Picture of Gerard Arpey
Unsung Heroes

The name Charles Taylor may be unfamiliar to most of you, but to today’s highly skilled aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs), Taylor is both a legend and a patron saint. As mechanic to Orville and Wilbur Wright, Taylor designed and built the engine for the Wright Flyer, which, in 1903, became the first powered heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard.

Taylor was working at Wright Cycle Co., repairing bikes and minding the store, when the Wrights challenged him to build an engine to power their glider. To produce heavier-than-air flight, Taylor and the Wright brothers needed enough lift to overcome gravity, the control necessary to maintain a desired flight direction, and sufficient power to rise from the ground. They then needed to overcome drag in order to sustain flight. With the machinery in the bike shop — which included a band saw, a drill press, a lathe, a grinder, a stationary combustion engine, and a wind tunnel — Taylor constructed a four-cylinder piston engine that weighed 179 pounds and produced 12 horsepower, and he did it in six weeks.

Taylor continued to collaborate with the Wrights for many years. With neither fanfare nor precedent, he built and maintained the engines that changed the world. And while Taylor is sometimes called an unsung hero of aviation, in recent years, his contributions have been widely celebrated. States across the country have declared May 24 (Taylor’s birthday) AMT Day as a tribute to the first aviation mechanic and to those who follow in his footsteps today on flight lines and in hangars around the world.

Every year, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior AMTs. To be eligible for the award, an AMT must have 50 years’ experience in aviation maintenance as an accredited mechanic or repairman and have been an FAA-certificated mechanic or repairman for a minimum of 30 years. I am proud to say that many American Airlines AMTs have received this honor over the years.

Most people never get to see our highly skilled AMTs in action. Yet every year, millions of our customers put their lives in these AMTs’ hands with absolute trust. While the flying public has learned to treat the safety of air travel as a given, there is nothing routine about what’s required and nothing ordinary about the skill and pride of the men and women who make it happen. Our AMTs perform scheduled aircraft maintenance as required by the FAA, along with any repairs necessary. They inspect and work on a variety of areas, including engines, landing gear, brakes, tires, gauges, and more.

Our world-class maintenance capabilities are the backbone of our operation, and they are also the basis of a profitable new business. While many of our competitors are outsourcing more and more of their aircraft maintenance to third parties, we are moving in the opposite direction, providing a range of overhaul and line-maintenance services to a growing roster of aviation companies.

Today’s American Airlines AMTs have more experience and more sophisticated tools at their disposal than Charles Taylor had back in 1903. But, like all of us for whom this business is more of a calling than a career, they share Taylor’s passion for aviation and his determination to make it ever safer. You may not see them, but rest assured that you are in the front of their minds every day. And I know I speak for them when I say thank you for flying with us today. Have a great trip.

Signature of Gerard Arpey

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines