Aviation historian John Brown, who has maintained that Bridgeport resident Gustave Whitehead beat the Wright Brothers into the sky by 2 1/2 years, has issued an open letter to Smithsonian Institution officials Tom Crouch and Peter Jakab.
The Smithsonian has maintained that there’s not enough evidence to credit Whitehead as being the first to build and pilot a heavier-than-air aircraft.
Brown earlier this year demanded that Crouch resign over his unwavering support of the Wrights, noting that the Smithsonian has a contract with the Wright family that guarantees that the museum will credit the Wrights as being the first to fly in return for displaying the historic Wright flyer at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
In this latest letter, Brown says that the historic photo that supposedly shows the Wright flyer flying actually shows it in a “full stall.” Brown, who is also an aeronautical engineer, says in the letter that a careful analysis of the photo shows that the Wright airship is stalling, not flying.
Here is the letter in its entirety:
Dear Drs. Tom Crouch & Peter Jakab,
For those just joining the debate, here’s the current issue:
Referring to the famous photo of the 1903 Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:First_flight2.jpg , Jonathan Fallon,
Editor of “WW1Aero” (an aviation history journal) cited a Powerpoint summary of a NASA study as evidence of the airworthiness of that aircraft:
Although I’ve always avoided making any judgment on the Wrights’ claim* and only ever cited it analogously; after taking time to think about it and consulting other experts, I’m now ready to make a call:
On p.11 of the NASA study (and in preceding studies) it was found that the 1903 Flyer’s front elevator (“canard”) stalled above an angle of 5°-6° in relation to the airflow. However, the photo shows an angle of approximately 30°. It’s therefore impossible that the photo shows “flight”. It shows a deep stall.
This “smoking gun” makes it an easy call. [Ground effect might allow a further 1°-2°,but not 25°. And a temporary over-control input, like when an airplane enters a loop,
can also be ruled out because 11hp airplanes don’t do loops on takeoff (attachment).]
Both exhibits were proffered by Wright proponents. Together, these two documents constitute scientific proof. [**This is in addition to the historical proof.]
I herewith call on DDrs. Tom Crouch & Peter Jakab at the Smithsonian to retire the photo from display and/or no longer refer to it as showing “(first) flight”***. Continuance to do so in direct contravention of the scientific
proof would be unbefitting of a scientific institute. [Arguments like, “well, we still think it flew later the same day” would have to be added to any caption to avoid
the appearance of impropriety in the use of that photo. The ethics of this are especially relevant with the 110th anniversary of Kitty Hawk just 8 weeks away.]
Aerodynamics’ science appears to have caught up with the vagaries of aeronautical history “interpretation” faster than I thought. For scientific observers, this issue is most certainly settled. [However, I have good
cause to doubt the aerodynamics’ proficiency of some of the other participants/observers in this debate****.]
Since this agenda was raised by Wright proponents (who challenged me to address it), any attempt to now change the subject would indicate acknowledgement/concession on this point.