Talk:Gustave Whitehead/Archive 16

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Connecticut Air & Space Center moving Whitehead No. 21 replica to Curtiss Hangar

The Connecticut Air & Space Center Museum is restoring the Curtiss Hangar at Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport. The historic Curtiss Hangar, is an integral part of Connecticut's unique aviation history, a site visited by aviation pioneers such as Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Erhart, Howard Hughes and Igor Sikorsky. The current center houses a large collection of aviation artifacts including a flying full-size replica Gustave Whitehead No. 21, which flew two years before the Wright Brothers.Tomticker5 (talk) 03:01, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

I'm glad that the Curtiss hangar is being taken care of and put back into shape. The CASCM website says that Andy Kosch is repairing his No. 21 replica and that the machine will be hangared in the Curtiss Hangar, but says not a word (not that I could find) about GW's No. 21 having flown two years before the Wright Brothers. The 20 Nov 2012 article in General Aviation News by Janice Wood, from which you apparently copied most of your text, makes that assertion, but does the CASCM ? Care to show us where, if you believe it does ? Carroll F. Gray (talk) 03:37, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
It must be clear that the replica is not an exact copy. It uses some modern components such as the engine, and some modern materials. Whether the replica can fly is not proof that the 110-year-old design flew or was even air-worthy. Binksternet (talk) 04:15, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

An expected response. The text is from a 11/19/12 Stratford Patch article actually. I'm not offended by your accusation though, clearly I'm not the one who "lifted" it, as you say. Perhaps you should steer your comment toward Wood for possibly lifting it off Patch. Anyway, here's the last few paragraphs of the article. As you can clearly see, the CASCM provided the information and even plugs for donations and provides a contact email to the center. "The Connecticut Air & Space Center, located at 201 Sniffens Lane, Stratford, houses a large collection of aviation artifacts including a flying full-size replica of Bridgeport's Gustav Whitehead's No. 21, which flew two years before the Wright Brothers (and is celebrated by a sculpture at the intersection of Fairfield Avenue and Commerce Drive, Bridgeport recently-dedicated by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch).The Center is presently restoring the FG-1 Corsair World War II fighter plane which was for many years displayed on a pylon at the entrance to Sikorsky Memorial Airport. During World War II, several thousand Corsairs were made at the Army Engine Plant on Main Street, Stratford and flown directly to the Pacific War from Sikorsky Memorial Airport. The Center is open for visitors 18 and older on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Tax-deductible contributions to support this project and the Center are much appreciated. Contact:"Tomticker5 (talk) 14:28, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

From whatever source you took the text, I still cannot find a place on the CASCM website or on anything directly from them that states that GW's No. 21 flew two years before Wilbur and Orville Wright. What I wrote was that you "apparently copied" - I did not say you "lifted" (your term) it. Obviously, someone copied from someone, but, again, the relevant point here is whether you can offer something from CASCM that *directly* states that GW's No. 21 flew two years before the Wright Brothers, not another article from a publication about CASCM, but something issued by CASCM itself. I'll be very interested in what you can find. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 04:34, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

The CASCM brochure states, under a photo of Whitehead No. 21 Replica; "Andy Kosch built and flew this replica of Gustave Whitehead's No. 21 aeroplane to prove that a local from Bridgeport flew 2 years before the Wright Brothers in 1901. Help us to preserve this early piece!"Tomticker5 (talk) 16:42, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

The wording shies away from direct affirmation of the 1901 flight. It says that Kosch intended to prove something but it does not say he succeeded in proving the 1901 flight. Binksternet (talk) 17:24, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
Binksternet has it right, this quoted item from the CASCM brochure does not say that GW flew two years before Wilbur and Orville Wright did, and I don't think you'll find anything directly from CASCM that takes the position as a museum that Gustave Whitehead flew two years before the Wilbur and Orville Wright did. I have a great deal of respect for Andy Kosch and for his bravery in doing what he did, but even he (Andy K.) does not believe that his experiments with his No. 21 replica prove whether or not Gustave Whitehead flew in 1901. It is instructive, it seems to me, that CASCM will not state definitively and on the written record that GW flew in 1901 in the original No. 21.Carroll F. Gray (talk) 00:32, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
In June 2007 I received an email reply from the New England Air Museum (NEAM) in response to my query about Whitehead. I had asked about official Connecticut recognition of Whitehead and whether the state had honored him as making the first airplane flight. A NEAM research librarian wrote back to me and included the text of the proclamation of "Gustave Whitehead Day" by Governor John Dempsey on August 14, 1968. In his reply the librarian also wrote:
Note that the Proclamation states: "It is possible that he flew a plane of his own design as early as 1901." (my Italics). The State of Connecticut did not honor "Whitehead as the first person to fly (or words to that effect)" as you mention in your memo. Nor - as far as I know - did the State of Connecticut ever officially honor him as making the first airplane flight.
The alleged Whitehead flghts of 1901 and 1902 continue to be something of a lightning rod in Connecticut aviation history circles, with each side having its passionate defenders.....
So, at least as of 2007, that was the air museum's considered opinion. DonFB (talk) 02:03, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

What does; "a local from Bridgeport flew 2 years before the Wright Brothers in 1901", mean to you?Tomticker5 (talk) 02:23, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Context, man. Take the blinders off. Look at the surrounding text. Binksternet (talk) 02:48, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
It means we have another unsigned local newspaper claim about Whitehead. Should this unattributed information be given equal weight in the GW article alongside the academic historians, or overrule them? DonFB (talk) 03:30, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Since you asked, "a local from Bridgeport flew 2 years before the Wright Brothers in 1901" means not the same thing as ""Andy Kosch built and flew this replica of Gustave Whitehead's No. 21 aeroplane to prove that a local from Bridgeport flew 2 years before the Wright Brothers in 1901" nor does it mean GW flew in 1901. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 06:04, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

GW/Wright "Meeting" Subject Headline

I changed the section heading "Possible influence on the Wright brothers" to "Purported meeting with the Wright brothers" - my reasoning is this, Orville Wright makes an unambiguous total denial of having met GW and of being present in Bridgeport before 1909. To use the word "Possible" is to allow for the possibility that they did meet and therefore to assume the posture that Orville Wright must have been lying. So, that meeting is not a "possible" meeting unless we take the position that Orville Wright is not telling the truth, which I'm not willing to take. Orville Wright does not say something such as 'We might have met him but I don't remember it happening.' - he says very clearly it did not happen. So, to stay neutral, the "meeting" is "Purported" or "Alleged" or "Asserted" and not "Possible". Carroll F. Gray (talk) 19:31, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

Publishing photographs

My great great grandfather was a photographic "artist" doing business in Bridgeport from 1879-1900. He died in 1900. I inherited his collection of about 20,000 negatives of which as I understand it from relatives precious few ever got printed. Most are just of scenery and people as one would expect. With recent improvements in digital photography I am now finally able to afford to start making prints and as I was going through these I found about two dozen negatives that I have been trying to identify of odd primative looking airplanes in flight. This does not make sense because because he died in the spring of 1900 and we are absolutely certain that none of these photographs were taken by anyone else. Researching early aircraft in an attempt to identify what these are I found that they resemble some of the photographs I have seen on google identified as Whitehead aircraft. I have taken them to a few historians who are dismissing them as either misidentified or misdated. I would be grateful to anyone here who could point me in the right direction for identifying definitively the dates of these negatives and what they are of. I am very new to digital photography and have absolutely no idea how to post a photograph on wikipedia. Anyone? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:21, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

If you have negatives of someone soaring in the air in a powered machine before 1900, they would obviously be worth quite a bit to several Connecticut based aviation museums.Tomticker5 (talk) 02:10, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
It's the right period. There were many people experimenting with aircraft at the time. Not all of them were powered, piloted, steerable, etc. Try talking with some museums in your neighbourhood about how to best digitize your negatives without damaging them, they sound like they'd be very useful to historians! --Kim Bruning (talk) 05:02, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

85 full-text online sources findable, according to Jane's

Jane's say they found 85 contemporary reports in digitized newspapers from the time. . If someone has the time to go looking them up, we'd have quite a number of reliable sources for the 1901 flight. --Kim Bruning (talk) 05:02, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

100th anniversary edition of Jane's All the World Aircraft will state Whitehead first

The upcoming 100th anniversary edition of Jane's All the World Aircraft will credit Bridgeport's Gustave Whitehead as the first man to build an operational heavier-than-air aircraft. Justice delayed is justice denied. I'd like to edit the article to remove that Whitehead is known for; "claimed flights before the Wright brothers" and that his first flight in 1899 is "disputed", citing Jane's. I don't want to start an editing war.Tomticker5 (talk) 01:24, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

I saw that article. Very interesting. Jane's is impressive, but I don't think it locks down the verdict all by itself. Jane's basically just repeats information from the Bridgeport Herald and follows that with several paragraphs of argumentation. The body of the Wikipedia GW article could certainly have some referenced text about Jane's statement. I just looked at the Jane's article again, and I don't see any mention of the GW alleged 1899 flight in Pittsburgh, so I don't see how that's relevant. DonFB (talk) 01:47, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
I think it was the photographs that clinched the deal for Jane's. I agree with DonFB that Jane's alone cannot change the mainstream consensus. It will take a year or two for the dust to settle and thus for us to know how the early aviation scholars will handle this. Binksternet (talk) 02:54, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

I believe it was the discovery, by me, of Cochrane's long forgotten book published in December 1904 (reprinted in 1911) which includes GW and Wright brothers on the very same page. GW is listed ahead of the Wright's as Cochrane lists flyers and soarers in chronological order. Cochrane also states the Wright brothers outdid all previous flyers to date; including GW. This is not disputed. Is that what they mean by the second mouse gets the cheese?Tomticker5 (talk) 13:40, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

Either way. I'd wait until Jane's have actually published and what they've published and if there has been any reaction from historians, Flight International, etc. GraemeLeggett (talk) 18:37, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
They've already published the article on their website. Is that somehow not a reliable source?LedRush (talk) 01:02, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
I did read what was written on their web but it manages to talk around the subject without bluntly stating "Whitehead flew first" and it would be better to see what they put in print and whether there are any caveats attached. GraemeLeggett (talk) 07:12, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Exactly. Binksternet (talk) 07:50, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

From the CT Post, John Burgeson, Updated 12:02 am, Wednesday, March 13, 2013; In his forward to the Jane's book, now online, editor Paul Jackson states that Whitehead's flight took place "... more than two years before the Wrights manhandled their Flyer from its shed and flew a couple of hundred feet in a straight line after lifting off from an adjacent wooden rail hammered into the ground." Is this not an accurate quote from Jane's? What does "Whiteheads' flight" mean? Read more: Tomticker5 (talk) 21:34, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

I think the Jane's comments, and perhaps something from the CT Post article, are well worth including in the GW article. If you make an edit, though, I advise doing it judiciously, not as an unequivocal proclamation that GW flew first. The text should be like any other in Wikipedia: sticking to what is said in the referenced source(s), without going above and beyond and making a sweeping claim in Wikipedia's voice about the "facts". DonFB (talk) 23:56, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

I think it would be more prudent and help to maintain a NPOV on the subject if Jane's comments, especially the dates and lengths of GW's flights in 1901, were inserted into the Wright brothers article instead.Tomticker5 (talk) 01:26, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

That's a non-starter. Lots of people have tried to decorate the WB article with every manner of alternate "firsts". The WB article is about the WB, not the WB and GW, or the WB and Santos Dumont, or the WB and Richard Pearse, or the WB and Jatho, etc, etc. You should take this opportunity to add your preferred text to the GW article. Soon, somebody else will, and you might or might not like they way they do it, and then you'll complain about that. DonFB (talk) 01:59, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
Given that the CT Post quote has a phrase to the extent that the Wrights were right even if Whitehead was first, Jane's opinion doesn't change the Wright's contribution to flight nor Whitehead's. GraemeLeggett (talk) 07:24, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
That's a point to be made, but off-subject. We have reliable sources stating facts about which flights came first, so we should be able to use them in a NPOV way. I agree with the above editor who said we can't just say that GW was the first to fly. Of course, we can say that some regard him as the first to flight, and that some say he flied on x date, x height, x length"?LedRush (talk) 02:05, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

Jane's states they found "85 contemporary sources" on which they base the new chronology; not just the Bridgeport Herald , wouldn't those be as/more suited than Jane's article itself? Sadly, they didn't provide a list of those sources afaict.

In general:

It's not like the wrights magically cracked the secret of flight all by themselves. Many people were simultaneously working on the problem of flight at that period in time (starting in +/- the 19th century onward). They were holding congresses, writing books, exchanging letters, and continuously building incrementally better machines. There are thousands of papers on the subject from the 19th century alone.

I think that in the end we'll find that there is not really any one "first airplane". The 'history-book-writers' basically just picked one somewhere from the middle of the pack. I guess it just makes for a better story. --Kim Bruning (talk) 12:14, 17 March 2013 (UTC) beware the storytellers

This is only a partially accurate assessment of history, especially the 'middle of the pack' concept. Aviation experimentation was at a virtual standstill in Europe in 1900. It re-started following news of the Wrights' gliding successes, and most of the new European flying machines were crude copies of Wright gliders.
The long list of contemporary news articles about Whitehead is shown by researcher John Brown, upon whose website the editor of Jane's apparently based his endorsement of Whitehead's reported flights. As far as is known, only one of the 80-plus newspaper articles that Brown cites was based on the actual presence of a reporter at the scene of the purported Whitehead flight--the Bridgeport Herald. Of course, our Wiki-job is not to decide the "facts" based on a large number of old newspaper articles, but to describe consensus or disagreement as it exists in the community of historians, scholars and researchers. DonFB (talk) 23:53, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

Jane's declaration 2013

I've inserted a single sentence with the reference to Jane's using the CT Post newspaper as the source. I placed it in the introduction after the chronological listing of those who have dismissed and defended his flights since the 1930s.Tomticker5 (talk) 13:34, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Items in the lede should be summaries of information in the article. We should flesh out this controversy a bit in the article, and make the appropriate summary sentence in the lede.LedRush (talk) 02:06, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Yes, exactly, and we should wait for the book to come out. Binksternet (talk) 04:33, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
No, books are no more RSs than articles.LedRush (talk) 02:06, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
I'm saying the book will have much more detail—detail that will be necessary for us to properly frame the Jane's position. Binksternet (talk) 15:54, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
That's fine, but it isn't a reason not to use currently available RSs.LedRush (talk) 01:06, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Additional text about Jane's statement, and maybe a reaction comment or two sourced to the Ct Post article, could go in the first Legacy section. That section is already very long and could be edited/shortened so new material about Jane's doesn't bloat it even more. I renamed the 2nd Legacy section. DonFB (talk) 06:37, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure why this content isn't in the article

"On October 15, 1964, Charles Wittemann made a written and tape-recorded statement under oath in which he declared he’d spent a week working alongside Whitehead in his Bridgeport workshop, had examined Whitehead’s acetylene motor and found it capable of performing the claimed flight of 1901. The significance of Wittemann’s statement is not only his personal knowledge of the engine but also his legal standing. Wittemann was appointed by US President, Woodrow Wilson, as America’ Chief Aviation Expert in WW1. His expert witness statement therefore has added evidentiary weight".[1]Tomticker5 (talk) 22:40, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

Probably one reason it's not in this article is because most of us did not know about that website until recently. It has a lot of very interesting material, including devastating rebuttals of Gibbs-Smith's conclusions, and to some extent, of Crouch's research also. Jane's is apparently basing its new opinion about Whitehead on that site (and explicitly names the site and its author, John Brown), so we may well be justified in considering the site to be a legitimate source. It does, however, contain at least one completely outrageous and unsourced statement of its own, namely that Wilbur Wright "had withdrawn years earlier to become a fundamentalist, religious preacher". That kind of comment can cast doubt on a researcher's credibility. The Witteman statement about the acetylene engine is part of Brown's debunking of Gibbs-Smith's dismissal of GW as an engine builder. There are a number of things like that in Brown's website that could be mentioned and referenced in this article. DonFB (talk) 01:11, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

Some Wikipedia contributors appear to be unaware of the Wrights' fundamentalist religious background and that Wilbur planned to study theology at Yale University in New Haven, CT to become a preacher. This is contained in a letter by Wilbur to his father, Milton. There is nothing outrageous about that statement from Brown. Indeed, it's rather mild in the overall context of the Wrights' religious involvement. As legal representative of his father, Bishop Wright, didn't Wilbur prosecute two churches and on two occasions left his experiments at Kitty Hawk to do so?Tomticker5 (talk) 13:46, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

None of the Wright offspring were religious. Wilbur helped his father in a quasi-legal fashion, writing pamphlets and the like. After abandoning plans to attend Yale, he showed zero interest in the ministry, according to multiple biographies. The brothers refrained from work or experiments on Sundays out of respect for the father, but not due to any religious feelings of their own, which were absent, according to the biographers. Brown's statement remains highly questionable and seems to betray the same kind of superficial knowledge as your post above. DonFB (talk) 18:21, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Possible photograph of Gustave Whitehead's "flight"

Amateur historian John Brown has found a photo in an old attic that he says might be a piece of photographic evidence to validate Gustave Whitehead's claim that he was the first man to achieve heavier-than-air flight ( However, this newly discovered photo is extremely blurry and requires forensic analysis to prove that the August 1901 newspaper report is not pure fantasy. Nevertheless, if the photo does show the Whitehead No.21 plane in flight, it would force the Smithsonian Institution to nullify a contract hailing the Wright Flyer as the first-ever heavier than air machine to achieve sustained flight and the American public will be absolutely dumbstruck to find out that Whitehead had flown a plane before the Wright brothers. Time will tell if analysis of the photo found by Brown holds water. (talk) 20:30, 19 March 2013 (UTC)Vahe Demirjian

More useful will be what happens when according to the link "Senior Curator of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution, Tom Crouch will be in Dayton Wednesday and will address the question at a press briefing." GraemeLeggett (talk) 21:38, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
I'm looking forward to that also, though I'm sure Crouch will basically repeat the party line about Whitehead.
John Brown's photo analysis is here, and is also discussed on the home page of his website. He claims he has identified the original photo of Whitehead's #21 airplane in flight, from which he believes the lithograph in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald was made. One would need a lot of faith and strong imagination to be convinced that this picture (bottom frame) shows Whitehead flying the airplane. DonFB (talk) 22:18, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

From Jane's foreword; "Whitehead's No. 22, the next machine, this time powered by a 40 hp diesel engine, was similarly reported in flight on 17 January 1902 and confirmed as having executed a circular course over the shallows between Charles Island and Bridgeport, demonstrating its navigability and practicality. That manoeuvre was made possible by the roll control technique of wing-warping - the fact confirmed by a technical article in Aeronautical World for December 1902, well ahead of the Wrights patenting the method as their own. Affidavits and statements by 17 people, some of them recorded on tape and film or video, bear witness to the many powered flights made by Whitehead between August 1901 and January 1902."Tomticker5 (talk) 18:22, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

(Of course we all know that a handful of affidavits denied a Whitehead flight.) Binksternet (talk) 19:28, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Do you think it's likely they were paid to change their story?Tomticker5 (talk) 20:10, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Do the reliable sources say they were paid? GraemeLeggett (talk) 20:40, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Cochrane's published statements in 1904

Cochrane stated that when sufficient speed was attained, the aviator (GW) could tilt the planes slightly upward, "rising from the ground", and skimming along "slightly above the surface". Cochrane's description of GW's controlled powered flight was published in 1904, reprinted in 1911 and was undisputed at the time.Tomticker5 (talk) 00:49, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

That hardly qualifies as a description of "controlled powered flight," nor am I aware of any recognized historians who made that statement about the experiment. The "flight" does bear much resemblance to the powered, foot-launched hops made by Augustus Herring at the Lake Michigan shore just before the Twentieth Century arrived.
Remember, Tom, your interpretation or opinion of such published descriptions is not what counts; it will take a few more statements from sources like Jane's and--who knows?--maybe a statement from the Smithsonian, before you'll be justified declaring--and writing in this article--that GW did what you believe. DonFB (talk) 01:33, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Lawrence motor paragraph

I know you want to add as much supportive material as possible, but the text about the Lawrence motor is painfully and excessively detailed, and reads like much or most of it is a straight copy-and-paste from the source, which I haven't seen. Due to the age of the source, the text is probably not a copyright violation, but it is a rather unappetizing chunk of fodder. Here's my suggestion for editing it down to a more palatable, cogent and appropriately encyclopedic addition:

"In 1908 Whitehead designed and built a 75 hp lightweight two-cycle motor at the suggestion of aviation pioneer George A. Lawrence, who was having difficulty obtaining an aeronautic engine. The water-cooled machine was designed so that good cylinders continued to work if others failed, a safety factor to help avoid accidents due to engine failure. The men formed Whitehead Motor Works with an office in New York City and a factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut that built motors in three sizes: 25, 40 and 75 hp, weighing 95, 145 and 200 pounds respectively."

DonFB (talk) 17:53, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

Article introduction

The article introduction should be about the topic of the article which is the aviator Gustave Whitehead not the Wright brothers. My edit of the first few sentences of the introduction explains who Whitehead was, what he's known for and where he did it. I've added the content and used reliable third party published sources.Tomticker5 (talk) 20:45, 14 May 2013 (UTC)

Two things
1) You really do have spell out that flying in 1901 means before the Wright Brothers. I suspect most English speakers if asked who the first successful flyers were would name the Wrights but be less clear on the date.
2) A lede shouldn't need sourcing, it should be a summary of the rest of the article. If a statement has been made in the body of the article is doesn't need referencing when placed in the lede. Save some particular instances such as a quoted opinion that summarises the article subject but is not used in the main part of the article.GraemeLeggett (talk) 21:32, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Much of what is important about Whitehead is his claim to primacy in powered, manned flight, beating the Wright brothers. The Wrights must be in the first paragraph, at least. Binksternet (talk) 21:41, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
I disagree. The Wrights Wikipedia article does not have, in its introduction, a sentence about Whitehead (though it should now say "second in flight behind Gustave Whitehead, of Fairfield, CT, who flew in 1901). The article intro should be about Whitehead and his accomplishments. The Controversy could be in its own section, below his accomplishments, near the end. To put the Wrights in the first paragraph is inappropriate and undermines the intent of the article, which is to provide information about Gustave Whitehead. As a teacher for more than 25 years, who has taught both writing and history, I can tell the way it now reads, academically, does not make sense. So I think that sentence requires removal. This is my conclusion after thinking it over. The article is about Whitehead, not the Wrights. AviationHist1 (talk) 21:39, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Binksternet and Leggett that the Wrights must be mentioned in the article Introduction. The English-speaking world generally recognizes the Wrights as first to make a controlled airplane flight and has not, to date, embraced Jane's recent pronouncement about Whitehead as emblematic of a new consensus. Wikipedia's fundamental principles (q.v.) prohibit it from deciding, based on one source, that such consensus now exists; it can do no more than simply report Jane's opinion. According to the great number of aviation history books (excluding, of course, the few special interest books like Randolph's and O'Dwyer's), Whitehead is not notable for any lasting contributions to aeronautics and aviation. The most notable aspect of his life and work is his claim and claims made in his behalf that he flew an airplane on a date that preceded the Wrights. As a historical matter, that is certainly relevant information and is, of course, the reason so much controversy attends Whitehead. For these reasons, the intro to this article would be greatly remiss in failing to state the significance of the date on which Whitehead reportedly made a controlled flight. Mentioning the Wrights in that context does not mean the article is no longer about Whitehead. Conversely, the Wright Bros article need not mention Whitehead in its introduction, because he is only one of many claimants to the first-to-fly/airplane inventor title. The WB introduction properly mentions that a controversy exists without attempting to shoehorn in the names of all the contenders. That task is handled in a separate section of the article. DonFB (talk) 03:56, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
Don, come on! "The English-speaking world" (which you and your pro-Wright, pro-Smithsonian Contract with the Wrights' cronies attempting to control this webpage do NOT represent) is quite a ridiculous reference, as Jane's is in the UK and we have seen National Geographic, the Air Force Times, USA Today, Fox News, and more, cover this story in a positive fashion. When determining history, where is it written that it is done by adding up the books that agree? For instance, I recall when I was young that history dictated Columbus "discovered" America. NOT. The fact that he didn't came out and it took a long time for the history books to catch up, decades, but that didn't mean that it was true meanwhile. Now we have the means to share information more rapidly, and for it not to be controlled by the so-called experts who really simply have conflicts of interest that don't allow them to take in a new paradigm, with enough evidence to convince the world authority on aviation history - Jane's. Not WWI Aero or some other obscure entities or individuals. Not Smithsonian who cannot even enter the fray till they dump the contract that makes them unable to do their jobs properly. Their curators also make money publishing books loaded with Wrong Info on the Wrights...totally corrupted. So please do not insult the Readers' intelligence with your claims that the English-speaking world does not accept Whitehead (and is that an ethnic dig at Germans, by the way?). What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The Wright article should mention in the intro that the bible of aviation, Jane's, considers them second on flight. Or get them off the GW intro! AviationHist1 (talk) 04:15, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
"Paradigm" is a good word to describe this kind of situation; I almost used that word, but ended up using different phrasing. You made a significant statement with this question: "When determining history, where is it written that it is done by adding up the books that agree?" That is actually fairly close to the way Wikipedia works. I sense that you don't have much patience for a discussion that involves the workings of Wikipedia rules and policies, but without those rules, most articles would probably be worthless and this site would really descend into anarchy. Perhaps the Whitehead-Wright paradigm is changing, but it's not up to any one Wikipedia editor to make that determination. Wikipedia articles are based on what reliable sources say about a subject. If the sources change their opinion over time, a Wikipedia article can also change to reflect the new paradigm, or consensus. But I don't believe that has happened at this point. Jane's is very authoritative, but so is the FAI, and I don't think they've weighed in on this matter yet. Nor, to my knowledge, have academic aviation historians yet come forth with a new consensus, published in scholarly journals, or online, or even in popular books. Obviously, that will take more time, if it does happen. "Positive" media coverage, as you put it, about Jane's opinion does not amount to a new paradigm supported by the community of aviation historians. Personal opinions about the Smithsonian held by Whitehead supporters, including yourself, do not by themselves invalidate the Smithsonian's official position on the issue. This article can report reliably sourced opinions about the Smithsonian, but this article, under Wikipedia policy, cannot reach its own conclusion about the Smithsonian or about the larger issue of what Whitehead did. (nor can any article draw its own conclusion about any controversy). Articles can only report what reliable sources say. The paradigm might change, but Wikipedia cannot declare that it has -- until it has, and until the consensus of Wikipedia editors agrees that it has. DonFB (talk) 07:20, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
I referred to the English-speaking world, because this is the English language Wikipedia; it was not a dig. With a very few exceptions, I think it's accurate to say most of the world considers the Wrights to be the airplane inventors. DonFB (talk) 07:26, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

The Polish and Spanish language Wikipedia article state that Whitehead flew in 1901.Tomticker5 (talk) 11:39, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

And neither of those two have the sort of level of sourcing required (the more comprehensive and better sourced Russian language article leaves it open). But for any of the different language parts of Wikipedia the policy is the same - report what the sources say and if necessary the reader has to draw their own conclusions. GraemeLeggett (talk) 12:01, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
some sort of edit conflict there - don't know if Tomticker5 was removing that comment or not. if so I will strike through my response GraemeLeggett (talk) 12:11, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

Reliability of John Brown's web pages

Is the following unsigned webpage considered reliable?

It is probably John Brown's writing. I think of it as a primary source argument, at best, self-published by John Brown. Binksternet (talk) 12:54, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

This webpage is copyrighted to John Brown, at the bottom left of each page, so it is signed.AviationHist1 (talk) 03:01, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

Legacy section - couple of issues.

The Legacy section has, to my mind, a couple of problems that need sorting out.

Firstly - that is not what I understand by "legacy" which is generally what one leaves behind for others. Its a bit of an overlapping mish-mash of the did he/didn't arguments and opinions and tends to rehash some of the points already covered in the article earlier. It might be better to isolate the post-death research of Whitehead from the legacy points at least within the section.

Secondly there's a citation pile-up after one of the paragraphs (about 5 citations in a row). That sort of pileup always sets the spider-senses tingling. It's either a case of overciting (making it look untidy and confusing to verify), a combination of cites for the various points raised in the paragraph (which although valid would be better served if the cites were attached to the points individually), or an attempt to claim something as a general held view by aggregating several individual viewpoints (a debatable point, and probably not the case here).

I think its mostly the middle case - eg the paragraph links Whitehead with Lilienthal but its hard to know which cite covers that. It's neither of the first two unless it's buried in the low res Sci Am images. Needs sorting though. GraemeLeggett (talk) 05:35, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

Which paragraph do you refer to? I think if it is a case of contention, citing numerous sources should be helpful, yes? however, if they can be spread out, that is better. Not sure which one. The other point at the top seems reasonable, however, it is contentious what his legacy is for some. It is not clearcut for all, in other words (yet). :) — Preceding unsigned comment added by AviationHist1 (talkcontribs) 05:47, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

Third issue with Legacy section: the section on Gibbs-Smith is far too lengthy, especially considering it was his opinion that was never published, in fact, declined to be published by Smithsonian when he wrote his monograph. Therefore a sentence would do. Opinions that were not worth publishing should not be included.

This is the objectionable paragraph: "In the 1950s Gibbs-Smith studied The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright at the U.S. Library of Congress, and Randolph's 1937 book, and concluded that reports of Whitehead making a successful flight in advance of the Wright brothers were fabrications.[54] Gibbs-Smith wrote: "Unfortunately, some of those who advanced [Whitehead's] claims were more intent on discrediting the Wright brothers than on establishing facts."[54] He said in 1960 that no "reputable" aviation historian believes Whitehead ever flew.[54] In 1978 during his year as the senior scholar winner of the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History, Gibbs-Smith extensively researched the field of early aviation developments and claims, and determined that all of Whitehead's claims of being first in powered flight were fabricated, that they were "flights of fancy".[70] He described the arc of Whitehead's career as a retrogression, that it moved from supposed early successes to less ambitious experiments, and then descended further to unlikely designs and public failure. Gibbs-Smith was convinced that any true success along the way would have brought Whitehead's achievements wide recognition, but this never happened.[70] Gibbs-Smith also wrote that "Whitehead was incapable of solving the complex problems involved, especially that of a suitable engine."[54] Gibbs-Smith's monograph on Whitehead was never published by Smithsonian." AviationHist1 (talk) 05:05, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Your concern is misplaced. Gibbs-Smith studied early aviation and wrote lots of books and articles, even letters to the editor. The only things we are quoting from Gibbs-Smith are the things he put in all of his published writings. There is nothing in this article which can be traced to his unpublished works.
Secondly, the Smithsonian may have any number of reasons not to publish a scholarly work for which they funded the research. Binksternet (talk) 05:31, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I beg your pardon, but Gibbs-Smith's monograph on Whitehead is described and the denial described in letters and extensive documents, get a copy of History by Contract to view this history, which is irrefutable, p. 180-215. Wikipedia readers must not be misled by the nonsense cited above and anything unpublished or based on his opinion alone must go. AviationHist1 (talk) 05:36, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Gibbs-Smith was researching the Wright brothers and early aviation. The monograph he was compiling was about many pioneers, not solely about Whitehead. In any case, there is no need to discuss the unpublished writings of Gibbs-Smith because we are not using them as references. Binksternet (talk) 05:56, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
The "flights of fancy" quote is from Gibbs-Smith's "The World's First Aeroplane Flights: 1902-1908 and Earlier Attempts to Fly", a booklet published for the British Science Museum in 1965. The same phrase is also present in Gibbs-Smith's Aviation: an historical survey from its origins to the end of World War II, published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office in 1970. It does not stem from the 1978 Lindbergh Chair research. Binksternet (talk) 06:09, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Removal of opinion masquerading as fact

Sorry DonFB, but where you inserted into the article:

"While Whitehead believers insist that he was first to fly, no one claims that his work had any effect on early aviation or the development of aeronautic science. Even if someone someday produces a photo of No. 21 in flight on August 14, 1901, it will be nothing more than a footnote, a curious anomaly in the history of aviation."'re promoting personal opinion as fact. How exactly can you, Engler, Chmiel and the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company justify attempting to make everyone believe you're oracles of the future? In fact, you can't. The craftily worded statement is guilty of conveying nothing other than personal opinion. You, Engler, Chmiel and the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company can no more predict the future than any other charlatans, although it appears you believe you can. If and when actual photos of Whitehead in flight prior to 1903 are published I can see it making the national news and bringing about congressional action, however that's just my personal opinion, and it too doesn't belong in the article. Kindly stick to the facts. HarryZilber (talk) 16:58, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

The authors of the quote are reliable sources within the Wikipedia definition. Of course, it's their opinon. Their views on the matter are as admissable in the article as those of O'Dwyer, Randolph and Brown, et al, who are also "non-academic" researchers (unlike Gibbs-Smith, for example). There is no attempt to disguise their well-informed opinion as "fact." You are free to disagree with their pov, but not by deleting their well-referenced statement from the article. DonFB (talk) 17:17, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
The "well-referenced statement" you reinserted has four citations, two of which do nothing other than discuss Mr. Chmiel's involvement in historical Wright brothers research in a single Dayton Daily News article of December 2004 written by Jim DeBrosse, not by Engler or Chmiel. Engler and Chmiel appear to be unpublished in the book world according to Google. Mr. Nick Engler also appears nowhere in the Dayton article or within "The Case for Gustave Whitehead" webpage the quote comes from; why exactly did you attribute him to that quote?
Your other two citations are to the Wright Brothers Co. website which attempts to discredit Whitehead as much as they seek to promote the brothers their website is named after—hardly unbiased. The promotional website is therefore hardly a reliable source, and since "[Wikipedia can] only publish the opinions of reliable authors" the quote again fails.
Your insertion of Chmiel's stand-alone quote as the final paragraph in the Legacy section based on a single non-published Wright brothers researcher gives undue weight to that statement and leaves the parting impression that Chmiel's (not Engler and Chmiel's) assessment of their legacy is the most pertinent, one that Jane's and National Geographic now take obvious exception to. Sorry, but again, a biased statement that projects an opinion as an ordained future is a fail and should never have been inserted into the article, anymore than Gibbs-Smith's obsessions with UFOs and ghosts, which is, incidentally, much better documented. HarryZilber (talk) 18:46, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
As the Wright website states about its articles: "The author/editor is usually Nick Engler, our resident archaeologist and webmaster." Chmiel is also credited on "The Case for Gustave Whitehead" webpage of the site. The John Brown website and, I believe, all other websites devoted exclusively to Whitehead are clearly biased in Whitehead's favor. By consensus, editors of this article have agreed those sites meet the requirements of 'reliable source' as defined by Wikipedia. The Wright website has its own bias, but is also clearly a reliable source of information for Wikipedia.
The 'well-referenced' source I refer to is "The Case for Gustave Whitehead" page on the Wright website. All other references about authors of the quoted passage were added by one or more other Wikipedia editors; I make no claim to them. The placement of the Engler-Chmiel passage came about by happenstance. It was not always the last item in the GW article, but in the give-and-take of editing, it came to occupy that space. I have no objection to placing it elsewhere in the GW article. DonFB (talk) 19:36, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
What is opinion? It is based on emotion, not fact. Here is a series of facts: Gibbs-Smith was on record with a 50 page diatribe against Stella Randolph, calling for her censure (by whom?), and was verifiably anti-Whitehead. He was then hired by Smithsonian to produce his monograph on Whitehead. He was paid to do it, for a year. Then, when he produced it, Smithsonian did not publish it. So unless that is stated, Gibbs-Smith's monograph needs to be removed. It was not published for very good reasons, I am sure. AviationHist1 (talk) 19:58, 15 May 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by AviationHist1 (talkcontribs) 19:54, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Your opinion on Gibbs-Smith's motivation is not a reliable source, you need to provide a third party - preferably not affiliated with the Whitehead side - to assert that he was not a neutral commentator. GraemeLeggett (talk) 20:55, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
I ask for a reliable source showing that the monograph WAS published. It wasn't. This isn't about opinion it is a fact that it wasn't published. H by C is not opinion as the proofs are provided therein with letters from Smithsonian, etc. You obviously haven't read it. AviationHist1 (talk) 21:24, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Actually DonFB, the link you provided for attribution says in full: "The author/editor is usually Nick Engler, our resident archaeologist and webmaster. But we have many pages that have been contributed by other people.....", and the webpage in question itself doesn't state that either Engler or Chmiel wrote it -its anonymous, with a note at bottom saying that Lewis (not Louis) Chmiel provided much of the research for the page, not that he wrote it. The website itself is not the Los Angels Times or the Washington Post, or even the Dayton Daily News, its an advocacy website providing biased editorial material. Tiger Woods' caddy could have written the quote—again no evidence of a reliable source for the material pulled from the webpage, accompanied by undue weight when you positioned it as a concluding statement to the section. In summary you've quoted an anonymous source from a biased website devoted to promoting Wright brothers claims while at the same time attempting to discredit other aviation inventors and pioneers. Wikipedia calls that a strike out and would admonish editors for not removing the text. Sorry, the quotation fails Wikipedia's key requirements. HarryZilber (talk) 21:32, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

It's entirely reasonable to attribute the quotation to Engler and Chmiel based on the page itself and the site's statement about Engler's authorship. Pages on the site written by other people carry a byline or tagline. To dismiss the Wright site as an "anonymous source" is wildly inaccurate, to say the least. The website certainly engages in advocacy, just like John Brown's pro-Whitehead site (also not the L.A. Times or Wash Post), which is now referenced numerous times without complaint in the Whitehead article.
Take note that Wikipedia says:
"Wikipedia articles are required to present a neutral point of view. However, reliable sources are not required to be neutral, unbiased, or objective. Common sources of bias include political, financial, religious, philosophical, or other beliefs.
Sometimes "non-neutral" sources are the best possible sources for supporting information about the different viewpoints held on a subject."
That quotation applies equally to pro and con sources about Whitehead.
Your conclusion about 'strikeout' and 'admonish editors' misses the mark entirely.
You might have overlooked my comment above that I did not "position" the quotation as a "concluding statement". It occupies that position now because of subsequent edits by other people. To repeat myself: I don't object to placing the quotation in some other location in the article. DonFB (talk) 22:27, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
At the very least the prejudicial opinion needs to have its source clearly identified. You haven't presented evidence that Engler and Chmiel provided the opinion you're quoting, only conjecture, and that is now reflected in the text leading up to the quote. It has been revised to reflect which website is providing that opinion and what exactly is being said:
"An example of an opinion expressed by Whitehead skeptics is that of the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company website (often edited by Wright brothers researchers Nick Engler and Louis Chmiel) which dismisses Whitehead's work and influence:
"While Whitehead believers insist that he was first to fly, no one claims that his work had any effect on early aviation or the development of aeronautic science. Even if someone someday produces a photo of No. 21 in flight on August 14, 1901, it will be nothing more than a footnote, a curious anomaly in the history of aviation." "
I appreciate you're a strong advocate of the Wright brothers legacy but I ask that you edit this article (and all others) in the spirit of Wikipedia's ethos, not only to its rules. I hope there doesn't need to be an ongoing reversion war over this text. HarryZilber (talk) 18:48, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I note the subtle spin in the phrase, "while promoting that of the Wrights," and eliminated it; I also made a few other copyedits. In the remainder of the article, there are many citations to pro-Whitehead websites, especially John Brown's recently, and none of those citations are introduced with that kind of spin, although of course, those websites are themselves zealously "promoting" Whitehead's work and influence. So in the name of balance, let's have no spin, or if you prefer, find an existing citation to a pro-Whitehead website (or write a new one if you like) and introduce it with similar "promoting" phraseology.
Thanks for your helpful advice about editing in the correct ethos. In return, I offer advice that you edit with a good grounding in some of Wikipedia's basic rules, such as that which I excerpted above. DonFB (talk) 00:14, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
The reference to Gibbs-Smith being hired by Smithsonian to write an opinion on Gustave Whitehead only has the authoritative ring to it till the Reader learns that Smithsonian declined to publish the monograph. If it was published, please provide the citation so we may see it. Otherwise my note with citation to H by C should stand. AviationHist1 (talk) 03:09, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
Hired? How insulting. It's clear you have little understanding of the matter. Gibbs-Smith was awarded a high honor and granted a senior scholarship, not "hired". His main focus was the Wright brothers, not Whitehead. He could have researched any aspect of aviation but he chose to concentrate on topics leading to his monograph titled "Study of the Wright brothers and contemporary problems." Among the "problems" were ones that faced every early aviator including Whitehead. Gibbs-Smith ranged widely in his research; during his time as Lindbergh Chair he talked to Frank Winter about Coanda's supposed 1910 jet aircraft, leading Winter to continue the research of Gibbs-Smith and write an article about that sesquiplane (and the strange man behind it), published in 'The Aeronautical Journal in 1980. Binksternet (talk) 12:56, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
You admit that Smithsonian did not publish the Gibbs-Smith monograph, therefore, it should be so noted in the Whitehead Wikipedia article, if it is to be mentioned. If not worthy of publishing, certainly not worthy of mentioning. Yet you mention it as if it was published! Obviously something was wrong with it. At any rate, why are you edit warring about inserting information that is misleading, and incomplete, to imply that this "venerable" old Wright-proponent who wrote a howling piece against Stella Randolph's excellent Whitehead research, was a neutral party wrote a monograph for Smithsonian .... that was published, when it was NOT. That information needs to be in there. You cannot cite the publication of the G-S Monograph, as it doesn't exist. History by Contract IS a source that has primary source documents in it covering the G-S Monograph debacle, reproduced in the book, irrefutable evidence. AviationHist1 (talk) 18:52, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

The monograph was published in German [1] though how well it comes across when double translated I cannot say being no expert. The site only gives selections that it disagrees with not selections it does agree with. GraemeLeggett (talk) 21:49, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
"Smithsonian never published the Gibbs-Smith Whitehead monograph." is therefore verified by you as correct. Who published it in Germany and why was it published in Germany and not by Smithsonian? Do you have any other source that can explain this in addition to History by Contract (from the period)? AviationHist1 (talk) 23:35, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

Note to all interested in Gibbs-Smith's Whitehead monograph... the article cited on John Brown's site („Weißkopf – verkannter Erfinder oder Scharlatan?“, Gibbs-Smith, "Luft- & Raumfahrt", Jan. 1982, pp. 8-14) is not the monograph which has yet to be published by the Smithsonian. This is an apples and oranges confusion. The "monograph" is something quite apart from the article cited on John B.'s site. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 19:14, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Small Whitehead and Wright joke

A Whitehead researcher and a Wright brothers researcher walk into a bar together. They never walk out.     ;-)   
Best: HarryZilber (talk) 18:48, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

Good joke....and almost true. DonFB (talk) 00:14, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
... but maybe two fly out ? (it's a joke, not a statement of policy) Carroll F. Gray (talk) 19:15, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Evidence Section - Details are very important

RE: Evidence section Details are extremely important as not including these have caused unnecessary points of contention amongst historians. Identifying who the journalist eye-witness to the first powered flight in the world is crucial, as is in what capacity he was there. If one is not informed on the Whitehead history it might seem unnecessary. "Mother hens" who eliminate important details misrepresent the history. That is why I undid that elimination,

"The most prominent witness statement came from the journalist from the Bridgeport Herald who described how he witnessed the preparations during the night and the first flight early in the morning of 14 August 1901. The article was published on 18 August 1901, in the Sports section of the Herald, a weekly newspaper, and named two witnesses to Whitehead's reported early morning flight, Andrew Cellie and James Dickie. Some sources attribute the article in the Bridgeport Herald, published without a byline, to then-Sports Editor (Richard) Dick Howell."

The section editors wrote stories without a byline. This helps identify the eye-witness.AviationHist1 (talk) 01:11, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Another reason for additional detail - Smithsonian's head curator has criticized the Bridgeport Herald for not publishing the news of the first powered flight the next day, as if to show that if it were true they'd have done so, when in reality they were a weekly (Sunday) newspaper.AviationHist1 (talk) 01:14, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
The evidence should be filtered through the reliable sources. What they select as important or they think makes the case. Otherwise one runs the risk of OR or synthesis. And for the readers benefit, the article needs to be clear and where possible to the point, not a long rambling to-and-fro like a court case.GraemeLeggett (talk) 05:48, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
This article should not be a rehashing of detailed arguments, it should be a description of the main points; a summary of the arguments cited to those who have been arguing. Binksternet (talk) 06:16, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
I've been out of contact for a while, so jumping back in is a little daunting, but it seems things have - once again - heated up, so I thought I'd come see what's under discussion these days. Not surprisingly, much of it is what was being discussed when I stepped away. There is an air of impossibility in what seem to be the expectations some people appear to bring to this article... namely, that this article can and should, in some fashion, "decide" what happened with GW and his machines and whether or not and when he might have "flown." That will never happen here. It is an injustice to history and to all concerned, Wilbur and Orville Wright and GW to engage in such a battle. This article could be half its current length and still be an important and much more readily useable and accessible offering to our readers. So, pertinent to this section of the discussion, more and more "details" in this instance conflict to some extent with the need for clarity and ease of use. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 08:21, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
This article must be accurate and unbiased, what do you consider to be "authoritative sources"? Smithsonian? That is a biased source by definition, due to its shameful Contract with the Wright heirs that allowed them to obtain the Wright Flyer by never recognizing ANYONE to have flown before the Wrights. Wright authors? I don't think so. Wright proponents? Whitehead bashers? I don't think so. Remember, authoritative sources have a tendency to defend their own archaic viewpoints, such as "the world is flat". For profit and gain, Whitehead was never acknowledged, over the last century. It is time to allow the facts, with their citations, into the public eye. The house of cards is coming down. This article is not the cause of it, but it is an important, and increasingly credible source of facts. The idea that it should be short may come from those who are afraid that the facts will come out. I have not seen anything factual come from those sources in other writings, I have seen biased conjecture only. AviationHist1 (talk) 17:31, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

With regard to the author of the 18 August 1901 Bridgeport Sunday Herald article "Flying" - this was explored at considerable length many months ago in these discussions and it is fair and true to say that naming Richard Howell as the author is done without evidence. He is not on record as ever claiming that article, while others have speculated that he was the author - which hardly constitutes evidence of fact. Likewise, AviationHist1 confuses Orville Wright's error about the seemingly late publication of the story with some notion that an (unnamed) "Smithsonian's head curator" made that statement. Please, tell us who that person is and quote that statement with a source, AviationHist1, if you can. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 08:36, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Tom Crouch of the Smithsonian recently made the negative comment about the purported "late publication" of the story, it is one of his stock criticisms. Orville's comment, which it likely stems from, is just as misleading.
"Comments on the Bridgeport Sunday Herald article: The fact remains that Richard Howell’s article in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald was published four days after the event as a feature story on page five, in a story captioned with witches on broomsticks flying overhead. "
Can a Sunday paper be published on another day? NO. How long did it take for the Wrights to have articles that covered their purported flights on Dec. 17, 1903? Certainly their own first statement was in 1906 and the first publication of any reliable report was much longer than four days.
I edited the 4th paragraph to identify John Brown as an advocate for GW and to clarify the matter of the 1906 exhibition photo and what was said in the article which accompanied the photo. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 10:09, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
John is a Whitehead researcher, not an advocate. I think that needs correction, Carroll. It does not sound appropriate and has a misleading ring to it.
Perhaps you didn't notice how John Brown's "Open Letter" to Tom Crouch was headlined... "An Open Letter to Dr. Tom Crouch, Smithsonian Institute, From John Brown, Whitehead Advocate" - to term John Brown a "Whitehead Advocate" is not misleading in the least. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 06:43, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

It's misleading to label John Brown a "Whitehead Advocate". Would it be fair to label Tom Crouch a "Wright brothers Advocate"? Isn't Crouch, in one form or another, just another recipient of the vast riches generated from promoting the Wright brothers as "first in flight"? This article is confusing to readers looking to Wikipedia for content on the history of Connecticut Aviation.Tomticker5 (talk) 17:50, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

I didn't give John Brown the title of "Whitehead Advocate" - as I've said, his open letter to Tom Crouch is headlined as such. So it's not being unfair to him to repeat that title. Are you saying there is something wrong with being a Whitehead advocate ? I sincerely doubt there have been any "vast riches" to garner up in the "First Flight" world, and whatever Tom Crouch has managed to acquire has been well-earned and well-deserved, as I see it. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 18:35, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Number of Newspapers Incorrectly Represented with Low Number

I just corrected the mistake in this article that claimed only 9 newspapers reported the 1901 flights of Gustave Whitehead. The number is actually 73 and these may all be seen at which is the citation I gave for this number. This is a blatant example of those who would write such a low number to be denigrating Whitehead, which has been corrected. AviationHist1 (talk) 02:31, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

If I remember correctly, that text was originally added by a strong Whitehead supporter, long before John Brown's website was online. Not everything you don't like about this article is the result of an evil conspiracy. Lighten up, AVH1. DonFB (talk) 02:53, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
To mention that a certain number of newspapers carried stories related to GW's activities during 1901 would be misleading, unless the articles were differentiated between original stories and re-writes. By far the greatest number of stories were re-writes, so it might be fair to say something such as "dozens of newspapers repeated stories of Whitehead's claimed flights." It is misleading to toss out a large number without providing context. Also, AviationHist1, be clear on what you read here - there was no statement I can find that "only 9 newspapers..." - what I read is quite different "Over the next few months, the story ran in nine other American newspapers, some as far away as California and Arizona." Does that sound denigrating to you ? It certainly doesn't to me.
With respect to your quoting of Tom Crouch, you have again misread what was written. TC wrote "The fact remains that Richard Howell’s article in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald was published four days after the event as a feature story on page five, in a story captioned with witches on broomsticks flying overhead." Indeed, it was published 4 days after the event. I don't see (as you apparently do) that TC repeated Orville Wright's error at all, certainly OW didn't note that the article appeared in a weekly, TC certainly knows that it did. My one disagreement with what TC wrote is that he accepts R. Howell as the author of the article, which, I believe, is an unproven assertion. So, again, I ask you to read carefully and to not infuse what you are reading with what you assume is being said. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 06:36, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
I note that Binksternet reverted the text so it again refers to 9 newspaper articles, not 73, with the justification that "John Brown's list is not reliabel" (sic). I looked at the list in question (as shown in the citation), and clicked many, but not all, of the links. Each link that I followed retrieved what clearly appears to be an actual image of a published newspaper or magazine article, so I do not understand the justification that the 'list is not reliable'. If the list had no links, or had links that don't show the actual articles, that would be a different matter.
The broader issue is that Brown's site is clearly one of advocacy, but such sites or publications can be permitted as reliable sources under Wikipedia policy, as I recently explained on this Talk page to another editor. I can see no reason for not using the larger number, cited to Brown's webpage, when referring to the number of published articles about Whitehead's reported flight. As Carroll says, we must avoid misleading readers into thinking there were multiple reporters who witnessed a flight. I don't think the text, as currently written, is misleading, but it can be modified to be even more sure of avoiding that possibility. My suggestion:
"For many months afterward, American newspapers throughout the country published dozens of articles about that mentioned Whitehead's reported flight, although the original Bridgeport Sunday Herald article was the only one written as an eyewitness account."
I believe that's factual and gives a fair indication of the publicity which the reported flight received. DonFB (talk) 07:28, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
Not far off. Several of the articles given are reporting the join up between Custead and Whitehead and the flight claim(s) is mentioned in passing. Most look like the same story reprinted, and some do use "claimed" rather than taking it as solid fact. GraemeLeggett (talk) 08:02, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
This is an example of Binksternet's edit warring. Changing the number back to 9 when clearly it is 73. I am glad he did this as it will prove my point on what is going on here with this article. Deliberate misrepresentationo of the number of articles that were published on the Whitehead flights of Aug. 14, 1901 has occurred by Binksternet's change of the number. Since he likes to threaten me with edit warring, I believe I will not take the bait but will report him again for it. The rest of you can decide if you wish to participate in such unprofessional actions. AviationHist1 (talk) 17:42, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

AviationHist1, it would be helpful if you took the time to look at each of the 73 articles you mention and count how many of them are re-writes or reprints of the 18 August 1901 Sunday Herald story. It is misleading to merely state "73" without specifying how many of those 73 were original and how many were re-writes and reprints. In addition, as I looked at the list on John B's site, I saw that several were concerned with events other than the 14 August 1901 story. So, rather than be upset about which number is being cited, why not be helpful and clarify for our readers what the situation was. Also, I've made several changes in the first three paragraphs of the article. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 17:49, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

I looked through some more of the list. The last only mentions dirigibles but is incomplete. The Western Argus one also mentions dirigible airship for a "balloon race". The Western Australian article of the previous month and that from Brisbane are the same text it seems. The Honolulu article is similar, but the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has more content. It describes Whitehead's claimed flight though unfortunately not specifically stating a 'plane rather than an airship. A case of Chinese whispers as the news story is repeated? Some of the reported expectations of Whitehead seem overly ambitious, perhaps these also suffered in the retelling and made Whitehead's claims less plausible. (I don't know).
There's enough there to certainly claim that Whitehead's name and involvement in aircraft (of all kinds) was in the news in those years. Whether that's a lot of coverage or not is not for me to say. That would be a lot of effort and only turn out to be OR. GraemeLeggett (talk) 18:16, 10 June 2013 (UTC)


WHY are we doing this and WHAT are we doing... I'd enjoy hearing that everyone who contributes here does so because they wish to produce a clear, neutral and reliably-sourced article about GW, of which our readers can make ready and easy use. Unfortunately, it strikes me that at least a few editors seem to be here to serve their own ends. We're working for our readers, not for ourselves... show of hands ? agree ?

If anyone is here with the intention of promoting a claim on GW's behalf or, conversely, seeking to damage Wilbur and Orville Wrights' status, perhaps there are other places where those persons' time and energies would be better spent. Just my two cents... Carroll F. Gray (talk) 06:59, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

I think the case is that some may think that, in our attempts to reach a neutral article from those Reliable Sources, we are reinforcing the discrediting of Whitehead's claims. For those who see him as an underdog cynically divested of proper credit for the work he did do, a rigid adherence to the existing body of sources (which tend to be dimissive) positions us on the side of those sources.
(small joking aside follows) For myself I am immune to claims of patriotism re the Wrights, I don't have the time; I'm still trying to hunt down that photograph of Cayley's coachman in the air. GraemeLeggett (talk) 07:20, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

The slant of this article is stuck on one viewpoint; Whitehead could not have flown in a heavier-than-air flying machine (airplane) in 1901, because the Wright brothers had not invented it yet.Tomticker5 (talk) 14:11, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

the "slant" of the article is that to date there has not been conclusive proof that Whitehead flew before anyone else. There are opinions and counter opinions that he had the means and knowledge to do so but no photographic evidence, or unimpeachable witnessing seems to exist. There are those who accept what evidence does exist and there are those that don't. And on the whole the doubters have had the greater authority. GraemeLeggett (talk) 17:50, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
Speaking only for myself, Tomticker5, I'm not interested in slanting this article in one direction or another, and anyone who is working on this article who has an intention of slanting it in one direction or another should really re-consider whether they ought to be contributing at all. I am interested in pruning this weedy article, and making it clearer, more accessible and more informative to our readers. As it stands, in my view, it is overly long, overly detailed, overflowing with side issues, and reeks of contention. That can hardly be attractive to our readers. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 17:57, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Where's the NPOV? Eye witnesses to his "flights" are called "liars", neutral researchers are called his "advocates" and now even well respected publishers have been "hoodwinked". GW has his place in the history of Connecticut Aviation, however, this article is stuck in a rut.Tomticker5 (talk) 18:09, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

I've managed to miss the "liars" comments, and if you are referencing John Brown as a neutral researcher, please consider how his open letter to Tom Crouch was headlined (I mentioned this above). Which publishers were "hoodwinked" ? If you're going to toss out comments like that, please provide more substance and try to offer more to those of us who are left guessing about what your comments relate to. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 18:28, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Article intro

The intro has really turned into something of a monstrosity as editors have stuffed it with excessive and redundant detail, in some cases repeating, verbatim, text that already exists in the body of the article.

The intro should summarize what's in the article, not repeat chunks of it word-for-word. Especially egregious is the Intro's long-winded discussion of the photos. That material already exists (or can be modified as appropriate) in the body of the article. The Intro need not discuss the 1906 Exhibition, or Stanley Beach, or Gibbs-Smith, or Randolph's motivation for writing her first book, for that matter.

General statements should suffice that an eyewitness newspaper report (and ancillary publicity) and later research and interviews support the flights, and that historians, primarily those associated with the Smithsonian, don't. The Intro should not attempt to dive into the gory details about those issues. Such material should be saved for the body of the article, where, in fact, it already exists.

Fragments of the Whitehead life chronology apppear here and there in the Intro, like so much flotsam, having been cut off from their original, logical placement as the Intro has been jerked around by competing editorial changes.

So....I plan to try my hand at slimming down the Intro, especially the text about the photos. I don't intend to remove anything substantive that already exists in some location in the article, but if other editors think I have, I'm sure they'll point that out. DonFB (talk) 20:28, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Good idea. Here's the diff from April 9 to now, showing how a bunch of unneeded detail and redundancy crept into the lead section. Binksternet (talk) 22:43, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

That went much quicker than I expected. For now, my revision strips the Intro of all footnotes. Article Introductions are not required to have footnotes, although they can. I believe all the footnotes remain in the article in other positions, but I'll check further on that. If you see that a footnote/reference has been lost completely, alert the Talk page and we can restore it. DonFB (talk) 23:23, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Oops, I see some "cite error" entries in the footnote list. I'll restore the material and get those fixed. DonFB (talk) 23:40, 10 June 2013 (UTC)

Seem to all be fixed now, with a big assist from the bot. If anything is still missing, tell Talk page, or have a go at DIY. DonFB (talk) 00:17, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

DonFB, very much improved, terrific job and so quick, thank you ! Carroll F. Gray (talk) 00:41, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, Carroll. Good to see you again. DonFB (talk) 01:02, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

The introduction now states that GW was a builder of machines "meant to fly". Not completely accurate or neutral a statement, in my opinion, especially considering all the sources that state otherwise. May I suggest the following be inserted in the introduction? "...he was either the first man to fly a heavier-than-air machine in 1901 — according to sources at the time — or he never flew at all — suggested later by some aviation historians".Tomticker5 (talk) 19:02, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

That's very interesting phrasing, although I have a suspicion that you may intend it as humor. I think it is synthesis, but I'd like to hear what others say. In fact, it might be interesting to tag it for a Third Opinion from a disinterested editor. If it were to be used in the article intro, I would amend it slightly to say: "... -- or he never flew at all -- as stated later by aviation historians." Personally, I would not object to its presence, but only if consensus approves it as not synthesis. On the other hand, I might eventually decide that it is synthesis, and then I'd object to its presence. DonFB (talk) 19:33, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Its unfair not to acknowledge any success he had with gliders. Perhaps there is an alternative phrasing which permits of the use of the word (heavier than air) aircraft without clashing with the did he/didn't he issue. Perhaps referring to "constructing his own designs for aircraft" which clearly states he was building real machines, they were his own ideas, and the intention of an aircraft is to fly. GraemeLeggett (talk) 20:08, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

It was not intended to be humorous at all. Historian Reverend Samuel Orcutt used a similar statement in 1886 to illustrate the conflicting facts pertaining to the number of original English settlers at Stratford, Connecticut; "founded in 1639 by Puritan leader Reverend Adam Blakeman (pronounced Blackman), William Beardsley, and either 16 families—according to legend—or approximately 35 families—suggested by later research".Tomticker5 (talk) 21:09, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

Upon further consideration, I'll say that I like the phrasing, but it's not appropriate for Wikipedia. It makes an original research-type conclusion using Wikipedia's editorial voice to say that GW "did this" or GW "did that". If a reliable source made that kind of statement, we could use it and reference it. But this encyclopedia is prohibited from engaging in its own "compare and contrast" language. An outside source would have to do it. DonFB (talk) 22:33, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
When I changed the wording to "meant to fly" it was for the purpose of making the statement neutral. Saying GW's machines were "meant to fly" is not saying they didn't, or saying that they did, it is just a statement that he, GW, meant them to fly. Anyone who reads that as "meant to fly and didn't" or as "meant to fly and did" is filling in with their own preconceptions. Also, whether GW "flew" is not an either/or matter... it's not a question of whether he did or not. There is a wide gap between those two positions... remember that it is generally agreed that in 1890 Clement Ader got a heavier-than-air powered machine (his "Eole") which had controls (ineffective but they were there) off the ground for some short distance of perhaps 50m (160ft)... but did he "fly" ? It's also generally agreed that he did not "fly" in our understanding of that term.
Part of what we are all grappling with here is a matter of definition, those three simple words "fly," "flying" and "flight" need some clarification. To hop off the ground for a little ways or to slip along a short distance above the ground while under ground effect is not "flight." I've written articles about my own belief (not to bring in OR, but to merely clarify my point) that GW managed to hop off the ground under power and gravity and to skim in ground effect for distances, as, indeed, many witnesses to various events involving GW and his machines say happened. However, GW did not, I believe "fly."
So, "meant to fly" was meant to be neutral.
To use the phrase you offer, Tomticker5, is make too stark a choice, one which excludes a wide range of possibilities, included in which might actually be what GW did. I don't think posing the matter in such an "either/or" way serves any purpose and limits the matter too much. In the example you cite, notice that the wording is "approximately 35" - meaning it might be 38, 40, 45, or 30, 32, 34, etc., etc. Your example is not an "either/or" proposition but your suggested phrase is. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 21:43, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Here's a revolutionary suggestion: how about saying, "...he designed and built aircraft and engines of various types...." 'Aircraft' includes his gliders, which did become airborne. Using 'aircraft' in the opening sentence gently sidesteps the issue of what any of his powered machines did. The next sentence ("For decades...") gets into specifics of what his powered machines may or may not have done.
And we're home free....! DonFB (talk) 22:21, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

A neutral point of view does not mean exclusion of certain points of view. Your reworked introduction is "meant" to be neutral, but it is not. It excludes a statement that GW "flew". That should be clearly stated early in the introduction.Tomticker5 (talk) 00:24, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Do you mean he "flew" in a glider, which is not disputed? Or that he made a powered flight? A sentence could be added, or extended, to say that he made glider flights.
The main reason I revised the intro was to make it more readable while retaining its same basic points, which already seemed to confer reasonable neutrality. DonFB (talk) 00:45, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

The first paragraph could state summarily; "there is a sharp difference of opinion among aviation historians as to what he in fact accomplished. Some historians insist that he was the first man to fly in a powered flying machine in 1901, while others contend his machines never flew at all.Tomticker5 (talk) 01:34, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

I wouldn't object to using a phrase such as this... "Whitehead made gliding flights between 1904 and 1908." To say he "flew" without stating what that means is misleading. Tomticker5, I won't repeat my reasoning as to why "meant to fly" is neutral, except to say you're reading something into that phrase that isn't there. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 01:47, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
That's not bad, Tom. It gets away from using Wikipedia's voice. In fact, it's a little similar to something I wrote a long time ago, which is buried in the Legacy section. However, it probably gives undue weight to the minority opinion that favors GW. Clearly, though, Jane's has changed the balance somewhat, so the minority view may now be a little less minor. I would probably want to change "Some historians insist...." to: "Some researchers insist..." And change "while others contend" to: "while established historians state..." I think it would also be appropriate to reverse the order, starting with "established historians" and ending with "some researchers". Let's see what other comments this proposal may elicit. DonFB (talk) 02:15, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
Is the following combination agreeable ? "There is a sharp difference of opinion among aviation historians as to what he in fact accomplished. While established historians state his powered machines never flew at all, some researchers insist that in 1901 he was the first person to fly in a powered flying machine. There is general agreement that Whitehead made unpowered gliding flights between 1904 and 1908." Carroll F. Gray (talk) 05:14, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
I would offer this:
"Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf, (1 January 1874 – 10 October 1927) was an aviation pioneer who emigrated from Germany to the United States where he designed and built aircraft and engines of various types between 1897 to 1915.
For decades, controversy has surrounded press reports, eyewitness accounts and Whitehead's own claims that he flew his powered airplanes several times in 1901 and 1902, predating the first flights made by the Wright Brothers in 1903.
A sharp difference of opinion exists among aviation historians as to what in fact he accomplished. Established historians state that his powered machines never flew at all. Other researchers insist that Whitehead was the first person to fly in a powered flying machine. In 2013 the 100th anniversary edition of the authoritative Jane's All the World's Aircraft credited Whitehead as the first man to build and fly a heavier-than-air flying machine. There is general agreement that Whitehead made unpowered gliding flights between 1904 and 1908.
Much of Whitehead's reputation rests on a 1901 unsigned eyewitness newspaper article that stated he made a powered controlled flight in Connecticut in August that year.
In the months afterward........etc."
It remains important to highlight, upfront, his notability as a person about whom claims and reports place him ahead of the Wrights as first to fly heavier-than-air. What do y'all think of using "aircraft" in the opening sentence? DonFB (talk) 17:30, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
I'd simplify it a bit - many disputed claims revolve around witnesses, paperwork and there's nothing singular about some lone document or witness as such - this would make the sentence cleaner and so the key content is more obvious. As such the second sentence could go
"(For decades), controversy has surrounded claims that he flew his powered airplanes several times in 1901 and 1902, predating the first flights of the Wright Brothers in 1903."
or even
"(For decades), controversy has surrounded claims that he achieved successful powered flight in1901-1902, predating the first flights of the Wright Brothers in 1903."
and for the first sentence, that could be cleaner too
"Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf, (1 January 1874 – 10 October 1927) was a German aviation pioneer who emigrated to the United States where he designed and built various aircraft and engines between 1897 to 1915"
a thought or two anyway.GraemeLeggett (talk) 19:07, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
Those all look good to me. Just to clarify, do you recommend dropping the phrase "For decades"? DonFB (talk) 19:28, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
Not necessarily drop decades, it was more that that the qualifier in brackets was flexible and other phrases could fit in there eg "since 193x", "since his cause was championed by xxxx", "for the last nn years". GraemeLeggett (talk) 20:36, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Here's what I could support...

"Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf, (1 January 1874 – 10 October 1927) was a German aviation pioneer who emigrated to the United States where he designed and built various flying machines, both powered and unpowered, and engines between 1897 to 1915"
"Controversy surrounds claims that he achieved successful powered flight in 1901-1902, predating the first flights of the Wright Brothers in 1903 and a sharp difference of opinion exists among aviation historians as to what in fact he accomplished. Established historians state that his powered machines never flew at all. Other researchers insist that Whitehead was the first person to fly in a powered flying machine. In 2013 the 100th anniversary edition of 'Jane's All the World's Aircraft' credited Whitehead as the first person to fly a powered heavier-than-air flying machine. There is general agreement that Whitehead made unpowered gliding flights between 1904 and 1908."
"Much of Whitehead's reputation rests on a 1901 unsigned weekly newspaper article that stated he made a powered flight in Connecticut in August that year."

I dropped "authoritative" from the description of "Jane's" because "Jane's" is not a history publication, it is an industry publication, it can be called authoritative when it comes to aircraft currently in production, but that is not appropriate in this instance. I also used "flying machines" as "aircraft" and "airplane" are anachronisms - also, remember GW called No.21 an "automobile" more than once - so "flying machines" is by far, in my mind, the preferable term. Further, I added "powered" to be more specific and to differentiate between his glider flights and the controversial claims of powered flights. I also removed "eyewitness" anmd replaced it with "weekly" because if the event didn't happen how there could there be an eyewitness - to say there was an eyewitness is to say the event happened. Otherwise we need to qualify with additional language such as "an anonymous reporter who claimed to have been an eyewitness." Saying "a 1901 unsigned weekly newspaper article" is simply a statement of fact devoid of any advocacy. Finally, I removed "controlled" from "powered controlled flight" since a fair reading of what GW states in the Sunday Herald article tells us the "flight" - if it happened - was anything but "controlled." Carroll F. Gray (talk) 19:58, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

I agree with your reasoning about "eyewitness" and the need to qualify it, if it is included. I think 'eyewitness' should be included, because it is so crucial to the whole case for GW. My suggested--and hopefully brief--qualifier would be: "Much of Whitehead's reputation rests on a 1901 unsigned weekly newspaper article written as an eyewitness report that stated Whitehead made a powered flight in Connecticut in August that year."
The use of "weekly," though technically accuate, may add a bit of unnecessary confusion, as phrased: does it mean a weekly article, or a weekly newspaper? But more to the point, I don't think it helps the reader very much at this early stage of the article. Of course, in the article body, there is very adequate--and appropriate--discussion of the publication schedule and its significance. Some rearrangement of the wording you've suggested could hopefully eliminate any confusion about what 'weekly' refers to, although I think the Intro would be quite ok if 'weekly' is not included.
I'm fine with how you handled the flying machine/powered/unpowered issue. Regarding Jane's: other edits/citations in the article have made a point of referring to Jane's as the "bible" of aviation. I can certainly live without calling Jane's 'authoritative'. On the other hand, I feel we should try to signal--somehow--to the reader that Jane's is not merely some run-of-the-mill aviation publication.
Regarding "controlled". I can't entirely disagree with your point that the reported flight was not truly controlled. But that's our opinion, not that of a reliable source. Again, the GW case rests heavily on the idea that the reported flight was both powered and controlled. I think that, somehow, we need to make that point in the Intro. This is subtle and tricky stuff, which invites (sigh) more discusson. DonFB (talk) 20:59, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
Hi, DonFB, what about this... "an article in a weekly newspaper written by a claimed eyewitness"; the distinction about "Jane's" - and it is an important one - is that "Jane's" serves the aviation industry, and is not an historical publication, so to be fair and precise, we shouldn't use "authoritative" - glad you can live with that. I'd describe "Jane's" statement about GW in this way, "In 2013 the 100th anniversary edition of the aviation industry's leading publication, Jane's All the World's Aircraft, credited Whitehead as the first person to fly a heavier-than-air flying machine." Well... DonFB, I cannot agree that removing the word "controlled" from the description of the supposed 14 August 1901 "flight" is based on opinion. It's based on what GW himself had to say about his experience, he certainly did not say he controlled the machine, whatever it did or did not do, indeed he said he didn't control it, as he lacked "the machinery" to so do. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 21:32, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
I like your solution to the Jane's issue, nicely done.
Now, to the thornier stuff. The phrase "claimed eyewitness" does connote considerable skepticism, but is unsourced as such. In view of the multiple sources in the GW article that name Howell, I think we need to find more neutral, but effectively qualified language, that still retains "eyewitness" (roger will be fainting if he's reading this). In any case, the substitution of "weekly" does not come across as somehow equivalent to "eyewitness."
Regarding "control": Good point that the Herald article quoted GW as saying his "machinery" lacked the ability to steer. On the other hand, the Herald article also goes to some length to describe GW steering around the "sprouts"--admittedly with body-shifting--and landing "lightly". But again, we are applying our interpretations of what the article says, and for editing purposes here, we're not reliable sources. My sense is that some of the vintage newspaper articles describe it as a controlled flight (although possibly without using the word "controlled"), and that GW supporters almost certainly consider it to be controlled. I think that in introducing the subject of the "flight," we should endeavor to characterize it as it was perceived in the media of the time. We definitely should not characterize it based exclusively on our personal readings of the Herald article; we need to use additional reliable sources that address the question. DonFB (talk) 22:42, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
Well, just had to mention this, since it seems so relevant. Describing GW flying around the trees, the author of the Herald article wrote:
"The ability to control the air ship in this manner..."
But we may find it beneficial to use additional sources to arrive at a neutral formulation. DonFB (talk) 23:10, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Well, I would say that as a reliable source GW's own quoted words would trump the un-named "eyewitness" reporter's observation of whether or not the "flight" was controlled, and so maybe we should introduce some of GW's quoted material in the introduction about this aspect of not having control over the machine until his moment of inspiration... or maybe we could just not include the word "controlled" in the introduction and discuss the matter in the body of the article. I'd prefer the latter. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 01:15, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Here's text that I believe addresses concerns we've been discussing:
"In 1901 an unsigned newspaper article, written as an eyewitness account, reported that Whitehead made a powered flight controlled by shifting his body weight. Whitehead was quoted as saying the machinery itself offered "no means of steering". In the months afterward....etcetera...."
I think everything in this suggested text is strictly factual, although that does not mean that I, or anyone reading it, should believe that it describes actual events. What we're trying to do in this part of the Introduction is accurately describe a moment in history as it has been handed down to us. Text suggested by Tomticker and massaged by other editors, if included in the intro, will describe in general terms the dismissal of the report/claim by established historians, counterbalancing this brief description of the (alleged) historical event. Text in the "1901" section also needs to be modified to address the concern regarding 'control'.
We need to decide if the Intro should contain both the Tomticker/editors' text, as well as later text which again describes dismissal by established historians, in this case identifying them as Smithsonian-affiliated. I'd recommend that the Intro combine the material, to avoid a new drift into redundancy and rambling. DonFB (talk) 03:22, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Is this where we stand, now ?
"Continuing controversy surrounds claims that he achieved successful powered flight in 1901-1902, predating the first flights of the Wright Brothers in 1903 and a sharp difference of opinion exists among aviation historians as to what in fact he accomplished. Established historians state that his powered machines never flew at all. Other researchers insist that Whitehead was the first person to fly in a powered flying machine. In 2013 the 100th anniversary edition of the commercial aviation industry's leading publication, Jane's All the World's Aircraft, credited Whitehead as the first person to fly a heavier-than-air flying machine. There is general agreement that Whitehead made unpowered gliding flights between 1904 and 1908."
"In 1901 an unsigned newspaper article, written as an eyewitness account, reported that Whitehead made a powered flight controlled by shifting his body weight. Whitehead was quoted as saying the machinery itself offered "no means of steering". In the months afterward..." Carroll F. Gray (talk) 05:44, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Yep. But that first sentence needs to be broken in two:
" of the Wright brothers in 1903."
<new paragraph> "A sharp difference of opinion...."
I want to avoid the redundancy of: "Established historians state...", and then later in the intro: "Established aviation historians, especially those...." The Smithsonian affiliation could be mentioned the first time the text talks about "established...historians". The redundant 2nd time the text talks about "established...historians" could be cut. Instead, the text could say: "....led mainstream historians to renew examination of the claims and dismiss them again."
I also want to strengthen the "agreement" wording somewhat by saying:
"Whitehead supporters emphasize that the Smithsonian made an agreement with heirs of the Wright brothers that prohibits the Institution from recognizing any aircraft other than the 1903 Wright Flyer as first to make a manned, powered, controlled flight. The agreement can require...."
Thoughts about that?
The next paragraph, about Jane's, would be cut, if we've already placed it earlier in the Intro. DonFB (talk) 07:42, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

The sentence break is a good one. "mainstream historians" is useful to avoid redundancy. On "The Agreement" (which is the term that should be used)... the Agreement is between the Estate of Orville Wright and the United States of America, signed by the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (who was not empowered by any act of Congress to encumber the United States of America). I know that what I am writing likely constitutes OR but I want to place this in the discussion record and make a point about how THE AGREEMENT could overwhelm the GW article - the machine that was to be delivered by Orville Wright's Estate is termed the "Original Wright Brothers' Aeroplane" in the Agreement. As you probably know, DonFB, the derelict wreckage of the 1903 Flyer was rebuilt in 1916 for a display at MIT (after the final flight's damage and after the flooding in Dayton and after engine parts had been removed for display then were never returned). So, at a minimum two questions float in the breeze above The Agreement, is the aeroplane on display really THE 1903 Flyer - if it isn't then the Agreement is meaningless - and was the Smithsonian Secretary empowered to sign on behalf of the United States of America ? short answer - "No." The Agreement is a document which might have very little enforceable authority, save for that given to it by the successors to The Agreement. Of course neither side would relish adjudicating this in court. My point in bringing this up is to indicate what a nest of vipers The Agreement is (beyond even how it appears in this context), and to believe that we can deal with it in a truly meaningful way within the GW article seems difficult. It could be dealt with, without requiring a mass of explanation in the GW article, by a well-conceived summary in the GW article and a link to the History By Contract wiki page. Finally, the image used for The Agreement does not show the entire Agreement. Carroll F. Gray (talk) 09:03, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Interesting stuff, Carroll. If the day comes and all these legalistic complications arise in the real world, we (or whoever is editing GW then) can grapple with it. At the moment, I'm not concerned that the article's Agreement text will expand too much (or at all). If we, as editors, actually begin trying to tame the body of the article, we could make some revisions to the Agreement material which currently exists in the O'Dwyer-Smithsonian section. As that stands, though, I don't think it is excessive, but like so much of the article, it could perhaps be edited to make it cleaner. DonFB (talk) 17:16, 13 June 2013 (UTC)