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Transportation Science Technology

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

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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  • What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:38PM (#43128555)

    That is rowboat with some kind of wings attached. Not flying wings but insect wings. Is this some kind of joke?

  • Another first? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:39PM (#43128559) Homepage

    First use of Unicode characters in Slashdot?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:41PM (#43128569)

    It's not just about discovery, but about sharing that discovery. Lots of people made it to the Americas before Columbus, but because his discovery of it became well known, he gets credit. If I invent practical cold fusion in my back yard but never share that, well, then I deserve to be forgotten.

  • Yeah, right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:42PM (#43128577) Journal

    That looks like an absolute fake... I'd love the engineering analysis to show if that things could conceivably fly.

  • Re:Another first? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:50PM (#43128605) Journal

    It was hardcoded. Somebody had to directly edit the row in MySQL to insert the non-alphanumeric ascii character into it.

  • by blue trane ( 110704 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:55PM (#43128623) Homepage Journal

    Mendel tried to share. Wegener tried to share. Aristarchus of Samos tried to share. Society chose to cover their ears, close their eyes, and sing "la la la".

  • Picking nits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @09:58PM (#43128633)

    Might be overly critical, but from the picture it looks an awful lot like that thing is gliding off the top of a hill. That's quite a bit different than lifting off of a flat surface.

    How "reconstructed" is that photograph, anyway? That fence in the foreground looks weird.

  • Re:Yeah, right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CncRobot ( 2849261 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @10:07PM (#43128671)

    One of the articles shows two differnet replicas being built and flown 1986 and 1998 in USA and Germany.
    The only issue I have with it is the engine that would have been needed to get it in the air shouldn't have existed then. It appears the original engines he used no longer exist, so it will remain a mystery. The claims he made on engine weight and HP are quite a bit ridiculous for the time. As for the design of the plane, it could easily fly, but wouldn't be my first choice to try out, maybe if it had a larger rudder because in a slight wind it would probably be impossible to land.

  • Re:Yeah, right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @10:18PM (#43128701)
    There are stories about bigfoot sightings from the 1800s. Are we now all supposed to believe that bigffot is real based on those articles?
  • by dmbasso ( 1052166 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @10:21PM (#43128709)

    While the Wright Brother's first reaction was to patent the invention, Santos Dumont freely spread his schematics and helped people who wanted to copy his inventions, in the true spirit of sharing knowledge (like Free Software). So by your own definition the W.B. should be forgotten...

  • Re:Picking nits (Score:2, Interesting)

    by a_hanso ( 1891616 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @11:27PM (#43128913) Journal

    How "reconstructed" is that photograph, anyway? That fence in the foreground looks weird.

    You have a good eye! That's the first thing that struck me as well. Look at the top left corner of the nearest fence post at about 150% magnification. That looks like poor cropping. And the illumination on it doesn't match ambient lighting. The "graining" on the fence doesn't match the rest of the image either. AND look at the bottom edge of the photo. Looks like the image continues below the black line, but the fence doesn't. Why the heck would somebody bother adding it? Not like it contributes anything to the image.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @11:36PM (#43128943)

    Mendel tried to share. Wegener tried to share. Aristarchus of Samos tried to share. Society chose to cover their ears, close their eyes, and sing "la la la".

    Schrader, Ambrose, Rüdiger and van der Linde also tried to share their discovery, but ultimately, the German High command decided not to use nerve agents against allied targets in WWII.

    Some things should not be "shared".

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @11:56PM (#43129009) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure the newspaper articles are right and that Whitehead did fly. However what definition of "fly" were they using?

    With the 20 HP motor, Whitehead probably had no problem lifting off the ground at least a few feet. The people watching would've been excited and certainly would've told others that they saw a machine fly.

    But are we talking about sustained, controllable flight here? Or just hovering in ground effect in a straight line? Look at the picture with the bat wings and tell me -- if you know anything about aerodynamics at all -- what would've happened the first time that thing banked into a turn.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:37AM (#43129141)
    For you to be correct, the other people who actually flew first would have had to never heard about the news of the Wright Brothers. How likely is that? Otherwise, we'd have heard of the controversy, after all, we did hear about the others that complained, so I'd consider proof he did not complain. That doesn't seem likely at all.

    The simplest explanation is that the Wright Brothers were first, and others were vying for attention, but none "flew" they just fell with style.
  • by Bitsy Boffin ( 110334 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:49AM (#43129189) Homepage
    Interesting that the Smithsonian has denied researcher access to photos it holds which could clear up the matter...

    "The William J. Hammer Collection is located at the Smithsonian Institute, Researchers are denied access: Hammer Collection archival note denying access to researchers"

    you would think that they would at least make copies available. What good are the photos if they are locked away in a vault where nobody can ever look at them?

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MobileC ( 83699 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @01:28AM (#43129293) Homepage

    It was only after there was competition from aircraft manufacturers trying to invalidate the Wright patent that all this prior art suddenly magically materialized. The Wrights never lost a case.

    And since then, all planes have used wing warping for controlled flight.

    Oh, hang on...

  • Re: What? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Will.Woodhull ( 1038600 ) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:25AM (#43129515) Homepage Journal

    You can thank the Wright Bros for their patented wing warping and their resistance to selling licenses for that to any competitors. If they had not done that, ailerons would not have been invented.

    I also thank you for the correct spelling of that word. It is just so logical that it should have "aero-" as its root that I even have trouble googling for the right spelling.

  • by QuantumLeaper ( 607189 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @04:15AM (#43129585) Journal
    Wright Bros could bank and turn in there aircraft, there had been fixed wing aircraft before them but there was no way of turning it. That's is the difference getting off the ground and controlling once you were airborne. Unless one of the others can prove you could do more that go up and down in a straight line, I have to say Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Wing warping gave it to the Wright Brothers more than anything else.
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BarfooTheSecond ( 409743 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @10:47AM (#43130801)

    The airframe is very similar to O. Lilienthal gliders, which actually flew.

    This story is acknowledged by Jane's All the World's Aircraft which I think is a reliable authority, including the stinky deal "the Smithsonian shall [not state] any aircraft...earlier than the Wright aeroplane of 1903...was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight"
    http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-security-report.aspx?ID=1065976994 [janes.com]

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."