Long ago, Charles Taylor did the Wright thing for a pair of brothers and now aviation enthusiasts have done the right thing for the man who built the engine for the first powered aircraft.
Taylor, a mechanic who worked in the Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop owned by Orville and Wilbur Wright, is credited with building the lightweight engine that powered the craft that took flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. If the Wright brothers get the credit for starting the aviation industry, Taylor is the man with a greasy wrench who made it all work.
On Monday, officials at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton unveiled a bronze bust of Taylor. In a post on the museum’s website, director Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson, praised Taylor.
“The importance of Charles Taylor's role in helping the Wright brothers achieve their dream of heavier-than-air powered flight should not be understated,” Hudson said. “His development of a lightweight engine for propulsion was critical, and Taylor's story of innovation serves as an inspiration -- especially for those pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Taylor was a self-taught mechanic who built the engine when no manufacturer could be found for the project. The engine had to weigh no more than 180 pounds and had to deliver eight to nine horsepower to get the craft into the air. It took Taylor just six weeks to design and built the engine.
Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Assn., a nonprofit organization, hails Taylor as the first aircraft technician. It commissioned Dayton artist Virginia Hess to create the bust for the museum.
According to association Director Ken MacTiernan, having a bust of Taylor on display at the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force will ensure that his contributions to aviation history are remembered.
“The National Museum of the U. S. Air Force was chosen because of the respect given to the museum by its visitors worldwide,” MacTiernan stated. “The quality of exhibits and displays is second to none, and having the museum as a place that Taylor can call 'home' just seems highly appropriate.”
Among those attending Monday’s ceremony was Taylor's grandson, Reuben Taylor, and great-grandson, Charles Taylor II.
Taylor had other firsts in history. He was the first airport manager, beginning at Dayton’s Huffman Prairie where the Wright brothers perfected controlled flight. And he was the first mechanic of a cross-country flight during a 49-day trek from New York to Los Angeles in 1911, his great-grandson said.
“Everybody knows that the Wright brothers did a lot with the invention of the first airplane,” Taylor, of Chicago, told the Associated Press. “But when it came to the propulsion, the engine, which was a significant part of that invention, their bicycle mechanic — the third cog in the wheel — was the one who provided that part of the invention.”
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