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1901 Whitehead No. 21 (replica)


The Whitehead No.21 was an aircraft that aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead claimed to have flown near Bridgeport, Connecticut on August 14, 1901. A description and photographs of Whitehead's aircraft appeared in Scientific American in June 1901, stating that the "novel flying machine" had just been completed, and "is now ready for preliminary trials". The flight was reported in the August 18, 1901 issue of the Bridgeport Sunday Herald and was subsequently reprinted in other newspapers.

Photographs exist showing the aircraft on the ground, but there are no photographs known of the aircraft in flight. A drawing of the aircraft in flight accompanied the Sunday Herald article. The No.21 was a monoplane powered by two engines—one for the wheels during the ground run, the other driving the propellers for flight. For the 100th anniversary edition of Jane's All the World's Aircraft has credited Whitehead as the first man to build and fly an operational heavier-than-air flying machine.

In 1986 Andrew Kosch, a local high school teacher, led a team which built a replica of Whitehead's No.21. The replica (called 21B) had a few changes: the landing gear track was increased for better ground handling and two ultralight aircraft engines were used in place of the original steam and acetylene engines. On December 29, 1986, Kosch made 20 successful flights, the longest being 100 m (330 ft). The reproduction was also shown at the 1986 Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In. In 1986, Cliff Robertson flew the reproduction No.21 while under tow behind a sports car, for the benefit of the press. Robertson said:


"We did a run and nothing happened. And we did a second run and nothing happened. Then the wind came up a little and we did another run and, sure enough, I got her up and flying. Then we went back and did a second one."


A second replica was built in Germany. On February 18, 1998, it was flown 500 m (1,600 ft) in Germany. The director of the aerospace department at the Deutsches Museum stated that such a replica was not proof that the original did actually fly, in that the 1998 reproduction used modern research and materials such as fiberglass, and had a modern engine.

Andy Kosh restored the original replica to static display condition and can be seen at numerous public events during the Summer. Since then Mr. Kosh and his team have built another No.21 replica and have been experimenting with it.

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