• Rare Air

    Posted on June 2nd, 2012 John Dorcey 1 comment

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, a recognition award for pilots, in 2003. The award recognizes pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill, and expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 years or more. It’s an appropriate title as it was established in the centennial year after the Wright brothers accomplishment of controlled heavier than air flight. In the nearly 10 years since, 38 Wisconsin pilots have been presented the award.

    A similar award for aircraft mechanics, the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, was developed in 2008 to recognize the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. Since its inception, 22 Wisconsin mechanics have received the award. Charles Taylor was the Wright brothers’ mechanic and is often referred to as the third Wright brother.

    FAA rep Wes Hakari (left) presents award to Lee Perrizo

    It is rare when an aviator is recognized with both awards. Yesterday, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, that is exactly what happened when Lee F. Perrizo was presented with both the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Nearly 100 family, friends, and former co-workers joined Lee for the presentation at the Fond du Lac Skyport terminal. Michael Monroe and Wes Hakari, FAA representatives from the Milwaukee Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), made the formal award presentations. Jim Szajkovics, retired FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, shared humorous anecdotes of his interactions with Perrizo.

    Lee was his typical humble self in accepting the awards. He acknowledged the help and support of his wife, Cookie, their family, his employees, and customers. An ice cream social followed the presentation.


  • Blackhawk Technical College AMT Program – is it history?

    Posted on November 11th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), like many public institutions, is facing financial challenges. The school’s Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) program is being targeted for elimination. BTC President Tom Eckert says that eliminating the 62-year-old program will save the school district $367,000. Eckert claims, “While some graduates of the college’s aviation mechanics program get jobs in the district, many move elsewhere to work.” This reasoning seems even more bizzare when it is understood that many students in the program come from outside the district because of the school’s outstanding reputation. For many graduates it is simply a case of moving back home. It is hard to comprehend that graduates moving away to get a job is the reason for a program’s elimination. Surely many graduates of the school’s 60 other programs move away when they graduate or are offered jobs outside of the district.

    Eckert states that he has no choice but to eliminate the program since state funds have been reduced by 30% and levies are capped. But elimination of the AMT program will not solve the budget shortfall. The $367,000 savings pale in comparison to the $4 million increase in the school’s 2011 budget over 2010. More of President Eckert’s thoughts are included in this article.

    A grassroots effort to save the program is underway. Graduates and supporters of the school’s AMT program suggest an across the board cut impacting all programs rather than elimination of a single program. Letters should be addressed to members of the BTC board. The proposal to elminate the program will be presented to the school’s board for consideration at their November 16 meeting. The board will meet at the school’s Beloit campus Eclipse Center, corner of Henry Avenue and Riverside Street, Beloit, WI. The meeting begins at 6:30 PM.

    Many supporters of the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) and two of its inductees are BTC graduates. Nine of 17 scholarships presented by WAHF have gone to BTC students.

  • National AMT Day

    Posted on May 24th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    How did today come to be National Aircraft Maintenance Technician Day? It all began on June 15, 1901, when Charles Edward Taylor started working for the Wright brothers. Today, Taylor is unknown outside of the aviation industry and by many history buffs. In Dayton, during the early 1900s, Charles was the go-to guy for the Wrights.

    Charley moved his family to Dayton in 1896 and opened a machine shop in 1898. The Wrights brought jobs to him as they designed improvements to their bicycles. The relationship between the brothers and Charley grew. Three years later, the Wrights convinced Taylor to come to work for them. His salary was $18 a week.

    Taylor was hired to work in the bicycle shop primarily so the Wrights could concentrate on their glider experiments. Eventually, his responsibilities grew. Charley assisted the brothers in designing and building their wind tunnel. In his 1948 biography, My Story, Charley said, “We made a rectangular-shaped box with a fan at one end powered by the stationary gas engine they had built to drive the lathe, drill press, and band saw.” He added, “I ground down some old hacksaw blades for them to use in making balances for the tunnel.”

    Charles E. Taylor

    During the winter of 1902-1903, Taylor built the final piece needed for powered flight – an engine. Using only a lathe, a drill press, and assorted hand tools, Charley constructed a four-cylinder engine that produced 12 horsepower at 1,025 rpm. Using this engine, the Wrights were to become the first to fly in powered, sustained flight.

    Taylor assisted in developing Huffman Prairie into the country’s first airport beginning on April 24, 1904. While the brothers continued traveling the world selling the airplane, Charley maintained the facility. He could thus be called the world’s first airport manager.

    On September 17, 1908, at Fort Meyer, outside of Washington D.C., Orville was conducting demonstration flights. A propeller failure led to a crash injuring Orville and killing his passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge. Taylor combed through the wreckage discovering the accident’s cause – delamination of a propeller that lead to its failure and ultimately causing the crash. Taylor could now be called the first powered-aircraft accident investigator.

    Charles continued working for the Wrights until 1911, supervising work in their engine shop. He lamented, “Some of the personal feeling of the old days, when there were just the three of us, was gone. It was beginning to be big business.”

    Late in the summer of 1911, Calbraith Rodgers was offered Charles Taylor a job. Rodgers needed a mechanic to assist him in his attempt to win the prize offered by William Randolph Hearst for completing the first transcontinental flight. Charles agreed to serve as Rodgers’ mechanic. Charley was paid $10 per day and expenses. Rodgers completed the flight in his Wright EX aircraft with the dedicated help of Charles Taylor.

    Charles returned to Dayton and worked for the Wright-Martin Company until 1920. He then returned to California and things turned sour for Charles Taylor – his wife died, the depression forced closure of his business, and other investments failed. Henry Ford discovered Charley working at North American Aviation and lured him east once more. Ford wanted Taylor to help recreate the Wright brother’s bicycle shop in his museum outside of Detroit, Michigan. That project ended in 1941 and Taylor returned to California. Charley would suffer a massive heart attack in 1945, ending his working career. He died January 30, 1956 and is buried in the Portal of Folded Wings Mausoleum. A resting place dedicated to pioneer aviators.

    Charles Edward Taylor was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1965. The Wright brothers were inducted in the organization’s first inductee class in1962.

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began recognizing Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) in 1992. Award criteria are stringent, beginning with a 50-year tenure. Learn more about the FAA’s Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award in their Advisory Circular AC65-26.

    The FAA has awarded 1,549 aircraft mechanics the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award (as of May 12, 2011). Twenty of those 1,549 mechanics are from Wisconsin.

    Today is National AMT Day due to the tireless efforts of numerous supporters. California Representative Bob Filner (D-CA51) and 12 cosponsors introduced a bill creating National AMT Day on May 24, 2007. The date is significant in that it is the birthday of Charles Taylor. The US House of Representatives passed House Resolution HR 444 (110th Congress) on April 30, 2008. The resolution, summarized by the Congressional Research Service, reads:

    Supporting the goals and ideals of National Aviation Maintenance Technician Day, honoring the invaluable contributions of Charles Edward Taylor, regarded as the father of aviation maintenance, and recognizing the essential role of aviation maintenance technicians in ensuring the safety and security of civil and military aircraft.

    Happy birthday, Charley!