Lo ! How The Mighty Have Fallen

Paul Jackson's Editorial Endorsement of Gustave Whitehead & Rebuttal


UPDATE: Paul Jackson's editorial has been disowned by the owner and publisher of Jane's All The World's Aircraft which issued a
statement in April 2015 declaring the editorial was only Paul Jackson's personal opinion and did NOT represent an endorsement
of Gustave Whitehead as "first to fly" by Jane's All The World's Aircraft

(Mr. Jackson's Foreword is in black. My comments, which are my own, are interposed in red. - Carroll F. Gray - Posted : July 21, 2013)
Foreword: Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft - March 8, 2013 - Paul Jackson, FRAeS, Editor-in-Chief

‘Justice delayed is justice denied’
'Fact denied is History distorted'

      Five editions ago, these pages reviewed a century (1909-2009) of powered aeroplane flight, making particular reference to how its most significant events were both predicted and interpreted by the Jane’s editors of the day. For the present analytical exercise, a different approach is proposed. Namely: What misconceptions come to be accepted as fact when Jane's is not there to chronicle events?

      This strikes me as a remarkably self-centered question. I've been very fond of Jane's All The World's Aircraft ("JAWA") for very many years, and one of the aspects of JAWA I both admired and respected was its neutrality. In the Cold War Era, Soviet aircraft (particular favorites of mine at the time) were presented without the added burden of a propagandistic sneer at their quality or aeronautical engineering.

      JAWA was a compendium of aircraft, not another source of posturing and certainly not a publication which anointed winners and losers. Mr. Jackson takes the stance that without JAWA misconceptions would overwhelm benighted and gullible historians, and - he appears to be saying - it is JAWA's duty and purpose to chronicle events to forestall "misconceptions."

      I always thought of JAWA as an exemplary reference book - somewhere along the course of my friendship with JAWA, it has, under Mr. Jackson's guidance, become a guardian against misconceptions (presumably limited only to aeronautical matters).

      Nine years before Fred Jane launched his aviation annual, the 20th Century was dawning and it was clear that someone, somewhere, would demonstrate sustained, powered flight in a navigable aeroplane within the near future. Aviation pioneers in several countries were working on the problem, and history records that their goal was achieved on 17 December 1903 when the Wright Brothers’ Flyer rose into the air at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wilbur and Orville later and graciously acknowledged the contributions of many others who had nearly succeeded before them, but were less impressed with the supposed achievements of a fellow US resident (though never naturalised), the German immigrant, Gustave Whitehead (born Gustav Weisskopf).

      In fact, Mr. Jackson, you are not quite correct. As the 19th Century rolled into the 20th Century, there was not a clear consensus that human flight could ever be achieved. Many hoped for the day that would come to pass, but others poo-poo'ed the notion, and some presented mathematical arguments demonstrating human flight as a scientific impossibility.

      You're quite correct in two statements, however, that the achievements of Gustave Whitehead were "supposed," and that the objective (not a "goal" - human powered navigable heavier-than-air flight was an objective, you are an editor, after all) was met by the brothers Wright on 17 December 1903, most especially so by Wilbur Wright on the last flight of that day at Kill Devil Hill (not at nearby Kitty Hawk, Mr. Jackson).

      You are also correct stating that Gustave Whitehead did not become a naturalized citizen - however, he did swear, and falsely, on at least one government form that he was a "Native Born" citizen.

      I make these corrections to your Foreword in the spirit of guarding against 'misconceptions' - something you surely must appreciate.

      Unafraid of ‘getting his hands dirty’, Whitehead (1874-1927) had amassed considerable knowledge of practical aircraft construction and was also gifted in design and production of the item then most prized by aspiring aviators: the light, yet powerful and reliable engine. He also knew a good propeller when he saw one, and was able to combine the best of these skills and features into a series of aeroplanes built for himself and others.

      Neither were Wilbur and Orville Wright afraid of getting their hands dirty. Yes, Whitehead was much more informed of aeronautical matters than most people of his time, due, in large part, to the books he took ("Progress In Flying Machines" 1894, O. Chanute and "Aeronautical Annual" for 1895, '96 and '97, J. Means) and marked up in pencil and never bothered to return to their rightful owner, the Buffalo. New York, Public Library.

      Whitehead's engines are a mix of experiment and imitation and yet, were lighter than most in their day, and some did run, although they had problems with overheating so their reliability for sustained use was questionable.

      As for propellers, the Maxim Type "J" propeller he chose to copy and use on his No. 21 monoplane was marginally efficient, being of the old style. If you wish to admire efficient and early propellers, Mr. Jackson, familiarize yourself with the exquisitely efficient propellers that Wilbur Wright and brother Orville invented, as distinct from the propeller Whitehead copied.

      Whatever skill sets Whitehead possessed, his approach was that of a naïve experimenter, in great contrast to the systematic and scientific approach used by Wilbur and Orville Wright.

      I must correct the misconception you've left lying about, Mr. Jackson, that any of Whitehead's machines - whether his own or those he constructed for others - ever really "flew" in any meaning of that word that we would recognize. Certainly, those powered machines he built for others remained stolidly earthbound and hugged the earth for dear life.

      Even at this length of time, Whitehead still has his supporters, audaciously claiming that he flew a practical aeroplane at least two years before the Wrights. For a definitive opinion of this lèse majesté, we need go no farther than Orville Wright's comments on what he termed “The Whitehead Legend” when writing in the magazine US Air Services in August 1945: Only one local newspaper bothered to report the alleged flight, asserted Wright, and even that was on its back page, four days later. Orville cited these points as “evidence” that no-one took the report seriously.

      Once again, Mr. Jackson, you're being loose with your facts - another thing you do have in common with John Brown - Orville Wright wrote "The Mythical Whitehead Flight," not "The Whitehead Legend" - one wonders how off-the-cuff your Foreword was, if you did not even bother to check the title of Wright's article.

      You also have managed to fabricate that Wright wrote that the 18 August 1901 Bridgeport Herald article was "on its back page." Take a few minutes to actually read Wright's article in U. S. Air Services and you'll not find that Orville Wright wrote any such thing.

      The witch-laden "Flying" article appeared on page 5 of the Herald, not on its back page. You also seem to object to two completely truthful statements that Wright made.., 1) that the Herald was the only local paper to report the supposed "flight" and 2) that the article appeared 4 days after the supposed event. Both are true, Mr. Jackson.

      The fact that other newspapers rewrote and reprinted the Herald story should not surprise anyone, for, as I have detailed in an article, the 18 August 1901 Herald article was itself a rewrite of an earlier story appearing in another newspaper, and is a pastiche of other snippets. I expect that surprises you, Mr. Jackson, since you seem to believe the 18 August 1901 article was actual reporting of an actual event.

      One who did — over a century later — was Australian aviation historian John Brown. In the best traditions of original research, Brown became involved in the controversy when looking for something else, and most kindly kept Jane's informed. Commissioned to produce a history of the roadable aircraft (or 'flying car' — which is not quite the same thing), Brown found himself having to look farther back than he had imagined would have been necessary. Even beyond the time that Fred Jane had begun to record the particulars of the World's aircraft. Even beyond Kitty Hawk 1903.

      I find this most appropriate, that John Brown should have been researching "roadable aircraft" since that is what 'Gus' Whitehead built, an automobile - indeed, that is what he himself termed it, among other things. As for looking back, perhaps Mr. Brown would have been served well had he looked quite far back and discovered that in 1898 Whitehead claimed he'd made a "flight" of 4-½ miles across a valley, after a running leap from atop a 2,000-foot mountain top - "ludicrous" is the word you're looking for, Mr. Jackson.

      Here, it is necessary to pause for a moment of lateral thinking. Most of the aviation pioneers appear to have given little consideration to the consequences of their succeeding in delivering an airworthy aeroplane into the World. For them, flight was an end in itself; for Whitehead, it was one step in the building of a business. He was among the few who realised that once the novelty of soaring above the ground had worn off, sustained — and profitable —sales of the aeroplane to the public could only be perpetuated if it were integrated into daily life.

      Here, you must be pausing to reference the six-passenger heavier-than-air flying machine Whitehead was telling the press he was building in late 1901, in which he and at least one other person would soon be flying to New York from Bridgeport, and which he would sell for $2,000. Absurd.

      Pardonably, not having deduced that invention of the practical aeroplane would be followed in short order by ‘invention’ of the aerodrome and hangar, Whitehead was one of the first to provide it with the autonomy which he believed would be demanded by the private owner. That meant an aeroplane which could be kept in the garage of a town house, then make its own way — with a power drive to the landing wheels and with wings folded or dismantled — along the highway to a convenient meadow or park for take-off. Were this to be a businessman making a call, he would undertake a similar road journey on arriving by air at a suitable field in the vicinity of his customer.

      I suppose it is pardonable, but it hardly is explicable that Whitehead left his 'heralded' No. 21 automobile flying machine out in the weather - but then, by his own account, he had abandoned the machine, which he then (November of 1901) was calling "junk." Certainly, if he couldn't envision a hangar he could have found a place to store his historic machine, or at least a tarp to cover it. He didn't.

      Whitehead equipped his aircraft No. 21, known as the Condor, with two acetylene-fuelled engines of his own design: 10 hp for the road wheels and 20 hp as the main source of forward flight. ‘Main’ because at an appropriate moment during take-off, the flick of a lever would transfer the road engine's output to augment the motor driving the twin propellers. He was by no means the only aviator to incorporate powered wheels into his designs, but by the time Jane began compiling his annuals, the practice was in decline and soon became lost in the mists of history, to be reborn in different form later.

      I am astounded that you can be so ill-informed - but, then, you have mostly to thank John Brown for your information, so that is some measure of an explanation. The No. 21 had THREE motors, not two… each propeller was driven by a separate 2-cylinder compound motor, so that makes TWO motors, plus the ONE single-cylinder motor used to rotate the forward wheels - I assume that in this topsy-turvy aeronautical history world that 2 plus 1 still equals 3. There was no contemporary reference to a 'flicking' lever on No. 21 that would engage the wheel drive motor with the propellers.

      The next erroneous statement you make is that the motors were fueled by (calcium carbide and water generated) acetylene. The three motors of the No. 21 were operated by compressed air, and as for the design of the 2-cylinder compound motors, they resemble their contemporary Locomobile compound steam engines - Locomobiles, by the way, were built in Bridgeport.

      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. 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.

      Mr. Jackson, recall that one of Whitehead's "staff" you say was present - James Dickie - unambiguously denied being present. You've managed to muddle the supposed events of that day, there was one and only one supposed "flight" "Out Fairfield way…" that morning, for a supposed half-mile. The mile and one-half supposed "flight" was alleged to have happened at Lordship Manor, not in Fairfield - yet, most probably neither did happen, since the source for the Fairfield "flight" was the rewritten pastiche article of 18 August 1901, and the only source for the one and one-half mile flight (again, it was said to have happened at Lordship Manor, not Fairfield) was one person who was about 12 years old at the time.

      I suppose you've convinced yourself that what you write is true, but it is not. (You've undoubtedly noticed the many suppositions involved with the Whitehead story.)

      This, it must be stressed, was more than two years before the Wrights manhandled their Flyer from its shed and flew a couple of hundred feet in a straight line after lifting off from an adjacent wooden rail hammered into the ground. And, obviously, because of his demonstrated expertise in manoeuvring, Whitehead had flown missions like this before, suggesting his lead was even greater. (Two months earlier, his No. 20 was reported to have flown from the same field, albeit weighted with sandbags in lieu of an occupant.)

      Mr. Jackson, I am amazed that someone in your position could mis-state so many simple facts. The four flights of 17 December 1903 were not "a couple hundred feet" - the first one, with Orville at the controls, which most credit as The First Flight (I do not), was about 120 feet in length. The last flight of the day, by Wilbur, and the only one actually measured (an indication of how important they felt that flight was), lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet over the sand. Wilbur actively controlled the 1903 Flyer for the last 400 to 500 feet of that flight.

      What you call Whitehead's "expertise," Whitehead called 'inspiration' - saying he thought while floating along to use shifting body weight to control the machine. When, it seems pertinent to ask, had Whitehead "flown missions like this before" as you say… wasn't the 14 August 1901 "flight" supposedly the first "flight" by 'Gus' Whitehead ? I believe you've revealed, yet again, a muddling of your stories.

      Also, there were, supposedly, at least two tests of the No. 21 prior to the fabricated 14 August 1901 event (recall that the 14 August 1901 account is a mish-mash of an earlier article and other stories).

      Could this have been a hoax, as Orville Wright was later to imply? How can it be inferred with such certainty that Whitehead had flown similarly before? The answers to both questions are simple and identical: His invited guest was the Chief Editor of the Bridgeport Herald.

      Orville Wright did not "imply" that the 14 August 1901 "flight" was a hoax… he stated that it was a hoax, no implication needed - he made a rather clear statement that he believed it was a hoax.

      You state that your answers to both of the questions you pose are that Whitehead's "invited guest was the Chief Editor of the Bridgeport Herald." There is no evidence that Richard "Dick" Howell (not the "Chief Editor," but the "Editor" - there was no "Chief Editor") was the person who was alleged to have been present on 14 August 1901. None. There is a mound of speculation, but there is no evidence. Editor Howell certainly never claimed that article as his own, though others said it was, yet - notably - that article was written anonymously.

      Because of the cost of reproducing photographs in journals of the day, the weekly Herald used the editor’s picture of the Condor in flight as the basis of a lithograph which illustrated a full-page feature article in its next edition, published on 18 August. Such substitution was common newspaper practice — and, indeed, producing exactly this type of engraved image was Fred Jane’s first known employment. There is written evidence that the original photograph (blurred because of the poor dawn light) was shown at indoor exhibitions of early aviation imagery and artifacts in both 1904 and 1906. Its current whereabouts are shrouded in mystery.

      This is one of the more absurd statements to appear on John Brown's web site and the fact that you are repeating it does not reflect well on you as JAWA's Editor-in-Chief. If the costs involved with reproducing photographs were such a burden on the Bridgeport Herald, why then would a photograph of 'Gus' Whitehead adorn the 18 August 1901 article ? Wouldn't an editor of any stripe choose to reproduce a photo of such an event and use a line drawing of Whitehead ? What sense would it make to do the reverse, as you are saying was done ? It makes no sense.

      The "written evidence" of a "flight" photo to which you are referring is, no doubt, the 27 January 1906 Scientific American article which includes the sentence "A single blurred photograph of a large birdlike machine propelled by compressed air, and which was constructed by Whitehead in 1901, was the only other photograph besides that of Langley's machines of a motor-driven aeroplane in successful flight."

      Your problem is, however, what immediately precedes that sentence is this sentence…"No photographs of this [a powered A. M. Herring machine] or of larger man-carrying machines in flight were shown, nor has any trustworthy account of their reported achievements ever been published." None were shown, NO photographs of "larger man-carrying machines in flight were shown…" - and - "nor has any trustworthy account of their reported achievements ever been published." There was no photo displayed of any "larger man-carrying machines in flight…" End of story.

      Also, with respect to who flew first, what is the significance of photos that were displayed in 1904 and 1906 ? That discussion was over after 17 December 1903.

      Whitehead’s No. 22, the next machine, this time powered by a 40 hp Diesel engine, was similarly reported in flight on 17 January 1902 and confirmed as having executed a circular course over the shallows between Charles Island and Bridgeport, demonstrating its navigability and practicality. That manoeuvre was made possible by the roll control technique of wing-warping — the fact confirmed by a technical article in Aeronautical World for December 1902, well ahead of the Wrights patenting the method as their own. Affidavits and statements by 17 people, some of them recorded on tape and film or video, bear witness to the many powered flights made by Whitehead between August 1901 and January 1902.

      There was a widespread belief that No. 22 was never built, or if it were begun, it was not finished. I now know of one photo showing what is probably a part of No. 22, and am thoroughly familiar with the American Inventor article about the supposed Long Island Sound "flight," which was published on April Fool's Day 1902.

      I can see you've been taken in by this account, as well as the one of 18 August 1901. I can also see that you've not bothered to actually read the affidavits and statements you refer to, for if you had you would know that they are contradictory and - for the most part - unreliable. Had you actually studied the material, rather than simply relying on John Brown's web site, you might also have learned that two of the most prominent "eyewitnesses" had a direct financial interest to provide their recollections.

      As to No. 22's navigability and practicality, assuming No. 22 were actually built, what do you make of that stabilizing canard, how effective and practical do you believe that arrangement would have been ? Did I hear you mutter "Not very…" ? If you did, you'd be correct.

      You appear to be unaware of the fact that Wilbur and Orville Wright made use of warping wings for control on their biplane kite of 1899. Of course, you are also probably unaware of Edson Gallaudet's wing warping "Hydro-Bike" kite of 1898.

      You state there were "… many powered flights made by Whitehead between August 1901 and January 1902." Many ? How many ? When ? Where ? The list of supposed "flights" between those dates is, so far as I know, the supposed "flight" on 14 August 1901, and the supposed two "flights" on January 17, 1902. Even you and Mr. Brown ought not credit the 14 August 1901 supposed second "flight," considering its source. So in your use of language, Mr. Editor, the postulated three "flights" constitute "many" ?

      The original Bridgeport Herald report is the article dismissed by Orville Wright. It was easily relocated by John Brown during his researches but, thanks to the recent drive to digitalise newspaper archives, only a few hours of on-line research were needed to locate 85 (eighty-five) more press reports of Whitehead's flights on several occasions during 1901 and 1902, many of them making front-page news. The search concerned only free-use archives; clearly, there are many more articles available in subscription services.

      There was very little "original" about the "original Bridgeport Herald report." It is hardly surprising that Brown was able to easily locate that 18 August 1901 article, it's been the subject of discussion and debate for some 80 years. The sheer volume of rewrites and reprints proves very little beyond that Whitehead - and any other flying machine "inventor" of the period - made good copy. I've made a decades-long study of that period with reference to flying machines, and can say without fear of rebuke that thousands of articles about "flights" and flying machines appeared in newspapers around the world between 1880 and 1905. There was nothing particularly unusual about the coverage Whitehead received. He was very near New York's "media market" and he was a true eccentric.

      It seems to me that the real credit for the many articles John Brown found ought to be given to the Library of Congress Chronicling America newspaper search engine and to several other free digital newspaper resources, not to the user.

      Syndicated reports of Whitehead’s exploits contemporaneously appeared around the Globe, from Australia to Austria. One, mentioned here not entirely at random, appeared on page 3 of the Portsmouth Evening News of 21 August 1901. At the time, this was the local newspaper of Southsea resident, Fred Jane. As a man keenly interested in technology (and author of four published science fiction novels) it is difficult to imagine Jane not reading the report with utmost interest. However, it would be stretching credibility beyond its limits to suggest that this was the Genesis of the annual now achieving its hundredth volume.

       Yes, not only would it stretch credibility to make that suggestion, but you might ask yourself why Fred Jane never mentioned Whitehead, given that you've shown he knew of the claimed 14 August 1901 "flight." Could that be so because, like many reasonable thinking people, Fred Jane understood the story was a fake ?

      There is further danger in reading between lines — especially when the lines do not exist. All that can be said for certain is that the first Foreword to what is now All the World's Aircraft is notable in that it does not pay homage to the Wright Brothers for initiating the age of aeroplane flight. Perhaps more from a position of knowledge than ignorance, Jane appears to have considered them to be no more than equal to many others in their contribution. Wright is, simply, one of the companies whose more recent aircraft are described in the first edition; Whitehead (for reasons shortly to be given) is not.

      Perhaps, also, it was the great attention Fred Jane paid to airships and dirigibles that left him unable to appreciate the achievement of Wilbur and Orville Wright… but that soon changed, didn't it, Mr. Jackson.

      Today, it seems impossible that a vast cache of documentary evidence, such as those newspaper reports, can be overlooked by the World at large. True, there are small museums to Whitehead in both his homeland and adopted homeland (and gratitude is expressed to Flughistorische Forschungsgemeinschaft Gustav Weisskopfat Leutershausen for copyright photographs used here) but it is too easy to dismiss them as municipal monuments to a local boy. The reasons for the vanished recognition are several. The first is that critical examination of the Wrights’ legacy is deflected by a non-sequitur of elephantine proportions: That because they were the most successful of the early aeroplane pioneers, they must have been ‘the first to fly’.

      I fail to understand why you believe that copy-hungry newspapers reprinting stories is somehow of any real importance. Is it the sheer bulk and volume of the reports ? Does that impress you ? If thirty or more rewrites stem from a single story, does that mean the story is therefore more credible ? Of course it doesn't.

      The reason for Whitehead vanishing from the aeronautical scene is a simple one… his stories were untrue and he never made a true "flight." Once it was clear that people were making true flights (Wilbur in France in August of 1908 comes to mind), the market for aeronautical "cranks" and fabricators was greatly diminished.

      Mr. Jackson, you might ask yourself why Wilbur and Orville were "… the most successful of the early aeroplane pioneers…" There is a clear answer to that question, they were scientific. There is also a clear answer to why Whitehead was not successful. He was not scientific.

      As for the question of who was The First To Fly, that is largely a question of what definition you use for "Fly." If you say hopping along in ground effect the answer might be LeBris or Clement Ader. If you insist that a flight must be made in public view, then your answer might be Alberto Santos-Dumont. If you include gliding in a wind and gravity powered glider… well you see my point. There was no hard and fast yardstick, then, for measuring The First To Fly.

      Secondly, as was only disclosed much later, under sanction of a Freedom of Information request by Senator Lowell Weicker Jr, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington — undisputed repository of American aviation history — secured possession of the precious Wright Flyer No. 1 from surviving brother, Orville only after agreeing in a legally-binding document that “the Smithsonian shall [not state] any aircraft...earlier than the Wright aeroplane of 1903...was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight”. History is normally written by researchers who have dispassionately analysed all relevant data and not, as here, by the lawyers of interested parties. (Strictly, the document is also nonsense, since the wording contrives to prohibit the Smithsonian from mentioning numerous prior dirigible airships — which are ‘aircraft’ too.)

      There was no Freedom Of Information Act filing that I have been able to find, and when pressed to produce one, John Brown failed to do so. Since you assert there was one, Mr. Jackson, perhaps you will kindly make it public… but then, you won't be able to because the filing did not happen.

      Maj. William J. O'Dwyer USAFR sent a letter to US Senator Lowell Weicker, Jr., asking that the senator request a copy of the agreement between the Orville Wright Estate executors and the Smithsonian. Wickers did so and the Smithsonian produced a copy. O'Dwyer then requested the senator to ask for a signed copy, which the senator did and a signed copy was sent and received. This is all run-of-the-mill "constituent service" - which US House and US Senate members' offices do many times each day.

      Making a mundane event into something dramatic and breathless seemed to be something O'Dwyer did quite often, as does, it seems, John Brown. Have you fallen into that trap of exaggeration and over-statement, too, Mr. Jackson ?

      How, Mr. Jackson, did you ever come to believe there was an aerial machine called the "Wright Flyer No. 1" ? As Editor-in-Chief of JAWA, I would think you'd at least - at a minimum - know and be able to use proper terminology for aerial craft, but apparently you do not and cannot. The Agreement - as odd a document as it is - was a tool used by O'Dwyer in his attempt to pummel the Smithsonian into accepting 'Gus' WHitehead… and that attempt failed. A more judicious approach might have had a better result.

      Thirdly, when selecting a partner to commercialise his invention, Whitehead exhibited catastrophic misjudgement....three times over. After two false starts, his third investor proved to be the serial convicted criminal (and, subsequently, lunatic asylum patient) Herman Linde who, early in 1902, attempted to appropriate the venture and had Whitehead locked out of the factory containing his production line of between four and six aeroplanes. To recover solvency, Whitehead turned all attentions to his other great skill: the manufacture of light-and-powerful engines, which became much in demand by a growing number of aspiring aviators. It is as such that he has been remembered.

      Will your parroting of John Brown never cease, Mr. Jackson ? What evidence can you or Mr. Brown produce that Herman Linde was a "serial convicted criminal (and, subsequently, lunatic asylum patient)" ? Pretty flimsy and very nasty assertions without solid evidence that the one Linde was the other Linde. Mind you, there were many people in the US at the time named Herman Linde and the asylum matter took place in Denver, not Bridgeport, so what it the link from Whitehead's investor Herman Linde to that other Herman Linde ?

      By the way, a little good research (sorely lacking on your side of the argument, it seems) would show that the Denver Linde was released after a hearing at which he made his case for release by himself - hardly the act of a "lunatic asylum patient." Linde lost $1,000 (some $27,000 in current value) or $6,000 dollars (some $163,000 in current value) in his Whitehead investment, I can understand why Linde locked Whitehead out of the factory that was built using Linde's money, can't you ?

      The fourth and final reason is hypothetical, in that it was overtaken by events described above. However, it would have proved critical had Whitehead’s business progressed for a few more years. Inspired by Otto Lilienthal, for whom he had worked before leaving Germany, Whitehead designed his aircraft with a bird-shaped wing structure of a single, stretched surface with stiffening ribs, which would now be described as similar to the Rogallo employed by hang-gliders and trikes. It worked — and still does, as proved by two latter-day replicas — but it is not a structure on which commercial and military aviation can be built. At some stage, Whitehead would have been forced into radical redesign to retain the initiative, which the Wrights already had.

      Much of what you and John Brown have said is "hypothetical" so another hypothetical is to be expected. I can tell you've not read test pilot Horst Philipp's assessment of the HFRC-GW Nr.21B "replica." You should take the time do so. The modifications required to make the machine float along (in ground effect, no less) were many and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Whitehead contemplated much less actually made such modification. Wing structural failure and stalls (on both climb and on power off) were but two of the more exciting aspects of trying to make the Nr.21B go aloft.

      I really do wonder what experience you bring to this discussion, Mr. Jackson, when you equate a Rogallo wing to a Lilienthal brothers' wing and thence to a Whitehead No. 21 wing. They are all wings and to that extent you're on safe ground, but a Rogallo wing and the No. 21's wing are as distinct as a Chanute-Herring glider is from an Airbus A380.

      While it is often the case that ‘the second mouse gets the cheese’, history is capricious in its decision to record the first or the second inventor's or (discoverer's) name. To take but one example, John Logie Baird is still lauded as the ‘inventor of television’, but his electromechanical system was a technological dead-end which was rapidly overtaken by an entirely different and more practical method, omitting a mechanical scan. Whitehead was in Baird's category, except that his recognition has been, largely, withheld. The Wrights, with their more tractable wing design, were ‘the second mouse’ and, perhaps, one of the things they learned from Whitehead's misfortune was the need for rigorous protection of their patents and wide avoidance of offers of business partnerships from characters of unproven honesty.

      Not only can "history (be) capricious," history can also be faddish. Today, among some circles, it is fashionable, faddish, to be a supporter of the claims made on behalf of 'Gus' Whitehead. However, history ought to be based on evidence and to the degree possible "fact" - not wild assertions and fabrications and exaggerations.

      I very much doubt that the brothers Wright learned anything from Whitehead's experience. As for Whitehead's patent, it was shared with his co-patent filer Stanley Y. Beach.

      Neither you nor Mr. Brown have made a very compelling case that Whitehead's business partners possessed "characters of unproven honesty" - doesn't it strike you as a very wicked thing to do to say such a thing about a deceased person while at the same time presenting the most thin and fragile evidence - or presenting no evidence at all ?

      A very strong case can be made that Whitehead was not a person of proven honesty, indeed it can be said that he was blatantly dishonest at several points in his life. Who was the victim, Mr. Jackson, Gustave Whitehead ? Or that large group of people who invested, a few dollars here and there or many thousands of dollars, on faith that Whitehead knew what he was doing ?

      If this were to be the 110th Foreword, instead of the hundredth, Fred Jane would have recorded Whitehead’s flying machines and their achievements in his early editions, probably securing for this underrated pioneer a full paragraph in the annals of aviation history, rather than his present, dismissive footnote.

      You said, Mr. Jackson, that Fred Jane likely read of Gustave Whitehead's exploits soon after they supposedly happened, in August of 1901 - had he wished to include Whitehead in his publications, he certainly could very well have done so. He did not, though. Perhaps, and I'll join you in speculating about the founder of your publication, because he recognized how absurd the story was. Fred Jane's aeronautical publication was to be a serious solid reference book, and could not, therefore, include aeronautical cranks and fantasists. 


      Having occurred before Jane’s first edition, the matter cannot be regarded as unfinished business for Fred Jane or his successors but, most certainly, we are convinced he would have approved of any efforts made to get the facts right, whatever the delay. Thanks to the meticulous researches of John Brown — to whose website www.gustave-whitehead.com we earnestly recommend readers seeking greater detail — an injustice is rectified with only slight bruising to Wilbur and Orville's reputation. The Wrights were right; but Whitehead was ahead.

      I believe that Fred Jane would likely say something to you, to the effect of 'I discounted that absurd story when I read it in the Portsmouth Evening News, why in the world did you do this, Mr. Jackson ?'

      Speaking of bruising reputations… the more I read of your Foreword to JAWA, the more disheartening I found it. You've eaten whole-hog a meal of fabrications, suppositions and unproven assertions. It would have been fine for you to state your uninformed opinions as your own, but to tie them to JAWA is an awful thing for you to have done. You've caused serious damage to JAWA's reputation.

      There has been an injustice, Mr. Jackson, one perpetrated by John Brown and now by you. Brown's recycling of old speculation as being new evidence, and his unsupported claims of finding new evidence, are flights of propaganda and little else. Finding dozens of rewrites of stories proves very little, except, perhaps, that many of us do not appreciate how quickly such tales could spread in 1901.

      Whitehead was not "ahead" - he was behind Wilbur and Orville Wright. Whitehead was dedicated to powered heavier-than-air human flight, and his passion led him to build many things, but he was unable to build on any supposed successes, he failed in his business relationships, he fabricated achievements, and he made at least one false legal statement.

      So… does 'Gus' Whitehead deserve recognition ? Without doubt.

      Was 'Gus' Whitehead the first human to make a powered, heavier-than-air flight ? Beyond doubt, no, he was not.

      Was 'Gus' Whitehead scientific in any real meaning of the word ? No, he was not.

      Were Wilbur and Orville Wright scientific ? Yes, they were.

      Did 'Gus' Whitehead's outlandish claims make good copy for newspapers fighting for readers ? Yes, they did.

      Have 'Gus' Whitehead's advocates done a disservice to his memory by repeating untruths and blatant fabrications and by mis-representing facts ? Yes, they have and so have you now, also, Mr. Jackson.

      JAWA has been a standard reference work for many decades, but was never a work of history. I believe you've crossed a line which you ought not to have crossed, mixing JAWA's solid reputation as a reference with thoroughly speculative hoo-hah.

      Calling JAWA the "Aviation Bible" is apt, Mr. Jackson, since you've now entered the realms of belief and faith, and are leaving the world of fact and evidence behind.

      You write "Thanks to the meticulous researches of John Brown… " - if I were editing your Foreword, I would have changed "meticulous researches" to the more honest "meretricious researches."




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