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Gustave Whitehead Honored By Fairfield For His First Flight

Gustave Whitehead's Albatros is credited with the first manned flight more than two years before the Wright brothers.
Gustave Whitehead's Albatros is credited with the first manned flight more than two years before the Wright brothers. Photo Credit: Courtesy wikimedia commons

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- On the 112th anniversary of his historic flight, Gustave Whitehead Day was proclaimed in the Town of Fairfield by First Selectman Mike Tetreau.

Tetreau set aside Wednesday, Aug. 14, to honor Whitehead, who made historic first flight in Fairfield and Bridgeport in 1901, two years before the 1903 flight of the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

As a result of aviation historian John Brown’s discovery of a panoramic photograph from 1901 showing Whitehead’s inaugural flight, the authoritative aviation publication "Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft" recently endorsed Whitehead as the “first in flight.”

“This recent revelation that Whitehead was first in flight is exciting and historic for the Town of Fairfield," Tetreau said. "Our town is very proud that one of our own has made an unforgettable legacy through his ingenuity and leap of faith.”

Brown described Whitehead's flight in his "Condor #21" as follows: “Two months later, on August 14, 1901, he (Whitehead) invited the press to witness his first, successful, manned, powered flight. Whitehead's aircraft was 'roadable'. Its wings could be folded and it had wheelpower for driving on roads.

"Leaving Bridgeport shortly after midnight, he, his helpers and the press drove the aircraft under its own power 15 miles to the same Fairfield site as the previous tests. They arrived at first light (4:32am according to current US Navy tables).

"After rigging the machine, Whitehead took off at dawn (5:02am), flying first half a mile, then on his second flight, a mile and a half at a height of 50 feet, making a shallow turn along the way to avoid a clump of chestnut trees.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 21, the Fairfield Board of Selectmen will honor Andy Kosch for leading a team that built and flew a replica of Whitehead’s airplane in 1986, proving the airworthiness of the design and refuting many Whitehead critics. Kosch will be honored at the Board of Selectmen meeting in Independence Hall at 4:30 pm.

For more information on Whitehead, contact the Fairfield first selectman’s office at 203-256-3030 or the Fairfield Museum and History Center at 203-259-1598.   In addition, the public can learn more about this historic first flight at this website .

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