Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
His first flight took place on August 14 1901 in Connecticut when he flew his Number 21 three times, as reported by the Bridgeport Herald , the New York Herald and the Boston Transcript . The longest flight was 2.5km (1.5 miles) at a height of up to 60m (200ft): significantly better than the Wright brothers two years and four months later.
It has been suggested that the reason his flights are so little known is that he was of German origin and that the Wright brothers donated their Wright flyer to the Smithsonian Institute on condition the institute did not recognize an earlier aeroplane.
Both Number 21 and Number 22 were monoplanes, the first powered by a 20hp (15kW) engine and the latter with a 40hp (30kW) engine. The engine accelerated the front wheels up to take-off speed and then the power was switched to the propeller. This meant he didn't have to use a catapult like the Wright brothers.
Roll was controlled by the pilot shifting his weight, much as on a glider. Pitch was controlled by a tail wing, and yaw was controlled by altering the thrust on each of the two propellers.
In 1985 some US enthusiasts began to construct a replica of Whitehead's machine. On December 29, 1986 Andrew Kosch made 20 flights and reached a maximum distance of 100 meters (330 feet). On February 18, 1998 a German replica flew distances up to 500 meters.
The Wright brothers visited Whitehead to discuss the purchase of one of his engines and exchanged ideas and discoveries regarding flight.
- Gustav Weisskopf 1. Motorflug der Welt 1901
- Gustave Whitehead's Flying Machine
- Flying Machines - Gustave Whitehead
- Flight Journal Magazine - The 'Who Flew First' Debate
- Air Sports International - Did He Actually Fly Before The Wright Brothers
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