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  1. #1
    Captain Thor's Avatar
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    Wright Brothers Really the First to Fly?

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    Smithsonian releases Wright brothers contract detailing 'first in flight' claims

    By Jeremy A. Kaplan
    Published April 01, 2013

    Were the Wright brothers first in flight? Read the fine print.

    A little-known 1948 contract between the estate of Orville Wright and the Smithsonian has the museum legally bound to call the Wright brothers first in flight: "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," it states.

    One aviation historian claims that contract is wrong, however, forcing the museum to ignore the truth. And for the first time, the museum has released the contract publicly to FoxNews.com, to let the world make its own decisions.

    According to most anyone you ask, Orville and Wilbur sailed into history books on Dec. 17, 1903, following their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Smithsonian features the Wright Flyer prominently today.

    READ THE FINE PRINT

    A 1948 contract between the Smithsonian museum and Orville Wright requires the museum to call the Wright Flyer the first real airplane, critics argue. Here, the relevant excerpt from the contract:
    “Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor its successors, nor any museum or other agency ... or its successors shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight.”

    But Australian aviation historian John Brown argues that a recently uncovered photograph proves German immigrant Gustav Whitehead flew first (over Connecticut, in the wee hours of Aug. 14, 1901). Brown says the Smithsonian is bound by that contract to ignore Whitehead’s feat. And the secrecy has to go, he wrote last week to the Smithsonian’s senior curator.

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    Last edited by Thor; April 10th, 2013 at 18:25.
    Thor Odinson... you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you're unworthy of your title, you're unworthy... of the loved ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!

  2. #2
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    Now I have to ask myself, "Why would the Wrights need or want this kind of contract unless they knew they weren't the first?"

    I mean why not trust history to tell the truth? (assuming it was the truth that they were the first)...
    Thor Odinson... you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you're unworthy of your title, you're unworthy... of the loved ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!

  3. #3
    A reasonable question, Thor, given a surface level examination of the facts.

    Looking deeper, however, can have see you falling into the black hole that was the huge feuds and legal battles surrounding the early years of heavier-than-air flight.

    One of the Wrights' competitors in the race to achieve the first powered flight was one Samuel P. Langley, inventor and the third Secretary of the Smithsonian. He made a couple of attempts to fly his aircraft, the Aerodrome, by launching it with a catapult from a ship on the Potomac River. Although the unmanned models he had built flew successfully, he never achieved manned flight with the aircraft.

    Nonetheless, apparently emboldened by the success of the models' flights (and no doubt a desire for recognition for himself), the Aerodrome was placed on display in the Smithsonian with a sign calling it "the first aircraft capable of flight." This misleading statement claiming what the Wrights felt was "wrightfully" theirs, infuriated the brothers and caused a feud that was only effectively ended when this contract was signed.

    The Wrights were so angered by Langley using his position to put the prestige of the Smithsonian behind his (false) claim to the first manned powered flight that they, with the help of Charles Lindbergh, packed up their Wright Flyer and shipped it to England (where it was loving stored, along with the Magna Carta, in a quarry for protection from German bombs in World War II). An agreement struck in 1942 between Orville Wright and the Smithsonian is what eventually led to the return of the Wright Flyer to the United States and its Wrightful place in the USA's national aviation museum.

    Had the Wrights "trusted history" as you suggest, it's possible the Langley machine would still have that same misleading label on it and the Wrights efforts only a footnote in the museum's "official" story of the history of flight.

    The Wrights must have rankled at the sight of the display of the Aerodrome and had seen for themselves how history can be twisted to meet the desires of the powerful and so Orville sought, through this contract, to see that the wrong committed against he and his brother by the museum would not be repeated after they were gone.
    Last edited by Carl; April 20th, 2013 at 19:14.
    I intend to fly until my beard gets caught in the propeller. And since I don't plan on growing a beard, that may be a while. — Ernest K. Gann, age 69


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  4. #4
    Captain Thor's Avatar
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    Maybe this guy from New Zealand was really the first?

    Richard William Pearse (3 December 1877 – 29 July 1953) was a New Zealand farmer and inventor who performed pioneering experiments in aviation.


    It is claimed Pearse flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, some nine months before the Wright brothers flew their aircraft.[1] The documentary evidence to support such a claim remains open to interpretation, and Pearse did not develop his aircraft to the same degree as the Wright brothers, who achieved sustained controlled flight.[2] Pearse himself never made such claims, and in an interview he gave to the Timaru Post in 1909 only claimed he did not "attempt anything practical...until 1904".


    Pearse himself was not a publicity-seeker and also occasionally made contradictory statements, which for many years led some of the few who knew of his feats to offer 1904 as the date of his first flight. The lack of any chance of industrial development, such as spurred the Wrights to develop their machine, seems to have suppressed any recognition of Pearse's achievements.

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    Thor Odinson... you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you're unworthy of your title, you're unworthy... of the loved ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!

  5. #5
    I keep hearing there was an Australian guy and a German-born American that flew before the Wright brothers...

    Any knowledge out there?
    I intend to fly until my beard gets caught in the propeller. And since I don't plan on growing a beard, that may be a while. — Ernest K. Gann, age 69


    Daily Diatribe - (Carl's Blog)

  6. #6
    Here's the story from a website dedicated to "the German-born American" aka Gustave Whitehead:

    Gustave Whitehead - a Short History

    Early 1901, Gustave Whitehead built his 21st manned aircraft. He called it the “Condor”. That summer – more than two years before the Wright Brothers – he made history's first manned, powered, controlled, sustained flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft. A photo and other proof exists. As a result, on March 8, 2013, the world's foremost authority on aviation history, "Jane's All the World's Aircraft", formally recognized Gustave Whitehead's claim (and, on March 22 and April 2, 2013, its editor, Paul Jackson, explained his reasons for doing in more detail).

    When the Australian historian, John Brown, was hired to research an aviation documentary for Smithsonian Channel, the last book about Whitehead was more than 20 years old. Since then, publicly-funded Whitehead Research Committees in the USA & Germany had continued their efforts. And over 50 million pages of old newspapers had become accessible for online key-word searches. Furthermore, photographic technologies had entered the computer age. This led to some spectacular findings.

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    I intend to fly until my beard gets caught in the propeller. And since I don't plan on growing a beard, that may be a while. — Ernest K. Gann, age 69


    Daily Diatribe - (Carl's Blog)

  7. #7
    Captain Thor's Avatar
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    And in the interest of fairness, perhaps we should enjoy the Smithsonian's side of the story?

    March 18, 2013
    Air and Space Curator: The Wright Brothers Were Most Definitely the First in Flight

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    Orville Wright (above) and his brother Wilbur are credited with having conducted the first sustained, controlled, heavier-than-air flight. Photo courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum

    Tom Crouch is senior curator of aeronautics at the Air and Space Museum.
    Last week, the British aviation publication Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft declared that the Wright brother’s historic 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk was not the first to achieve sustained, heavier-than-air, controlled flight, but gave the title instead to aviator Gustave Whitehead of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who purportedly flew his craft two years early. The journal’s editor cites the website of an Australian research John Brown and declares the case solved, writing: “The Wrights were right; but Whitehead was ahead.”

    The National Air and Space Museum, which has held the Wright Flyer in its collections since 1948, has been challenged over the decades by a number of Whitehead enthusiasts, but have found all claims wanting. Complicating the issue is a contract held by the Smithsonian Institution with the Estate of Orville Wright, which is often cited as “evidence” that the Smithsonian Institution is unable or unwilling to declare any other first in flight contender. The contract stipulates that the museum would lose custody of the Wright Flyer should it ever state that another aircraft was first in flight. Curator of aeronautics and Wright biographer Tom Crouch has long studied the Whitehead claims and today, finds no merit in this most recent argument. The language in the contract, Crouch points out, is related to another Wright competitor, the Aerodrome built by the Smithsonian’s third secretary S.P.Langley (but that’s another story.) Of the contract, Crouch writes: “I can only hope that, should persuasive evidence for a prior flight be presented, my colleagues and I would have the courage and the honesty to admit the new evidence and risk the loss of the Wright Flyer.” Crouch has written the following to address the current claim.

    John Brown, an Australian researcher living in Germany, has unveiled a website claiming that Gustave Whitehead (1874-1927), a native of Leutershausen, Bavaria, who immigrated to the United States, probably in 1894, made a sustained powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine on August 14, 1901, two years before the Wright brothers. The standard arguments in favor of Whitehead’s flight claims were first put forward in a book published in 1937, and have been restated many times. With a new wave of interest in the Whitehead claims, the time has come for a fresh look.

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    Thor Odinson... you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you're unworthy of your title, you're unworthy... of the loved ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!

  8. #8
    There are many technical problems with Flyer I 1903. The plane was unstable, underpowered and had propellers that appeared only in 1908, exactly in the same year when the Wright brothers flew for the first time in front of credible witnesses. The brothers simply lied about their flights in 1903-1905. They built their planes in France in 1908 with French engines (Bariquand et Marre), efficient french propellers and using the entire French flight experience of 1908.

    see: http://wright-brothers.wikidot.com

    The Wright brothers established flight duration records in the autumn of 1908 but they appeared in the history of aviation when other inventors had already flown more than 15 minutes.

  9. #9
    Captain Thor's Avatar
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    Interesting.

    Any references besides the web page?
    Thor Odinson... you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you've opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you're unworthy of your title, you're unworthy... of the loved ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!

  10. #10
    List of References (1903 - 1908) about the Wright brothers. All articles fully accessible.

    One of the most ridiculous texts ordered by the Wright brothers is The Flight of a flying Machine (Oct. 6, 1905, Dayton Daily News). Needless to say that the newspaper does not name any witness also it writes about many people, including authorities from different towns, that admired the flights of the two inventors, daily.


    The Flight of a flying Machine
    ——
    Was in the Air Twenty-Five Minutes Thursday Afternoon Near Simms Station.
    ——
    WRIGHT BROTHERS HAVE PERFECTED INVENTION.
    ——
    Have Been Experimenting All Week on the Huffman Prairies, East of Dayton, With Their Aeroplane.
    ——
    LARGE PARTY SEES TESTS.
    ——
    The Inventors and Builders of the Machine Have Built a Shed on the Prairie for Storing the Big Air Ship — Flights Have Startled the Residents of the Neighborhood. Great Interest Manifested.
    ——
    With improvements innumerable made to their craft, after months of work, Orville and Wilbur Wright, the youthful Dayton inventors, are making a series of flights in the vicinity of Simm’s Station, on the Dayton, Springfield and Urbana electric road, several miles from Dayton. These trials have been undisputedly some of the most successful expeditions that flying machines have ever made.
    Residents of the locality where the experiments have been lately carried on turn out en masse at each ascension, and predict great results from the enterprise of the two Daytonians.
    Likewise, many from Dayton and a number of authorities from different towns are daily witnesses of the remarkable flights, and are similarly profuse in their predictions of success.
    Thursday afternoon a flight was made, and according to reliable witnesses, the machine soared gracefully for some 25 minutes, responding to all demands of the pilot. At the expiration of this time, fear that the machine could not be sustained aloft much longer, a descent was made by one of the inventors.
    Every day this week flights have been made, almost, with equal success.
    The expectations of the Wright brothers have been decidedly surpassed by their most recent experiments, and they feel that their craft is in the immediate neighborhood of perfection.
    The brothers have been experimenting for the past two years. Their first successes attracted wide attention and were chronicled throughout the country.
    Several Dayton people went out to the Huffman prairies Thursday afternoon to witness the trials. Some time ago the Wright brothers, who are both expert mechanics, conceived the idea of building a flying machine. They made some of their drawings in this city and from here they went to South Carolina to build the machine and try it out. They worked diligently to perfect their plans and finally succeeded in building a machine which would fly.
    They gave the machine a severe tryout on one of the long stretches of beach in the south, and after a stay of over two years they returned to Dayton and built a shed on the Huffman prairies, where they are giving their machine a thorough test.

    Source: “The Flight of a Flying Machine”, Dayton Daily News, Ohio, US, October 6, 1905, Scrapbook - Library of Congress, US.

    The text sounds like coming from a novel written by Joules Verne.

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