Master Mechanics

Magazine department.

By Robert C. (Rico) Carty, FAA Flight Standards Service Acting Executive Director

Most pilots are familiar with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, which goes to pilots with a half-century flying record and no certificate revocations. No less important is the prestigious Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Named in honor of the first aviation mechanic in powered flight, the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. It is fitting that this award bears Mr. Taylor’s name because he served as the Wright Brothers’ mechanic.

The Wright Brothers hired Taylor to fix bicycles, but as Orville and Wilbur spent more time on their aeronautical pursuits, he increasingly ran the business. When it became clear that an off-the-shelf engine with the required power-to-weight ratio was not available for their first engine-driven Flyer, the Wrights turned to Taylor. He designed and built the aluminum-copper, water-cooled, four-cylinder aircraft engine in only six weeks, based partly on rough sketches provided by the Wrights. The Wrights needed an engine with at least eight horsepower (6.0 kW). The engine that Taylor built produced 12. The cast aluminum block and crankcase weighed 152 pounds (69 kg). He became a leading mechanic in the Wright Company after it was formed in 1909, and he worked for the Wright-Martin Company in Dayton, Ohio until 1920.

His one regret: as Taylor himself noted, “I always wanted to learn to fly, but I never did. The Wrights refused to teach me and tried to discourage the idea. They said they needed me in the shop and to service their machines, and if I learned to fly, I’d be gadding about the country and maybe become an exhibition pilot, and then they’d never see me again.”

A November 1903 letter from Orville Wright to Charles Taylor praising Taylor’s work and updating him on the Flyer’s status.

Recognizing Master Maintainers

Though he didn’t gain fame as an exhibition pilot, Taylor certainly has fame in the world of maintainers. Anyone who operates an aircraft, and especially anyone who owns an aircraft, will also appreciate how his work set the stage for this critical profession.

Since maintainers are the focus of this issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine, it is fitting to offer a reminder of what it takes for a mechanic to earn the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. To be eligible, the candidate must be a U.S. citizen who has worked consecutively or non-consecutively in an aviation maintenance career for a period of 50 years. He or she must have been an FAA-certificated mechanic or repairman working on N-registered aircraft maintained under the requirements of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations for at least 30 of the 50 total years required. The remaining 20 years may be accepted if that individual served as an aircraft mechanic/repairman in the U.S. military, worked as an uncertificated person in a U.S. aviation maintenance facility that maintained U.S.-registered aircraft, or worked as an uncertificated person in the U.S. aircraft manufacturing industry.

Congratulations to all who have earned this award! And, if you happen to know an aviation maintenance technician (AMT) who might be eligible, please encourage him or her to check the criteria here and apply. I enjoy giving awards, and I’ll be eager to see your favorite AMT on the next round.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
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FAA Safety Briefing

FAA Safety Briefing

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).