BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) – An important anniversary was marked along the Connecticut shoreline this morning. The first manned, powered flight was taken on this date in 1901. There is another state that claims the title “First in Flight.” North Carolina says two brothers flew their plane in 1903, but two years before that, a German immigrant flew his plane along the Connecticut shoreline.
They brought out a replica of that first airplane onto a small green near the Bridgeport-Fairfield line.
“This was important to our country and historic at the time, and I think that’s the innovation, that’s the spirit that we want our kids today to look up to,” said Fairfield First Selectman Mike Treteau.
That first airplane was built by Bridgeport resident Gustave Whitehead. He flew it in Fairfield. Today, his great-great granddaughters received an official proclamation marking the anniversary.
“My dad always told us stories,” said one of those great-great granddaughters, Sammie Crasilli. “They have a lot of newspaper articles and everything and we were taught from a very young age that he was the first one who did it.”
All through school you probably learned that it was the Wright brothers from Ohio, who went to North Carolina, and made the first flight at Kittyhawk. A lot of people thought that, but that was before the replica of Whitehead’s plane got off the ground. About 30 years ago, Andy Kosch put his replica to the test, flying a recreation of Whitehead’s plane about a half a mile.
“This thing flew so easily for me that Gustave Whitehead must have gotten off the ground,” Kosch said. “There were many, many eyewitnesses who swore, who swore affidavits that they saw Whitehead fly.”
Kosch is a former teacher, and he hopes to educate lots of people about this little known piece of history.
“We’re going to continue making more planes and trying to fly them all over the place,” said Kosch. “I want all the young kids in Stratford and Bridgeport and Fairfield to learn about Gustave Whitehead in their history classes.”
He says he will keep educating people until one day it’s accepted across the country that when you ask, Who was first in flight? The answer “Wright” is wrong.