If Jane's is willing to publish this as fact, one assumes there must be a lot more than mere conjecture. On the above-mentioned website I read an August 10th, 1901 article (second from the top) claiming the plane flew over half a mile. Only one problem: no writer's name is attached. So I remain unconvinced.
Like the Wrights, Whitehead appears to have been far too secretive for his own good. I await future newsletter entries, as well as a magazine spread, on this story.
If it turns out to be true, every encyclopedia and history textbook in Americaare out-of-date.
This story probably reads much differently by an aviator than by an intellectual property lawyer. Mobs of people were working on inventing airplanes at the time. I understood that one of the things that made the Wright Brothers remarkable was that they not only developed a flying machine, but they *meticulous* documented every bit of their development process with data. That meant that not only did it work, but they could be specific about what was needed to make it work. They could detail that on a patent application and their development notes meant they would have had all the advantage in any court contest (which history shows they were actively asserting.) There are invariably hoards of inventors at any stage in history with skills to hack things together but who lack the additional ability or thought to document their invention. Indeed, the image of a guy with genius hands on mechanical aptitude but little talent for the underlying math/science/documentation is almost a cliche in the engineering world. It is one thing to do something but another to make it replicable by others. So this may not be so much history of aviation as history of intellectual property.
From my quick patent search, I see the Wrights' patent, right from the get go, identify the principle of angle of attack. The one patent I found by Whitehead is descriptive of shape, but not so much of purpose. Also note that some history sources note Whitehead did not demonstrate any interest in patents but entirely in building. (http://www.historynet.com/gustave-whitehead-and-the-first-flight-controv...) And that's how the game is played.
This is another attempt at revisionist history. Its been 110 years, there have been plenty of opportunities for anyone to have refuted the Wrights claim. To me, it has been, and will always be the Wright Brothers. Shame on Jane's for doing this.