North Carolina

Connecticut to Honor Aviator Reputed to Fly Before Wrights

Officials in North Carolina and the Wright brothers' home state of Ohio dispute the claims about Gustave Whitehead

Connecticut officials will gather in Bridgeport to honor an aviator they proclaim beat the Wright brothers by two years to being the first in flight.

A ceremony is scheduled Monday to recognize Gustave Whitehead and the 116th anniversary of what state officials have called the "first manned, controlled flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft."

Connecticut officials say the German-born Whitehead, who lived in Bridgeport and Fairfield, took off in Fairfield on Aug. 14, 1901, and flew about a half mile at a height of about 50 feet. The Wright brothers' flight was in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

“In the early hours of 14 August 1901, the Condor propelled itself along the darkened streets of Bridgeport, Connecticut, with Whitehead, his staff and an invited guest in attendance," according to an article on "Jane's All the World's Aircraft." "In the still air of dawn, the Condor's wings were unfolded and it took off from open land at Fairfield, 15 miles from the city, and performed two demonstration sorties. The second was estimated as having covered 1½ miles at a height of 50 feet, during which slight turns in both directions were demonstrated."

Officials in North Carolina and the Wright brothers' home state of Ohio dispute the claims about Whitehead.

The Smithsonian’s position on whether Whitehead or the Wright Brothers were first is that the evidence that Whitehead beat Orville and Wilbur Wright remains unproven. 

A replica of Whitehead's "Condor No. 21" aircraft will be displayed at the ceremony and political leaders will read proclamations.

The display will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the West End Park in Bridgeport.

Municipal leaders will read proclamations declaring today as "Gustave Whitehead Day."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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