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Transportation Science Technology

For Jane's, Gustav Weißkopf's 1901 Liftoff Displaces Wright Bros. 267

Posted by timothy
from the ahem-there's-been-a-development dept.
gentryx writes "Newly found evidence supports earlier claims that Gustave Whitehead (a German immigrant, born Gustav Weißkopf, with Whitehead being the literal translation of Weißkopf) performed the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air flight as early as 1901-08-14 — more than two years before the Wrights took off. A reconstructed image shows him mid-flight. A detailed analysis of said photo can be found here. Apparently the results are convincing enough that even Jane's chimes in. His plane is also better looking than the Wright Flyer I." (And when it comes to displacing the Wright brothers, don't forget Alberto Santos Dumont.)
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For Jane's, Gustav Weißkopf's 1901 Liftoff Displaces Wright Bros.

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  • by shoor (33382) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @10:23PM (#43128715)

    I watched a multi-part documentary on TV about the development of aircraft, emphasis on military aircraft, but there was talk about the Wright Bros and Santos-Dumont also. What I particularly remember is that one commentator said that while others were getting things off the ground, it was the Wright Brothers who understood the inherit instability of a plane. Others thought of a plane as a bit like a boat in the water, but the Wrights had been bicycle mechanics, and knew that one had to constantly control a bicycle, and they studied how birds, for example, had to constantly adjust their wings. What impressed people at the 1908 Paris Air Show wasn't just that the plane flew, but that it was so maneuverable, doing figure 8s, that kind of thing.

  • Re:Smithsonian (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @10:26PM (#43128731) Homepage
    I love how your conspiracy theory conveniently ignores the fact that the Wright Brothers studied aerodynamics, which was why their aircraft flew and others' did not. That flying rowboat in the photo is not aerodynamic at all. Tell you what, you build a reproduction and make it fly. Others will build a Wright Flyer...oh wait they've already done that and it flies.
  • We call BS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srg33 (1095679) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @11:38PM (#43128951)

    I don't know if the Wright brothers were first or not. But, I do know that this "re-creation" is BS. I read TFA and carefully viewed the images. There is nothing that actually shows the darn thing flying and there are many clear photographs of it on the ground. Someone mentioned evidence in court. Well, I am an attorney and this case is a laugher!

  • by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @11:44PM (#43128973)
    I think what this conversation is really about is the role of US in international affairs. It's a nationalistic thing - "we invented X! Y is teh bestest nation!" and so countires play tug of war with different accomplishments. I say let's leave politics to the politicians, and keep the facts where they belong!
  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:32AM (#43129119)

    Dude, he took the design of the wright flyer and bolted wheels onto the bottom of it. The tricky part that nobody got before the Wrights was the wing cross-section. They worked a *lot* to get it correct - they thew out existing data on airfoil and lift data and created their own measuring device to figure out the best shape.

    Not taking anything away from Dumont - he made some good improvements to the design of the Wright flyer. However, there's a reason why everything before Wright's plane looked like a bird or a bat, and everything after looked like a Wright Flyer.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:40AM (#43129147) Homepage Journal

    Keyword is "practical". The Wright brothers did not fly a practical plane. All that they did, was groundwork that helped others to develop a real, practical plane.

    I'm not convinced that Gustaf did anything remarkable, nor am I convinced that he did NOT do anything remarkable. The images in the citations are not impressive. Someone would have to copy it, and make it fly, for me to be impressed.

    Let's remember, there were snake oil salesmen by the thousands back in the day. And, rainmakers. And, yes, they even had politicians back then. I need a little proof before I believe the thing in those images actually flew. I don't even require that it's flight time equals that of the Wright brothers. Just get it off the ground, under it's own power, and I'll accept that it can fly. Fifteen feet, fifty feet, five hundred feet of flight - none of it can happen if the damned thing won't get off the ground.

    I'm just not a snake oil purchaser. I want videos, photos, and eyewitnesses by the score.

  • Controlled flight (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Sunday March 10, 2013 @01:52AM (#43129325) Homepage Journal
    I don't think anyone literate in aviation history has ever disputed that people have "flown" before the Wrights. The problem they solved with controlled flight. The fact that they were able to get a lightweight engine built is interesting but really secondary. Lots of folks could have built a lightweight engine. What people need to credit the Wrights for is their pioneering work in aerodynamic engineering that led to controlled flight. This was their key contribution.
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:16AM (#43129501) Homepage Journal

    The Wright Bros were the first to demonstrate in a repeatable fashion the ability to fly above ground effect height and to do controlled turns. The key word being "repeatable". There were others who probably managed the same kind of flight, once or twice, but bad luck with crashes, or designs and workmanship that limited the lifespan of their creations to 2 or 3 flights, or some other factor put them out of the running.

    I think an overlooked aspect of the Wright's success was their experience in running a bicycle shop, which led to them building an aircraft in a way where parts could be easily replaced or repaired... or upgraded when the initial design proved faulty. Which happened with at least the placement of the horizontal control surface and the pulley mechanism that warped the wings (their equivalent of aerolons).

  • by QuantumLeaper (607189) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @05:07AM (#43129669) Journal
    When the Wright Flyer was shown in Paris, they took off towards a line of trees, when they changed course in mid-flight, the French had to admit they had won the race. Getting a fix wing aircraft off the ground wasn't that hard, getting it to turn was.
  • So what it boils down to is exactly how you define flight. Just like who built the first working, practical computer depends on what definition you use (Colossus/ENIAC). It's annoying but just one of those things we will probably never know with certainly, just like who first broke the sound barrier in level flight.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Sunday March 10, 2013 @09:17AM (#43130293) Homepage

    vThen please explain the 85 newspaper articles from the time which all agree that Whitehead flew many times in 1901/1902.

    Since when are newspapers absolutely reliable and unimpeachable sources? Newspapers trumpeted the discovery of N-rays [wikipedia.org] and the Cardiff Giant [wikipedia.org] too. No, then as now, the media prints and repeats all manner of daft and dodgy material. This goes double when they had no reliable manner of fact checking third party accounts. Sex, celebrity, scandal, and sensationalism sells, now, then, and likely forever...
     
    There's a book floating about that tells the tale of Titanic from contemporary newspaper accounts, and it's sobering how wrong so many of them of were.
     

    It's only now that the records have been digitised is it so easy to find them.

    Which is what makes me suspicious as hell... you'd think something so widely anticipated as powered, heavier than air flight would have much more widely reported. You'd also suspect that (as happened with the Wright Brothers), when it was widely reported - anywhere from dozens to hundreds of copycats would emerge relatively quickly. The newspapers would then, as they did after the Wright Brothers, report on those as well.
     
    What you wouldn't expect if for it to vanish without a ripple.
     

    To disprove those you'd have to be the conspiracy theorist!

    They can't be conclusively disproved, no. But only a conspiracy theorist would accept that as 'proof', as they can't conclusively be proven either. That leaves the researcher to turn to other materials - materials noticeably absent in this case. This is why the supporters of this notion had to resort to photo manipulation and 'analysis' of a degree that would make even "Face on Mars" and "We Never Went to the Moon" nutters blush.

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