Letter: Wright brothers were first to take to the skies

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The Independent Online
THE CLAIMS advanced on behalf of Alberto Santos Dumont by Phil Davison in 'A daring old man and his flying machine' (11 April) hinge on a denial that the Wrights flew before Santos Dumont's flight in 1906. This really is asking aeronautical historians to swallow too much.

Orville Wright's sent the following telegram to his father on 17 December 1903: 'Success four flights Thursday morning all against twentyone mile wind all started from level with engine power alone average speed through air thirtyone miles longest 57 seconds inform Press home Christmas. Orevelle (sic) Wright.'

The Wrights took off from level ground by engine power alone. And they stayed in the air for nearly a minute.

No one doubts that Santos Dumont made a flight of about 21 seconds in November 1906 at Bagatelle, but by then most serious European would-be aeronauts had conceded the Wrights were accomplished fliers. To claim otherwise is a perversion of history and contemporary records.

William Leece

Garston, Liverpool