Who Flew First? Connecticut Says It Was Gustave Whitehead

HARTFORD, Conn. (June 26, 2013)—Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday that he signed into law a measure that insists that German-born aviator and Bridgeport, Conn., resident Gustave Whitehead flew a powered aircraft in 1901, two years before Orville Wright lifted off for the first time in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Orville Wright is credited with making a 12-second flight in a powered aircraft on Dec. 17, 1903, the first of four he and his brother Wilbur made that day.

Wilbur stayed aloft for 59 seconds and covered a distance of a little more than 850 feet.

Whitehead's supporters say the measure corrects a historical mistake.

The Wrights’ supporters, including the Smithsonian Institution that houses the brothers' historic plane, say Whitehead partisans are wrong.

A recent burst of interest in Whitehead followed a documentary by an Australian historian.

Whitehead Research Committees in the United States and Germany also have stoked interest.

Jane's All the World's Aircraft, an industry publication, recently cited contemporary news accounts in concluding that Whitehead beat the brothers from Dayton, Ohio, into the air.

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