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8/17/2015 - Fairfield Celebrates 114th Anniversary of Gustave Whitehead's Flight

First Selectman Mike Tetreau announced today that the Town of Fairfield is proud to celebrate the 114th anniversary of Gustave Whitehead’s 1901 historic first flight in Fairfield and Bridgeport, which took place prior to the 1903 flight of the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

In keeping Whitehead’s legacy alive, Fairfield resident Andy Kosch displayed a replica of Whitehead’s plane on Sherman Green this past weekend. Kosch, a member of Stratford’s Connecticut Air and Space Center’s board of directors, led a team to build and fly a replica of Gustave Whitehead’s airplane in 1986 proving the airworthiness of the design and refuting many Whitehead critics.

The revelation of Whitehead, who had once lived in Fairfield, first came to light when aviation historian John Brown discovered a panoramic photograph from 1901 showing Whitehead’s inaugural flight. This history changing event resulted in the authoritative aviation publication, Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, endorsing Whitehead as “first in flight.”

The Connecticut state legislature also officially recognized Whitehead predating the Wright Brothers’ flight when both the house and senate unanimously approved a bill that was signed into law by the Governor and took effect on June 26, 2013.

Brown describes 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 wheel power 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. After rigging the machine, Whitehead took off at dawn, 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.”

First Selectman Tetreau said, “Our Town is very proud that one of our own has made an unforgettable legacy through his ingenuity and leap of faith. We will continue to honor Whitehead’s exciting and historic aviation achievement.”

For more information on Whitehead, the public may 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 http://www.gustave-whitehead.com.

The photo shows First Selectman Mike Tetreau, Andy Kosch, who is holding a propeller, and Selectman Sheila Marmion standing next to the replica that was displayed at Sherman Green.