the beginning, our squadron decided that one way to prove Whitehead was
not a fraud or a hoaxter would be to build and flight-test a reproduction
of his 1901 high-wing monoplane. To do that, we needed reliable plans.
During the January
25, 1986, meeting at "Hangar 21," Angelo "Mike" Cartabiano (left),
retired R&D and flight safety engineer for Sikorsky and Arling "Pud"
Schmidt (right), mass properties engineer for Boeing and McDonnell
Douglas, discuss the design of the tail for Whitehead's 1901 powered
monoplane reproduction. Pud Schmidt created the metric scale plans
in 1992 so Germany could build and test the next copy of Whitehead's
create the plans, original Whitehead photos were found and studied. We
were informed that Herb Kelley's geometry—fading angles process—used by
the Pentagon in WW II, was reported to be very reliable. It required at
least one known vertical measurement in any photo for any accurate plans
employed the volunteered services of an engineer at Sikorsky's helicopter
firm, Irving Burger, to draw the first set of plans along with a three-view
drawing. Those plans were completed and approved as being substantially
accurate by Whitehead's surviving toolmaker/machinist assistant Anton
Pruckner. Pruckner was interviewed in depth by Lippincott and the Smithsonian's
Paul Edward Garber. Garber was greatly impressed with Pruckner's testimony
and valuable memory. In all, four sets of plans were evolved to hone the
accuracy of the finite details.
1985 and '86, we found a serious sponsor, Kaye Williams, who provided
us with a building in which we could gather a team to build the Whitehead
1901 monoplane reproduction. Earlier, in 1966, it had become an international
project involving volunteers in Germany, for Whitehead was born on January
1, 1874, in Leutershausen, Germany, where he was baptized "Gustav Albin
1992, at the request of the Gustav Weisskopf Museum research team, Boeing
Vertol mass properties engineer Arling "Pud" Schmidt created metric scale
plans and details for the construction of a reproduction of the 1901 Whitehead
airframe. Fritz Brüder, a mechanical engineer on that team, built the
airframe and assisted throughout the construction and flight testing.
The bamboo poles used for the ribs were purchased at the Bamboo and Rattan
Works in Lakewood, New Jersey. They originally furnished the bamboo, as
wholesalers, in 1900, where Whitehead bought his—the Ryder and Hayes ship
chandler's store on Railroad Avenue in Bridgeport. The silk to cover the
wings was made by Kanebo Silk in Osaka, Japan, but the cost was borne
by the entire Japanese Silk Manufacturers Association because Whitehead
used Japanese silk in 1900 to 1908 on his wings. (The Bridgeport Silk
Co. was two blocks behind where Whitehead lived on Pine Street.)
On January 15, 1986,
Ken Terry (left), an R&D industrial engineer who studied nuclear
submarines under Admiral Rickover, and Pratt & Whitney's Wes Gordeuk
(right), discuss the design of Whitehead's engines and propellers.
Gordeuk carved the first copy of Whitehead's 1901 props using Whitehead's
technique, which included the use of animal hide glue for the rough
block laminations. Wes also drew the first set of plans for study
of the Whitehead engines. Out of that initial effort, further studies
by engineers in Germany resulted in working reproductions that are
now being tested.
only purpose of building and testing the airframes here in 1985 to '86
and over in Germany was to study their design and determine their aerodynamic
merits. We used modern engines, since no surviving photos show us any
details of the design of the generator used by Whitehead for his calcium
carbide (acetylene) gas-powered engine.
his critics who labored so hard denouncing him devoted time to visiting
his shop and learning about his generator and engines, a reproduction
might have been possible. A working, full-scale model of his 1901 20hp
engine is being tested using compressed air. A working, full-scale model
of the ground engine is on exhibit at the Gustav Weisskopf Museum.
cannot definitely say that Whitehead flew in 1901. We can, however, definitely
state that an accurate reproduction of his airframe flew (with modern
engines) in 1997. That, in itself, says something important.