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Wright Brothers vs. Smithsonian: The Bitter Feud Over Who Invented the Airplane

Rival claims to the first powered flight milestone put the Wright Flyer against the "Aerodrome," a plane built by then-Smithsonian boss, Samuel P. Langley. By 1928 Orville Wright was so incensed by the ongoing lack of official recognition that he sent the original Wright Flyer to the UK national science museum, where it stayed (underground) until the end of WWII. ( More...

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Chris Habig 11
The story is interesting but contains a factual error. The Wright Flyer never taxied. It had no wheels. It launched from a rail.
Jay Estes 9
It is also interesting that Langley spent on the order of $70,000 (in 1903 money) government funds on his work, and the Wright brothers spent a meager $2,500 of their own cash. Of course the wright brothers built their own engine, devised the first wind-tunnel, and gave us wing warping for control of attitude included with the first flight. It's not even close in my book.
Mike Williams 4
I still like the Wright brothers for really making the 1st long flying airplane.
They like many inventors perfected other inventors' ideas.
Mr. Edison got the filament perfected.
Steve Taylor 2
warmwynds 3
Wasn't Jolly old St. Nick around before any of these folks?
lynx318 2
Ooh, controversy, isn't his sleigh a towed vehicle? Does that class it as a glider?😃
victorbravo77 1
Reindeer powered.
warmwynds 3
What an amazing historical article especially mentioning some of the historical events that occured on December 17th. It appears I am one of them with a 1948 birth year thrown in. Just did my 73rd. Clear skies all!
victorbravo77 2
Langley never really flew. His Langley 'Aerodrome #5 was piloted by Charles Manly.
For those who don't want to disable their ad blockers:
WkndFlyr 2
Very possible that Gustave Whitehead actually flew before this. His machine was more of a powered hang glider (wieght shift control and single sided airfoil, But there are accounts that say it flew, and a few years ago a replica (with a more modern engine but with the same horsepower as the original) actually did fly.

True 3 axis control was what made the Wright's machine superior. Some argue that the rail launching system was cheating, but the aircraft could actually stay in the air on their own. Later models with wheels could take off with no problem.
GraemeSmith 1
Couda, Mighta, Very, maybe, someone said they saw it, one paper repeated it and hundreds picked it up........

A bit like those History Channel - "Ancient Aliens MIGHT have........" :-)
warmwynds 2
Like Chris Columbus discovering America. First of all those Indians in the West Indies did not want to be discovered and they told him to discover his butt out of here. No one discover this continent. It was already here like all the other continents.
Not the first time that that Smithsonian institute has taken history and made it to suit their own purposes
Andre Page 2
Like many inventions, technology advances and different people put 2 and 2 together and come up with similar ideas. "Oh, like THAT! We can do it too..." Always a race to be "first"... ;-)
rebomar 4
Gustave Whitehead August 14, 1901
I was afraid this was going to be another woke article.
First flight is claimed to be in Brasil. Write bros first Americans, yes world, no.
Craig Good 1
Who was first depends on how you define "first flight". It was much more complicated than this article claims.
bosquetia 1
100% Correct. If flight is being in the sky in a controlled machine then others were first (balloon with a gondola and engine). If flight is using the 3 axis of flight (pitch, yaw, roll) then there can be no question the brothers were first.
Peter Berner 1
Santos Dumont
tim hogan 1 Richard Pearse A New Zealander aka Kiwi
WkndFlyr 4
Interestingly, the Scientific American of the time says he did fly. This "debunk" article is more of a criticism of badly written articles from that time and the main claim is there's no picture and the article has a lot of awkward wording. However, a replica of Gustave's machine did fly, but a replica of the Wright machine couldn't fly on the 100th anniversary of flight. (not enough head wind). To be fair the Wright replica had made a couple practice hops be fore the Anniversary attempt. We can't truly say Gustave didn't fly, but the three axis control with wing warping of the Wright brothers made their machine superior. However, the Gustave machine had 3 axis control too, and therefore it was a threat to the Wright Brothers patents. The Wrights became very wealthy and did everything they could to discredit anything that endangered there patents. The Whitehead machine was basically a powered hang glider, and the Wright machine had more elements of a true airplane.
Langley was 'financed by Federal Funding' ... Even back in the 1920's, it's clear that the Washington DC 'swamp creatures' believed that only government is capable of achievement.
David Beattie 8
You mean that evil government that brought us the B-17, B-52, SR71, Saturn 5 and the Space program that took us to the moon?
Last I checked, Boeing built the B-17 & 52, and Lockheed the SR71. The gov't funded them, but it didn't build them.
niceoldguy 1
Well, Boeing didn't go out and sell stock to build them.

The federal government determined the need, wrote the specifications, and provided the funding.

Same with SR71, Saturn 5 and the rest of the space program.

Private industry capabilities and expertise indispensable, but government initiative and support equally indispensable .
Leigh Hearn 1
Well said!

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Lee Withers 22
A little history is good for us who do not know everything :)

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

bobfiegel 4
So everyone here is a child? Not the way I perceive it, but...
lynx318 4
Lighter than air ship doesn't really count.


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