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In My Opinion

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Wait a minute. Your fly-guy isn’t even on license plates

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

First the legislature tries to steal our airport, and now Connecticut is trying to lift our heritage.

Historians in Connecticut claim that their state is actually the birthplace of aviation. Two years before the brothers Wright got their strange contraption airborne at Kitty Hawk, Connecticuters say, a fellow named Gustave Whitehead launched a flying machine near Bridgeport.

Connecticuters know this because they saw it on the Internet, just above a story about Bulgarian scientists announcing King Tut actually died of spontaneous human combustion.

If you’re one of these people fond of wandering around and saying, “Let people in Connecticut think what they want,” I must ask you to alter your philosophy. This could be expensive.

First of all, this Wright Brothers thing that happened 110 years ago next month is vital to our economy. There’s a shrine and a museum and a big sand pile on the Outer Banks dedicated to the event. People go there and buy T-shirts.

Next, there’s the issue of our license plates. It would take years to replace them all with the slogan, “Second in Flight After Some Guy in Connecticut.” Plus, it just doesn’t have a snappy ring.

Finally, there’s the issue of image. Jaunty aviators with scarves whipping in the wind make for a good image. It projects courage, confidence, intellect.

If we lose the Wright Brothers, we have nothing to fall back on but Sir Walter Raleigh, bustling about in a funny hat and tripping over his pantaloons as he shoves burning leaves in his mouth. Ben Affleck would never agree to play him in a movie.

We’re already in a stalemate with Ohio, which brands itself as the “Birthplace of Aviation” because the Wrights did their tinkering in Dayton. Instead of attacking the Buckeye pilferage of our claim, we just stuck up our noses and said, “Ain’t nobody going to Dayton to look at an old bike shop, particularly in the winter.”

And look at what happened – they started to get tourists. There’s probably been a dozen of them at least.

More galling is the fact that Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a law this year making it official that Whitehead was first in powered flight. This is kind of stuff they’ll be putting in Connecticut kids’ heads.

We need to take the strongest possible measures, perhaps even a Facebook petition. This lie cannot fly.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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