Gustave Whitehead to American Inventor 1-Apr-1902

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Gustave Whitehead describes the dimensions, weight, and structure (including kerosene motor) of Whitehead No. 22 and asserts that he flew this airplane two miles and then seven miles over Long Island Sound on 17 January 1902.

This new machine has been tried twice, on January 17, 1902. It was intended to fly only short distances, but the machine behaved so well that at the first trial it covered nearly two miles over the water of Long Island Sound, and settled in the water without mishap to either machine or operator. It was then towed bock to the starting place. On the second trial it started from the same place and sailed with myself on board across Long Island Sound. The machine kept on steadily in crossing the wind at a height of about 200 feet, when it came into my mind to try steering around in a circle. As soon as I turned the rudder and drove one propeller faster than the other the machine turned a bend and flew north with the wind at a frightful speed, but turned steadily around until I saw the starting place in the distance. I continued to turn but when near the land again, I slowed up the propellers and sank gently down on an even keel into the water, she readily floating like a boat. My men then pulled her out of the water, and as the day was at a close and the weather changing for the worse. I decided to take her home until Spring.
The length of flight on the first trial was about two miles, and on the second about seven miles. The last trial was a circling flight, and as I successfully returned to my starting place with a machine hitherto untried and heavier than the air, I consider the trip quite a success. To my knowledge it is the first of its kind. This matter has so far never been published.

He concludes:

Believing with Maxim that the future of the air machine lies in an apparatus made without the gas bag, I have taken up the aeroplane, and will stick to it until I have succeeded completely or expire in the attempt of so doing.
As soon as I get my machine out this Spring I will let you know. To describe the feeling of flying is almost impossible, for. in fact, a man is more frightened than anything else.

In response to the amazed editor's reply, Whitehead wrote back:

Dear Sir: Yours of the 20th received. Yes, it was a full-sized flying machine, and I, myself, flew seven miles and returned to my starting point.

In both the flights described in my previous letter, I flew in the machine myself. This, of course, is new to the world at large, but I do not care much in being advertised except by a good paper like yours. Such accounts may help others along who are working in the same line. As soon as I can I shall try again. This coming spring I will have photographs made of machine No. 22 in the air and let you have pictures taken during its flight. If you can come up and get them yourself, so much the better. I attempted this before, but in the first trial the weather was bad, some little rain and a very cloudy sky, and the snapshots that were taken did not come out right. I cannot take any time exposures of the machine when in flight on account of its high speed.

I enclose a small sketch showing the course the machine made in her longest flight. January 17. 1902.

Trusting this will be satisfactory, I remain, yours truly.


Bridgeport, Conn.


Sender Gustave Whitehead
Recipient American Inventor
Date sent 1-Apr-1902
From location Bridgeport, Connecticut
To location
Communication type letter to the editor
Language English
Refers to flight? 1
Tech fields airplane, petroleum, propulsion
Length (in words) 6626
Full text available