Monday, June 17, 2013

Connecticut, "Firster" in Flight

Remember when New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain's face fell off? I remember thinking, "New Hampshire needs to change all their license plates, all their highway signs, their claim to fame is GONE." That was over a decade ago and the Old Man still has his face plastered over everything in New Hampshire. It's like he's a Founding Father or something. North Carolina will not be so lucky in keeping their shtick if the Wright Brothers are ousted from the "First in Flight" title. Connecticut wants that title and they want it now.

The Connecticut Senate passed a bill recently that would strip the Wright brothers of the first powered flight and give recognition to pilot Gustave Whitehead instead. In March, aviation historian John Brown showed what he said to be photographic proof that Whitehead flew over Connecticut in 1901, more than two years earlier than the Wright brothers.

Historians with the Smithsonian Museum are not convinced and say Brown's evidence falls apart. They claim that none of Whitehead's flying machines built before 1902 ever left the ground and that original newspaper accounts documenting Whitehead's flight were exaggerated. And the photo is just too blurry.

Counter to the Smithsonian's claims, Brown says that the museum is bound by the terms of a contract with the Wright estate stating that the museum will lose the original 'First in Flight' airplane if they recognize anyone other than the Wright brothers as having made the first successful powered flight. Though the museum has acknowledged that a contract exists, they maintain they would not let it stand in the way of a historical fact.

But such skepticism has not stopped many in Connecticut from celebrating what they see as their state's historic achievement. “Our license plate should say ‘firster in flight,’” said Bill Finch, the mayor of Bridgeport. Cute:/

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