The first day of this new year, Connecticut elected officials issued a stunningly ill-informed news release supporting their ill-informed position that Gustave Whitehead flew two years prior to Wilbur and Orville Wright. The four elected officials are quoted as saying…
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch - "Gustave Whitehead flew two years before the Wright Brothers" "It’s been proven by Jane's All the World Aircraft. A poor German immigrant made history in Bridgeport, Fairfield, and Stratford. We want to make sure Ohio legislators know the truth and stick to it." Exactly when, Mayor Finch, did Jane's All The World's Aircraft 'prove' that Whitehead "flew two years before the Wright Brothers" ? The personal belief that Whitehead predated the Wrights in flight was stated by the editor of Jane's All The World's Aircraft, there was no proof offered and there was no evidence offered. Since it seems Mayor Finch hasn't yet read the statement made by the editor of Jane's, the Jane's editor's statement can be read HERE along with a refutation of the editor's statement HERE
Stratford Mayor John Harkins - "The fact that the Ohio legislature fails to recognize history is patently absurd." "They are turning their backs on science and innovation. Stratford, Fairfield and Bridgeport always have been and will remain the cradle of aviation in the United States." This ample supply of puffery from Bill Finch and John Harkins is, in itself, "patently absurd." These sorts of ridiculous statements make for good local consumption, and touting one's own area is always good politics, but also, very often as in this case, it makes for some terribly misbegotten and fabulously erroneous "local history." It's also worth noting that "The Humbug King" P. T. Barnum (who found politics "distasteful") called Bridgeport his home.
Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau - "We are thrilled that Jane's All the World's Aircraft, the authoritative aviation publication, recognizes new evidence that proves Gustave Whitehead was 'First in Flight.'" "Some people still cling to the belief that the Wright Brothers were 'First in Flight' just as others believed for centuries that the world was flat. Evidence and time has proven both to be untrue." It appears that First Selectman Tetreau is blissfully unaware that Jane's All The World's Aircraft is a commercial aerospace industry publication, not an historical journal. As for some "new evidence" - please produce that "new evidence" First Selectman Tetreau, all we've seen these past many months is recycled material, repackaged old charges and old claims - nothing "new." (refer to the articles cited above for more on the statement by the editor of Jane's)
Bridgeport City Council President Tom McCarthy - "Gustave Whitehead was first in flight." "He was first in flight. It’s backed up by leading aviation authorities in the world. The facts are there. We have the pictures. We have the documents." We must ask City Council President McCarthy… which "aviation authorities" ? The editor of Jane's All The World's Aircraft is a very fine editor, but is that person really an "aviation authority" ?… who else is on your list of "aviation authorities" ?… When making such a claim, it seems reasonable to believe that President McCarthy should be able to produce a list of these "aviation authorities" - please do so, President McCarthy. Take a look HERE at the list of true aviation authorities who do not accept the Whitehead stories as fact. We must also ask City Council President McCarthy… which pictures ?… the faked glider photos from 1904 ?… the erroneously "identified" photo claimed to show Whitehead in flight during 1901, but in fact shows a Montgomery glider in 1905 ?… the photos taken in 1901 showing the Whitehead No. 21 machine sitting firmly on the ground ? Read these articles HERE about the matter of Whitehead and photos. When making such a claim, it seems reasonable to believe that President McCarthy should be able to produce copies of "the pictures" - please do so, President McCarthy. Further, we must also ask President McCarthy… which documents ?… the books Whitehead 'borrowed' from the Buffalo N.Y. Public Library in 1897 and never returned ?… the false claims which Whitehead made on official documents, saying he was a citizen of Brazil, a naturalized citizen of the U.S. and a native-born citizen of the U.S.… the various newspaper articles predating 1901 in which Whitehead makes totally absurd statements of gliding flights miles in length ? When making such a claim, it seems reasonable to believe that President McCarthy should be able to produce copies of "the documents" - please do so, President McCarthy. Also, read this article HERE about Whitehead's distant relationship with truth.
Aside from a campaign of local boosterism and a sad attempt to attract tourist dollars, the statement by the Connecticut local elected officials makes little sense. Perhaps these elected officials would benefit from reading HERE what the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association had to say, in 1963, about Whitehead. The news release by the Connecticut elected officials can be found HERE