Seeking truth in aviation history: the planes, the pioneers --and the controversy
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!”--Sir Walter Scott
There are myths, misconceptions, faulty conclusions, outrageous fabrications, sloppy research and ignorance surrounding the history of powered flight, including first flight.
The aviation pioneers that preceded the Wrights laid the foundation that made powered flight possible. Their early works were freely disseminated for future generations of aviation pioneers to build on. Yet, these visionary researchers are largely ignored and even, in many cases, maligned in much of history, as it's presented in contemporary works.
Not only are the pioneers who preceded the Wrights often discredited as failures, those who competed with them, even in later years,were defamed. Much of this travesty is due to the legacy promoted by the Wright brothers and their allies. Wilbur Wright denigrated a good many of the early pioneers, including Glenn Hammond Curtiss, but it was Orville Wright who spent the rest of his long life, after he sold his interests in aviation in 1915 until he died in 1948, actively protecting his sometimes questionable legacy at any cost.
The thesis of this blog "Truth in Aviation History" can be proven through references to original documents and research. The references are there. Present day "historians' either refuse to dig below the surface, or they choose to misrepresent the facts for whatever reasons, sometimes to protect their own legacies. Too many present day historians denigrate and malign anyone or anything that competes with their apparent propaganda and bias. They are continuing the negative legacy of the Wright brothers. It was the Wrights' policy to do precisely that.
We believe that a civilized argument needs to be made with facts and logic, not character assassination and defamation. Unfortunate, it is, indeed, that historians today have resorted to the latter. It is an old saying that if you have to resort to name calling, you have already lost the argument.
A clear example of how history has been warped and is being warped is the attacks, past and present, on a great aviation pioneer, Glenn Hammond Curtiss. Anti-Curtiss statements are based on the history presented by the Wrights, not an unbiased study of the facts. The campaigns against Curtiss were begun by the Wrights--and perpetuated, unbelievably, without due merit, by our own Smithsonian and associated historians.
"In 1953, Briton Charles G. Grey (1875-1953), arguably the world's most knowledgeable person on flight's early days (founder and editor, The Aeroplane, 1911-1939; editor, Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1916-1941)," * wrote ,
"Strange thing isn't it that the U.S.A. has never recognized Glenn Curtiss as by far the greatest man America (both North & South) has ever produced in Aviation? - Think of the early Hammondsport products. Then the Jenny...Then the first flight onto & off a ship. Then the first flying boats. Then the big & little Americas (of 1916-18) & their descendants, the F boats of Felixstowe, from which descend all…trans-Atlantic boats...Then the N.C. boats, first across the Atlantic, & the string of Curtiss record-breakers, & Schneider winners. And the D-12 engine, from which the Rolls Falcon, & ultimately the Merlin are descended...So far as I know there is nobody in the World who has claim to have influenced aircraft design & production as he did, or had done. But the capitalists who bought the bogus Wright patents ganged up on Curtiss & `slapped him down,' as they say in the States, & he was too proud to fight back on propaganda. He left his products to fight for him."The purpose of this blog is to correct present day “oversights” in history as far as is possible and to elevate maligned visionaries, such as Glenn Curtiss, John J. Montgomery, and Professor Samuel Langley to their rightful places in history. (Among many, many others.)
*A quotation of Jack Carpenter, who dedicated the rest of his life towards restoring Curtiss's legacy in history. Carpenter died and the Wrights' questionable legacy lives on.