Facts ? Did someone say "Facts ?"

Fact-Checking John Brown's August 17, 2013, Presentation
Original Content Is © 2013 - 2014 Carroll F. Gray
Posted 10:30pm on August 17, 2013


      Well-known Whitehead advocate, John Brown, spoke to an estimated 100-150 people, today (this is being posted on August 17, 2013, the day Brown spoke), at the Bridgeport Discovery Museum and Planetarium, in Connecticut, during events honoring Gustave Whitehead.

      As reported by the August 17, 2013, Connecticut Post online and the August 20, 2013, Shelton Herald online, Mr. Brown's comments were a mixture of half-truths and outright fabrications, something Mr. Brown seems to prefer, rather than a strict adherence to fact. (this paragraph posted August 20, 2013)

      Mr. Brown was widely thought to be bringing "new evidence" to the event, today, yet he did not. Prior to today's event, he reportedly had told several people that the "new evidence" would be indisputable and convincing, yet Brown failed to offer anything new.

      Instead, he brought vitriol, attacking the Smithsonian Institution and making wild demands, such as that Senior Curator Tom Crouch "resign for his insistence that the Wright Flyer, which hangs in the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was the first machine piloted by a human to fly."

      John Brown was sorely in need of facts… a few examples of his lack of facts in his August 17, 2013, presentation follow…


FALSE CLAIM:
Quoting the Connecticut Post's article… "Brown said that the evidence supporting that Whitehead flew first would easily stand up in a court of law, while the Wrights' claim 'would fall far short.'"

FACT:
In fact, the Whitehead claim - and several others, including those for Goupil and Ader - were litigated in U.S. District Court (for the Western District of New York) and State of New York Supreme Court, during the Wright v. Herring-Curtiss and Wright v. Curtiss patent infringement lawsuits (which began in August 1909), and all claims of "prior art" made by Glenn H. Curtiss as a defense were dismissed by the judge, including the Whitehead claim. All claims made by the Wrights were upheld. Brown apparently is ignorant of the fact that the Wright claims were upheld and the Whitehead claims were dismissed in court.


MISLEADING CLAIM:
Brown was reported in today's Connecticut Post newspaper account to have "… worked for a time as an aviation historian at the Smithsonian…"

FACT:
Brown was part of a production team that made a cable tv show on "roadable aircraft" aired on the Smithsonian Channel. Brown never, at any time, worked at the Smithsonian as an aviation historian.


FALSE CLAIM:
"In fact, Whitehead's flights were witnessed by a policeman, a bank vice president, a newspaper reporter, the local undertaker, two engineers and several other people," "Eighteen in all, and the Smithsonian will tell you that all of them are liars."

FACT:
"The Smithsonian" has never issued a statement or told anyone that all of the so-called witnesses to Whitehead's activities were "liars" - Brown cannot point to a single instance of what he claims.


FALSE CLAIM:
(Referring to John T. Daniels, who assisted the Wrights on December 17, 1903…) "And what he said was: `I saw them take their machine up the hill the fly it down to the beach.' " Brown said. "Now, if someone flies a machine down a hill, does that sound like a sustained flight?"

FACT:
In 1935 Mr. Daniels stated
"Orville Wright made the first flight in the plane with the power in it, between then and eleven o'clock, the 17th of December, 1903, and he went some 100 feet. Then we carried it back on the hill and put it on the track and Mr. Wilbur Wright got in the machine and went about one half mile out across the beach towards the ocean. Then we carried the machine back to camp and set it down and the wind breezed up and blew it over and just smashed it to pieces with me hanging on to it. The way they decided who was to make the first flight was as they were talking, Wilbur and Orville walked aside and flipped a coin, and Orville won the toss and he made the first flight."
Note that Daniels did NOT say he "… saw them [the Wrights] take their machine up the hill the fly it down to the beach." He also did NOT say that the Wrights flew their machine "down a hill." Brown is repeatedly sloppy with quoted material.


CLAIM:
According to the Connecticut Post article, Brown claims to be "a project manager for a German aircraft producer"

FACT:
Mr. Brown works for "Carplane GmbH" of Braunschweig, Germany, which has not yet produced a single real airplane - it has produced a "concept" and promotional videos and small models. The company receives government support and Angela Fleck is the General Manager.


MISLEADING CLAIM:
Brown reportedly stated "… that there are seven arguments that the so-called 'Wright wing' makes to discredit Whitehead supporters"

FACT:
There are far more than only seven arguments posed against the assertion that Gustave Whitehead flew in his No. 21 machine.


FALSE CLAIM:
"He said that a careful analysis of photos of Whitehead's flyer shows that it did, in fact, have a wing-warping mechanism to steer it, a tail assembly, or empennage, that included a vertical rudder, allowing it to achieve controlled flight."

FACT:
Beware of any photo analysis done by Mr. Brown, as his glaring mistake in wrongly identifying a photo as being of Whitehead aloft in 1901 demonstrates. The Whitehead No. 21 machine had no rudder, and it did not have a "wing-warping mechanism" - it had no roll control and no yaw control, only pitch control was included in the design. That is why the two modern-day replicas had to install roll and yaw controls.


FALSE & MISLEADING CLAIM:
The Connecticut Post reported that Brown stated "Wing-warping was, in fact, invented by Mr. Whitehead right here in Bridgeport, Connecticut,"

The Shelton Herald reported Brown's comments as "Brown found a magazine article from Dec. 1, 1902. The Wrights applied for their patent for the process March 23, 1903.
'You can’t change this,' Brown said Saturday. 'There it is, indelible. Mr. Whitehead developed wing-warping first.'"

FACT:
Wing-warping was included on a machine built by Edson Gallaudet in 1898, and on the Wrights' kite of 1899 - therefore, Gustave Whitehead did NOT invent wing-warping, in 1901 or 1902 or at any time.

John Brown has apparently failed to understand what the Wright Patent was granted for and what it covered. It was not a patent for wing-warping. The Wright Patent was granted for the coordinated use of roll (wing-warping) and yaw control (rear vertical rudder) in combination, to make effective, coordinated turns in air. That is a basic fact of airplane control to this day.

The assertion Brown made on August 17, 2013, about Whitehead and wing-warping was touted as 'new evidence' yet this fallacious assertion has been on Brown's web site since April 5, 2013, when his site first went online.

What does Brown have that's "new" ? Not a single thing, it appears.


FALSE & MISLEADING CLAIM:
The Shelton Herald states "Brown also shared details of a letter in which Wilbur Wright talks about how impressive a lightweight engine developed by Whitehead is, and how it would be good for powered flight."

FACT:
Nonsense.

The letter Brown spoke of was written by Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute on July 4, 1901 - the relevant section of that letter states "The 10-horsepower motor you refer to is certainly a wonder if it weighs only thirty lbs. with supplies for two hours, as the gasoline alone for such an engine would weigh some ten or twelve lbs. thus leaving only 18 or 20 lbs. for  the motor or about two lbs. per horsepower. Even if the inventor miscalculates by five hundred percent it still would be an extremely fine motor for aerial purposes."

Wilbur Wright does not accept that the projected (and never completed) Whitehead engine will perform as he has been told, and makes the point that fuel by itself would weigh 10 to 12 pounds, leaving an absurd 2 pounds per horsepower, this is beyond what a modern turbocharged engine is capable of doing. Wilbur Wright calls it "certainly a wonder" - meaning a fantasy - then states "Even if the inventor miscalculates by five hundred percent" - which is a way of saying the claims are absurd for what inventor worth anything would miscalculate by 500%.

Mr. Brown's "spin" on the letter is misleading and offers a false conclusion, in that Brown speaks of the engine as "developed" - i.e. already built - yet it never was. All the claims made for the never-built engine were speculation and fantasy, as were many other claims made by Gustave Whitehead.


CLAIM:
The Shelton Herald states "In a side-by-side chart, Brown said Whitehead’s No. 21 contained key design and operation elements found in the modern Boeing 737. The Wrights’ 1903 craft had none."

FACT:
Nonsense.

The Wright 1903 Flyer had controls for roll, pitch and yaw, the three axes of movement in the air, while the Whitehead No. 21 had only pitch control, through the use of the large tail moving up and down - that is if it ever had been airborne.

The replica No. 21 machines had to have controls for yaw and roll installed - the original had none - in order to be able to make the ground-effect hops they made. Of course, the Boeing 737 has control surfaces for roll, pitch and yaw, just as the Wright 1903 Flyer did and the Whitehead No. 21 did not.


FALSE CLAIM:
Brown is quoted stating, about Gustave Whitehead, "His first job in the U.S. was at an institution you might have heard about -- Harvard University," "He was a kite maker in their meteorology department."

FACT:
Gustave Whitehead was never employed by Harvard University, not even for a single day. He was employed by the Boston Aeronautical Society to build two gliders, both of which were failures. He was paid by Samuel Cabot.


MISLEADING CLAIM:
The Connecticut Post article states "Brown also called on the Smithsonian, 'which is supported by your tax dollars' to scrap the contract that it has with the Wright family. This contract prevents the museum from claiming that anyone but the Wrights made it in the air first, in return for displaying the Wright Flyer."

FACT:
The "Agreement" - not a "contract" - concerns the display and labeling of the Langley Large Aerodrome "A" and the Wright 1903 Flyer. A detailed discussion of this matter can be found linked to the front page of this web site (click on the "Return" button, below). The Smithsonian is not wholly supported by Federal appropriations, some 30% of its budget comes from private gifts and donations.


CLAIM:
Brown is quoted "Any engineering analysis of the Wright Flyer -- its lift, its mass, its drag, power and so forth, will demonstrate that it could not have flown," In fact, a reproduction of the Wright Flyer failed miserably when an attempt was made to fly it in Kitty Hawk on the centennial of that 'first flight.'"

FACT:
Unlike the Whitehead No. 21 machine, there is a photo of the Wright 1903 Flyer flying, in flight, above the ground, propellers turning. Replicas can never duplicate - exactly - earlier machines, and so any flights by replicas or non-flights by replicas are useless as evidence of whether or not the original machine flew. Also, the 2003 Wright Centennial event was held at the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, not Kitty Hawk.


CLAIM:
"Brown also urged the crowd to 'write to their senators and congressmen' to get the Smithsonian to 'adopt accepted academic standard'" in its research on aviation."

FACT:
The Smithsonian Institution is the very height of "academic standard" - it would be a very good thing if Mr. Brown were to take a long hard and critical look at his own web site, and apply an "accepted academic standard" to the misleading content and half-truths he has posted, for what is there is sorely lacking not only in any "accepted academic standard" but also lacking in facts, as was his presentation, today.




RETURN

Updated 11:40pm on August 17, 2013
"Fairfield Discovery Museum & Planetarium" corrected to "Bridgeport Discovery Museum & Planetarium"

Updated 2:20am on August 18, 2013
Added item relating to Wright patent infringement suits

Updated 10:20am on August 18, 2013
Added item relating to "Agreement"

Updated 9:30am on August 20, 2013
Added material from August 20, 2013, Shelton Herald article