Charles E. Taylor made significant contributions to aviation by designing and building the engine that powered the first Wright Flyer. An Illinois native born in 1868, like many men of that era Taylor left school early to make his way in the world. Skilled with his hands, he began working in the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop as a repairman in 1901.
Taylor’s hire proved quite fortuitous. First, with Charlie repairing bicycles it freed up time for Orville and Wilbur to experiment with their gliders and when needed make the long trips to Kitty Hawk, NC. But that was only the beginning. The Wrights recognized the need for a wind tunnel to refine their calculations and glider designs. Taylor built that first wind tunnel. And, when the challenge arose to build a lightweight engine capable of producing enough power for the Wright Flyer, Charlie Taylor embraced it.
Taylor surmised it had to be aluminum. With little knowledge of the properties and mechanical principles of a gasoline engine, Charlie Taylor came up with an engine that met the weight requirements, and exceeded the horsepower needs. He built an engine that weighed 152 pounds, producing 12 horsepower, all in only six weeks.
Just like the wind tunnel, nothing of its kind had ever been made before. It just goes to show when you have the “Wright” people at your side to help achieve your vision, you can be first!