Gustav Whitehead (1874-1927), a native of Leutershausen, Bavaria, who immigrated to Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.A., is being touted by Australian historian John Brown as the person who really was the "first in flight".
On August 14, 1901, Whitehead (born Gustav Albin Weisskopf) is purported to have made the first flight, not the Wright brothers, who made their first flight on December 17, 1903. According to the Fox News article (referenced below), Brown bases "his claims on an exhaustive analysis of a century-old image, a picture of that picture that he believes depicts Whitehead in the air over Connecticut."
The airplane Whitehead supposedly flew was called "No. 21" and "The Condor". It contained wooden wheels and canvas wings that appeared similar to the wings of a bat. Brown states that Whitehead's airplane flew about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) at an airborne altitude of around 50 feet (15 meters).
Of course, we now have much controversy, today, as to who was really the first in flight.
However, the Smithsonian Institution continues to claim that the Wright brothers were the first to achieve this "first-in-flight" event.
Check out the following articles for more on this interesting story on the beginnings of powered air flight:
- Smithsonian Magazine (March 18, 2013): "Air and Space Curator: The Wright Brothers Were Most Definitely the First in Flight"
- Fox News (March 16, 2013): "Wright or wrong? Smithsonian enters 'first in flight' fight"
- National Air and Space Museum (March 15, 2013): "Did Gustave Whitehead Beat the Wright Brothers?"
- The UnMuseum (2001): "Gustave Whitehead: Did He Beat the Wright Brothers into the Sky?"
- John Brown: "Gustav Whitehead: Aviator Pioneer"