Sunday, February 24, 2008
Gustave Whitehead: Aviation Pioneer
"Two years, four months and three days before the successful flights of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, a birdlike monoplane took to the air at early dawn on August 14, 1901, near Bridgeport, Connecticut, carrying its inventor and builder, Gustav Whitehead, a distance of approximately a half mile." Stella Randolph, The Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead
The story of the first flight is one that every American school child knows by heart: The Wright Brothers flew their craft "The Flyer" in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, thus making history and ushering in a transportation mechanism that would change the world. Committed to memory and repeated in each new American history book, this story omits the dozens, if not hundreds of intrepid inventors around the world who worked during this early aviation period to perfect gliders and motorized craft. Likewise, it does not acknowledge those who influenced and assisted the Wright Brothers extensively in their achievement.
But what is most troubling about this version of events is that it isn't the whole story. Not to say the Wrights never flew - but that there is lots of evidence that others flew before them - and not just in the United States. One such early aviation pioneer with a claim to the first flight is Gustave Whitehead - a figure as inspiring as he is enigmatic - a German immigrant to America whose "Number 21" and "Number 22" airplanes are reported to have flown as early as two years before the famed Kitty Hawk escapade.
This website is dedicated to presenting the research, information and photographs associated with Gustave Whitehead's little-known life. Originally hosted at deepsky.com, this site has been online since 1997 advocating for a rewrite of official aviation history to at least include the possibility that others - such as Gustave - likely beat the Wright Brothers in taking to the skies in a powered craft.