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Researchers have studied and attempted to copy Whitehead aircraft. Since the s, enthusiasts in the U. Whitehead was born in Leutershausen , Bavaria , the second child of Karl Weisskopf and his wife Babetta. As a boy he showed an interest in flight, experimenting with kites and earning the nickname "the flyer". He and a friend caught and tethered birds in an attempt to learn how they flew, an activity which the police soon stopped. His parents died in and , when he was a boy.
He then trained as a mechanic and traveled to Hamburg , where in he was forced to join the crew of a sailing ship. A year later he returned to Germany, then journeyed with a family to Brazil.
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He went to sea again for several years, learning more about wind, weather and bird flight. Weisskopf arrived in the U. The New York toy manufacturer E. Horsman hired Whitehead to build and operate advertising kites and model gliders. Whitehead also made plans to add a motor to propel one of his gliders.
In , Whitehead was hired as a mechanic for the Boston Aeronautical Society. He and mechanic Albert B. Horn built a Lilienthal -type glider and an ornithopter. Whitehead made a few short and low flights in the glider, but did not succeed in flying the ornithopter. Cabot reported to the Society that tests with this glider were unsuccessful. According to an affidavit given in by Louis Darvarich, a friend of Whitehead, the two men made a motorized flight of about half a mile in Pittsburgh 's Schenley Park in April or May Darvarich said he was stoking the aircraft's boiler aboard the craft and was badly scalded in the accident, requiring several weeks in a hospital.
Trimble, pointing to a lack of contemporary proof, dismissed this story in as a case of "overactive imaginations. Whitehead and Darvarich traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut to find factory jobs. A description and photographs of Whitehead's aircraft appeared in Scientific American in June ,  stating that the "novel flying machine" had just been completed, and was "now ready for preliminary trials.
Whitehead said he tested his unmanned machine on 3 May, according to a newspaper report. Whitehead expressed his desire to keep the location of any future experiments hidden to avoid drawing a crowd that might make a "snap-shot verdict of failure".
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The aviation event for which Whitehead is now best known reportedly took place in Fairfield , Connecticut, on 14 August and was described at length in an article in the edition of 18 August of the weekly Bridgeport Herald newspaper. The article was accompanied by a drawing, also credited by some Whitehead researchers to Howell, which depicted the aircraft in flight. The drawing was purportedly based on a photograph, which has not been proven to exist.
In the following months, dozens of other newspapers around the world published articles mentioning the reported flight or other aviation activity by Whitehead. The Bridgeport Herald reported that Whitehead and another man drove to the testing area in the machine, which worked like a car when the wings were folded along its sides. Two other people, including the newspaper reporter, followed on bicycles. For short distances, the Number 21's speed was close to thirty miles an hour on the uneven road, and the article said, "there seems no doubt that the machine can reel off forty miles an hour and not exert the engine to its fullest capacity.
The newspaper reported that before attempting to pilot the aircraft, Whitehead successfully test flew it unmanned in the pre-dawn hours, using tether ropes and sandbag ballast. When Whitehead was ready to make a manned flight, the article said: "By this time the light was good. Faint traces of the rising sun began to suggest themselves in the east. According to the newspaper article, trees blocked the way after the flight was in progress.
Whitehead was quoted as saying, "I knew that I could not clear them by rising higher, and also that I had no means of steering around them by using the machinery. He simply shifted his weight more to one side than the other. This careened the ship to one side.
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She turned her nose away from the clump of sprouts when within fifty yards of them and took her course around them as prettily as a yacht on the sea avoids a bar. The ability to control the air ship in this manner appeared to give Whitehead confidence, for he was seen to take time to look at the landscape about him.
He looked back and waved his hand exclaiming, 'I've got it at last. When Whitehead neared the end of a field, the article said he turned off the motor and the aircraft landed "so lightly that Whitehead was not jarred in the least. Junius Harworth, who as a boy was one of Whitehead's helpers, said Whitehead flew the airplane at another time in mid from Howard Avenue East to Wordin Avenue, along the edge of property belonging to the local gas company.
Upon landing, Harworth said, the machine was turned around and another hop was made back to the starting point. On 21 September , Collier's Weekly ran a picture of Whitehead's "latest flying machine" and said that he "recently made a successful flight of half a mile". The article quotes him saying, "within a year people will be buying airships as freely as they are buying automobiles today and the sky will be dotted with figures skimming the air".
During this period of activity, Whitehead also reportedly tested an unmanned and unpowered flying machine, towed by men pulling ropes. A witness said the craft rose above telephone lines, flew across a road and landed undamaged. In two published letters he wrote to American Inventor magazine,  Whitehead said the flights took place over Long Island Sound.
He said the distance of the first flight was about two miles 3.
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He said the airplane, which had a boat-like fuselage , landed safely in the water near the shore. For steering, Whitehead said he varied the speed of the two propellers and also used the aircraft rudder. He said the techniques worked well on his second flight and enabled him to fly a big circle back to the shore where his helpers waited. In his first letter, he expressed pride in the accomplishment: " To my knowledge it is the first of its kind.
This matter has so far never been published. Anton Pruckner, a mechanic and assistant to Whitehead, signed an affidavit concerning the claimed 17 January flight: " I knew that the flight took place because of talk by those who had seen it and because Whitehead himself had told me he made it I believe Whitehead made that flight, as his aircraft did fly well and with the bigger engine we had built, the plane was capable of such a flight. Whitehead was of fine moral character and never in all the long time I was associated with him or knew him did he ever appear to exaggerate.
I never knew him to lie; he was a very truthful man I saw his aircraft fly on many occasions. Gustave Whitehead's brother John arrived in Connecticut from California in April , intending to offer help. He saw his brother's aircraft only on the ground, not in powered flight. Rudder was a combination of horizontal and vertical fin-like affair, the principle the same as in the up-to-date airplanes. For steering there was a rope from one of the foremost wing tip ribs to the opposite, running over a pulley.
In front of the operator was a lever connected to a pulley: the same pulley also controlled the tail rudder at the same time. A article in Popular Aviation magazine, which renewed interest in Whitehead, said winter weather ruined the Number 22 airplane after Whitehead placed it unprotected in his yard following his claimed flights of January The article said Whitehead did not have money to build a shelter for the aircraft because of a quarrel with his financial backer.
The article also reported that in early , Whitehead built a horsepower eight-cylinder engine, intended to power a new aircraft. Another financial backer insisted on testing the engine in a boat on Long Island Sound, but lost control and capsized, sending the engine to the bottom. It was possible to have traveled a much longer distance, without the operator touching terra firma, but for the operator's desire not to get too far above it. Although the motor was not developing its full power, owing to the speed not exceeding 1, R.
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Whitehead did not give identifiers to his first aircraft, but according to Randolph and Harvey to the end of he had built "fifty-six airplanes". The fabric-covered wings were ribbed with bamboo, supported by steel wires and were very similar to the shape of the Lilienthal glider's wings. The arrangement for folding the wings also closely followed the Lilienthal design.
Whitehead described his No.
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He said the No. He said ignition was "accomplished by its own heat and compression. He explained that the two front wheels were connected to the kerosene motor, and the rear wheels were used for steering while on the ground. The pointed bow of the craft comprised a metal water tank, with hot water being sprayed against the sides inside for cooling. In addition to his work on flying machines, Whitehead built engines. Louis World's Fair and displayed an aeronautical motor.
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Test of the machine were described as "sufficiently satisfactory that another is being built. Lawrence, who was having difficulty obtaining an aeronautic engine. The water-cooled machine was designed so that functional cylinders continued to work if others failed, a safety factor to help avoid accidents due to engine failure. Whitehead's business practices were unsophisticated and he was sued by a customer, resulting in a threat that his tools and equipment would be seized.