Gustave Whitehead Powered Flight Witnesses

GW Flight Witnesses Date of Flight

A list of key Whitehead witnesses and facts on record, sorted onto a spreadsheet as a pdf, with informational categories including “powered flights” is available by clicking here.

Powered flights were determined using statements of witnesses, indicating an engine was powering the plane, or that the plane took off from and landed on level ground.  Witnesses were reporting on multiple different flights at a wide assortment of locations, with most occurring in and around coastal Fairfield County, in the vicinity of Fairfield, Bridgeport, and Stratford (Lordship). Actual flights were witnessed by at least many hundreds of people and potentially up to thousands. Some were over entire neighborhoods, over Long Island Sound, near or at local beaches and surrounding inland and coastal hills, frequently conducted over a period of ten years. May be utilized for fair use, citing author and sources, under US copyright laws. More extensive information about Gustave Whitehead witnesses is available at the Fairfield Museum, Fairfield, CT, and the CT State Library Archives, in their “Gustave Whitehead Research Collections”, in the “Gustave Whitehead ‘First in Flight’ Master Witnesses File A-Z “, and additional files.

Copyright Susan Brinchman, 2014 – 2015.

Brief Analysis:

Powered Flights 1899-1903:

Pittsburgh, PA:

  • Flight experiments in Pittsburgh, PA were said to have occurred by 8 people interviewed. In Spring, 1899, in Pittsburgh, a Whitehead powered plane was reported to have flown 1/2 mile and up to 20 feet in elevation before crashing into the second story of a building. As a result, this flight was “unsuccessful”, though it did leave the ground, under power, and flew.
  • An additional flight was described by one witness.
  • 2 of those interviewed witnessed and participated in the Pittsburgh flights, both were adults at the time of the events.

Connecticut Flights:

Gustave Whitehead moved to Connecticut in mid-1900, proceeding with his flight experiments. During the summer of 1901, Whitehead made conducted powered flight experiments, including numerous successful powered flights of varying distances at a number of locations, most ranging in distance from 200 ft. to 1.5 miles, with elevations of 10-50 feet, according to witnesses and the local newspapers. One newspaper report of a flight of 1/2 mile, occurring on August 14th, 1901 at Fairfield, CT., was written by an eyewitness, the highly respected, trusted editor Richard Howell, of the Bridgeport Sunday Herald.

It is noteworthy that a reproduction of the Whitehead aeroplane, built to the same specifications as Whitehead’s “No. 21” of 1901,  flew for a distance of 1/2 mile in 1997; a video made at the time may be viewed here.

18 total witnesses gave testimony by affidavit or statement that they’d observed a powered flight from 1899 – 1903 (prior to the Wrights).

  • 17 of these witnesses observed these powered flights in Connecticut, from 1900-1903.

Ages of the 18 witnesses from 1899-1903 at the time of the flights:

  • 5 out of 18 were children at the time under the age of 12
  • 3 of the 18 were teenagers, from 12-17 years of age
  • 10 of the 18 witnesses to powered flights up through 1903 were age 18 or older at the time of the flight

All Powered Flights 1899-1910:

27 witnesses gave testimony by affidavit or statement that they’d witnessed Whitehead powered flights from 1899-1910:

Ages of the 27 witnesses at the time of the flights:

  • 7 out of 27 were children at the time under the age of 12
  • 6 of the 27 were teenagers, from 12-17 years of age
  • 14 of the 27 witnesses to powered flights were age 18 or older at the time of the flight

Elevations of the powered flights ranged from 3-200 ft., with most at an elevation of 10-50 feet.

Distances traveled by the powered Whitehead planes ranged from 30 ft. to 1.5 miles, with many from 200 feet to half a mile.

Witnesses were interviewed and attested to these flights from 1901-1987.

48 total key witnesses were interviewed, most attesting to knowing Gustave Whitehead, observing flights or knowing details of his work for the development of the first successful airplanes.


The location of the original or copies of these documents for the Gustave Whitehead witness statements are at the Fairfield Museum in Fairfield, CT and at the University of TX at Dallas, Dallas, TX, as indicated on the spreadsheet.


Books About Gustave Whitehead

Gustave Whitehead: "First in Flight" Cover

Gustave Whitehead: “First in Flight” Cover

Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight (back cover)

Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight (back cover)

1. New book (above): “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” by Susan O’Dwyer Brinchman, to be released by May 31, 2015. Serves as a reference, with all known evidence concerning the flights of Gustave Whitehead. For more information contact gwfirstinflight (at)

2. Past books about Whitehead: (out of print, but used books available on,, eBay, and on occasion): History by Contract (O’Dwyer & Randolph, 1978); Before the Wrights Flew (Randolph, 1966); Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead (Randolph, 1937)

and further, at the following Resources, including websites online.

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