Early Aviation

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Frequently Asked Questions...

Can someone help me on a question about early aviation?

Does someone know who was the first person to fly a heavier-than-air machine which took off by its own means, without help of rails and catapult?

Best Answer...


Although it is hard to say for certain it is possibly Gustave Albin Whitehead.
The aviation event for which Whitehead is now best-known reportedly took place in Fairfield, Connecticut on August 14, 1901. According to an eyewitness newspaper article widely attributed to journalist Dick Howell of the Bridgeport Sunday Herald, Whitehead piloted his Number 21 aircraft in a controlled powered flight for about half a mile up to 50 feet high and landed safely.[9] The feat, if true, preceded the Wright brothers by more than two years and exceeded their best 1903 Kitty Hawk flight, which covered 852 feet at a height of about 10 feet.
The airplane started driven by its ground wheels, then the power was switched over to the propellers. The motors were powered with a mixture of acetylene and oxygen/compressed air. No external starting help or special conditions, like a strong headwind or catapult, were used.