Gustave Whitehead: First In Flight Exhibit
Gustave Whitehead

Whitehead Plans
The newest exhibit in our First In Flight series commemorates Connecticut’s Gustave Whitehead and his contributions to aviation. Based on evidence recently presented, Paul Jackson, editor of internationally renowned publication Jane's All the World's Aircraft, has ruled that Whitehead -- not the Wright brothers -- deserves the honor of “first in flight”.

Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight Exhibit celebrates the 112th anniversary of the flight of Gustave Whitehead on the Bridgeport-Fairfield town line on August 14, 1901. Included are photos of Whitehead and his airplane “Number 21,” newspaper articles covering the flight, the infamous contract between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian Institution promising the Wrights credit for flying first, and the story of local teacher and ultra-light pilot Andy Kosch’s successful project to build and fly a replica of Whitehead’s airplane.

Replica in Lobby
A half-size model of the airplane flown by Gustave Whitehead plane hangs in the Museum’s lobby. This model allows visitors to see the beauty and genius of Whitehead’s design. The model is on loan from ultra-light pilot Andy Kosch, whose painstaking research enabled him also to build and fly a full-size replica of the Whitehead airplane in 1986.

Advocates of Whitehead’s role in history, including local researchers and history buffs Stella Randolph, William O’Dwyer, and Andy Kosch, have pursued the story since the 1930’s. The library of the Fairfield Museum and History Center contains copies of Randolph and O’Dwyer’s books – now out of print -- which present their research, as well as the William O’Dwyer Gustave Whitehead Research Collection, which contains photographs, newspaper articles, and correspondence about Whitehead’s flights.

Researcher John Brown, who was instrumental in bringing the Whitehead case before
Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft, presented his evidence to packed lecture halls at Discovery Museum and Planetarium on August 17, 2013.


Gustav Weisskopf was born in Leutershausen, Germany in 1874, and orphaned at age 13. He came to America in 1893, changing his name to Whitehead. Settling in Connecticut, Whitehead’s experiments on motorized flying machines encompassed the local areas of Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford and Trumbull. His success with airplane “Number 21” is the focus of the First in Flight exhibit.

Whitehead’s airplane “Number 22” is reported to have flown five miles.

Visitors to the August 17 Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight event enjoyed a day of entertainment for all ages, including a dynamic lecture presentation, full dome planetarium shows, educational demonstrations for children, model airplane flights by Build Right/Fly Right Hobbies, and even Re/Max hot air balloon rides.


A half-size replica of Whitehead's “Number 21” plane is on display at The Discovery Museum and Planetarium.
Gustave Whitehead First in Flight event sponsors include: