Did the Wright Brothers Really Have the First Flight?

I didn’t mean it from a greater thrust to weight ratio or helicopter but if you look at Pearce’s plane there it was a centerline configuration without a cambered wing. It had to fly at an ungodly angle to stay aloft (see the rc bus plane as an example).

If you have a cite on that I’d like it for future reference. I was always under the impression that Chanute’s efforts relied on Lilienthal’s work and didn’t engage in wind tunnel work.

That was speculation. We know the Wrights got the idea from Europe, but how else would they have obtained it than from Chanute?

Their longest flight on December 17 was measured at 852 feet. That’s not as long as the flights claimed for Pearse on Wiki, but note that the flyingmachines.org site says:

Pearse himself dated the flights to 1904, in letters from 1915. The recollections of eyewitnesses talked to much later vary considerably from dates in 1902 to 1904, as recounted here.

It’s unclear from this evidence that Pearse actually flew any controlled flights before the Wrights. The evidence doesn’t rule it out either, to be sure.

Whitehead’s supporters also rely on some contemporaneous reports and some decades-later eyewitness accounts. Flyingmachines.org dismiss those as well.

What constitutes history is a fascinating - and unaswerable - question.

The Wrights weren’t a couple of bumpkins doing trial and error, they set out to find what it took to build a flying machine, did original work and were in correspondance with most of the other researchers in the field. By the time they met Chanute in person they were far beyond him. “How else would they have obtained it than from Chanute?” Well, it could have come from many of their correspondants.
Whether they invented the wind tunnel or not, they were the first to discover that Lilleanthal’s lift to drag numbers, which were generally accepted, were far to optimistic. This showed them that a man carrying flying machine needed to be much larger than previously supposed.
The 1903 Flyer was far from their first airplane. They had several years of experimentation with gliders behind them, and by the time they attempted powered flight they were by far the best glider pilots in the world.

The Mustang used an NACA 6-Series airfoil. It wasn’t symetrical. The link shows an example of the shape.

the cite was a very interesting read. It clearly dates his first machine, the one that is given credit, to March 31st 1903. It also shows that he was making very short, unstable hops of up to 150 feet. I wonder what the second “circular” machine looks like (which he himself claims flew).

**Exapno Mapcase ** - Where is the quote from Pearce himself stating it wasn’t the first machine that flew?

I wish I could find the picture of the circular ultralight I saw at Oshkosh. If I remember correctly the front wing was brought around and connected to the rear horizontal tail plane in a donut shape.

That page gives these quotes:

Since they’re directly from Pearse and earlier than the later recollections by others, one would normally give them greater weight.

However, they do not explicitly solve the date question and they may equally be misremembered. Some of the witness testimony for 1903 also appears to have corroboration. The problem is that some of the testimony for 1902 also does, and that seems impossible. And when you get to the bottom, you see that some of the statements turn out not to be first hand, although they read as such earlier, and we’re not told which are which.

People who want to believe will give more credit to some. People who don’t will give more credit to others. As someone who doesn’t care either way, I am reluctant to come down either way. None of it quite rises to the criminal court level of beyond any reasonable doubt, or even the civil case standard of the preponderance of the evidence. Too many crucial unknowns.

I’ve been doing primary research into historic documents and I found out that what books say are often unsupported by the evidence that they use in the footnotes. I wouldn’t trust a book that made a strong claim for Pearse. George Bolt, who appears there as an investigator for a book thought the 1904 dates in the letters knocked Pearse out. He may have may that decision too hastily. In any case, he died and the book never appeared. It may now be too late to reexamine eyewitnesses. The little I’ve seen makes “not proven” the best verdict, although that won’t make anybody happy.