no matter what the situation.

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