Wright Brothers: Second in Flight?

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Gustav Whitehead and his 1901 monoplane No. 21
wikimedia.org

Were we wrong about the Wright Brothers?

That's the shocking claim by Australian aviation historian John Brown, who told FoxNews.com he has photographic proof that German immigrant Gustav Whitehead flew over Connecticut in 1901 -- Orville and Wilbur were second.

“Two years, four months, and three days before the Wright brothers, somebody else flew first,” Brown said via phone from Germany. "It’s really a radical revision of the history of aviation."

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Even “Jane’s: All the World’s Aircraft” -- widely considered the essential bible of flight -- has acknowledged Whitehead's achievement and Brown's research. With the headline "justice delayed is justice denied," editor-in-chief Paul Jackson wrote about the early aviator's story for the overview to the newly released 100th edition of the reference guide, published online on Saturday.

“Today, it seems impossible that a vast cache of documentary evidence ... can be overlooked by the world at large,” he wrote.

The Wright brothers soared into history books on Dec. 17, 1903, following their historic, 852-foot, 59-second flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina -- an achievement for which the duo are widely described as being “first in flight.” But historians have long known that others were working on a variety of flying machines, including a fellow U.S. resident, German immigrant Gustav Whitehead (born Weisskopf).

Whitehead flew early in the morning of Aug. 14, 1901, Brown said. His winged, bird-like plane was called  No. 21, or "The Condor"; with wooden wheels and canvas wings stretched taut across bat-like wooden arms, it rose over the darkened streets of Bridgeport, Conn., and covered an estimated 1.5 miles at a height of 50 feet, he said.

Whitehead brought the chief editor of the Bridgeport Herald to witness the event, which led to a news article for the paper and a photo of the historic event -- a photo that, unfortunately for history, turned out to be awfully blurry.

“There were four journalists who saw the photo back in the early 1900s. They saw it up close, the real-life version. I have to use their eyes to be able to see it,” Brown, who has cultivated a vast crop of information on Whitehead, told FoxNews.com.

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