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“Two years, four months and three days before the successful flights of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, a birdlike monoplane took to the air at early dawn on August 14, 1901, near Bridgeport, Connecticut, carrying its inventor and builder, Gustave Whitehead, a distance of approximately a half mile. So reported the Bridgeport Herald, the New York Herald and the Boston Transcript.” Stella Randolph, The Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead

wo Years Before the Wrights
The August, 1901 flight is the first of Whitehead’s flights that has been documented with any success. Reports of his 1899 flight are confused and conflicting at best, with only one testifiable witness found. However, the August flight was been well noted, not only by neighbors and assistants to this pioneering move, but also by some of the major newspapers of the time. On that historic day, at least four flights were reported to be made, the first before daybreak after a long night of attempting to get the “Bird” to fly. Three more flights were made in the afternoon of the same day, the longest of these was said to have covered a distance of one and a half miles at about 200 feet off the ground. These flights were made by the plane that Whitehead referred to as Number 21.

There is more evidence to show that on January 17, 1902, one year and eleven months before Kitty Hawk - two flights were made by Whitehead in a monoplane powered with a kerosene burning engine. Both of these were conducted at Lordship Manor, one lasting a distance of two miles and the other a distance of seven miles over Long Island Sound. These flights were made by the plane that Whitehead referred to as Number 22.

Unfortunately, because Whitehead did not make accurate records of his flight attempts and successes, the distances and heights from the ground are only estimates by witnesses who were present at the flights

The Wright Brothers first flights were nowhere near as impressive. The longest flight of three runs made at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903 was 59 seconds for 852 feet. There is also evidence in the form of an affidavit that connects the Wright brothers success to information provided them by Gustave Whitehead.