Five First Flights

Clockwise from top left: Gustave Whitehead and daughter Rose with Plane Number 21, Clément Ader's Avion III, Alberto Santos-Dumont's 14-BIS, and the Wright Brothers' Flyer 1. (Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images, Hulton Archive/Getty Images, and Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

When people say the Wright Brothers were first to fly, they're talking about a very particular set of circumstances. There are other contenders to the title of "first in flight," and each has their own compelling story and list of achievements.

Tracy's Research:

  • "Who flew first?" The Economist. 7/3/2013.
  • Best, Kenneth. "The View From/Bridgeport; 100 Years Later, a City Still Claims First Flight." New York Times. 8/19/2001.
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. "The Flight Claims of Gustave Whitehead." 12/11/2013.
  • Schlenoff, Daniel C. " Scientific American Debunks Claim Gustave Whitehead Was "First in Flight.'" Scientific American. 7/8/2014.
  • Crouch, Tom. "Who Flew First?" Air & Space Magazine. 9/2013.
  • National Parks Service. "Wright Brothers: 1903 – First Flight."
  • Wright, Orville. "The Wright Brothers - First Flight, 1903." Eyewitness to History.
  • Whipps, Heather. " Wright Brothers & First Flight." LiveScience. 6/4/2012.
  • Crouch, Tom D. " Clément Ader." Encyclopedia Britannica. 12/22/2015.
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. "The Wright Brothers: Inventing a Flying Machine."
  • O'Shaughnessy, Hugh. " Revealed: the man who really invented the aeroplane." The Independent. 10/21/2006.
  • Crouch, Tom D. " Alberto Santos-Dumont." Encyclopedia Britannica. March 21, 2017.
  • Breger, Brian, director. "Wings of Madness." PBS Nova. Airdate November 7, 2006.
  • New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage. "Richard Pearse." Updated 10/30/2014.
  • O'Rourke, Paul. " Pearse flew long after Wrights." 4/24/2012.
  • Hampton, Jeff. " New evidence Pearse did not fly before Wright brothers." NewsHub. 4/14/2012.
  • Christchurch City Libraries. "Richard William Pearse, 1877-1953."