On this day - August 14th

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Gustav-orig

Wright or Whitehead?

Gustave Albin Whitehead; (1 January 1874 — 10 October 1927) was an aviation pioneer who emigrated from Germany to the United States where he designed and built gliders, flying machines, and engines between 1897 and 1915. Controversy surrounds published accounts and Whitehead's own claims that he flew a powered machine successfully several times in 1901 and 1902, predating the first flights by the Wright Brothers in 1903.

Much of Whitehead's reputation rests on a newspaper article which was written as an eyewitness report and describes his powered and sustained flight in Connecticut on 14 August 1901. Over a hundred newspapers in the U.S. and around the world soon repeated information from the article. Several local newspapers also reported on other flight experiments that Whitehead made in 1901 and subsequent years. Whitehead's aircraft designs and experiments were described or mentioned in Scientific American articles and a 1904 book about industrial progress. His public profile faded after about 1915, however, and he died in relative obscurity in 1927.

In the 1930s, a magazine article and book asserted that Whitehead had made powered flights in 1901-02, and the book includes statements from people who said that they had seen various Whitehead flights decades earlier. These published accounts triggered debate among scholars, researchers, and aviation enthusiasts, and even Orville Wright questioned whether Whitehead was first in powered flight. Mainstream historians dismissed the Whitehead flight claims, but some later research supported them, including books printed in 1966, 1978, and 2015.

There are several pictures of the two historic flights that took place on August 14th, 1901, outside Bridgeport Connecticut at Fairfield, 15 miles from the city. Researchers have studied and attempted to copy Whitehead aircraft. Since the 1980s, enthusiasts in the U.S. and Germany have built and flown versions of Whitehead's "Number 21" machine using modern engines and propellers.

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