COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s fight to defend the legacy of the Wright brothers soared forward Tuesday in a unanimous vote to repudiate Connecticut’s claim that another aviator beat them as first in flight.
The Ohio House approved a measure disputing Connecticut’s challenge, and it heads next to the state Senate.
Lawmakers are responding to a 2013 Connecticut resolution that honored aviator Gustave Whitehead as beating Dayton-born Orville and Wilbur Wright’s 1903 flight off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, by two years.
Sponsoring Rep. Rick Perales said Ohio can’t stand by while another state “sees fit to change history.”
Perales said respected aviation historians — including those at the National Air & Space Museum — have already examined and dismissed accounts that Whitehead flew a powered, heavier-than-air machine of his own design on Aug. 14, 1901, “or on any other date.”
Connecticut state Sen. Kevin Kelly of Stratford pushed back against the Wrights’ home state, wondering why “they aren’t even intrigued.”
“It is certainly admirable to acknowledge the Wright Brothers’ place of birth, but if history serves me correctly, they actually flew in North Carolina,” Kelly said in a statement. “I suppose two states can share having pioneers in the field of aviation.”
Before the Connecticut flap, Ohio and North Carolina had long sparred over which could accurately claim the title “First in Flight” on its state quarter. They ultimately compromised with Ohio picking “Birthplace of Aviation” and North Carolina boasting “First Flight.”
The National Aviation Heritage Alliance, an Ohio-based nonprofit, said it sent letters Tuesday to Kelly and the publisher of IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, where a column stirred the latest Whitehead controversy, asking for evidence of Whitehead’s feat.
The nonprofit said, without supplying evidence, that Kelly and the aircraft publication would be subject to “increasing embarrassment” over the issue. The letter cited 34 historians and researchers who have signed onto a statement disputing the Whitehead claim, as well as a new book on the Wright brothers released last week by historian David McCullough.
Kelly has said the alliance isn’t impartial because it makes money off the Wright brothers’ legacy.
Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.
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