Connecticut tries to ground NC’s ‘First in Flight’ claim

Posted at 11:58 PM, Jun 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-19 06:22:54-04

The state of Connecticut is looking to ground North Carolina's claim of 'First in Flight.'

State leaders there are trying to recognize Gustave Whitehead as the man who first went airborne.

Whitehead was a German immigrant, he built engine-powered machines meant to fly, and claims to have flown two miles in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers took off here in Kitty Hawk.

Darrell Collins has worked at the Wright Brothers Memorial for 35 years.

"How can a man with no prior experiences in flight, just jump into a powered machine and fly two miles?" Collins said.

Here's what Gustave Whitehad has against his case.

First: His flights happened in the middle of the night with just a few witnesses and there are no photographs.

Second: When a Connecticut Aviation Museum tried to replicate Whitehead's plane in the 1980s it didn't fly.

Third: Whitehead did get up in the air but during his flight he never had control of the plane to borrow a term from 'Toy Story' he was just falling with style.

"I really don't see any types of controls that he had to actually control his machine in flight," Collins said.

Collins says the move by Connecticut leaders to recognize Whitehead instead of the Wright brothers is nothing more than state pride.

But it's a state that's split on Whitehead. The New England Air Museum says it isn't convinced-while the Connecticut Air and Space Center is pushing the narrative that Whitehead is the aviation pioneer.