I, ANTON T. PRUCKNER, 79 Scofield Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut, do depose and declare that I, personally was acquainted with the late Gustave Whitehead and was employed by him in the construction of motors and heavier than air flying machines.
I have known the late Gustave Whitehead since 1899, and was employed by him when he had his shop in the yard back of his home at 241 Pine Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut. I was present and assisted him on practically every occasion when he tested his airplanes. it was our custom to do most of this testing in the early mornings in order to avoid the danger that crowds of children about the machines would create at other times.
Because of the lack of finances the said Mr. Whitehead was unable to construct his planes as well as he wished. About 1900 he obtained some financial help from a man named Stanley Y. Beach. The first flights made by Mr. Whitehead lasted only approximately five minutes' time and the plane rose not more than fifteen to thirty feet from the ground
In the construction of motors we experimented with gun powder, but i was afraid of this type of engine, and once when Mr. Whitehead had a severe explosion with it, he finally gave up using it. We also experimented with steam-driven motors. I recall one time when a pipe heated by the steam became so soft as to bend. At last we worked on gasoline-driven air-cooled motors, only. The last motor I recall helping Mr. Whitehead construct was 250 h.p. It had eight cylinders and a big bore. Mr. Whitehead had considerable difficulty with Mr. Beach, and this engine was taken by Mr. Beach and put into a boat. I believe it is the one which Mr. Beach caused to be sunk in the Sound as a result of increasing its speed too suddenly.
I personally know the facts, as stated in Mr. Whitehead's letter to the Editor of the American Inventor, and published in the issue of April 1, 1902 to be true. I flew in this machine with Mr. Whitehead and I saw him make the flight across the Sound to which he refers. i know the facts, as stated in the following paragraph quoted from his letter to be exactly as stated therein:
"This machine has been tried twice, on January 17, 1902. It was intended to fly only ashore distances, but the machine behaved so well that at the first trial it covered nearly two miles over the water of Long Island Sound, and settled in the water without mishap to either machine or operator. It was then towed back to the starting place. On the second trial it started from the same place and sailed with myself on board across Long Island Sound. The machine kept on steadily in crossing the wind at a height of about 200 feet, when it came into my mind to try steering around in a circle. As soon as I turned the rudder and drone propeller faster than the other the machine turned a bend and flew north with the wind at a frightful speed, but turned steadily around until I saw the starting place in the distance. I continued to turn but when near the land again, i slowed up the propellers and sank gently down on an even keel into the water, she readily floating like a boat. My men then pulled her out of the water, and as the day was at a close and the weather changing for the worse, i decided to take her home until Spring."
I do not recall the names of any other persons who witnessed this particular trial, or assisted in towing the boat to the shore. This was only one of a number of short flights we had made, as Mr. Whitehead tried to avoid crowds as much as possible we rarely had people about if we could avoid it. I recall experiments made with gliders also, and many times flew in them, or towed them for their start. I also assisted Mr. Whitehead in his later work on the helicopter which was never completed perfectly.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 16th day of July 1934.