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It's official: Conn. approves bill writing Wright Brothers out of history

  • Wright_Flyer_First_Flight 660.jpg

    Dec. 17 1903: The first flight by Wright brothers Ovrville and Wilbur, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

  • gustav-whitehead-01.JPG

    Gustave Whitehead, 2nd from left, with visitors in front of his "No 21". At his feet the self built gas pressure motor.Flight Historical Research Foundation Gustav Weisskopf

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    The gas pressure motor was used to drive the wheels.Flight Historical Research Foundation Gustav Weisskopf

First in flight? Yeah, right.

That's the message from Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who announced Wednesday that he had signed into law a measure insisting that Bridgeport resident Gustave Whitehead flew in 1901 -- two years before Wilbur and Orville Wright lifted off from Kitty Hawk, N.C.

“The Governor shall proclaim a date certain in each year as Powered Flight Day to honor the first powered flight by [the Wright brothers] Gustave Whitehead and to commemorate the Connecticut aviation and aerospace industry,” reads House Bill No. 6671, which passed into law as Public Act no. 13-210 on June 25.

The bill -- which also declares the "ballroom polka" as the official state polka -- was a vindication for Australian historian John, who unveiled in March what he calls photographic proof that Whitehead flew over Connecticut in 1901, “two years, four months, and three days before the Wright brothers.”

Brown told FoxNews.com Thursday morning that the ruling was an appropriate recognition of Whitehead's work.

"After peer review earlier this year confirmed the finding that Gustave Whitehead was the first person to fly a powered airplane (long before the Wright brothers), society at large has now begun commemorating this achievement," Brown told FoxNews.com.

"Since Whitehead was a Connecticut resident, it was only appropriate that the Connecticut Assembly and Governor led the way."

The Wright brothers soared into history books on Dec. 17, 1903, following their historic, 852-foot, 59-second flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. -- an achievement for which the duo are widely described as being “first in flight.” But historians have long known that others were working on a variety of flying machines, including a fellow U.S. resident, German immigrant Gustave Whitehead (born Weisskopf).

Whitehead flew early in the morning of Aug. 14, 1901, Brown has claimed. His winged, bird-like plane was called No. 21, or "The Condor"; with wooden wheels and canvas wings stretched taut across bat-like wooden arms, it rose over a pasture in Fairfield, Conn. at dawn, and covered an estimated 1.5 miles at a height of 50 feet, he said.

Since Brown’s March revelation, controversy has swirled around his claims.

Historians with the Smithsonian Museum in particular -- curators of the Wright Brother’s plane -- continue to express doubts about Brown’s claims.

"I’m still absolutely convinced -- as I think most historians are -- that the Wrights were first, and Whitehead in all probability never left the ground," Tom Crouch, senior curator of aeronautics from the museum, told FoxNews.com in early June. Besides, history is factual, not based on laws, he said.

"You don’t legislate history. History is a process. People make up their minds based, I hope, on some thought given to the evidence," he said.

"And I think when people do look seriously at the evidence for the Whitehead claims, they’ll see that it falls apart."

Republican state Sen. Mike McLachlan told FoxNews.com earlier this month that he found the information convincing enough to present the bill.

"If more information comes along in history, we always change the history books. That’s been going on for years," he told FoxNews.com.