Above: Whitehead’s No. 21 replica makes flight of 1/2 mile in 1997.
“Replica of Gustave Whitehead’s 1901 aircraft. Test flight performed at Manching airport (Bavaria, Germany) on Oct. 4, 1997 by Horst Philipp. Construction was based on plans drawn by Anton Pruckner, Whitehead’s assistant, and confirmed by photometric transposition of perspectives shown in surviving photographs of the original aircraft.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ucm80BYUXEE
To view the full documentary evidence for Gustave Whitehead’s powered flights, see “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” by Susan Brinchman (May, 2015) at www.gustavewhiteheadbook.com and on Amazon.
Whitehead’s documented flight 28 months before the Wrights
Yes, Gustave Whitehead really did fly first. Whitehead’s first documented, successful, sustained, powered airplane flight took place on August 14, 1901 in Fairfield, CT, 28 months before the Wrights’. This flight was witnessed by a prominent newspaper editor invited to to be present, who wrote the exclusive account up in great detail in a weekly paper with a large circulation in Connecticut. The article was sent out through the newly formed associated press, carried throughout the nation and beyond, in at least 73 news outlets. Notably, contrary to what has been said by a number of detractors, local newspapers supported the reports of the Whitehead powered flights of 1901. Several other witnesses later made affidavits to later flights that occurred on that date. Gustave Whitehead conducted numerous other flights during 1901-1902, with scattered reports up through 1903 and beyond, to 1911.
As of March 8, 2013, the world authority on aviation history, the publisher of Jane’s All-the-World Aircraft, known as “the bible of aviation history”, through its editor’s examination of the evidence, determined that Gustave Whitehead deserves to be recognized as “first-to-fly”, ahead of the Wright Brothers by two years, published in its 100th anniversary edition (May, 2013). The Wrights are now deemed second to fly. “Firsts” in history are often made on what is known at the time, and revised as more information is gained. In this case, however, there were roadblocks to receiving the best information throughout the first hundred twelve years of flight. On June 27, CT’s state governor signed a law recognizing Gustave Whitehead, already named “Father of Aviation in CT” since 1964, as “first in powered flight”.