BRIDGEPORT, CT (March 12, 2013) – It ends up a century of reports about who built the first powered airplane weren’t Wright after all.
Paul Jackson, the 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 All the World’s Aircraft.
“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,” said Mayor Finch. “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.
Gustave 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 Gustav Whitehead, and officials from the Gustav Whitehead Museum in Leutershausen Germany. "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 Bishop, executive director of Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum. Congressman Jim Himes and Actor John Ratzenberger were also in attendance at this historic event.
In May 2012, the City dedicated a fountain at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and State Street to commemorate Whitehead’s aviation first. Mayor Finch, at the dedication said, “We’re very proud of his contributions to the world of aviation, and found it fitting to create this monument to his work.” 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 which reads: “Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weiskopf in Leutershausen, Bavaria, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1893, anglicizing his name to Gustave Whitehead. According to eyewitnesses: ‘I recall a time, which I think was probably July or August of 1901 or 1902, when this plane was started in flight on the between Pine and Cherry Streets. The plane flew at a height of about twelve feet from the ground, I should judge, and traveled the distance to Bostwick Avenue before it came to ground. I recall the incident very well because I was one of several boys who clung to the back of the plane as it rose into the air and carried us off our feet until we were driven away by some of the men working with Gustave Whitehead.’ ” 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 produce and host of “Bridgeport Now” a live, weekly TV show on Cable Access Channel 88 every Tuesday. This evening’s show will be dedicated to Gustave Whitehead’s aviation accomplishments and will include interviews with aviation historian John Brown and Paul Jackson of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. The show airs from 8 to 9 p.m., and can also be accessed on www.soundviewtv.org.
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