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3 states tussle over bragging rights to 1st flight

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RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina and Ohio want to put a stop to the debate about who was the first to fly.

License plates in Ohio proclaim the state is the "Birthplace of Aviation," while “First in Flight” is proudly displayed on North Carolina plates.

Connecticut says both have it wrong.

Last summer, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a law saying German-born aviator and state resident Gustave Whitehead was the first to make a powered flight. The law says the flight took place two years before Wilbur and Orville Wright, both from Ohio, lifted off on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Now, all three states are in a tussle over bragging rights.

Thursday, Ohio state Rep. Rick Perales and North Carolina state Sen. Bill Cook held news conferences disputing Connecticut’s action. They say the Wright Brothers were first in flight.
  
Perales maintains that the claim by Whitehead supporters is nothing new. He said it’s based on an inconclusive photograph. He represents the district where the Wright Brothers had a hanger and tested planes.

“Leading aviation historians and scholars continue to endorse the Wright Brothers as the first to accomplish flight. Whitehead supporters have suggested that their evidence is strong enough to prove their case in a court of law,” Senator Bill Cook said. “In fact, as aviation pioneer Grover Loening noted, ‘the claim did have its day in court, and was soundly rejected.’ “The photo that was used by the Scientific American to give credit to Whitehead is extremely blurry and has been enlarged where you truly cannot see what is in it.”
 
Orville Wright’s flight was photographed by John T. Daniels. There were five eyewitnesses of the first flight: John T. Daniels, W.S. Dough and A.D. Etheridge of the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station, W.C. Brinkley of Manteo and John Moore of Nags Head.

“I’m honored to be the North Carolina State Senator for the area where powered flight was first accomplished. I’m also pleased to stand with Ohio Representative Rick Perales on this issue,” Senator Bill Cook said. “North Carolinians are proud of our heritage.  ‘First in Flight’ is on our State License’s Plate. The National Wright Brothers Memorial is located here in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where the first flight occurred.  The North Carolina first flight is even commemorated on U.S. coins. The evidence is clear.  There is no doubt about who performed the first powered flight.”

Jane's All the World's Aircraft, an industry publication, recently cited contemporary news accounts in concluding Whitehead was first.

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