17 JANUARY 1964, Page 18

SIR,—Major James Caldwell's comments on my article 'Did the Wright

Brothers Fly First?' (Spectator, December 20) recalled a remarkable meet- ing I had with the late James Watson who produced documentary and photographic evidence to support his claim that his brother, Preston Watson, had made full-scale powered flights in Scotland in 1903 before the flights of the Wright brothers. I was so impressed by this claim that I printed in Aeronautics, a technical paper I was then editing, the details and one of the photographs. They attracted a great deal of attention, and a number of historians, including Mr. Charles Gibbs-Smith, investigated the authenticity of the claim with the result—I hear, for James Watson never told me that he had withdrawn his claim—that priority was given to the Wrights. The point here is that Major Caldwell speaks of the first flying meet- ing in Scotland and we know of the work of J. W. Dunne in the early 1900s. It looks a little as if the early work on powered flight done by various experimenters in Scotland has been underestimated.

Your other correspondent, Mr. William Phillips, by the way seems to be unaware that the recent re- searches of M. R. Marchal, the French atomic engineer, show that Ader succeeded in making a short powered flight in his early, single-engined air- craft in 1890, seven years before the officially observed flight he mentions.