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  • 10/6/2004

Gustave Whitehead

(January 1, 1874 - October 10, 1927)

Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weißkopf‎, was a German-American aviation pioneer.‎
His first flight was made on August 14 1901 in Connecticut when he flew his Number 21‎three times as reported by Bridgeport Herald, the New York Herald and the Boston‎Transcript . The longest flight was 60 meters (200 feet) above ground and lasted for 2.5‎kilometers (1.5 miles) and that is significantly better than the short jump the Wright‎brothers did two years and four months later.

There are witness reports thet he flew about a kilometer (half a mile) as early as 1899. In‎January 1902 he flew 10 kilometers (seven miles) over the Long Island strait in the‎improved Number 22.

The reason his flights are so little known has been attributed to that he was of German‎origin and that the Wright brothers donated their Wright flyer to the Smithsonian Institute‎on the condition that the institute would not recognize an earlier aeroplane.

Both Number 21 and Number 22 were monoplanes, the first powered by a 20 hp engine‎and the later with a 40 hp engine. They used a system where the engine drove the front ‎wheels up to take-off speed and then the power was switched to drive the propeller. This‎meant that he didn't have to use a catapult like Wright did.

The roll was controlled by the pilot shifing his weight, much like on a glider, the pitch‎was controlled by a tail wing and the yaw was controlled by altering the ammount of‎thrust on either of the two propellers.

In 1985 some US enthusiasts started building a replica of Whitehead's machine on‎December 29, 1986 Andrew Kosch made 20 flights, reaching a maximum distance of 100‎meters (330 feet). On February 18, 1998 a German replica flew distances up to 500‎meters.

The Wright brothers also visited Whitehead to discuss the purchase of one of his engines‎and they exchanged ideas and discoveries regarding flight.‎‎

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