The Wright Brothers have lost the title of “first to fly” in Connecticut. Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill into law on Wednesday, naming Gustave Whitehead as the first to fly.
Whitehead’s supporters contend that he flew a monoplane aircraft 150 feet into the air in 1901. The story was printed in newspapers and magazines worldwide. However, only one witness to the flight was ever found. That witness denies the flight ever happened.
As reported by CNN, Smithsonian aviation historian Tom Crouch insists that Whitehead’s account has never been verified:
“There is no legitimacy to the claim … Justice is at risk. Credit should go where credit is deserved … absolutely everyone has rejected those claims. No one accepted them.”
Aviation historian John Brown, of Australia, disagrees. Brown states that he has photographic evidence of Whitehead’s claim. Brown claims that a photograph found in the attic of a German museum depicts Whitehead’s plane in flight.
As the photo is blurry, it is difficult to determine exactly what is depicted. The content of the photo will likely remain controversial. Brown insists that there is a plane in the photo. His colleague Crouch contends that it is simply “just a blotch … not an airplane.”
Despite differing opinions, the Wright Brothers are no longer recognized as the first to fly in Connecticut. As reported by PIX 11 News, the measure has officially been signed into law. The governor has essentially changed history.
The Wright Brothers’ plane remains on display at the Smithsonian. Some of Whitehead’s supporters explain that the museum’s possession of the plane prevents them from admitting someone else may have flown first.
In fact, a contract does exist between the Wright family and the Smithsonian. A clause in the contract states that if the Smithsonian acknowledges anyone else as first to fly, the Wright family has the right to reclaim the aircraft.
Crouch contends that his integrity as a historian prevents him from denying Whitehead’s claim based upon the Wright family contract. He asserts that if he honestly thought Whitehead, or anyone else, was first to fly, he would openly admit it.
The Wright Brothers are recognized worldwide as the first in flight. However, lawmakers in Connecticut, and some historians, disagree with the title.
[Image via Flickr]