WJTV News Channel 12 - 3 states, including NC, tussle over 1st flight

3 states, including NC, tussle over bragging rights to 1st flight

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Wilbur and Orville Wright have long believed to have been the first to fly. Wilbur and Orville Wright have long believed to have been the first to fly.
KITTY HAWK, N.C. -

Ohio license plates proclaim the state is the "Birthplace of Aviation," and North Carolina plates say the state is "First in Flight."

But Connecticut says both states are wrong.

It says German-born aviator and state resident Gustave Whitehead was the first to make a powered airplane fly.

Now the three states are in a tussle over bragging rights.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a state law last summer insisting that Whitehead flew in 1901 -- two years before Wilbur and Orville Wright, who were from Ohio, lifted off on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

On Thursday, Ohio state Rep. Rick Perales and North Carolina state Sen. Bill Cook held news conferences in their respective states to dispute Connecticut's action and reassert that the Wright brothers were first.

"It's important to protect the truth," said Cook, whose district includes the Outer Banks. "Nowadays it seems like there are an awful lot of people who are trying to rewrite history."

Perales is trying to pass legislation in Ohio to officially name the Wright brothers as the first. North Carolina already passed similar legislation in 1985, specifically dismissing the Whitehead claims.

"We don't want address Connecticut, but have to or history is lost," Cook said.

Australian aviation historian John Brown said he questions whether the states have even investigated each other's claims.

"It's legitimate for them to laud the achievements of residents of their states or persons who achieved things in their jurisdictions," Brown said. "I don't think it's appropriate for them to pass judgment, though, like when they repudiate someone else's achievements."

The Smithsonian is forbidden by a contract with the Wright brothers' estate to admit that anyone else was the first to fly, in part because they had previously fought off other claims.

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