I suppose it's a lot like the silliness about preferring vinyl records to CDs. Sometimes there's nostalgia about the snap crackle pop of vinyl, and I like the smell of the turntable, but there's no way that the sound of vinyl is better. And I own a thousand or two vinyl records.
The rumble is different, as it comes from the turntable, but the cracks and pops happen at exactly the same time. You can see the defects in the vinyl that causes them - the vinyl surface is hardly pristine.
I write all my articles as plaintext. One reason the author didn't mention is longevity - I don't have to worry about .txt files becoming unreadable. As long as computers exist, they'll be able to read .txt files.
It's still controversial. For example, the photograph. If I was Whitehead, I'd take care to preserve the photo, making copies of it, etc. But that photo is the only one not preserved. The only evidence is that massively blurred smudge, which has to be very charitably interpreted as being a flying airplane.
Even if it is, I would suspect Whitehead would have flown it as he flew gliders - launching off the top of a hill and gliding down. That isn't really powered flight.
Nobody can prove Whitehead didn't fly, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that is simply lacking for Whitehead's flight. I also find it odd that he did not challenge the Wright's patents for wing warping, etc., if he did it first.
The Wrights didn't "tweak engines", they hired a machinist to build their own engine from scratch, being unable to find an existing one with the requisite power to weight ratio.
The Wrights also had a propeller design that was 90% efficient, compared with the flat design (used on the Langley machine) that was 50% efficient. This was also crucial, because it had the effect of nearly halving the required power.
Power, weight, and efficiency are all critical. There's no way to tell if Whitehead's design would have flown from a replica based on a photo, because those 3 factors cannot be derived from a photo.
The Wrights also did considerable wind tunnel research on air foils until they got the right shape of wing. The exhibit at the Smithsonian taught me a lot, of which I remember only vague bits. It went something like this.
In the 19th C, some airflow work led to a constant, having a value of N; the Wrights used that constant for years, and their craft would not fly.
Eventually, having made every adjustment they could think to make, they began to question some of the expert work upon which they relied.
In the end, they built their own wind tunnel, ran many of the classic 19th C. experiments, and discovered that errors had been made, and that the constant in question had an actual value of 2N (might even have been 10N, it's late, I'm lazy and on my way to bed).
Important work. They were extremely methodical....
Quite right. Consider also the design of the wings of the Wright Flyer. This was a design deduced from principles. The Whitehead design is copied from birds, indicating a lack of understanding how wings worked. Look at the size of Whitehead's wings. They're just too small, compared with that of the Flyer. The Wrights calculated the necessary wing size, and it was barely enough.
Do you believe those small and inefficiently shaped Whitehead wings would fly with the likely engine power he had? I don't. The replicas probably had far more powerful engines - you can make anything fly given enough power.
Maybe Whitehead's machine did fly - down a sufficiently steep hillside. I don't think that counts as flying under its own power, though.
The bit about making flying replicas is not solid evidence. There's very little evidence for the control system, the propeller design, and the engine, all of which are crucial. The replicas guessed at a lot with the help of aviation engineers who know all about how to make it work.
On the other hand, the Wright Flyer still exists, and exacting replicas have been made and flown, and their flight characteristics match the descriptions of the Wright's flights.
The rest of the evidence for Whitehead requires a lot of generous giving of benefit of the doubt as well.
I've always been skeptical that computers would make learning effortless. It's like expecting that driving a car would make one better at running marathons. Learning requires effort, one way or another, just like exercise.