The man who built the engine for Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first powered aircraft has finally gotten his due.
It was Charles Taylor — a mechanic in the brothers’ Dayton bicycle shop — who built the engine for the airplane that first took flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on Dec. 17, 1903.
On Monday, a bronze bust of Taylor was unveiled at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
The self-taught mechanic hand-built the first airplane engine after a slew of automakers rejected the brothers’ request to build one.
The San Diego-based Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association raised $6,000 to have the bronze bust displayed at the museum, according to the Dayton Daily News.
“Charlie was a very humble person, never sought the limelight and over history, history kind of forgot the men and women behind the scenes who maintained the aircraft,” said Ken MacTiernan, founder of the Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association.
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, said his great grandson, Charles E. Taylor II, 49, of Chicago.
“Everybody knows that the Wright brothers did a lot with the invention of the first airplane,” Taylor said. “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.”
Taylor stood with Wrights in the early years of the brothers’ airplane company in Dayton, and their travels to the East Coast and Europe.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense