While the history books have long said Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first to achieve powered flight with their airplane on Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., the folks in Bridgeport, Conn., say German immigrant Gustave Whitehead got airborne there two years earlier -- Aug. 18, 1901 -- reaching a height of 40 feet and traveling a half mile.
CBS News reported Sunday the respected aeronautical journal "Jane's All the World's Aircraft" has officially recognized Whitehead as first in flight. The Connecticut Legislature has done its part to make it official, recently passing a law affirming it as fact, the network said..
Bridgeport marked the 112th anniversary of Whitehead's flight this weekend.
CBS says two witnesses interviewed for an Aug. 18, 1901, article in The Bridgeport Herald, described Whitehead's flight. One of them was never interviewed again to confirm what he saw and the second, James Dickie, later retracted his statement and signed a document denying he was on hand when Whitehead flew.
But Bridgeport native William O'Dwyer said Dickie later told him Dickie had changed his story because Whitehead owed him money.
"He prejudiced his testimony, his document is really worthless," O'Dwyer said.
The Smithsonian Museum also is caught up in the controversy, having signed a contract in 1948 to obtain the Wright Brothers' plane that states the Wrights were the first in flight.
A statement by the Washington museum said the contract is a "less than exemplary moment in Smithsonian history," CBS said.