On May 24 we honor the men and women who have worked behind the scenes making and keeping aviation possible. It is Aviation Maintenance Technician Day.
We all know the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Kitty Hawk and the experiment of human flight.
How many of us know the name, Charles Edward Taylor? He came to work for the Wrights in 1902 when the research turned to powered flight. The automobile companies couldn’t supply an engine both light enough and powerful enough for flight.
Enter Taylor. A machinist by trade, with a metal lathe, drill press, and other hand tools, he built the 12-horsepower engine which propelled the Wright’s aeroplane 20 feet above the wind-swept North Carolina beach. The longest flight lasted 59 seconds for a distance of 852 feet. It took Taylor 6 weeks to build the engine and yet, history books rarely mention the man who helped make the historic December 17, 1903, flight possible.
Being on the cusp of the aeronautics industry, Taylor continued to design aircraft engines for the Wright brothers as well as teaching them to build their own. When the first airport was established (by the Wrights), he was named the airport manager.
The partnership continued when the Wright brothers were awarded a military contract for the first military plane with Taylor designing and building the engine.
Taylor’s adventures continued in 1911 when William Randolph Hearst offered up a cash award to the first pilot to fly across the United States in 30 days or less. Cal Rodgers, a young pilot, accepted the challenge and hired Charles Taylor as his mechanic.
Rodgers made it, landing and crashing from New York to Pasadena, with Taylor trailing along in a car.
Charles Taylor continued in the field of aviation maintenance for more than 60 years. Like Taylor, aviation maintenance technicians around the world work in the background, keeping civilian and military aircraft safe. On May 24th, we recognize their achievements and humble history.
My dad worked on both civilian and military aircraft. He was so proud when he got his certification. He and several other men in our family keep aviation among the clouds.
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Through the efforts of Richard Dilbeck, in 2001, the FAA created the prestigious Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award to honor AMTs, who had served at least 50 years in aircraft maintenance. The following year, California Senator Knight introduced a resolution honoring Aviation Maintenance Technicians annually in honor of Charles Taylor’s birthday.
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