Update: "Wright is Wrong?"

A 1987 60 Minutes report questioning whether the Wright Brothers were the first to fly earns it wings

If you drive in North Carolina, you've seen the phrase, "First in Flight." That's the saying printed on the official state license plate and the historical event North Carolina has built an entire tourism industry on. But all of that is about to change.

Back in 1987, 60 Minutes aired a story called "Wright is Wrong?" questioning whether the Wright Brothers were actually the first people to fly a plane.

Our late correspondent Harry Reasoner went to Kitty Hawk, N.C., and the Wright Brothers monument and brought a local Connecticut investigation into the public eye.

"Nobody is arguing that Wilbur and Orville did it, but there are some folks in Connecticut who say this ought to be the Whitehead monument and it ought to be in Bridgeport," Reasoner said.

Bridgeport, Conn., is where researchers say Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant, first flew his aircraft two years ahead of the Wrights. Now, based on new evidence, the authoritative aeronautical journal "Jane's All the World's Aircraft" -- the bible of aviation -- has officially recognized Whitehead as first in flight, and the Connecticut legislature just passed a law confirming it as fact.

So how could the history books have gotten it wrong all these years? According to the 60 Minutes investigation, there were holes in the Whitehead story as well as several factors playing against them.

The main piece of evidence supporting Whitehead points to a story published four days after the flight on Aug. 18, 1901, in The Bridgeport Herald. With a drawing, the article described how Whitehead's plane rose up in the air 40 feet and flew for half a mile. And though there were two eyewitnesses interviewed in the article, one was never tracked down again to confirm his statement and the other, James Dickie, retracted his initial statement in the article and signed a document denying his attendance at the event.

William O'Dwyer, a Bridgeport native and a pilot, went looking for Dickie to set the record straight. Based on the conversation the two had, O'Dwyer said Dickie changed his story because Whitehead owed him money.

"He prejudiced his testimony, his document is really worthless," O'Dwyer said.

And later, it came to public attention that the Smithsonian Museum was legally bound by a 1948 contract, which states the Wright Brothers were the first in flight.

The contract was signed in exchange for the Wright Brother's plane, and is still in force today. According to a statement released by The Smithsonian, the contract is a "less than exemplary moment in Smithsonian history."

Last week, Bridgeport celebrated the 112th anniversary of Whitehead's takeoff as well as the Connecticut law confirming Whitehead was indeed the first in flight. Watch Reasoner's 1987 segment "Wright is Wrong?" in the player below.

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