Book Tries to Make the Case for Gustave Whitehead

Author of 'Gustave Whitehead and the Wright Brothers: Who Flew First?' explores a much-debated aviation topic.

Gustave Whitehead Book
John Brown's new book explores the history of the man who claimed to have flown before the Wright Brothers.Amazon

Who was first in powered flight? It's one of the most hotly debated topics in aviation history, and author John Brown seeks to reignite the argument with his new book, Gustave Whitehead and the Wright Brothers: Who Flew First?

The book examines the claims and history of Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant who professed to have flown in 1901, two years before the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.

Using “modern research methods,” Brown details how the mechanics of Whitehead’s 1901 airplane worked, as well as “a point-by-point prosecution of the evidentiary case” for Whitehead.

The book also features historical photos of Whitehead flying gliders in the 1800s and illustrations depicting where Whitehead flew.

Many researchers who support the Wrights as the true title holders of “first in flight” say there is no direct evidence to support the claims that Whitehead flew a full two years before the brothers from Dayton, Ohio.

And, in any case, Whitehead certainly never rose to prominence as an airplane builder beyond his very early experiments.

Brown says he has been doing research for the book, which came out Tuesday, since 2012.