Who was the first to fly?
8:12 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Battle Heats Up Over Gustave Whitehead vs. Wright Brothers

Gustave Whitehead.
Gustave Whitehead.

If Connecticut thought a state law acknowledging Bridgeport resident Gustav Whitehead as the first in flight would put the issue of who flew first to rest, Ohio and North Carolina are saying: not so fast. North Carolina Republican State Senator Bill Cook and Ohio Republican State Representative Rick Perales held dual news conferences Thursday reasserting the Wright brothers' legacy as the first to achieve powered flight. 

Both lawmakers accused Connecticut of rewriting history. Speaking at Dayton's National Aviation and Heritage Area, Perales said he would introduce legislation in the Ohio General Assembly establishing the Wright brothers as the first in flight. "If they knew all the facts," he said, "Bridgeport would be ashamed." 

Earlier this year, Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill acknowledging German immigrant and Bridgeport resident Gustave Whitehead as the first to fly in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers. Much of the evidence is from an eyewitness account of the flight in a 1901 newspaper article, and in a recently-discovered grainy photograph of what flight historian John Brown believes is Whitehead's aircraft in flight.

Not everyone is convinced, including the Smithsonian Museum, and North Carolina State Senator Bill Cook, who said Thursday that the blurry photograph looks "more like a frog."