Charles Edward Taylor is recognized as the first aircraft maintenance technician and is best known for helping the Wright brothers achieve flight for the first time in 1903.
Charles, better known as Charlie, was born in Cerro Gordo, Ill. on May 24, 1868. He moved to Nebraska at a young age, where he dropped out of school to work as an errand boy for the Nebraska State Journal. He worked a few odd jobs here and there before meeting and marrying Henrietta Webbert.
The newlyweds decided to move to Henrietta’s hometown of Dayton, Ohio where Charlie opened up his own tool shop. It was through Henrietta’s family that he met Orville and Wilbur Wright. They owned a bicycle shop nearby and Henrietta’s uncle had been renting out the space to them. Upon meeting Charlie, they asked him to help make parts for their bicycles and eventually offered him a job starting at $18 a week.
Around this time, the Wright brothers began to experiment with gliders and made many trips to Kitty Hawk, N.C. After one trip in particular, they decided to call upon Charlie to build a wind tunnel to help gather more information to support their experiments. The wind tunnel was Charlie’s first direct experience with aviation and aeronautics.
A few years later, the Wright decided to build their own engine for their next project, a powered airplane. They assigned the task to Charlie, while they worked on building the airframe. Charlie constructed a 12-horsepower engine in only six weeks without any formal drawings, only sketches done by the Wrights or himself on pieces of paper.
On December 17, 1903, the Wright’s powered aircraft successfully lifted off the ground and flew 120 feet in 12 seconds, marking a crucial turning point in the world of aviation.
Oftentimes, the accomplishments of Charles E. Taylor were overlooked or overshadowed. While he was alive, he never really received the credit he deserved. The same is true for aviation maintenance technicians today. They work hard behind the scenes to provide safety for all passengers.
May 24th has been declared an official day of recognition for aviation maintenance technicians everywhere. This date is not only the birthdate of Charles E. Taylor, but also celebrates the work modern-day AMTs perform every day.