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Thread: Flight before wrights?

  1. #31

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    Tom Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum makes a good point on their website on Friday.

    None of the planes that Whitehead built after 1902 ever flew. So if he really flew in 1901, how did he not have the secret of flight the next years?

  2. #32

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    Mr Greenwood if you will read my whole statement you will notice I am sticking up for the Wrights, not minimizing their accomplishments. You must agree a flight of 120 feet is quite a modest accomplishment. Although as I recall the EAA couldn't duplicate the effort 100 years later. But that is another argument for another time.
    As for the use of the expression "First in Flight" first can also be used to express a superlative status. Like the "first string quarterback" or the "First chair" in an orchestra.
    I'll stand by the claim the wrights deserve the credit for the first controlled heavier than air flight. They did it, they had the tenacity to stick with it using their own resources while Hanley was throwing government money into the Potomac. The Wrights did it with science. They proved the principals in experiments before they tried them in the air. Let's not forget they also had to invent the engine! Which brings us to the genius of Charles Taylor, another unsung mechanic toiling in the shadow of his employers.
    I like the history books just the way they were when I was in school on this topic.

  3. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    Tom Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum makes a good point on their website on Friday.

    None of the planes that Whitehead built after 1902 ever flew. So if he really flew in 1901, how did he not have the secret of flight the next years?
    Maybe Whitehead, like other crackpot geniuses, tried too many ideas at once. For example:
    The most astounding thing that I read on the Whitehead site was that Whitehead drove the airplane several miles to the flight area. ( don't think there was any airports in those days)
    In other words, Whiteheads aircraft was the first roadable aircraft. It had a separate engine for road use.

  4. #34

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    I don't know of Whitehead driving his airplane on the ground, much less for several miles.

    However,The website has a number of good photos of the plane on the ground and one of them is of it being driven with the wings folded and it mounted on a rack built on top of a car, kind of a nice looking rig.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 03-18-2013 at 11:18 PM.

  5. #35
    Well, you've got a guy who's trying to make a name for himself as a historian (John Brown), and what better way than to start a controversy. And then there's Janes All the World's Aircraft, which nobody has talked about in years, and surprise, they've found a way to get a ton of publicity too, by endorsing the controversy. But the best Mr. Brown has come up with is "evidence of the existance of a photo", and some other easily refuted evidence. Please read his whole argument, http://www.gustave-whitehead.com/ , and then read Tom Crouch's replies, http://newsdesk.si.edu/sites/default...-Statement.pdf and http://newsdesk.si.edu/sites/default...t-Contract.pdf . Then form an opinion.

    Also, honestly, if there was conclusive evidence that somebody flew before the Wrights does anybody really think that the curators at NASM would lie to try to cover it up? This isn't 1914 any more, these guys are scholars and historians first, and interested in the truth. In 2005 NASM senior curator Peter Jakab was asked what the response would be if the Smithsonian was presented with conclusive evidence that Whitehead had flown, and he stated,

    "We would present as accurate a presentation of the history of the invention of the airplane as possible, regardless of the consequences this might incur involving the agreement. Having said that, however, at this time, as in 1948, there is no compelling evidence that Whitehead or anyone else flew before the Wright brothers."



    -

  6. #36

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    This old story is right in line with my opinion of the claims that others, the Vikings, the Chinese discovered the Americas before Columbus. I say "So what"? What did they make of their discovery? Aviation, as we know it, started with the Wrights. Even if Whitehead flew before them what came of it? If your discovery doesn't lead to something it's just trivia, a curiosity.

  7. #37
    Jim Heffelfinger's Avatar
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    I offer John J Montgomery as first controlled heavier than air - unpowered. Research this nearly forgotten aviation pioneer.
    Golden West Fly In theme this year - On display will be a (hopefully) flying replica of the Santa Clara Glider on display.
    jim
    http://www.goldenwestflyin.org/News/...ain%20page.htm

  8. #38

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    The side supporting Whitehead might point to a modern built replica which is said to have made a flight a few years ago. I didn't see much media coverage if any, of this flight. You would think there would be a big story in EAA magazines and maybe something on tv of this, if it happened.

    But, even if the modern replica flew in some fashion, it certainly doesn't prove that the original one was even capable of flight. The modern one had, I believe 2 modern ultralight type engines, light weight and with a good power for their size.
    You could imagine how well the Wright plane would accelerate and take off if it was correct except for having the original engine replaced with a 90 or 100 hp Rotax!

    So we know that the Whitehead plane did not go on to fly and be proven beyond any doubt as well as survive today as the Wright planes did.
    Several sources also say that Whitehead engines were used by others. But as for as I know, none survived, and no one has built a copy of that engine and tried to fly with it or even run it. The EAA and others have genuine Wright engines and they really work, even if primitive.

    Supposedly some people claimed to have seen Whitehead fly, but their accounts are pretty dubious. After all, lots more people claim to have seen Bigfoot or aliens from flying spacecraft, but there never seems to be any Bigfoot carcass much less any clear photos.


    Does anyone know if there are any of the origianal Whitehead engines in a museum or in existance today?
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 06-04-2013 at 10:49 AM.

  9. #39
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    The side supporting Whitehead might point to a modern built replica which is said to have made a flight a few years ago. I didn't see much media coverage if any, of this flight. You would think there would be a big story in EAA magazines and maybe something on tv of this, if it happened.
    I've attached the only article I've found so far, this one from the December '87 issue of Sport Aviation. I've only just skimmed it, but it shows some photos of the 21B replica that was here that summer, and refers to flights that happened with Weedhopper engines and modern props, as well as the efforts to build the silk-covered props like the original. At the time this was written, they were hoping to build a replica of a Whitehead engine and then come back and fly it at Oshkosh - so far as I know, that never happened.
    Attached Images Attached Images

    Hal Bryan
    EAA Lifetime #638979
    Senior Editor
    EAA—The Spirit of Aviation

  10. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Berson View Post
    Maybe Whitehead, like other crackpot geniuses, tried too many ideas at once. For example:
    The most astounding thing that I read on the Whitehead site was that Whitehead drove the airplane several miles to the flight area. ( don't think there was any airports in those days)
    In other words, Whiteheads aircraft was the first roadable aircraft. It had a separate engine for road use.
    Claims like that cost the Whitehead argument credibility from my perspective. The early aircraft were all underpowered, so it doesn't stand the test of reason that Whitehead's airplane had enough surplus power to overcome inefficient props, an inefficient wing, and still carry an extra engine and drivetrain.

    Also, someone please show me the drivetrain for the two props and explain how Whitehead proposed to steer the airplane with differential thrust. This is another claim that has a near zero chance of being accurate.

    The reality, IMO, is that there are multiple seeming impossibilities with the Whitehead story. I can't buy into the core story if the surrounding stories don't hold water.

    As others have pointed out in the thread, if Whitehead's airplane was successful, why no follow-on?
    Last edited by Kyle Boatright; 06-04-2013 at 12:40 PM.

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