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Thread: Flight before wrights?

  1. #1

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    Flight before wrights?

    For years there has been a story of a man, Gustave Whitehead in Connecticut who may have flown a powered plane in 1901, two years before the Wright Bros flight.

    Some years back, there was a replica built and shown at Oshkosh.
    It was a strange looking thing, with the bottom or fuselage part being almost exactly like a boat. It looked like you could remove the wings and row it out on the lake.
    The wings were sort of bat like and were set above the boat part.

    Anyway it was interesting, but certainly didn't fly at EAA.
    The consensus as far as I recall was that the story was interesting , but no real proof of flight.

    Now the story has arisen again on another site. There is claimed to be a picture of it in flight in 1901, buit it looks photoshop to me.
    I don't put much stock in it, but there is a lot to read.

    One thing we know about the Wrights, that with pretty much the same design as the first flight airplane, they went on to make and fly planes the could not only hop,but fly controlled circuits and carry a passenger, and they did it not only here but in Europe.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 03-10-2013 at 11:13 AM.

  2. #2
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    My friend and former boss presented a fascinating webinar on this topic, including a close look at Whitehead:

    http://www.eaavideo.org/video.aspx?v=715566964001

    Hal Bryan
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  3. #3
    Clement Ader may have been the first. The French certainly think so. He was supposed to have taken off, flown for about 120 feet and landed in L'Eole, all under its own steam - literally, it was steam-powered - in France in 1890. A replica of Ader's Avion lll, similar to but larger than L'Eole, hangs in the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris, with a replica of its steam engine on separate display. Henri Farman flew the first closed-circuit kilometer (all previous powered flights, anywhere, had apparently merely been hops in a straight line) demonstrating for the first time mastery of heavier-than-air flight, on 13 January 1908 in an aircraft designed and built by Gabriel Voisin, who had also taught Farman to fly and swung the prop for him.
    Jeremy Leasor

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    Hal, can you summerize for us? My computer for some reason (likely operator error) has a difficult time playing any video like a webinar.
    Did you see the new info on WIX.

  5. #5
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Leasor View Post
    Henri Farman flew the first closed-circuit kilometer (all previous powered flights, anywhere, had apparently merely been hops in a straight line)
    You're right about Farman, but not about all previous flights - the Wrights flew their Flyer II in a 360 circle for the first time in 1904, and had flights up to nearly 5 kilometers. In 1905, Wilbur flew the Flyer III for more than half an hour, circling over Huffman Prairie and covering something like 38 kilometers.

    Farman's flight was recognized because he had (or allowed) two things the Wrights' didn't: Publicity, and a predetermined course. It didn't help that the European press routinely called the Wrights liars at the time...

    Hal Bryan
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  6. #6
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    Hal, can you summerize for us? My computer for some reason (likely operator error) has a difficult time playing any video like a webinar.
    Did you see the new info on WIX.
    Not easily, Bill - it's a nearly 90-minute presentation... Does YouTube work any better for you? It does for some, and this one is posted there:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4i7yNzsLD0

    (No idea why the screen ended up so small on both versions - luckily, the presentation is more about the audio than the imagery.)

    Hal Bryan
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    EAA—The Spirit of Aviation

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    I wrote a report about Gustav Whitehead when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. I concluded that he was the first to fly. Largely because his airplanes looked like airplanes.

    But 35 years later, I wonder why he didn't do any follow-up work on his invention? I mean, zero, zip, nada. It doesn't make sense. Also, his prop's and control systems (IIRC) were rudimentary, at best, making me question his claims...

  8. #8
    Mike Switzer's Avatar
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    There was supposedly a guy in either Australia or New Zealand also - I have a file somewhere I will try to look for it tomorrow.

  9. #9
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    That was Richard Pearse in New Zealand - another very interesting counterclaim like Whitehead's.

    Hal Bryan
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  10. #10
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    An overview of Pearse here:

    http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/richard-pearse

    Interesting to note that he himself didn't claim to have beaten the Wrights in any way, but sone eyewitnesses did.

    Hal Bryan
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    EAA—The Spirit of Aviation

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