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Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle...

greenmartian2017

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Thought I would post this here...as I was wondering about this recently...

Who flew first?


Was it Gustav Whitehead?

Or was it the Wright Brothers?

Or was it someone else?

Your comments welcomed...URL links too.

I am leaning towards Gustav Whitehead myself.
 

Justo Miranda

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Clement Ader "Eole"
http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/images/I006/10216230.aspx

http://www.century-of-flight.net/Aviation%20history/to%20reality/Clement%20Ader.htm
 

Jemiba

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

The plane built by Clement Ader was able to take off, but obviously lacked a
sufficient flight control. During the last years, several articles about Gustav
Weißkopf ("Whitehead") were published and I, too, think, that his aircraft
at least was as capable of controlled flight, as the one of the Wright brothers.
But the strongest argument for Weißkopfs case may be the contract, which
was signed between the heirs of the Wrights and the Smithsonian institute,
which is said to be still hindering research today.
Why such efforts, when there are no doubts ?
 

Orionblamblam

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

Jemiba said:
Why such efforts, when there are no doubts ?

Theory: in an era when proving your case was largely a matter of just getting enough people together to say "I saw it," the contract may have been just a means of shutting down the 1900-era version of the "911 Truthers." Whenever someone has a spectacular historical claim, such as the Wrights had, you're forever going to have nutjobs and conmen trying to undercut them. The contract may have simply been a way to keep the Smithsonian from giving the charlatans a platform.
 

AeroFranz

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In his book "Macchine bizzarre nella storia dell'aviazione, vol I" Giorgio Evangelisti spends 13 pages on the subject. By the way, Evangelisti is a top-notch writer, and I am pretty sure what he writes is the fruit of accurate research.

There are reports of Weisskopf/whitehead flying for the first time on August 14 1901 in Bridgeport, Conn. in front of a reporter, for approx. 900 meters at an altitude of 15 meters. In the book there is a picture of the front page of the New York Herald, aug. 19th 1901. it says:
"Inventors in partnership to solve problem of aerial navigation" and below " Gustave Whitehead travels half a mile in flying machine operated by a new acetylene chemical pressure, lessening motor power weight seventy-five percent".
There is mention of this flight on American inventor, Aeronautical world, and Scientific american.

I have a picture of Whitehead holding under one arm his engine. It put out 10 HP for a weight of 20.43 kg. There is also a picture of a Weisskopf model 21, which looks fairly competent. the wing planform and structure is bird-like, with ribs emanating from a single fuselage attachment point, but other details are totally functional. For example, there is a separate horizontal tail that would give reasonable stability/control, and there is a kingpost in the fuselage that is used with bracing wires to strengthen the wing structure, a la Bleriot or Fokker Eindecker.

A subsequent model 22 had a 40 hp engine weighing 54kg, and jan.15th, 1902, he supposedly made a flight of 3.5km and was flying fast and high enough that an amateur photographer did not manage to get a good picture. He ended up landing in water. Without pictorial proof of flight whitehead went bankrupt because his investors pulled out, so nothing else came of his machines.

hmmm.. there is a lot of text and I'll have to spend some time translating most of the story which is pretty lengthy.
For now suffice to say that in the thirties, an american writer, Stella Randolph, found out about Whitehead and talked to witnesses (Gustave had died in 1927)
got sworn testimonies of witnesses and wrote a book "Lost flights of gustave whitehead" which came out in 1937.
Because of WWII, anything that could be perceived as philo-german, was shunned.
In 1966, Capt. O'Dwyer of the USAF got wind of the whitehead story and did his own research, and pressed Smithsonian people to go talk to the last survivors. They finally talked to Whitehead's assistant two weeks before he died, who described the flight experiments.
In 1966, Stella Randolph published a second book "Before the Wrights flew" .
Apparently there is also a book by O'Dwyer called "History by contract" where he talks about why Whitehead's achievements were not recognized.

My two cents? I think it's possible. It's not sure, but possible. This is not one of those cooks who designed steam-powered boat-shaped contraptions with flapping wings. He had a state-of-the-art engine and seemed to have a good understanding of stability, as demonstrated by the architecture of his planes. BTW, if this were true, that would take nothing away from the achievements of the Wrights.
 

KJ_Lesnick

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

It appears if true, Clement Ader was the first, and 50 meters is farther than the Wright Brothers flew (and it wasn't exactly stable either by modern standards, though I don't know how it compares to Ader...) even beating Samuel Langley by a couple of years.

Gustave Weisskopf's design (compared to Ader's, and the Wright Brothers) seems to be the best as it flew the farthest, and it was probably the most stable and controllable (it was even re-flown years later)


KJ Lesnick
 

starviking

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

Orionblamblam said:
Theory: in an era when proving your case was largely a matter of just getting enough people together to say "I saw it," the contract may have been just a means of shutting down the 1900-era version of the "911 Truthers." Whenever someone has a spectacular historical claim, such as the Wrights had, you're forever going to have nutjobs and conmen trying to undercut them. The contract may have simply been a way to keep the Smithsonian from giving the charlatans a platform.

Talking about the Smithsonian - I once did a guided tour of the Aviation gallery of the Science Museum in London (an excellent museum). On getting to the replica of the Wright Flyer I was surprised to learn that the Science Museum held the original for about 30 or 40 years - because the Smithsonian didn't want it, as they were adamant that Langley made the first powered flight! :D
 

Archibald

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

Well I give you the point of view of le Fana de l'aviation.
5 years ago they published a critical article on the subject.
Things are clear (at least for them)

Four guys managed to TAKE-OFF before the Wrights

- Ader
- A guy from Chanute's team around 1896 (can't remember its name)
- Weisskpof
- And Karl Jato in August 1903

BUT

None of them CONTROLLED its flight, I mean "I decide the moment when I take off, the moment when I land".
PLUS
None of them ever managed to TURN, simply because they didn't (or couldn't) insisted enough over the years.

All these flights are linear, even Weisskopf. Flying 1 km was outstanding in 1901, but perfectly unesful if you don't turn? :)

The Wright brothers great contribution were

- controlled flight, including turns, from 1904.

- A lasting contribution (from 1901 to 1911), not one-shot flights.

Tophe are you here ? can you browse "Les secrets des freres Wrights" (from 2003) in your database ? ;)
 

AeroFranz

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Some more detail from Giorgio Evangelisti's section on Whitehead:

-in 1899 he managed to get a steam-engined airplane 10m up in the air, flying straight for 800m, but hit a three story building due to lack of controllability

-The Weisskopf model 21 of 1901 had a wingspan of 10,05m, and a wing area of 20m2. Two engines, a 4 cylinder one conected to two large diameter two bladed props in the wings, and an auxiliary one driving the landing gear wheels (!).
Structure was bamboo, wood, and silk.

-in 1968, Wind tunnel tests in the Goettingen university showed good flying qualities

-The model 22 was so stable that Weisskopf felt like staying airborne for 3,5km on a flight jan 15th 1902

-Two days later, in front of 25 witnesses, he climbed to 100m and flew as much as 11km along the coast. Weisskopf made a turn and returned to the starting point, before ditching in the water


To me this says that while he couldn't perform Immelmanns or cuban eights, he had a stable and at least partially controllable machine.
I don't have any other reference that supports these claims, though.
 

KJ_Lesnick

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

Weisskopf did have the ability to coordinate turns and such... I don't recall him ever making a flight in 1899 (I also thought on the Aug 14, 1901 flight he flew 800-meters)

However, regarding first powered flight on record to the best of my knowledge... it goes to Clement Ader.


KJ_Lesnick
 

Simon666

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pearse
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Santos-Dumont
 

Avimimus

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

Archibald said:
None of them CONTROLLED its flight, I mean "I decide the moment when I take off, the moment when I land".
PLUS
None of them ever managed to TURN, simply because they didn't (or couldn't) insisted enough over the years.

I personally doubt that the amount of control the the Wright flyers had over their aircraft. Certainly, it was there, but it may not have left the decisions entirely within the hands of the pilot. Furthermore, three axis control isn't necessary for controlled flight - it is quite possible to fly competently with only two axis control.

Archibald said:
- A lasting contribution (from 1901 to 1911), not one-shot flights.

This second point I object to. Compared to many of the earlier researchers (eg. Cayley) contributed much more. The Wright brothers pioneered some techniques but were so secretive about their work that most of these techniques had to be reinvented by others around the world. The real achievements were in producing relatively safe and flexible aircraft that could enter mass production and this was done within five years of the Wright flights, using technologies developed largely in parallel. In short the much lauded achievement in 1904, existed at a time when there was much work independently going on around the world, and was in itself very close to being a dead end.

In the context of other achievements it doesn't look so special:
~5th century china (manned heavier than air flight using gliders)
~1850 control surfaces begin being added to gliders
~1850 first steam powered heavier than air flying scale model
~1870s ski-jump flights with sustainer motors
~1900 long distance flights possible (several hundred metres - often with control on at least two axis)
~1904 Wright brothers demonstrated powered take off and three axis control in the same machine.
~1910 routine controlled flights common (Blérot and Taube)
 

Archibald

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

About Ader.

Ader is the first which managed a powered take-off. That's sure.
But that's not "true" flight.
Btw the Eole landed on its own will, not when the pilot decided about it. In fact the Avion III (1897) crashed.

About Weisskopf.

Ok, I was curious, and browsed a bit more on the web. And its flight seem doubtful.
Problem : all proof come from two documents
- a witness from 1901, which sound doubtful
- More testimonies, but collected in 1935!

More here
http://www.first-to-fly.com/History/History%20of%20Airplane/Whitehead.htm

Sounds an honest investigation work...


My humble opinion : Weisskopf made some excellent glided flights from 1901 to 1904 (which explain the 1935 testimonies).
Powered flight in 1901 , More doubtful.
Sounds more like a bit of mythomania to attract funds at the time. don't forget he was not very rich...



When the Wright come to Le Mans, France, just 100 years ago these days, they had better control than Farman biplane, which was rather a brute to fly.

The Wright brothers pioneered some techniques but were so secretive about their work that most of these techniques had to be reinvented by others around the world.

This is just true. It's the main critics adressed to the Wrights.

So we can reasonably agree on that

~1904 Wright brothers demonstrated powered take off and three axis control in the same machine.

Well, to me it's the very minimum to have a viable aircraft.
For Le Fana, the Wright main contribution was they invented piloting.
 

LowObservable

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The key is that the Wrights were indeed the first to accomplish "sustained, powered, controlled" flight - but that they did not do it in December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, but at Huffman Prairie in September 1904, with the first closed-circuit flight. The 1903 Flyer was good only for straight-line flight. But they had that iconic photo (by the way, I wonder when it was first published?) and they went on to lead the word in 1904-08.
 

Archibald

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Re: Who Flew First? An Inquiry into the first piloted heavier-than-air vehicle.

at Huffman Prairie in September 1904, with the first closed-circuit flight.

100 % agreed. You resumed in 12 words what I tried to say in 250 ;D
 

mat

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Just as you all seems to have reached an egrement, I would like to throw this one into the discussion.
http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/pearse1.html
Have we got a winner?
Greetings
Mat
 

Archibald

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Sorry but that's looks like another "Whitehead".
No serious proofs, no turn, no controlled flight. In short: no PILOTED flight.

Taking-off with a powered machine is not flying...
 
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