The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force honored the first aviation mechanic, Charles E. Taylor, by unveiling a bronze bust of his likeness for permanent display during a ceremony in the museum’s Early Years Gallery July 21.
A brilliant, self-taught man, Taylor began working in the Wrights’ bicycle business in 1896, and played an important role in their flying experiments for several years. Unable to find a manufacturer who could build an engine to their specifications – weighing no more than 180 lbs. and delivering 8-9 horsepower – the Wright brothers turned to Taylor. In just six weeks Taylor designed and built the engine that made their pioneering powered flights possible.
According to museum director, retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, the Taylor bust is a fitting addition to the museum since the story of the Wright brothers cannot be fully told without him.
“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.”
The Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Association, or AMTA, a nonprofit organization created in 2002 to promote Taylor for his contributions to aviation, the U.S. and those who have followed in his footsteps, commissioned Dayton artist Virginia Hess to create the bust for the museum.
According AMTA 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 well 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 said. “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 in attendance at the ceremony included Taylor’s grandson, Reuben Taylor, and great-grandson, Charles Taylor II.
In addition to the bust at the museum, AMTA has commissioned other Charles E. Taylor busts at the following locations: San Diego Air & Space Museum; Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.; American Airlines maintenance facilities in Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla.; Alliance, Texas; Dallas-Fort Worth Airport; Le Mans Sarthe, France, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force, located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the service’s national institution for preserving and presenting the Air Force story from the beginning of military flight to today’s war on terrorism. It is free to the public and features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 17 acres of indoor exhibit space. About 1 million people visit the museum annually.