Born on May 24, 1868, Charles E. Taylor grew into a career as a machinist. In the 1890s he settled in Ohio with his wife who had friends there. In 1901 two brothers who owned a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, decided they needed someone they could trust to run their shop as they went off on crazy adventures in North Carolina.
By 1903 the the Wright brothers had involved their “Foreman Machinist” in their experimental flying machine constructed of wood and fabric. They now required an engine that was light and yet had enough power to carry a man and their flying machine with a 40-foot wingspan.
In six weeks, using the bicycle shop’s lathe, drill press and grinder, Charles made an aluminum block engine that only weighed 180 pounds and produced 12 horsepower. He purchased what he could from what was around at the time. Magnetos and valves helped him along, but he mostly made do with what he had.
The brothers, Orville and Wilbur, went on to Kitty Hawk that December and made the first powered manned flights with their aeroplane and engine. Charles stayed home in Dayton to run the bicycle shop.
In 1904 the Wrights set up a flying field with a shed and a catapult for launching more aircraft. They assigned Taylor to manage the flying field.
Charles died in 1956 at the age of 88. He had several other major accomplishments during his life that continue to benefit aviation to this day — one being the duplication of the famous bicycle shop at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Henry Ford personally invited Charles to do this.
Due to health problems, Taylor had to retire in 1944 with no savings as he was never really financially secure. In 1948 Orville Wright passed away leaving an annuity for Taylor of $800 per month. Orville Wright died on Jan. 30 — the same day Charles would die eight years later.
Charles E. Taylor was the first aircraft mechanic. He was charged with fabricating, repairing and designing the first aircraft engine, as well as repairing the aeroplane alongside the Wrights numerous times.
Charles was the perfect, and stereotypical, example of the aircraft mechanic. A person interested in making a machine fly — safely and efficiently. No glory or recognition needed. Just stays in the shadow of the hangar, coming out occasionally to look up and hear the roar of the machine going by.
Charles Taylor’s birthday, May 24, is now recognized as Congressional National Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Day. In April 2008, Congress passed House Resolution 444. After more than 100 years of powered flight, Charles E. Taylor now has a day that recognizes his place in aviation history. It also recognizes the many AMTs that came after him and continue to work as the “Faces of Safety.”
Only three states have not recognized this day by their own legislatures nor has the Senate introduced the bill. Your help is greatly appreciated in getting this done.
Many AMT Day celebrations were planned at local airports. I know I will be attending one at Lunken Field in Cincinnati.
So, who is Charles E. Taylor? Please remember it this way: “The Wright brothers made the glider, but Charles Taylor made the glider an aeroplane.”
And remember to thank your mechanics. You really do count on them more than you sometimes realize.
Dale Forton is president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). Find out more about PAMA at PAMA.org
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