The Unlikely Fight Over First in Flight

How three states, two historians and one blurry photograph created a bitter battle over the Wright Brothers

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Gustave Whitehead
Weisskopf Museum / AP

Gustave Whitehead was a German-American aviator who designed and built gliders and other flying machines. Some say it was Whitehead, not the Wright Brothers, who was first in flight.

Early last year, freelance aviation historian John Brown sat in the office of the curator of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, home of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the plane widely considered first in flight. At the time, Brown was doing research for an upcoming program on the Smithsonian Channel, and everything was going along fine until the curator, Dr. Tom Crouch, noticed that Brown had written the name of Gustave Whitehead, a German-born aviator, into his notes.

“He said, ‘You’re not writing about Whitehead, are you?’” Brown says. “And I said, ‘Well, I have to, Tom. It’s part of the history.’ And he glared at me for a while, and the temperature in the room dropped, and then he said, ‘You know he didn’t fly right?’”

Since the 1930s, a small contingent of aviation enthusiasts has argued that it was Whitehead – not Wilbur and Orville Wright – who was first in flight. That instead of the Wright Flyer taking off at Kitty Hawk on Dec. 17, 1903, history books should be teaching about the Whitehead No. 21 monoplane in Fairfield, Conn., on Aug. 14, 1901 when Whitehead allegedly made the world’s first sustained, controlled, heavier-than-air flight – more than two years before the Wrights.

Intrigued by Crouch’s reaction, Brown soon found himself rummaging through the attic of the Gustav Weisskopf Museum in Leutershausen, Germany. There he found a photo of the 1906 Aero Club of America exhibition, one of the first of its kind, and he noticed something in the background: photos on the wall of what appeared to be Whitehead machines. They were small and fuzzy, so he began some detective work. Brown asked the local police’s forensics team to blow up the images by 3,200%, which allowed him to identify what he believed to be Whitehead airplanes: one a triplane, another the 1901 airplane but grounded – and finally one more, the Whitehead No. 21 apparently off the ground.

Brown contacted the editors of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, an aviation reference guide founded in 1909 and often likened to an industry bible. Jane’s editor, Paul Jackson, grilled Brown for over an hour about his findings. Then Jackson stood up, shook Brown’s hand and told him he had just changed aviation history.

“I don’t think any aviation historian before or even after me is ever going to experience what I experienced,” Brown says. “Probably one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

1. Original panorama photo, Hammer Collection with suspected Whitehead section marked

An exhibition in January 1906 featuring what press reports at the time describe as photos—in red—of Whitehead’s 1901 powered monoplane.

In March 2013, Jane’s published its centennial edition (there were several years it didn’t publish during World War I and World War II) and its editor wrote a foreword describing how after all this time, it was Whitehead, not the Wrights, who was first. “The Wrights were right; but Whitehead was ahead,” he wrote.

Brown’s research and Jane’s declaration has triggered a war of words between Whitehead’s home state of Connecticut, which passed a resolution in June honoring the German immigrant as first in flight, and two odd aviation bedfellows in Ohio and North Carolina, two states considered the “Birthplace of Flight” and “First in Flight,” respectively, and often at odds over their claims to the Wright Brothers. In October, legislators from both states held a joint news conference disparaging Connecticut lawmakers while defending the Wrights’ legacy.

Without Jane’s involvement, Brown’s research and website – – would’ve likely been relegated to the far reaches of the Internet. With Jane’s on board, however, Brown appeared to have tipped history’s scales in favor of Whitehead for the first time. But a number of aviation historians and academics are lining up against Brown, including those at the Smithsonian, the longtime home of the Wright Flyer.

“When you get right down to it, to the Whitehead claim, there is – no – evidence,” says Crouch, the Smithsonian’s curator. “None.”

Born in Dayton, Ohio, where the Wright Brothers grew up and tested many of their planes, Crouch has been with the Smithsonian for almost four decades. He wrote a book chronicling the Wrights’ achievements as well as a history of aviation from kites to manned space flight. In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed Crouch to the Chairmanship of the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board.

Whitehead supporters often begin their argument with an article on Aug. 18, 1901 in the Bridgeport Herald, which showed a drawing of “Whitehead’s flying machine soaring above the trees.” In the months afterward, news of Whitehead’s feat made it into dozens of newspapers around the world. But Crouch says there was just one original story about the 1901 flight that was later picked up by other newspapers, and that one of the flight’s witnesses  – James Dickie – later said the entire thing never happened.

“Throughout his life he always said, the story is a hoax. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the airplane fly,” Crouch says. “He thought the article was based on Whitehead talking to the reporter about what his airplane would be capable of doing.”

There’s also a group of eyewitnesses who supposedly saw Whitehead fly and were later questioned, many under oath. Crouch says pro-Whitehead researchers interviewed them, raising the possibility that they used leading questions. He claims one witness was even paid to remember a Whitehead flight.

Brown believes the photo he analyzed corroborates reports from a Scientific American article from August 1906 about the Aero Club exhibition, which describes a “single blurred photograph of a large birdlike machine propelled by compressed air, and which was constructed by Whitehead in 1901.” The photo, the article says, was of a “motor-driven aeroplane in successful flight.”


An enlarged section of the exhibition photo appears to be Whitehead’s monoplane in flight, according to Brown’s analysis.

But Crouch is inclined to believe that the journalist mistook a photo of one of Whitehead’s gliders as a full-scale, motorized machine. Even so, he believes the photo is so grainy, it doesn’t prove anything.

“The picture that Brown found is nothing but a smudge,” Crouch says. A few dozen aviation historians agree and recently released a statement repudiating Brown’s findings, saying his arguments are based on a single flawed news article combined with questionable witness testimony gathered more than 30 years later.

Considering the issues many aviation historians have concerning the Whitehead claims, what would persuade the editor of Jane’s to make such a history-altering pronouncement? Crouch has a theory.

Jane’s comes out every year like clockwork, and nobody ever pays any attention to it,” Crouch says. “This was the 100th anniversary. I would suggest that he might’ve been thinking something like, Gee, it would be nice to get some publicity for this.”

In 2009, Jackson — Jane’s editor — wrote a foreword praising the Wright Brothers for being first in flight but later realized that he had never really explored the first in flight claims. By the time the 100th issue of Jane’s came around, Brown’s research had convinced Jackson that Whitehead was first. Jackson says that the annual journal — used as an up-to-date reference guide for aviators — would never go off-topic into aviation history merely to sell copies.

“Nobody in their right mind buys it every year to discover anything about ancient airplanes,” Jackson says. “If we wanted to increase sales by making sensational claims about something, we would choose current and future aviation because that’s our core market. There’s an unlimited supply of such stories which can be whipped up. Why go off-topic by more than a century?”

Whitehead supporters also claim there’s an ulterior motive at work: the Smithsonian is protecting the Wrights.

After Orville Wright died in 1948, the executors of the Wright estate agreed to sell the 1903 Flyer to the Smithsonian on one condition: that the museum never say anyone else flew before the Wrights. (There have been other claimants to the record, such as aviator S.P. Langley.) If they did, the family would demand the Flyer back.

For years, the Wright Flyer has been one of the most popular exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum. About 7 million people visit the museum each year, and because the Wright Brothers exhibit is centrally located, museum officials say most visitors see it.

Orville Wright is at the controls of the "Wright Flyer" as his brother Wilbur Wright looks on during the plane's first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Dec. 17, 1903.

John T. Daniels / AP

Orville Wright is at the controls of the “Wright Flyer” as his brother Wilbur Wright looks on during the plane’s first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Dec. 17, 1903.

In the eyes of Whitehead supports, “the Contract” is one of the reasons we learn all about the Wrights and know virtually nothing of Whitehead. The Smithsonian, the believe, is defending the Wright Brothers in perpetuity so it can hang on to one of its most beloved exhibits. Crouch, however, doesn’t see it that way, and he says he doesn’t feel contractually obligated to defend the Wrights either.

“If anybody ever proved to me that somebody had flown before the Wright Brothers, I’d say so,” Crouch says. “I’m an honest scholar. I’ve spent 40 years thinking about this stuff. I’d tell the truth.”

The Wright fight would’ve likely stayed within the hangars and halls of the aviation community if it hadn’t been for a Connecticut bill passed into law in June, which literally wrote the Wright Brothers out of history in favor of Whitehead. Today, Connecticut honors Whitehead’s Aug. 14, 1901 flight as the first. The measure was part of a sweeping omnibus bill that included naming the ballroom polka as the state polka and “Beautiful Connecticut Waltz” as the second state song. For Republican State Sen. Mike McLachlan, who helped usher the bill through the Senate, the Smithsonian contract is what piqued his attention that maybe it wasn’t the Wrights after all.

“I never heard of history by contract,” he says. “That made me take pause on the whole topic.”

State Sen. Bill Cook of North Carolina, who participated in last month’s press conference defending the Wrights with State Rep. Rick Perales of Ohio, says when he first heard of the Connecticut law, he was inclined to ignore it.

“It’s like if somebody told you that, Oh, by the way, I believe that Ben Franklin was the first president,” he says. “I mean, it’s just stupid. When you’re arguing with an idiot, you become an idiot.” But Cook decided to weigh in on the matter once local media picked up the story.

In the 1980s, the last time the Whitehead claims experienced a brief moment of popularity, North Carolina passed a resolution stating that the Wright Brothers were first. Now in Ohio, Rep. Perales plans to introduce similar legislation refuting Connecticut’s claim.

Both states likely bring in tens of millions of dollars from their Wright Brothers-affiliated tourist sites, not to mention the money their substantial aerospace industries generate. In Outer Banks, N.C., 450,000 people visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial each year out of about 8 million annual tourists. Last year, the region brought in $900 million in tourism expenditures. In Dayton, Ohio, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has a work force of 29,000, and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force brings in more than 1 million visitors each year.

“That’s the one pride we have about who we are and what we do,” Rep. Perales says. “It is in our fabric.”

As state legislators battle it out, Brown is back in Germany fighting a new war. He’s essentially trying to get Crouch fired. As he’s been digging into Whitehead’s past, he came across a letter Crouch wrote in 1987 casting doubt on the most famous Wright Brothers photo in existence, one showing what most believe to be the first Wright flight on Dec. 17, 1903. In the letter, Crouch says the flight in the photo was “probably not” sustained, meaning it only briefly became airborne. Crouch now says that yes, all four flights made that day were sustained and that he was trying to put the first flight in context of the other four, that each one was better than the one before it. But for Brown, his research has called into question the entire Wright Brothers narrative.

“The whole Wright thing for me now is really shaky,” he says. “I went to grade school like everybody else and learned the Wrights had invented the airplane. And it’s starting to look very different.”

But first only matters so much, something even Brown acknowledges. Aviation has changed the way we go on vacation, how we practice commerce and the ways in which we wage war. And those modern planes were largely built on the designs of the Wright Brothers, not Whitehead.

“I’m not an aviation historian that’s trying to say the Wrights did nothing and they’re insignificant,” he says. “My subject is not who developed the first practical airplane that changed the world. That was the Wrights, definitely. I’m not trying to take any of that away from them. They just weren’t first.”


The new book, "Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight" (Brinchman, 2015) presents the mountainous evidence for Gustave Whitehead's flights,  including new discoveries. It is safe to say that those wanting the Wrights to be first are taking it pretty hard. The book was written after 30 more years of intensive investigation. Documents are presented that prove each point, including the revelation that the Contract with the Smithsonian was devised and worded by two key Whitehead detractors.


The new book, "Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight" (Brinchman, 2015) presents the mountainous evidence for Gustave Whitehead's flights,  including new discoveries. It is safe to say that those wanting the Wrights to be first are taking it pretty hard. The book was written after 30 more years of intensive investigation. Documents are presented that prove each point, including the revelation that the Contract with the Smithsonian was devised and worded by two key Whitehead detractors, Maj. Lester Gardner and Earl Findley.


It is not true that Jane's "All the World's Aircraft" supports these false Whitehead claims.  Brown has only succeeded in convincing one very gullible editor and IHS Jane's is now in full retreat.  Perhaps Connecticut legislators will come to their senses and cease embarrassing the great state of Connecticut.  


By the way, Josh Sanburn, I find it very interesting that you hail from IU, followed by "studies" in "international relations at the graduate level" at New York University.

I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue, class of '85, and I minored in History of Technology under Professor Vernard Foley.  I was invited to stay on for graduate studies, and did study one-on-one with Professors Stanisic, Marshall, and Weissaar, as well as Prof. Foley, before being hired away by Boeing in 1986.

In those days, the liberal arts students used to complain that engineering students didn't take enough liberal arts; funny thing that, since I've never met a liberal arts student that had studied the modern equivalent of the "Trivium" and "Quadrivium".

Perhaps before going off to New York University to study "international relations", you should have popped your head out of the limestone halls and availed yourself of some basic brick learning - perhaps to audit a few courses in aviation at Grissom Hall.

Until such time as you do, perhaps you should keep the hokum only P. T. Barnum could be proud of to a minimum.  Also, whilst you're pondering that, do let me know when IU gets as much brass in The Old Oaken Bucket as Purdue; last time I checked, it was 58 Purdue, 28 IU, and two ties.

Oh, and by the way, do let me know when IU gets around to getting a flag on the Moon, won't you?

Until then, do shut up about things you don't understand. (Or, if you need the money so badly, well, perhaps you shouldn't have gone to IU and gotten a real and useful education....)

In short, if you want to insult my profession with your ignorance, do be prepared for the facts.


According to H. Larry Elman, member of the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association Board that investigated these claims in 1967-68 as well as being and aeronautical engineering professional:

"Out of possibly misplaced "respect" for Stella Randolph, the CAHA Whitehead investigation of 1967-1968 did NOT consider the type of material covered in the Truth & Gustave Whitehead article -- we covered only his claims and the engineering implications thereof. Relying solely on that aspect, I have often referred to Whitehead as having done "an aeronautical Ponzi scheme." Having added the character and resume details of Truth & Gustave Whitehead to my knowledge, I feel calling him an "aeronautical Ponzi scheme" is much too gentle a statement. I repeat my earlier comments that the Whitehead claims are fabrications."

--H LARRY ELMAN, Aeronautical Engineer and CAHA Board of Directors Member at the time of the investigation

Cheers to Carroll Gray and to Mr. Elman for bringing hard, independently verifiable facts to the table.  Mr. Gray's analysis of the character and credibility of Whitehead, which is to be found here: 

Jeers to the people's representatives in Connecticut for revisionist history the likes I haven't seen since Fred A. Leuchter denied the holocaust.


@JoeDick Unfortunately, the above is quite misleading. CAHA did not conduct an investigation in 1968, rather, a divided board, consisting of a diehard Wright supporter and those interviewing witnesses, disagreed. After that was discussed and one divisive board member unloaded, the board decided to institute a true investigation, which never was able to be concluded. Founder and President Harvey Lippincott was in charge of that and gave up in a few years due to not getting enough help and having a full time job, having to travel to see the archives, etc. There was no actual investigation that formed a conclusion. Since many of the board had been weaned on the Wright story and considered them heroes, it was hard for some of them, as it is now, to be open-minded. I don't believe Elman's account, since it doesn't jive with the letters in the O'Dwyer file from Lippincott. He is mistaken.


Additionally, it is interesting to note that the photograph that "appears" to be Whitehead's machine is actually the Montgomery glider of 1905, as properly identified by aviation historian Carroll Gray (four months before this Time article was published) and can be viewed here:


I find it hilarious that supporters of Whitehead insist that the Smithsonian are suppressing Whitehead because of the agreement under which the Flyer is displayed.  All that agreement says is that if the Smithsonian should  “publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight," then the Wright Estate may reclaim the Flyer.  That seems fair enough, given that the bone of contention was the claim that Langley's Aerodrome was "capable" of flight when it really wasn't.

Meanwhile, access to Whitehead's papers is heavily restricted in terms of fair scholarship, and only those that want to side with him are given access:  “No use,study, reproduction, publication, or transfer of any of the Whitehead memorabilia or files will be made by any group, groups, person or persons having the apparent intent of discrediting Whitehead or his work."  Additionally there is an exorbitant fee to be charged to any researcher that has access to the information:  “that an author receiving profits from a publication using these materials pay a royalty of 60%”.

I have visited archives of the Smithsonian many times as an engineering professional and technology historian, along with many other historical collections of aviation technology world-wide.  Provided one is actually a scholar and not a tourist, the doors open freely along with every file and artifact in them.

 If there really was a case for Whitehead, one thinks they'd be anxious to open their files freely to scholars and prove their case; but they're not, and thus it smells of snake-oil to me.  To paraphrase the Bard, methinks they doth protest too much.


@JoeDick You won't find it so hilarious (I hope) when you view the activities that led up to the Contract. It is very plain when the documents are lined up, that the Contract was designed to prevent the Whitehead claim from going further. See the articles on the FAQ page concerning Smithsonian and the Contract at


Alberto Santos Dumont, a Brazilian won the prize for the worlds first certified powered flight. Wrights claim is not recognised in France or Brazil because the original wright machine could only take off using a catapult. Nor were Wrights willing to display their machine in public.

Sanot Dumonts plane was equipped with ailerons unlike the Wright machine which used "wing warping"


@DavidSpence Not true.  Wrong on all three statements. Santos-Dumont's early planes used wing-warping and the Wright brothers are recognized as the first to make powered flights by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.  The Wright brothers flew in 1903 and 1904 without a catapult.


Is North Carolina dumping its "First in Flight" state slogan over the Gustave Whitehead flight claim?   It is of great interest that, indeed, the state of North Carolina appears to be considering dumping its state slogan "First in Flight" due to the recent recognition of the earlier (1901) Gustave Whitehead flight by the state of CT. believe this is newsworthy and opens the door to CT adopting a "First in Powered Flight" state motto, kicking off more Whitehead recognition and tourism.  

Susan O'Dwyer Brinchman  M. Ed

La Mesa, CA 

Whitehead researcher (30+ years)


Richard Pearse first flew in 1902 but just as per the wright brothers and others it was not officially recorded or witnessed by officials. Richard was the inventor of ailerons and stated that true flight was taking off from level ground, flying controlled for a period and landing on ground not lower then the one of take off. No one did this or achieved this and it was only officially notified by many in 1906.  They were momentous achievements in their own right pioneering the first steps to true flight but as examples the WB needed weights and a rail to reach achievable flight speed in 1903and RP flew approximately 300ft into a bush in 1902.Whitehead is just a picture on the wall and as per the others a couple of bystanders saying so.


@MartinHaisman  Martin, Richard Pearse himself denied these claims.  Of course, Mathew Boulton patented an aileron in 1868.  The Wrights made no claim over the aileron, they patented a control system that integrated the use of roll control with yaw in controlling an aircraft.  The Wright brothers did not need weights or a catapult to fly and in 1904 succeeded in making flights in excess of five minutes and in 1905 made flights over 30 minutes.  As to your comment on Whitehead, all serious historians and researchers of aviation history agree.


@MartinHaisman Actually there are 28 people who gave affidavits or statements showing they'd witnessed a powered flight by Whitehead.


This from Grover Loening, America’s first aeronautical engineer, on August 19, 1971:

In August 1871, there was born that unique individual Orville Wright who was destined by fate to become the first man to ride aloft into the air on a machine that was heavier than the air from which it was to derive its support.

When we contemplate the immensity of the flying world around us and the way it has become so greatly entwined in our daily chores, travels and thinking, it is indeed electrifying to realize that a hundred years have already passed since Orville’s birth - only 68 years since the birth of flying itself by the invention and skill of those two incredible Wright brothers.

Had we time, it would be well spent, reviewing the wonderful way of which these two matched geniuses exerted their natural ingenuity and clever research ideas in a new field that was entirely lacking in previous guides.  Their remarkably sensible approach to solving correctly the mechanical and physical problems of flying, demonstrated a high order of fundamental thinking and understanding of aerodynamics.  Remarkable it is that their concepts cannot be faulted, even now, some seventy years later.  It was clear from the very start that they would end up with a successful flying machine.  They missed no logical point—made no wrong turns—were sure of their grounds by never taking for granted anything from their predecessors until checked by their own tests.  We can move on, and leave in the well recorded pages of many histories, this story of how these two men created the first real flying machine.

But history does not record fully enough the patient, fearless way in which they ploddingly learned to become skillful aviators.  The first short controlled straightaways of 1903 had been preceded by a series of almost one thousand glides in 1901 and 1902.

The Wrights already knew how to fly with controls when the power machine was ready.  This is a far different story than is attempted to be told to the public by some later history “re-making” detractors of the Wrights.

The exaggerated versions of how before 1903, a Montgomery, or a Whitehead or some other visionary character jumped a few feet or over a fence or a bush, fail to tell us how often this was done or if controlled turns were made.

The gullible world overlooks too easily that both the Wrights were past masters of the art of balancing in the air with the three controls needed for making proper turns.  That third lateral tilting control (the subject of the Wright patent) had never even been envisaged by earlier experimenters.

No “come-later” efforts, therefore, can ever rob Orville of the permanent distinction of being the first human to fly under his control in a controllable heavier than air machine.


There are a lot of people who believe they have perfect knowledge of the truth to the 9/11 attacks or Obama's birth certificate or JFK's assassination and that there's a big coverup by FEMA or the CIA or the Bilderberg group or other such paranoid nonsense. No amount of argument can dissuade them. It's rather sad and pathetic.

By the way: thank you, Aviator, for the most interesting online aviation history course. I hope you can step away from the keyboard and leave the nuts to their devices and enjoy what's left of 2013.


My advice to you -
Since the Smithsonian gang is ramping up its vicious rhetoric, getting nastier and more vile, I suggest that you get out of this Time comment section. You can’t win against this mindless mob onslaught.

Instead, since these attacks are apparently being orchestrated by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, perhaps by Tom Crouch himself, “on the taxpayers dime” I might add, and probably using government computers, and since they are not living up to the stated purpose set forth by the founder of the institution,

gather your group together and contact the Congressional  Oversight Committee, also perhaps the GAO, and request an investigation be launched. With enough pressure it can happen.  You’d be pleasantly surprised what a persistent, dedicated group of people can accomplish.

Go to it and good luck.


@Diogenes10 Diogenes, the committee is called "The Committee on Government Oversight and Reform" and the subcommittee is the "Committee on Government Operations."  As usual, you have no idea what you are talking about.  Good luck getting past Turner and Meadows.  The Government Accountability Office works to support Congressional Committees and not on requests by ad-hoc groups of nut cases.

What any reasonable reader will see in these comments are the the illogical rantings of a very small cadre of uninformed outliers who have launched vicious attacks against the Wright brothers, the Smithsonian Institution, the world's leading aviation historian and two of our greatest federal judges.  They are supporting false claims by a failed inventor, a adjudicated patent infringer and a despicable perjurer whose actions led both the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress to issue apologies.  This dark chapter in American history continued for over thirty years, after which a remarkable public acknowledgment with full regrets was finally offered to the Wright brothers.  You will see below that they present absolutely no evidence to support their wild conspiracy claims and also that all their claims have been refuted with evidence.  The same is true of the unsupported and inaccurate claims above by Diogenes10, whose pseudonym no doubt refers to the syndrome he suffers.

Of course, the best part, the most ironic part, is that they whine and pule in feigned indignation when their miscreant heroes are exposed for the unprincipled reprobates they were.  


@Aviator @Diogenes10 Was that said on the taxpayer's dime? Sounds like a Smithsonian curator if ever I heard one. Read "Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight" (available at Amazon) for the evidence for Whitehead. When these people are long turned to dust, far in the future, perhaps, then Whitehead will be recognized. Just as with the Vatican and Galileo, it took 350 years for the apology. It has been only 114 for Whitehead.


@cmngsart  Lost in your blathering about Curtiss is the obvious fact that he was a stooge for the Edison-Bell conspiracy to steal away the Wright's work - not bright enough to rise on his own merit. Your promotion of Curtiss is revisionism at work. Curtiss deserves credit for his willingness to risk his life in flying machines, but his contributions to the invention of flight amount to nil. The Wright's record is detailed and impervious to your lame criticisms. Now you drag Curtiss under the same rock that Whitehead's wacky followers dwell. It would be interesting to learn your motive, which is most surely rooted in the same hucksterism that Whitehead perfected.



A totally uncalled for snide post from a nasty little man who, believes  he has the (false) anonymity of the internet.
When they are out of facts and arguments that’s, when the nastiness starts. It’s an old, old trick, surprised that you are just catching on to it down under.



Perhaps you should look in the mirror also. You are the person hiding behind a nom-de-plume to give yourself anonymity. My posting is made under my name: Robert William Kerr, New Zealand.  Perhaps you should have directed your remarks at cmngsart as she is the person who introduced fairy tales into these comments.


@Aviator  Your inadequate knowledge of aviation history in the first part of the twentieth century is glaring when it comes to your characterizations of Glenn Curtiss and his contributions to aviation. You state, "Glenn Curtiss was a minor figure in the rapid evolution of aviation and aerospace and known mostly to those with an interest in the pioneer period."

You and your cohorts are at odds with "Janes all the World's Aircraft, which is aviation's bible, on more than one count, not just in the case of Whitehead, but in the case of Curtiss as well.

 "In 1953, Briton Charles G. Grey (1875-1953), arguably the world's most knowledgeable person on flight's early days (founder and editor, The Aeroplane, 1911-1939; editor, Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1916-1941), wrote (see "Letters, Documents, Exhibits")":

    "Strange thing isn't it that the U.S.A. has never recognized Glenn Curtiss as by far the greatest man America (both North & South) has ever produced in Aviation? - Think of the early Hammondsport products. Then the Jenny...Then the first flight onto & off a ship. Then the first flying boats. Then the big & little Americas (of 1916-18) & their descendants, the F boats of Felixstowe, from which descend all…trans-Atlantic boats...Then the N.C. boats, first across the Atlantic, & the string of Curtiss record-breakers, & Schneider winners. And the D-12 engine, from which the Rolls Falcon, & ultimately the Merlin are descended...So far as I know there is nobody in the World who has claim to have influenced aircraft design & production as he did, or had done. But the capitalists who bought the bogus Wright patents ganged up on Curtiss & `slapped him down,' as they say in the States, & he was too proud to fight back on propaganda. He left his products to fight for him."


@cmngsart Do the names Boeing, Douglas, Northrop, Voisin, Hawker, Fokker, Sopwith, Dornier, Von Karman, Dassault, Heinkel, Martin, Sikorski, Ryan, Tupolev, Antonov, von Braun, Chertok, Illyushin, Zukovsky, Mikoyan, Goddard, Oberth, Whittle, Von Ohain, Gabrielli, Theodorsen, Whitcomb, Prandtl, Lanchester, Navier, Stokes, Hunsaker, Johnson, Lippisch, Messerschmitt, Mach, Dryden and Rutan mean anything to you?  Glenn Curtiss was no engineer or designer, he was a minor figure in the rapid evolution of aviation.  History will remember him as the patent infringer of the Wright pioneer patent, not for early work with hydroplanes and flying boats of little practical utility.  Curtiss went on to squander most of his wealth on an ever more kooky series of schemes.  He started a hustler and huckster and ended with his widow settling with the family of his former partner in crime, Augustus Moore Herring. How's that for divine justice?

For your information, Janes' is an antiquated reference work, hardly "the bible of aviation" and C.G. Grey was a journalist, a typical source for your nonsense.


@Aviator@cmngsart Aviator--whoever you are. More of your absolute fairy tales!  I am serving you notice that the international community of aviation is monitoring this controversy and can see your sorry display of ignorance. Including your comments about "Jane's." Your venomous prejudice and blindness about Curtiss caused by your immersion in the Wright myths is unbelievable. People who worked for Boeing, for example, knew of Curtiss's contributions to these companies and considered the Wrights "also ran's."  

I notice that you didn't mention the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. Huge contributions to World War II and the aerospace industry.

Because of the fact that the senior curator of the Smithsonian is from Dayton, Ohio, and a friend of the Wright family, he is actively trying to continue the Wright campaign of hatred even into the 21st century. Aviator, I believe the truth will prevail.  Attempts of the Smithsonian to defame the early aviation pioneers and belittle their contributions to the great companies you name will eventually fail.

It's obvious now that you know nothing about Curtiss's activities after 1920 either. You will now alienate the people in South Florida. "Hustler"? "Huckster"? "Kooky"?

Curtiss's wife, Lena, settled with the Herring family after Curtiss died, not because their suit had merit, but because she was sick of the suits and wanted them over. Curtiss would never have settled if he had lived. Everyone knows that Herring defrauded Curtiss.


To cmngsart:

Regarding your Fairy Tales comment I suggest you look in the mirror and ask yourself he following question:

"Mirror mirror on the wall, who tells the biggest fairy tales of all"

To this the mirror will answer:

"Thou cmngsart tell the biggest fairy tales of all, but do not be enraged as the only ones to be fooled by your distortions are the dwarfs of aviation history named Dopey"

However at this cmngsart did fly into a rage, because she knew that the mirror could speak nothing but the truth, and she threw her copy of "Janes All the World's Aircraft" at the mirror breaking it.

At this the giant of aviation history named Aviator, began to laugh, as he knew full well that both cmngsart and Janes were both in for seven years bad luck in trying to foist their false history on the public.

If you think this posting is rubbish, then read again some of the laughable comments being made by cmngsart.

Warning: Donald better get ready to Duck as there is a wave of abuse coming his way.

Robert Kerr

New Zealand


@cmngsart @Aviator  On December 17, 2013 at the 110th anniversary celebration of the First Flight in Kill Devil Hills, NC, representatives of the Boeing Company paid tribute to the Wrights brothers in a series of presentations, including a personally recorded video by Bill Boeing Jr. and moving tributes by Senior VP, Louis Mancini and Doug King of the Museum of Flight.  They made clear their respect for, and appreciation of, the seminal roles of Wilbur and Orville in changing the course of human events.

Certainly there were many great engineers at the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, Curtiss just wasn't one of them.

It is cmngsart and associates who present exaggerated claims for Mr. Curtiss, especially during a period when US aviation lagged seriously behind Europe.  There were, as I pointed out, many real pioneers, engineers and scientists who advanced aviation and aerospace rapidly.  Where Glenn Curtis fits into this, only time will tell.

I am certain the international community of aviation is monitoring this minor controversy over rehashed claims regarding Gustave Whitehead and false attacks against the Smithsonian and Dr. Crouch.  What nonsense.

You have presented no evidence for any of the outrageous claims you make.  It is unfortunate that the memory of Glenn Curtiss has to focus on the sorry chapter in his life when he fell under the influences of Herring and Zahm, but you have only yourself to blame for it. 

These comments are a record of false claim, after false claim, after false claim by cmngsart and associates, with absolutely no supporting evidence.  These claims have been refuted and a lasting record created for any serious and reasonable reader. 

Let us be clear about this.

They are the ones attacking Wilbur and Orville Wright, the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Tom Crouch, Judges Hazel and Hand, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Peter Jakab and the commenters on these pages.  They are continuing the anti-Wright propaganda of Albert Zahm, Victor Lougheed, John Evangelist Walsh, Jack Carpenter, C.R. Roseberry, William O'Dyer and John Brown.

It is indeed ironic that individuals who launch unprovoked attacks against two of the greatest humans to walk the face of the earth take umbrage and offense when the lies and fraudulent actions of a patent infringer and perjurer are pointed out.  What absolute nerve.  

While Glenn Hammond Curtiss deserves recognition and praise for his many accomplishments, he is also due criticism for those important times when he fell short. 

As to "Jane's..." and its contract editor, were it not for the fact that both are insignificant, this would be a mistake on the order of that by Walcott and Abbot.  They have been duped by a modern day Zahm.  We will see how this plays out.

Certainly Herring was a fraud, but when you conspire with a liar you deserve the fate that results.  While Herring may have lied to Curtiss, Curtiss defrauded Herring in the Herring-Curtiss Aeroplane Company bankruptcy, which is why the suit was settled. 


Aviator, since you appear to have an inside track to the Smithsonian, why was there no centennial celebration of Glenn Curtiss's flight from Albany to New York in 1910?

  Or for that matter, one of the greatest trophys for our country ever, his win at Reims, France, in 1909 of the First International Aviation contest in the world? (Against six Wright planes, by the way.)


@cmngsart  Because the Smithsonian did not organize any of these events.  Smithsonian officials were tasked by the President and Congress to provide limited support in cooperation with other agencies of the government to several centennial efforts.  North Carolina and Ohio citizens led bipartisan efforts to create state commissions to celebrate the first flight.  Those organizations worked with their federal representatives to get legislation passed to create a the Centennial of Flight Commission.  The Smithsonian Institution is prohibited by law from political activity and had nothing to do with the lobbying effort to pass the legislation.  Naturally, the agencies of government, NASA, NASM, FAA and the military were tasked to support the effort.  Groups like AIAA, AOPA, EAA and others also stepped up to provide additional leadership.  Private money was raised to support the centennial celebrations.  The Smithsonian was not very active in those efforts due to its focus on raising the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary for the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles.  The President chose Dr. Tom Crouch to head the Advisory Board.  The Commission supported a wide range of activities across the country and celebrated 100 years of aviation, not just the first flight celebrations.  I recall events for Glenn Curtiss.

The citizens of Le Mans, France organized centennial events in 2008 for the Wright brothers.

You can read more here:


@Aviator Thank you for your answer. It looks like the citizens of California, Florida, and New York would be the states to support legislation for recognition of Glenn Curtiss, then, because these were the states most benefited by his activities. However, since it looks liket there has been a negative campaign against Curtiss due partly to the false characterizations of the Langley trials, etc.,most citizens would have a problem even knowing who Glenn Curtiss is.

On the other hand, on the NASM web site, I found 155 hits when I typed in Wright Brothers lesson plans or a similar search. Interesting. Plus numerous books on the Wright brothers. Weren't  biographies of Glenn Curtiss by Roseberry and Jack Carpenter panned by you, Aviator?


@cmngsart The folks at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport and the National Naval Aviation Museum do a great job of honoring the memory of Glenn Curtiss.  This is very hard work and requires the tremendous efforts of volunteers, donors and other supporters.  Focussing efforts on the positive and actual achievements of Mr. Curtiss will provide the best return for the energy expended.  Attempts to exaggerate the honor due, or to disparage the efforts of others, or to distort history are counter-productive.  Curtiss was an interesting man, near the center of action, at an interesting time.  He had an important role in the birth of Naval Aviation in the U.S. 


@Aviator@cmngsart   Aviator, I agree with you when you say, "Attempts to exaggerate the honor due, or to disparage the efforts of others, or to distort history are counter-productive."

    Isn't that what you have been doing? Apparently you need to exaggerate the honor due the Wrights, disparage the efforts of the other aviation pioneers, and to distort history in favor of the Wrights. It becomes more and more clear  as this dialogue continues. The Wrights found this necessary as well. I am compiling a list of aviation pioneers they disparaged and the names they called them. Included are Secretarys Langley, Walcott, and Abbot, Manley, Zahm, Whitehead,  and Montgomery. There are more.

  There have been uncontested claims by the Wrights for over one hundred years and defamation of Curtiss and others for over seventy years.  Glenn Curtiss is a national hero, not a regional one

    I'm familiar with the Curtiss Museum. I'm wondering what NASM does to promote it. After all,  it's an educational non profit museum. And a wonderful tribute to Curtiss.   What is NASM doing to promote the Curtiss Mansion group? A wonderful tribute to our national hero as well. 

There is a rumor that the Wright Brothers are big, big business in Dayton, Ohio. NASM does a great deal to promote the Wright Brothers. Just saying.


@cmngsart @Aviator You are completely wrong and as usual get it completely backwards.  I have only been responding to the writings of the comments on this page.  Let us be clear, perfectly clear, about this.  It is cmngsart and associates who are exaggerating the efforts of Whitehead and now Curtiss and began by disparaging Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Smithsonian, Library of Congress, Cornelius Vanderbilt , Judges Hazel and Hand and Dr. Tom Crouch.  All of this without any evidence to support their claims.

It was necessary to demonstrate that this effort against the Wrights began in 1909 by Albert Zahm and Glenn Curtiss and that it continued by Zahm throughout the years.  Zahm held positions at the Smithsonian Institution and later the Library of Congress.  His actions at these institutions led each to issue apologies to the Wrights.

You can produce nothing to demonstrate that the Wright brothers actively sought to diminish the efforts of other pioneers.  You will find that from time to time, the Wrights responded to attacks, either in lawsuits, or resulting from the actions of Albert Zahm.  It will be easy be able to demonstrate this, so bring it on.  I welcome the opportunity to point out, each and every time, that the comments of cmngsart and associates clearly demonstrate that they do not know the history, understand patent law, or even the basics of the science and technology of aviation. 

Glenn Curtiss was among a vast group of individuals who rallied to the cause of aviation as a direct result of the success of Wilbur and Orville Wright.  He was influential in the very first days of Naval Aviation and for that reason there remains great admiration for him generally.  The world knows little about his behavior in the patent trials, or his actions in collusion with Albert Zahm in the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome scandal, but the wrong headed efforts by Brown and others to support the false claims of Whitehead by attacking the Smithsonian will bring this sorry chapter of American history to light and bring further disgrace to the memory of Glenn Hammond Curtiss.

So be perfectly clear where this started.

The Smithsonian does not promote other museums, but they do have an affiliate program to cooperate with them.  The folks in Dayton work tirelessly and at great expense to support tourism and the aviation related industry in their community.  There is precious little government funding available, so their efforts, just as those in North Carolina, result from the volunteer work of thousands, as well an incredible amount of private funding.  

In reading the comments of cmngsart and associates, it is clear that they do not understand how government works on a local, regional, state and federal level.  Government entities, whether museums or agencies operate through cooperative opportunities to achieve their mission.  There is precious little they can do on their own.  They lack the resources necessary.  Even the Smithsonian Institution is at the mercy of private donors to fund exhibits and programs.

Efforts like the celebrations of the Centennial of the December 17, 1903 flights of Wilbur and Orville Wright resulted from years of preparation by thousands of individuals that gave of their time and money.  Tens of millions of dollars.  This resulted in events and activities across the US and the world.  Aside from small amounts of government funding and support, this was a private undertaking that required the cooperation of appointed and elected officials on a local, state and federal level.  The support of two Presidents, as well as many agency heads, was necessary and only given as a result of their appreciation of the roles of Wilbur and Orville Wright in changing dramatically the course of human events.

Glenn Curtiss was a minor figure in the rapid evolution of aviation and aerospace and known mostly to those with an interest in the pioneer period.  False claims that he invented the aileron, or the hydroplane or flaps will not gain traction in the information age, where a quick search is all that is necessary to demonstrate otherwise.  


@Aviator@cmngsart   Aviator, You write as though you have extraordinary knowledge, insight, and authority. You write as if you speak for our NASM and Smithsonian. Have you forgotten that these institutions belong to the American people?

We are not cognizant of  your credentials, your degrees, or your background for you to make such grandiose statements. Even if we were, we find your bias takes you out of the designation of a true scholar, who is open to new research and the truth.


@cmngsart @Aviator Who cares what you think?  I am writing these comments for the record and for reasonable readers.  Your comments demonstrate that you do not understand the subject, know how history is done or how our institutions and government function. 

Comments from you about bias are particularly entertaining. 


@Aviatoraviator, Since you have no desire to state your credentials, you are no more than a man on the street who tries to set himself up as an expert. Anybody can say he is an expert in aviation history, how history is done (by vote of 38 or contract?), the inner workings of the Smithsonian, patent law, the technology of aviation, etc., etc. Anyone good with words can make statements that are grandiose and pompous to make it sound as if he knows what he's talking about. Anybody can make veiled threats as long as he remains anonymous.

   We are particularly interested in your claimed superior knowledge about how government works to us, who are citizens of this country. May we remind you that we Americans have had sad introductions to how our government works lately. You are disturbed about what you consider attacks on the Smithsonian. What do you care?

      The Smithsonian has been under investigation for some time. Claiming shortness of funds, Secretary's, for example, have felt they can still live lavish lifestyles and take junkets on taxpayers' money, and Smithsonian heads have had to be relieved of their posts for such reasons. I am informing you now, if you didn't know that already. Do you want references?

      We are also interested in the fact that the Smithsonian does not fall under the confines of the Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA), called the "sunshine act" We have read that the Smithsonian prefers to protect the anonymity of their donors. Why would a scientific and historical Institution want to do that? Secret contracts? Before you come back to state that the Smithsonian has adopted an FOIA-like policy, they are still not subject to the actual FOIA Act.


@Aviator@cmngsart Did I say that Curtiss invented the aileron? Did the Wrights say they invented wing warping?


@cmngsart @Aviator You demonstrate by your comments that you do not understand how government works.  You apparently do not understand how fundraising works. The Smithsonian made major mistakes during the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome scandal and made amends for their errors.

No doubt the world's largest research and museum institution with a 167 year history, 19 museums, 9 research centers, a billion dollar endowment and $200,000,000 in annual fundraising has an interesting history.  Have fun in selling your conspiracy theories about its nefarious activities. 


Whitehead was not the only pioneer aviator that Orville Wright maligned.  After 34 years of trying, with the Smithsonian standing up for the truth, Orville Wright managed to convince the world that his hated rival Glenn Curtiss had been involved in fraudulent activities. He also accused the Smithsonian of fraud for supporting Curtiss.

The following link will give some idea of why Orville despised Curtiss so much. He was what Orville wanted to be--and wasn't


@cmngsart This article by Seth Shulman is certainly a more reasonable presentation of history from the perspective of Glenn Curtiss than you see from cmngsart.  He has done admirable research on Curtiss, but his understanding of the Wright brothers is deeply and fatally flawed.  There are no sources given to support his various opinions.

He is wrong about the patent, wrong about Wright motivations and wrong about the innovation and technology.  It is obvious that you have derived your understanding of the period from this work and others such as Roseberry and Carpenter.  

However, nothing here supports your statement about why Orville despised Curtiss. 

The Wrights wanted nothing to do with manufacturing aircraft, exhibition flying (particularly stunt flying) or becoming industrialists.  As their letters to Chanute and others make clear, they wanted to sell their patent and technology to government entities who had the resources and motivation to continue its development.

Orville despised Curtiss for his dishonesty, patent infringement and his fraudulent actions in the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome scandal. 

Orville was a shy and retiring man. He was not interested in being a world renown celebrity.  Orville travelled the world and knew first hand that he had neither the talent nor interest in becoming an industrialist.  Following the death of Wilbur, Orville wasted little time in reorganizing the business and getting out.

He knew Curtiss and despised him because of the kind of man Curtiss was.  Orville certainly did not want to be anything like Glenn Hammond Curtiss.


@Aviator@cmngsart  Again you make enormous assumptions. I have read portions of Roseberry and Carpenter only. Good reading for those who want to learn more about the great man who contributed more to early aviation than any other. My sources about the Wrights on the whole are the letters of the Wrights and documents of great pioneers that preceded them. .I am gratified to find,as you are informing me, that these authors came to much the same conclusions as I did.

      The truth about the Wrights is that they wanted a patent vague enough that they could monopolize all of aviation, and sit back and collect license fees, etc, from the other aviators who clearly developed aviation.You keep ignoring my statements about the connections of Judge Hazel who ruled against Curtiss--about the social and political connections he had with the Vanderbilts, etc. who had bought the Wright patent and were paying for the lawsuits against Curtiss.

        Your statements about Curtiss's dishonesty are patently false, and come from the Wrights. If Curtiss were alive today, he could sue you for libel. Curtiss never believed he was infringing on the Wrights' patent. It was written so vaguely that Curtiss's use of ailerons was never mentioned. There are many historians who agree with me on that score.

         I agree that the reasons why Orville hated Curtiss so much are opinions. I have difficulty digesting that Orville hated Curtiss for dishonesty when I have found so many instances of Orville's dishonesty.  I have never gotten a response from you about Orville Wright's accusation that Curtiss and Baldwin hid in the bushes for six months to spy on the Wrights' operation.


@cmngsart I agree that those references are useful to learn about Curtiss, they are not useful to learn about the Wrights.  Your ideas on the motivations and actions of the Wrights, however, is consistent with those authors.  

The truth about the patent is that many people, including possibly Curtiss, and certainly you, do not understand the basis for the patent, why it is written as it is, and why the Wrights deserved and received a pioneer patent designation with broad application not limited to any particular method.

Your statements about Vanderbilt paying for the lawsuits is incorrect.  The financial records of the Wrights and Wright company are available and you can see where the funding came from to pay the the attorneys.  Hazel's rulings were affirmed in a very unusual decision by the three court panel, essentially indicating that the appeals were completely without merit.  Judge Learned Hand made by far the most important decision concerning priority and the pioneering nature of the patent.  His rulings were never even challenged.  This is one of the most important patent cases in history and studied and cited to this day.

Curtiss committed perjury during his testimony and participated in a fraudulent scheme with Abbott and Zahm in the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome scandal.  This is all clearly in the public record and is the basis for Orville's feelings.  It is not a matter of opinion, Orville spoke of it often to friends.  You can say what you want about Orville being dishonest, but you can produce no evidence to support your allegations, and will convince no serious historian or scholar of this.  I have clearly demonstrated the times when Glenn Curtiss was dishonest. 

You have offered no evidence of your statement about Orville and an accusation that Curtiss and Baldwin hid out in the bushes to spy, or the original source of the accusation or that Orville lied about it, but I am sure that it will be similar to the other unsupported allegations you make against him.


@Aviator@cmngsart I find your arguments slippery and misleading.

The two examples you sent of Curtiss committing perjury are not convincing. The second was only a case of The Wrights accusing Curtiss of lying.

I have read the many times Orville Wright called Curtiss a liar. They are without merit. I suspect that Orville stated in court what he said in public, that he told the AEA and Curtiss all of his "secrets." That could amount to perjury.

Judge Hand could hardly go against the former rulings.You state that you understand the patents.Are you an attorney? The Wrights did not deserve a pioneer patent designation. They borrowed and stole their ideas from former aviation pioneers. None of their ideas were new and innovative. Even Montgomery had achieved coordinated turns.

Do you believe that if you say Abbott and Zahm and Curtiss committed "fraud" in the Langley trials over and over like a religious chant, you can make it true? It is, of course, what Orville Wright said over and over for thirty eight years until Abbot finally caved due to public pressure.

The modifications that Orville Wright claimed were made on the Langley plane are totally misleading --and meant to be.

Orville made public statements to the news after the last appeals. You will find his lies about Curtiss and Baldwin there. Aviator, it is a waste of my time to look it up. You are obviously uninterested in the truth. You only want to perpetuate the Wright "myth." I don't want to share with you the results of my research, but I do want to share with the public.

I have many examples of Orville's dishonesty. It will come out in time and in other venues.


@Aviator@cmngsartThe funding for the lawsuits came from the Wright Company of which Vanderbilt was a part. This statement alone shows the level of your arguements, and it's a waste of anyone's time to respond to them. You haven't proven Curtiss committed perjury, only that Orville accused him of lying in court. I have answered your other accusations about Curtiss time and time again. As I said, he could sue you for libel if he were alive today.


@Aviator Pardon my math. Orville only spent 28 years to get the Smithsonian to publish a statement that misled the public into believing the Langley trials were fraud. I might add that in the days of Langley, Walcott, and Abbot, the Secretaries of the Smithsonian were scientists, Today they are not scientists and apparently don't understand what constitutes a "proof" or a  logical conclusion from a given experiment..


@cmngsart @Aviator

The record of the Wright brothers work from 1899 to 1912, and Orville's professional life from 1913 to 1948, are all comprehensively and freely available in public institutions.  Much of this information is available online.

"cmngsart and associates" distort the historical record and present illogical theories of conspiracy while maligning, without any evidence whatsoever, the Wright brothers, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, Dr. Tom Crouch, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Judges John Hazel and the esteemed Judge Learned Hand.  All this, I repeat, without one bit of evidence.

The statement that the patent was written "vaguely" belies the truth about the patent and a proper understanding of the patent process.

The Wright patent, # 821,393, is quite precise with 5 illustrations, 5 pages of description and 18 claims.  The patent process is a complex undertaking and involves the application, patent examiner work, file wrapper documentation, attorney input and subsequent litigation.  The record of this is immense and statements by cmngsart demonstrate neither a familiarity with the Wright patent record or indeed any appreciation for the complex process of application, acceptance and litigation involved.  The record of this is public and available.

The statement, "I suspect that Orville stated in court what he said in public, that he told the AEA and Curtiss all of his "secrets." That could amount to perjury." is incorrect.  As usual, there is no evidence of this presented.

Comments about Judge Hazel and Cornelius Vanderbilt are completely without foundation, outrageous and, of course, offered with no evidence.

The idea that Montgomery "achieved coordinated turns" is false and impossible in a machine without a rudder. I here quote from Montgomery's patent # 831173:

"The surface H moves vertically with the tail-surface, but it has no side movement, because its function if that of a keel or fin and not that of a rudder."

The Herring-Curtiss patent case reviewed all prior art and found nothing that anticipated the Wright control system.  This was the basis of the defense Curtiss offered and it was found entirely without merit.

For most of the period after the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome fraud Orville did nothing.  It was not until 1921, that the world began to understand that the claims about Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome tests were incorrect and public opinion began to turn against the Smithsonian.  Walcott chose to ignore the rising storm and hunkered down.  In 1925 Orville announced he was sending the 1903 Flyer to England.  This effort brought the scandal to world-wide attention.  When Abbot took over as Secretary he immediately attempted to calm down the furor by passing a resolution stating:

"Whereas to correct any erroneous impression derived from the published statements that the Smithsonian Institution has denied to the Wright brothers due credit for making the first successful human flight in power-propelled, heavier-than-air craft:

Resolved, that it is the sense of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution that to the Wrights belongs the credit of making the first successful flight with a power-propelled, heavier-than-air flying machine carrying a man."  This is from Walcott, not some "supposed" coerced statement years later by Abbot.

Orville Wright for several years carried on private contacts with the Smithsonian in an effort to resolve the issue. When nothing came of this, Orville sent the 1903 Flyer to England and published a brief statement.  He then did nothing.

Public furor, however, increased with bills being introduced into Congress to investigate the matter.  Over time, the situation festered, and again, Orville did nothing.  Eventually, Fred Kelly, a reporter and long time friend of Orville worked out a solution that would be acceptable to Orville.  Kelly negotiated with Abbot for the Smithsonian to release a statement that admitted the Smithsonian: (1) erred in employing Zahm to make the test, (2) lied about the modifications, (3) falsely claimed that the Langley Aerodrome was capable of making "successful flights" and (4) allowed experts to make declarations about the tests without knowing the full truth.  Abbot closed with this:

"The flights of the Langley aerodrome at Hammondsport in 1914, having been made long after flying had become a common art, and with changes of the machine indicated by Dr. Wright's comparison, as given above, did not warrant the statements published by the Smithsonian Institution that these tests proved that the large Langley machine of 1903 was capable of sustaining flight carrying a man."

For the record.  Orville stayed quiet throughout most of this scandal, issuing two pubic statements. He did not publicly demean, criticize or attack Glenn Curtiss, and there has been, and will be produced, no evidence that he did.

Likewise, I reviewed Dr. Crouch's great books and published articles and there is nothing there to support the hysterical claims of "cmngsart and associates," for which they have, and can produce, no supporting evidence.

The claims, speculations and conspiracies presented by "cmngsart and associates" are as mythical as the flights of Gustave Whitehead and as clear and lucid as the Whitehead photography evidence of Mr. Brown.


@cmngsart Do not for a minute labor under the false assumption that the works of Roseberry and Carpenter support the false claims and conspiracy theories of "cmngsart and associates."

Roseberry and Carpenter are clear in their support of the Wright brothers' flights in 1903, 1904 and 1905 and they do not malign the Smithsonian, Dr. Crouch, Judges Hazel and Hand.  They do suffer from the anti-Wright bias that predominated the aeronautical community during the patent litigation period from 1909 to 1917, through the distortions of Zahm, Victor Lougheed and others.  Brown and cmngsart are outliers and there exists no support for their outrageous and silly contentions from anyone outside of their small cadre of uninformed zealots.  Thirty-six of the world leading aviation historians have denounced these efforts.  Not one legitimate scholar or historian has, or ever will, support their effort.  Period.  Ever.


@Aviator@cmngsart   Because Wilbur Wright flew so well in France in 1908, he must have been first to fly in1903. This absurd non sequitur logic has been accepted by historians for over a hundred years. Never really questioned until the validity of Gustave Whitehead's flights hit the news this year.
The Smithsonian "apology" of 1942 hasn't been examined either.  Only accepted, because it had the stamp of the Smithsonian, even though no one probably knew except Secretary Abbot that it was essentially written by Orville Wright and his biographer friend Fred Kelly for a preconceived purpose revealed in their letters to each other. Read them..

 I accepted the Wrights  claims as everyone else has, until I found so many contradictions between what I knew Glenn Curtiss to be and what Wrights accused him of, I had to look more deeply into history than has been done up to this point. But even Glenn Curtiss gave the Wrights the title as first. It was nothing to him. Now it turns out that the Wrights were probably not  first at all. If they even flew in 1903.

Curtiss was an artist, an innovator, a creative genius, and a great business man. Like any creative genius, he just wanted to keep on inventing like a musician wants to keep on making music. Orville Wright's vindictive demands after the last court appeal in 1914 were directed at him only, and were meant to destroy him. He stated that he would charge Curtiss 2000.00 for every plane produced and 2000.00 for every plane he had ever produced before 1914. Translate 2000.00 into today's money to get an idea.

The amazing thing about Curtiss is that despite Orville's and his friend's assaults, Curtiss managed to keep on inventing, and he managed to contribute enormously to aviation while the Wrights managed to cripple it and hold it back, at least in the United States. No one asks, did Orville  or his companies infringe on Curtiss's aileron patent when they switched to the much better ailerons? Did Orville infringe on Curtiss's hydroplane patent or his flying boat patent? How many others of Curtiss's inventions did the Wright companies use? Curtiss wasn't a litigator like the Wrights. He had plenty more inventions up his sleeve; he didn't have just one 1906 broadly interpreted wing warping glider patent and a Judge Hazel decision  to collect license fees from everybody who hit the air. What did Hazel know about aviation or prior art?

The Wrights had only nine patents, the last a toy  "Flips and Flops" that someone else had created. Orville patented the toy and his family made a business out of manufacturing it and selling it.

Your claims in your long essay are full of holes, twists and turns. They will be answered, but most not here. It won't be such a challenge, but it takes time to cite the references supporting my claims. Believe me, the references are there. There are publications, Aviator, and the internet to reach the interested public. No one could reach your thirty some historians, though, who have closed minds already.

On the surface, your statements appear valid just as a good defense attorney's claims for his client can make sense to a jury. Your attempt to summarize the phony Smithsonian "apology" is even more misleading than the apology itself. Congratulations!

I have to add, though, that the world didn't just become aware of the Wright public claims that the Langley trials were fraudulent. It was a result of a long contrived plot conceived by Orville Wright and Brewer, his English friend, to publicly attack the Langley trials six or seven years after they happened.  They also contrived the idea of sending the Wright flyer to England if the Smithsonian didn't comply to Orville's demands. This is proven beyond a doubt by the letters they wrote back and forth. Maybe you weren't aware of them, Aviator?

It is false that John Brown is supported by no aviation historians. You classify those who disagree with you on historical points as "outliers". I appreciate the compliment  Rather to be "outliers" and correct than "groupthinkers" and wrong.

The "great books" of Dayton, Ohio's, Dr. Crouch (and Wright family friend) are so full of Wright bias, they should not be used as references. For an example of Crouch bias against Glenn Curtiss, please check this link--a NASM website, I believe. Note comment #1 below Crouch's article.


@cmngsart I know of no one who claims that the Wrights flights in 1908 demonstrate what the Wrights accomplished in the proceeding period, although it could be reasonably argued.  Had they done nothing before then, their achievements in 1908 alone would have secured their place in history.  For even though the Wright patent was published in 1906 and hundreds of people were building aircraft as a result of publicity about the success of the Wrights, not one aviator understood the principles of control pioneered by the Wrights.  In 1908, the Wright brothers demonstrated controlled flight to the world and the world immediately hailed them as conquering heroes. Rightfully so.  It mattered little what the Wrights had done before, what they demonstrated in 1908 humbled all those who witnessed it.  The acclaim was instant and overwhelming.

It is well known that Fred Kelly worked with Charles Abbot to wordsmith an agreement acceptable to Orville Wright that Abbot had sought for over twenty years.  That the Smithsonian is not eager to point out the mistakes it made that precipitated the agreement is only natural, as is the necessity for the apology to satisfy Orville Wright, the harmed party.  What silly reasoning powers you demonstrate.

Your attempts to prove that the Wrights did not fly in 1903, 1904 and 1905 only serve to demonstrate the level of your scholarship, limits of your abilities and the integrity of your efforts.

Most definitely Orville Wright held a severe grudge against the man who not only infringed upon his patent, but more importantly committed perjury during his testimony and then participated in the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome fraud.  Curtiss earned Orville's anger and disgust.  That Wilbur died in a state of exhaustion while engaged in the patent litigation only added to Orville's anger. 

I agree that Orville did nothing to impede Curtiss, he never even sought to claim the damages against Curtiss he was entitled to.  Curtiss was free to continue production with his one-wing only control system which was another fraudulent Curtiss action.  Purchasers merely connected the controls to operate in the manner of the Wright patent. 

By 1914, Orville had plenty of money, he sought only the credit they deserved for the work and sacrifices they made.

Curtiss did not invent the aileron, or the hydroplane.

After vindication in the courts, Orville bought back the stock of the Wright Company, giving stockholders a 100% profit in addition to the dividends they had received.  He then sold the company and got out of the business.  

He had no desire to become an industrialist and without his life-long partner, absolutely no interest in continuing in the rapid development of the airplane.

The Wright brothers held dozens of patents across the world, but understood the value of secrets over patents and limited their patents to those they deemed necessary.  The expense in time and treasure in pursuing and maintaining patents is immense and well know to Wilbur and Orville.

The toy patent was a fun project Orville undertook in later years to support a nephew. 

As to your comment on sources for your statements, they do not appear here, and will not appear anywhere, as they do not exist.  I can safely predict that in the event you continue in these misguided efforts, you will continue to take evidence out of context and distort it to mean exactly the opposite of what it actually means, as you have done repeatedly in these comments.

The information I present is from readily available public documents and clearly demonstrate the true nature of your efforts.

The world was not aware, nor perhaps even Abbot himself, of the modifications to the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome until 1921.  Orville attempted to work with Abbot to resolve the situation until 1928 when he sent the 1903 Flyer to England.  Orville simply gave up trying as Abbot could not bring himself to criticize the actions of his mentor Walcott.  That impasse continued until the efforts of Fred Kelly.  The documents in the Wright collection and the Smithsonian Institution clearly demonstrate this history.

Thank you for pointing out the excellent article by Dr. Crouch in which he clearly demonstrates the origin of the aileron and the essence of the Wright patent.  The comment you refer to is incorrect on two scores.  Dr. Crouch did not claim that the Wrights invented the aileron.  He did indicate the history of the aileron and he did demonstrate that use of the aileron to achieve differential lift was included in the Wright patent.  The commenter is also wrong in writing that the Wrights would have given credit to Curtiss for the aileron.  The records of the Herring-Curtiss litigation prove otherwise.  

Your attempts to smear Dr. Crouch fail in their purpose and demonstrate an utter lack professionalism that assure you will remain an ineffective outlier destined to continue foolish and inane conspiracy theories in the nether regions of the internet.  You will fail, as has Zahm and Lougheed and Roseberry and Carpenter and Randolph and O'Dwyer and Brown.  In aviation history, it could be considered a veritable "Hall of Shame."


@Aviator@cmngsart  Oh my, that essay is glib and slick. So at least you now admit that Orville and Fred Kelly had a hand in writing the Smithsonian apology of 1942 regarding the Langley trials of 1914.   You didn't say Orville, but he was very much participatin, every step of the way. More than "wordsmithing." Huge edits and chunks added and other chunks cut out. Now are you willing to list one by one the "modifications" that Wright and Kelly made to Abbot's original statement, which was made, I might add, under duress?


@cmngsart @Aviator Fred C. Kelly had little to do with the final agreement worked out by Charles Abbot and Orville Wright.  Everyone knows that Kelly worked with Abbot to reengage Orville in resolving the Wright-Smithsonian controversy.  Ivonette Miller, in "Wright Reminiscences," wrote that Fred Kelly, who was working with Orville on a biography of the Wright brothers, believed, "If he could do something that would put Orville in his debt, he felt the book would be finished."  For that reason he initiated contact with Abbot that restarted correspondence with Orville that eventually led to the release of "The 1914 Test of the Langley Aerodrome." Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 103, No.8, Publication 3699.  Dr. Crouch covers this in "The Bishops Boys," pp. 519-520.

Orville had privately corresponded with Abbot throughout the years and had previously established, in general, the details covered in the Smithsonian apology.  Eventually these discussions had reached an impasse.  Later, Kelly was able demonstrate to Orville that Abbot was finally eager to make amends. Orville and Abbot then had a series of communications and worked through their differences. Abbot described his final acceptance of the recommendations of Orville Wright in a letter on October 12, 1942 in which he wrote:

"I was rejoiced to get your letter of October 8, for I see no reason why the modifications you suggest should not be included verbatim, and in most cases seem to me to be decided improvements in the smoothness and literary form of the paper.

I am sending you herewith a copy of the paper as modified by you.

I am proposing to publish this paper in the next Smithsonian Report, now in preparation, but to assure a more speedy publication will first publish it in the Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections where it can be issued within a month."  May I refer to your letter of October 8, so as to include a note reading substantially as follows:

This paper has been submitted to Dr. Orville Wright, and under this date of October 8, he states that the paper as now prepared will be acceptable to him."

The full record of these exchanges are available in the archives of NASM and in the "Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers" collection available online on the Library of Congress website.


@Aviator@cmngsart The following is one of the letters between Fred Kelly and Orville Wright, where they are initiating their campaign of harassment against Secretary Abbot, who had defended the Langley trials as an honest effort to determine whether the plane had been capable of flight. It looks like Orville has let Kelly believe the Smithsonian won't admit to modifications. Let the reader of the letter determine whether it looks like conspiracy and collusion between Fred Kelly and Orville Wright against Secretary Abbot. After months of this kind of harassment and the rewriting of an "apology" by Kelly and Wright, Abbot did finally, in fact, "cave in" and give Orville Wright what he wanted, a public statement that made the Langley trials look like fraud.

"Peninsula, Feb 15, 1942
Dear Mr. Wright:
    The documents for/use against Abbot arrived--and what a marvellous (sic) job both you and Miss Beck have done in their preparation! In all modesty I can say that you're fully as neat and workmanlike in such matters as I am.
   I want to talk to you again about all this before writing to Abbot as I have a new hunch. I'm wondering if the way to handle him, at first, isn't carefully to avoid alarming him, and try to trick him into admitting in writing that the various changes were made. Than with that hold on him, the next step would be easier. To avoid alarming him, maybe I shouldn't quote from your letter at all. Not yet. I might simply say that I asked you for a list of the changes and here they are. I'm simply a young fellow trying to write an accurate article and want his help to make sure I'm not stating anything controversial or disputed as to the changes in the machine. Maybe if I make it all look innocent enough, he'll fall for it.
   The the next step would be to say:"Now that you have admitted these changes, why not publish the truth in your own official report? And having done that, all you'll need to do is to take one more step, to settle the whole controversy." Then I'd quote your letter to show exactly what you want done.
   I believe he is so worried about it all that conceivably he may be closer to caving in than ever before.
   If and when he falters I can be shocked and indignant that he has not kept his word with me, and then let go at him with tank, plane, and bayonet.
    At any rate I want to talk with you about this once more, before writing to him.
    Faithfully, F. K."

 This letter is from the Library of Congress digital collections among the 1942 letters from Fred Kelly to Orville Wright. Readers need to read the whole series, as I am only presenting one sample. Aviator, of course, hopes you won't.

.The Smithsonian had always made clear that modifications had been made to the Langley aerodrome right from the beginning. See the New York Times articles published right after the trials in the spring of 1914. These "modifications" included the attachment of 350 pounds of pontoons that added enormous weight and drag to the incredibly light and delicate machine. Curtiss decided to use pontoons because there was no runway at Hammondsport, N.Y., that would be suitable where he was doing the tests. Plus taking off from water was safer for the machine and the operator. Curtiss, for the record was an extremely careful man, one reason why the Smithsonian chose him to rebuild and test the machine. He also had the facility.

Aviator's contentions that a scientific test has to include identical conditions to draw a conclusion are beyond ridiculous, and show his faulty understanding and knowledge of science. Check with Boeing, for example.

It must be noted, however, that one person from the Smithsonian, Assistant Secretary Rathbun, stated publicly in 1914, that there had been no modifications, because he thought so. Orville used the statement Rathbun made against the Smithsonian for 28 years and forced  them to apologize for Rathbun's statement in the 1942 publication.This is another example of the vindictiveness of the man.

The issue that Orville had with Abbot was that Abbot wanted explanations for the modifications. He wanted references in any public statement for readers to be able to further research the issue. But Orville wanted the apology stated in such a way that there were no explanations, no references, and an implication that the Smithsonian had been involved in collusion or fraud.The apology Orville got also implied that the Langley plane was also incapable of flight. Orville and his friends used public opinion, his Wright flyers sent to England, Congress, and other means to pressure Abbot to get what the kind of apology he wanted.

With the publication of the 1942 Smithsonian "apology," Abbot was delightfully clear of the pressure he had been undergoing for years, and the issue was never studied in depth again. The world accepted the "apology" because the Smithsonian until that time had been considered an honorable institution. No one dreamed it could sell itself out in 1942 and later in a contract with the Wright family.


@Aviator@cmngsart Let's talk about the origin of the aileron--which preceded the Wrights' wing warping patent, but they claim is included in their patent.  Also about wing warping, which preceded the Wrights' patent as well. Chanute called it an "old concept". But the Wrights claimed they invented wing warping by looking at birds in flight. How about by looking at the machines of others or reading about them? I believe Curtiss already held the patent for the aileron when the Wright Company switched from their dangerous, impractical wing warping to Curtiss's much better and safer system of the aileron, which is still used today. If Curtiss held the  patent, he had the right to sue, even though Orville held the broadly interpreted pioneer patent for wing warping. That is my understanding. Check with your attorneys. (Though I don't trust them.)

 Curtiss was also granted the patent for the hydroplane, although work had been done on the concept by other great pioneers. Was the Wright company infringing on Curtiss's  patent when they built their own hydroplane and put their name on it?.Of course.

Glenn Curtiss had hundreds of inventions and patents, not dozens, as you claim for the Wrights, which would included repeats of their wing warping patent in  foreign countries. Nothing new.  Curtiss's innovations are still used in aviation today. Makes one wonder why Aviator feels so compelled to put him down. If Orville Wright was such a brilliant inventor and the first in the world to fly, why couldn't he even think of an original toy to build for his family to sell?


@cmngsart @Aviator Three important events occurred in 1942 that led to the publishing of "The 1914 Test of the Langley Aerodrome," by Charles G. Abbot.

1. Abbot finally realized that there were no expert reports that showed the 1903 Langley Aerodrome was capable of flight.  

2. Abbot learned that Zahm's 1914 report was false and inaccurate

3. Abbot finally realized that Walcott had to know that Zahm and Curtiss made the 1914 tests in the hope of influencing recent and future patent litigation.

Orville made it clear to Abbot that Walcott was an active participant with Zahm and Curtiss in committing fraud as directors of the Langley Laboratory when they approved the Curtiss-Langley tests without informing Orville Wright, the other director.

No longer able to deny that his mentor Walcott had committed fraud, and the extent to which Albert Zahm had misled him, Abbot was willing to accept Orville's kind offer to drop all mention of it from Abbot's paper.

On Sep. 9th, Abbot tells Orville the he consulted others about the situation.  Afterwards, progress was rapid and Abbot dropped all pretense that the tests of the Langley Aerodrome were legitimate.

Kelly contributed twice in resolving the impasse. First by transmitting to Abbot the list Orville prepared of modifications to the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome.  Abbot became aware that Zahm had lied.  Secondly, Kelly helped Abbot understand the level of corruption of Walcott in allowing Zahm and Curtiss to set up fake tests of the Langley Aerodrome and issue false statements about it.  He was also helpful in finding a way for Abbot to concede without having to expose the Smithsonian to further harm.


@Aviator Mr. Aviator--whoever you are. This is complete fiction! You should be writing fairy tales!

    There are a few occasions in the correspondence between Kelly, Abbot and Wright where by the longest, longest stretch of the imagination you might spin the conclusions Aviator has come to but you would have to be pretty desperate.

      Abbot never ever believed that Curtiss, Zahm, Walcott, or the Smithsonian committed fraud. Abbot always believed that the Langley aerodrome was capable of flight.

      Zahm was the Director of the Langley lab--that's why he was asked to be the observer of the Langley trials. Orville Wright was a member of the Langley lab, among others, never director. He was miffed when he didn't learn about the Langley tests until afterwards.  Orville was frightened that he might be sitting on a lot of worthless stock he had bought back from his disenchanted stockhollders.

     Secretary Abbot already had a list of "modifications" that Orville had made up before Fred Kelly came on the scene. Abbot commented that Orville had made some changes to the list. Interesting.

Kelly's way of making Abbot concede was to pressure him into listing the modifications with no explanation as to why they were done. Never, in the so called "apology" to Orville Wright, does it state there was fraud, corruption, or collusion. Never does it state that the Langley Aerodrome was incapable of flight. As long as Time magazine will support this dialogue, I will present more letters from the Kelly, Wright, Abbot dialogue.


@cmngsart  From 1914 until October 12, 1942, Abbot believed the story spun by Zahm until Fred Kelly and Orville Wright opened his eyes.  When confronted with Kelly's request for the non-existent 1914 reports from experts, Abbot began to see the light.  Abbot loyally defended his predecessor until he finally realized that he had been deceived.   Abbot consulted with others and then quickly reversed course.  

It is clear from the correspondence that Abbot did not understand the modifications made to the Langley Aerodrome until he received the list from Kelly, which he accepted immediately.  

He was willing to admit that Zahm and Curtiss acted improperly but had difficulty publishing the mistakes of Walcott.  Orville, the kind man that he was, agreed to "have the record straightened with as little embarrassment to you as possible."  That Abbot appreciated Orville's kindness is apparent in Abbot's salutation to which he added "With kindest regards." 

The report Abbot published "The 1914 Test of the Langley Aerodrome," makes perfectly clear the fraud, corruption and collusion between Zahm and Curtiss in the fake Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome tests and the subsequent fraudulent statements of Albert Zahm for which he expressed regret.


@Aviator Dear  Aviator--Spinner of Fairy Tales. Let's have the precise dates and quotations from the letters of Abbot, Kelly, and Wright to support your incredible conclusions. Maybe your 38 historians need your historical fiction to interpret the letters for them because they are unwilling to look for themselves.

I am particularly interested in the letter that proves Abbot.a scientist and head of the Smithsonian Insitution, suddenly saw the light after Fred Kelly, a journalist, pointed out to him where he didn't understand the modifications.

What, specifically, didn't he understand? The weight and drag of 350 pound pontoons on a 1903 antique airplane? A damaged underpowered engine that they couldn't get up to original horsepower?? Trussing to support the weight of the pontoons? Maybe Curtiss should have supported them with a kite string? And one of the most  ridiculous accusations Orville made. That the Langley plane originally used untreated cotton, where Curtiss doped the cloth covering.That was so,so misleading because it indicated to the uninformed that Langley didn't know the fabric couldn't allow air to travel through it. Langley knew..

The 1914 report Abbot published never states fraud, corruption, and collusion although you yourself want to interpret it that way. It doesn't even say that  the Wright brothers were first to fly, only that it is "everywhere agreed" so.

The report was published because of the duress that Orville Wright and his allies put on Abbot and the Smithsonian. It is misleading and Abbot said so himself.


@cmngsart Throw out all the non-sequiturs you want.  The facts are clear.  You have not one single bit of evidence to support the nonsense you produce.  Reasonable readers can draw their own conclusions.  Abbot's 1942 report clearly indicates regret for the fraud, corruption and collusion that Smithsonian officials permitted when they got in bed with serial patent infringer Glenn Hammond Curtiss and the decietful Albert Francis Zahm  


@Aviator@cmngsartAviator : The 1942 "apology" states "ill considered and open to criticism." That's a long, long, long way from "fraud, corruption, and collusion." 

Direct quote from the 1942 "apology":

"Mainly because of acts and statements of former officers of the Smithsonian Institution, arising from tests made with the reconditioned Langley plane of 1903 at Hammondsport, New York, in 1914, Dr. Orville Wright feels that the Institution adopted an unfair and injurious attitude. He therefore sent the original Wright Kitty Hawk plane to England in 1928. The nature of the acts and statements referred to are as follows:

In March 1914, Secretary Walcott contracted with Glenn H. Curtiss to attempt a flight with the Langley machine. This action seems ill considered and open to criticism. For in January 1914, the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, had handed down a decision recognizing the Wrights as "pioneers in the practical art of flying with heavier-than-air machines" and pronouncing Glenn H. Curtiss an infringer of their patent. Hence, in view of probable further litigation, the Wrights stood to lose in fame and revenue and Curtiss stood to gain pecuniarily, should the experiments at Hammondsport indicate that Langley's plane was capable of sustained flight in 1903, previous to the successful flights made December 17, 1903, by the Wrights at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The machine was shipped to Curtiss at Hammondsport, N.Y., in April. Dr. Zahm, the Recorder of the Langley Aerodynamical Laboratory and expert witness for Curtiss in the patent litigation, was at Hammondsport as official representative of the Smithsonian Institution during the time the machine was being reconstructed and tested. In the reconstruction the machine was changed from what it was in 1903 in a number of particulars as given in Dr. Wright's list of differences which appears later in this paper. On the 28th of May and the 2d of June, 1914, attempts to fly were made. After acquiring speed by running on hydroplane floats on the surface of Lake Keuka the machine lifted into the air several different times. The longest time off the water with the Langley motor was approximately five seconds. Dr. Zahm stated that "it was apparent that owing to the great weight which had been given to the structure by adding the floats it was necessary to increase the propeller thrust." So no further attempts were made to fly with the Langley 52 HP engine...."
To be continued

To the unbiased reader of this "apology": Already the statement becomes misleading. The original 52 HP engine was running at about 2/3 capacity or less. It had fallen to the bottom of the river in the original Langley mishap and had then sat in the basement of the Smithsonian for eleven years. Curtiss's mechanics damaged the engine even more in trying to fix it, because they had not worked before with this kind of engine. They were never able to get it up to its original power, so decided to change to an engine closer to the original 52 HP.

Even so, with the extra weight and drag of the pontoons and the original weakened engine, Langley's marvel of a plane lifted up from the water and flew! There were simply not enough modifications in the Langley plane to make it fly when it could not have in 1903. However, Orville Wright's accusations need to be considered one by one.


@cmngsart  As usual, cmngsart and associates offer non sequiturs and nonsense. Abbot also believed the foolishness they present until Kelly and Orville showed him otherwise in 1942.  The tests of the Langley Aerodrome proved only that Glenn Curtiss and Albert Zahm lacked character and integrity.  They did not prove that the Langley Aerodrome was capable of flight but did demonstrate the lows to which Curtiss and Zahm were willing to sink.

Fortunately, Abbot finally came to his senses.  His 1942 report details the errors of officials of the Smithsonian when they participated in a corrupt test of the Curtiss-Langley Aerodrome and fraudulently mischaracterized the results of the test. 

On October 12, 1942 Abbot realized his mistakes and the mistakes of his predecessor, Charles Walcott.  He wasted no time in correcting the record and offering his regrets.  Reasonable readers can read Abbot's report, "The 1914 Test of the Langley Aerodrome." here:


@cmngsart "Ill considered and open to criticism" is just the warm up.  Abbot was being gentle on Walcott.

Regrets are the essence of the report:

"It is to be regretted that the Institution published statements repeatedly to the effect that these experiments of 1914 demonstrated that Langley's plane of 1903 without essential modification was the first heavier-than-air machine capable of maintaining sustained human flight."

"I sincerely regret that the Institution employed to make the tests of 1914 an agent (CURTISS) who had been an unsuccessful defendant in patent litigation brought against him by the Wrights." Read: SERIAL PATENT INFRINGER

FRAUD by Zahm " I sincerely regret that statements were repeatedly made by officers of the Institution that the Langley machine was flown in 1914 "with certain changes of the machine necessary to use pontoons," without mentioning the other changes included on Dr. Wright's list."

More FRAUD by Zahm "I sincerely regret the public statement by officers of the Institution that "The tests (of 1914) showed that the late Secretary Langley had succeeded in building the first aeroplane capable of sustained free flight with a man."

TOTAL FRAUD " The flights of the Langley aerodrome at Hammondsport in 1914, having been made long after flying had become a common art, and with changes of the machine indicated by Dr. Wright's comparison, as given above, did not warrant the statements published by the Smithsonian Institution that these tests proved that the large Langley machine of 1903 was capable of sustained flight carrying a man."  PERIOD, END OF DISCUSSION.

The statements about the motor are completely untrue.  The motor was modified extensively with a new magneto and a carburetor.  The propellers were modified. The wing was completely redesigned and rebuilt. Nothing Zahm and Curtiss say about this scam is to be trusted.  


@Aviator@cmngsart Aviator, You have provided no precise references so that we can verify your spin as to what happened before the 1942 apology was published to coerce Abbot to sign off on it. Since the apology was mostly written by Orville Wright, not at all the way Abbot wanted it, it should have been signed by Orville Wright. I can provide references, but it's a long read. Apparently Aviator can't provide references because the letters as a whole won't bear up his conclusions. 

For the edification of Aviator: "Glenn Curtiss and Albert Zahm lacked character and integrity" is a non sequitur..The word "corrupt" is a non sequitur. "Fraudulently" is a non sequitur. It doesn't look like you know what "non sequitur" means. Please look it up. I am providing facts, not drawing false conclusions.

Thank you for providing a link to the whole apology so that we can continue to examine it beyond the first paragraphs that I provided in my last comment.


@Aviator@cmngsart Aviator--your interpretations again. A long way from fraud. There are some  key words in those statements, especially under "total fraud."Abbot was willing to state that the tests did not prove that Langley plane was capable of flight, but Orville left out Abott's statement that they didn't prove it wasn't. And Abbot went on to say that there were experts who believed they did. I will find the reference shortly.

Regrets certainly are the essence of the report. Abbot's regrets under duress.

Sorry, Aviator, you are absolutely wrong about the engine. A new magneto and carburetor still didn't bring the engine up to the 52 HP that it was capable of in 1903. Go back to the books and study. This is another example of the misleading nature of this publication and your attempts to mislead, as well..There was a small clip taken from a couple of corners of the propeller to help the engine because it wasn't up to capacity. Another example of the attempts of Orville Wright to mislead the public about the tests.

The wing discussion is more complex.

Nothing that Orville Wright said about the Langley trials can be trusted. He was biased, prejudiced, and willing to mislead the public. He hated both Curtiss and Zahm because of their "crimes" of  standing up to the infringement lawsuits against Curtiss--an all American right, by the way. Abbot signed off on the modifications because he said that he believed that Orville was "a man of integrity." Was he ever wrong.


@cmngsart The document with apologies was written by Abbot before Orville ever laid eyes on a draft.  You have no idea what you are talking about.  There is absolutely no evidence of coercion  Abbot was extremely pleased to resolve this and very happy that Orville was willing to move beyond Walcott and focus the blame where it belonged, with Zahm and Curtiss.  Orville knew that Walcott and Abbot were not engineers and had been misled.  For a long time, Abbot could not imagine that Walcott could have participated in such a despicable act.  When Abbot found out that there were no expert reports and that the Langley Laboratory acted improperly, he realized he too had been duped.  He then wisely consulted others.

As I have often stated, your comments demonstrate that you do not know the history, and you do not know the science, and do not have the ability to reason sufficiently to follow facts.  You demonstrate a willingness to take things out of context and distort them in an attempt to demonstrate they mean the opposite of what was intended.  Your writings make it clear that you have no interest in learning anything, but in desperately trying to prove something that simply is not true. 

You have demonstrated that you have no interest in the truth.  Your jumbled and nonsensical statements are non sequiturs.  Clearly you do not understand the meaning of non sequitur.  You use facts as a potter uses clay.  

If I thought for even one moment you had the character of Abbot, I would be tempted to help, but these writings show that cmngsart and associates are combinations of the uneducated and gullible Curtiss and the scheming and venal Zahm.


@cmngsart These statements are perfect illustrations of my point.

You have no evidence regarding experts, because there were no experts and like Abbot until 1942, you too believe the lies of Zahm. 

The modifications of the motor are indeed significant and there is absolutely no evidence to  support the claim that the Manly motor was underperforming, but plenty of evidence that it was not.  The modification to the propeller was highly significant and was one of the discoveries of the Wrights in 1905; one which they shared with Curtiss and Baldwin and for which Curtiss later thanked the Wrights.  You simply do not understand aerodynamics.

The wing was changed in camber, aspect ration and bracing, the leading edge was reshaped and the spar modified, the fabric was sealed and a control system added, the tail reconfigured and repositioned and pontoons were added which lowered the Cg.  An easier question would be, what was not changed?

But these were not the fraud.  The fraud was in the misstated purpose of the tests and the subsequent fraudulent claims regarding modifications and results.  Why did Curtiss undertake these silly tests?  Why did he permit Zahm to extensively modify Langley's Aerodrome and why was the real purpose stated for the tests never even attempted?  Why?  Because it was a fraudulent scheme from the first.

Curtiss and Zahm both perjured themselves during their patent testimony.  Zahm was forced by the court to produce the evidence of his lies in one of the most dramatic moments in courtroom history.  He was thoroughly humiliated and disgraced.  He continued his fraudulent activities for years, in a fruitless attempt to get back at the Wrights, at several institutions that later apologized for their participation in his actions.

It is indisputable that the Wright brothers were exlemplars of honesty and integrity and the originators of the solution to manned flight responsible for changing the course of human events.


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