COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A resolution moving through the Ohio Statehouse challenges Connecticut's insistence that one of its aviators beat the Wright brothers to the first successful airplane flight by two years.
The Ohio measure got its first hearing Tuesday. If passed, it would repudiate Connecticut's claim that Gustave Whitehead "successfully flew a powered, heavier-than-air machine of his own design on August 14, 1901, or on any other date."
The two states have been at it for years.
Connecticut passed a law in 2013 requiring the governor to proclaim a date for "Powered Flight Day" to honor Whitehead's 1901 flight as the first, pre-dating the Wright brothers' famous flight off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903. The Connecticut lawmaker who fought for Whitehead's place in history, state Rep. Larry Miller, left the state law as part of his legacy when he died last year.
Now, the home state of Orville and Wilbur Wright is pushing back, reasserting the version of history agreed upon by most historians and aviation experts: The Wrights deserve the distinction of being the first to fly. Experts say their heavier-than-air machine qualifies as the first airplane because it brought together lift, control and thrust systems for the first time.
State Rep. Rick Perales, the Ohio resolution's sponsor, told fellow lawmakers Ohio and North Carolina are teaming up to fight back Connecticut's claim. He said the Wright brothers' flight was witnessed, repeated and clearly photographed, whereas evidence surrounding Whitehead's flight is sketchy at best.
The "alleged photo" of it is extremely blurry and reveals only indistinct shapes," he said. "In fact, some say that the photo was taken on May 21, 1905, in San Jose and shows a John J. Montgomery-designed glider, not Whitehead's plane."
North Carolina has long been embroiled in the first-in-flight debate.
When the U.S. Mint was creating its state-specific quarter series in the 1990s, Ohio and North Carolina fought over which could claim the Wright brothers' first flight — the Dayton-born Wright brothers' home state or the state where their flight took place.
In the end, North Carolina's coin pictured the Wright Flyer and the inscription "First Flight." Ohio's coin also displayed the Wright Flyer, but added an astronaut suit for its famous sons Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, and went with the slogan, "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers."
North Carolina continues to declare "First in Flight" on some license plates.