DAYTON, Ohio—State Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) on Friday, Aug. 18, presented the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA) with framed copies of state resolutions honoring National Aviation Day on Aug. 19 and repudiating Connecticut’s claim that Gustave Whitehead flew a powered airplane two years before the Wright brothers.
America has recognized Aug. 19, the date Orville Wright was born in 1871, as National Aviation Day since 1939. Orville invented the airplane in Dayton with his brother Wilbur and made the world’s first sustained, controlled flight of a heavier-than-air machine at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903.
Ohio’s resolution adds its recognition of the date. “It celebrates the history and development of aviation, and this annual event provides the ideal time to pay tribute to the many pioneering individuals who have dared to reach for the heavens,” said Perales, who is also an Air Force veteran.
Perales also presented a copy of a resolution he sponsored to repudiate a claim by the state of Connecticut that one of its own residents, Gustave Whitehead, flew a powered machine in Bridgeport on Aug. 14, 1901, two years before the Wright brothers flew. Whitehead fans in Bridgeport celebrated his purported first flight on Monday.
Perales said he sponsored the bill because he felt it was important to defend the historical record. The Wright brothers thoroughly documented their years of aeronautical research up to and including their powered flights. Most scholars and historians have dismissed the Whitehead claims.
“If someone wants to overrule a fact of history, like the Wright brothers inventing flight, they need substantial, overwhelming evidence to do so,” Perales said.
Perales made the presentations in front of a replica Wright Model B Flyer on the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Huffman Prairie is where Wilbur and Orville perfected the airplane and later taught other pioneer aviators to fly. It lies in Perales’ district, where it is on a publicly accessible part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and is also a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
NAHA Chair Frank Winslow accepted the resolutions. “Rick has been so diligent and instrumental in tying the great history of Ohio together with what we’re doing and what we can do in the future,” he said.
The National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA) is a nonprofit chartered by Congress in 2004 as the management entity for the National Aviation Heritage Area, a region of national historical importance encompassing Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Clark, Warren, Champaign, Shelby, and Auglaize counties. The Heritage Area is one of 49 National Heritage Areas in a program administrated by the National Park Service, and the only one dedicated to aviation heritage. Visit aviationheritagearea.org for more information.