Malloy signs law declaring Whitehead first in flight

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Andrew King, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Air and Space Center in Stratford, discusses early coverage of Gustave Whitehead’s attempts to fly in front of an enlargement of a front page at the time. The dimensions in the headline are erroneous, King said. (Photo by John Kovach)

State Representative Larry Miller (R-122) hailed Gov. Dannel Malloy for signing into law legislation he sponsored this year in the General Assembly, which declares Connecticut inventor, engineer and German immigrant Gustave Whitehead as the first man to fly in a heavier-than-air machine.

State Rep Larry Miller

State Rep. Larry Miller

The debate about who flew first — the credited Wright Brothers or Whitehead — has raged for over a century. Conventional history has long held that the Wright brothers first flew in an aeroplane of their design at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on Dec. 17, 1903.

Malloy now apparently concurs with evidence and documentation that demonstrates that Whitehead beat the famed Kitty Hawk flight with a powered flight in the Lordship section of what was then Bridgeport — and now Stratford — with his No. 21 Flyer on Aug. 14, 1901, a full two years before the Wrights.

“This debate has been ongoing for a century,” said Rep. Miller. “And the mounting evidence that Whitehead beat the Wrights has become overwhelming. The official historical record has slowly been moving in Whitehead’s favor as reputable authorities begin to one-by-one revise their position in favor of Whitehead when confronted with the facts.”

Miller noted how in March the publication Jane’s All the World Aircraft, considered to be the bible of aviation, is crediting Whitehead with being the first to take flight in their 100th anniversary edition. Among the evidence cited are over one hundred contemporary published accounts and photographs of Whitehead’s flyer being airborne and under control at an altitude of about 40 feet for a distance of about a half mile.

“The Wrights entered into a secret deal with the Smithsonian when they donated their plane to them,” said Miller. “It obligated (the Smithsonian) to uphold and defend the narrative of the Wrights being first in flight in perpetuity. That arrangement has been a major obstacle to having the historical record corrected. It is my hope that this measure continues to promote the awareness of Whitehead’s monumental achievement and impact on human history which took place right here in our home state.”

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