Over the years, there have been a number of articles printed about
Whitehead, his work and his notorious claims. While some of these
articles are reprinted here, I was not able to obtain sketches
and photographs alluded to in the articles. In addition, there
was an article printed in the magazine Argosy in the late 1940's or early 1950's which I have not been able
to obtain a copy of. If anyone knows of articles that are not
included here or the missing sketches etc - please use the email
link at the bottom as these pages seem incomplete without that
December 17th, 1903 was a monumental day in history. Orville and
Wilbur Wright performed the first manned powered flight in an
aircraft they had built of wood and cloth. Or perhaps not. Some
historians believe that on August 14th, 1901, at Fairfield. Conn.,
Gustave Whitehead achieved powered flight. Major William j. O'Dwyer,
US Air Force Reserve (ret.). Has devoted three decades of research
and is convinced that indeed history has been "tampered with".
Gustave Whitehead was born Gustave Alvin Weisskopf on January 1st, 1874, in Leuterhausen, Bavaria, Germany. Growing up in the era of Otto Lilienthal, the German glider pioneer, young Weisskopf became obsessed with the idea of flying. Later, he met and corresponded with Lilienthal, learning something of the rudiments of flight. At age 12 he was orphaned, so the young Weisskopf worked his way to Brazil as a seaman. He spent four years at sea and showed great mechanical aptitude. A gift well suited for the sea. But his heart was always in the sky. He studied the flight of the sea birds. He also survived four shipwrecks, the last of which put him ashore in 1894 on the Gulf Coast near the Florida Panhandle. Young Weisskopf headed northward, taking work when he could get it and reached Boston in 1897. He got a job with the Boston Aeronautical Society. He built a biplane with flapping midwings, it failed to fly.
Next stop was New York City, he met Louise Tuba, they were married in Buffalo, then moved to Baltimore and changed their name to Whitehead. They then moved to Pittsburgh, this is when he began his efforts at powered flight. In 1899, after finding work as a coal miner, he built a two man aircraft powered by a steam engine. It all came to a rather abrupt end when Whitehead and his stoker, Louis Darvarich, crashed into a three story building. Darvarich suffered life long scarring from the steam burns.
Whitehead was not hurt. Their is no real evidence if the craft was airborne at the time or on the ground. Whitehead was not popular with his neighbors, he was often making allot of noise with his engines. So they moved again to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Whitehead resumed his work in 1900 in his basement on the west end of Bridgeport. The neighborhood teenagers were captivated by all this and thus became his unpaid helpers. Whitehead gained knowledge a little at a time. He built a series of gliders and airplanes and made improvements to each one as each one progressed. In the spring of 1901 he finished "Airplane No. 21" in which on August 14th, he claimed to have made his first successful powered flight in Fairfield. An article stating to the fact, in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald said the flight covered a half mile and included a change in direction to avoid a stand of chestnut trees, plus a safe landing without damage to the aircraft. A variety of evidence, including photos taken in 1901 of Airplane No #21 shows an aerodynamically correct monoplane with such wing features as dihedral angle, camber and angle of incidence. It is very possible that this flight took place and has been kept under raps all these years. In 1985 a group of Germans built a replica of "airplane No. 21" to test out the possibility of the earlier flight. The aircraft was as close as they could possibly get with what information they had to work with, to the actual aircraft. On December 29th, 1986 , Andrew Kosch made 20 flights, reaching a maximum distance of 330
Maybe one day they will be changing the History Books.
Source: Aviation History, March 1996