It ends up a century of reports about who built the first powered airplane were not “Wright” after all.
Paul Jackson, editor of Jane’s All the World Airplanes, stated that founder Fred Jane would have approved of any efforts to “get the facts right, whatever the delay.”
“Thanks to the meticulous researches of John Brown — to whose website www.gustave-whitehead.com we earnestly recommend readers seeking greater detail — an injustice is rectified with only slight bruising to Wilbur and Orville’s reputation. The Wrights were right; but Whitehead was ahead.”
Mayor Bill Finch applauded the recognition of Bridgeport native Gustave Whitehead’s first powered flight by the renowned publication.
“Jane’s has solidified what we’ve known all along — Gustave Whitehead was the first to fly a powered, manned aircraft before the Wright Brothers, and he did it right here in Bridgeport,” Finch said. “Perhaps now, Whitehead will receive the recognition from in this country that he so richly deserves.”
According to an August 14, 1901 article in the Bridgeport Herald, Whitehead piloted his No. 21 flyer in a flight that kept him airborne over a distance of about a half-mile and up to an altitude of about 40 feet.
Whitehead was recognized as the “Father of Connecticut Aviation” in 1968.
On August 14, 2011, Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum celebrated “Bridgeport First in Flight,” the 110th anniversary of Whitehead’s first flight.
The Discovery Museum hosted officials from the German Consulate in New York City, decedents of Whitehead and officials from the Gustave Whitehead Museum in Leutershausen Germany. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and actor John Ratzenberger were also in attendance at this historic event.
“There was a live tele-conference with Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch and the mayor of Leutershausen Germany honoring the accomplishments of Gustav Whitehead and setting the record straight that Gustav Whitehead was in fact first in flight, two years before the Wright Brothers,” said Jeffrey Bishop, executive director of Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum.
In May 2012, the city dedicated a fountain at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and State Street to commemorate Whitehead’s aviation first.
“We’re very proud of his contributions to the world of aviation, and found it fitting to create this monument to his work,” Finch said at the dedication.
The fountain features a black granite base with four burbling fountains and is topped by a sculpture of Whitehead’s early flying machine. The sculpture features moving propellers and the entire piece will move with the wind. A granite tablet will be installed across the street with a descriptive engraving. The sculpture is under repair after suffering damage during Hurricane Sandy last fall.
Robert Foley, founder of the Bridgeport Digital Humanities Initiative and a recipient of a Mayor’s Arts and Cultural Heritage grant, promotes research and scholarship of Bridgeport’s rich history by creating digital online archives. He also is the producer and host of “Bridgeport Now,” a live, weekly TV show on Cable Access Channel 88 every Tuesday. A recent show was dedicated to Whitehead’s aviation accomplishments and include interviews with aviation historian John Brown and Paul Jackson of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. CLICK HERE TO SEE AN INTERVIEW.