Archive for March, 2010

Charles Taylor & The First Aircraft Engine

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Spring has finally sprung and it is time to dust off our motorcycles and go cruising.  To help kick off the season I invited a friend over for lunch to talk about cars and motorcycles.  The conversation turned to engines and naturally being a pilot I added a little about aircraft engines.  Soon I was on the topic of Charles Taylor and how he built the first aircraft engine for the Wright Bros.  I explained how Charles Taylor built this first aircraft engine with some very basic tools and how that engine not only met the Wright Bros requirements but it exceeded them.  Several years ago I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing one of his 1903 engines run.  The engine that I saw run was ALL original ran just fine – over 100 years old!

Here is a little piece from Centennial of Flight  in Charles Taylor’s own words about the first aircraft engine.

“We didn’t make any drawings. One of us would sketch out the part we were talking about on a piece of scratch paper, and I’d spike the sketch over my bench. It took me six weeks to make that engine. The only metal-working machines we had were a lathe and a drill press, run by belts from the stationary gas engine.

The crankshaft was made out of a block of machine steel 6 by 31 inches and 15/8 inch thick. I traced the outline on the slab, then drilled through with the drill press until I could knock out the surplus pieces with a hammer and chisel. Then I put it in the lathe and turned it down to size and smoothness.

The body of the first engine was of cast aluminum and was bored out on the lathe for independent cylinders. The pistons were cast iron, and these were turned down and grooved for piston rings.

The completed engine weighed 180 pounds and developed 12 horsepower at 1,025 revolutions per minute.

While I was doing all this work on the engine, Will and Orv were busy upstairs working on the airframe. They asked me to make the metal parts, such as the small fittings where the wooden struts joined the spars and the truss wires were attached. There weren’t any turnbuckles in the truss wires, so the fit had to be just so. It was so tight we had to force the struts into position.

The fuel system was simple. A one-gallon fuel tank was suspended from a wing strut, and the gasoline fed by gravity down a tube to the engine. The fuel valve was an ordinary gaslight pet cock. There was no carburetor as we know it today. The fuel was fed into a shallow chamber in the manifold. Raw gas blended with air in this chamber, which was next to the cylinders and heated up rather quickly, this helping to vaporize the mixture. The engine was started by priming each cylinder with a few drops of raw gas.

The ignition was the make-and-break type. No spark plugs. The spark was made by the opening and closing of two contact points inside the combustion chamber. These were operated by shafts and cams geared to the main camshaft. The ignition switch was an ordinary single-throw knife switch we bought at the hardware store. Dry batteries were used for starting the engine, and then we switched onto a magneto bought from the Dayton Electric Company. There was no battery on the plane.

Several lengths of speaking tube, such as you find in apartment houses, were used in the radiator.

The chains to drive the propeller shafts were specially made by the Indianapolis Chain Company, but the sprockets came ready-made. Roebling wire was used for the trusses.”

Click here for an article that Harry Kraemer published in Aviation Maintenance in December 2003.

Click here for some more reading on Charles Taylor from Aircraft Maintenance Technology.

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Shady Grove Exxon Lunch March 2010

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

The temperatures were mild – upper 50 to low 60 for our March 7 2010 cruise in lunch at Red Hot & Blue.  Everyone was thrilled to be out on such a nice day especially after the back to back blizzards we had a few weeks ago.  We all arrived around 12 noon and to our surprise there was about 10 cars on the cruise in lot – folks just hanging out outside talking cars!  

Inside the atmosphere was electrified with gear heads talking about their winter projects and showing pictures of the progress.  This is just the second year for our cruise in and it is rapidly growing.  We had to spend a little time rearranging the room to accommodate the large turn out (about 20 people).


The employees at Red Hot & Blue were prompt and very helpful.  To my knowledge there were no major mix-ups with our orders. And I believe we all had a great lunch!  Chuck gave a nice speech and next we had our “show and tell”.  We also discussed our plans for our cruise outs.  We’re planning to meet at our cruise in lot and drive to some local car shows and other gatherings.  Stay tuned for more information via Chuck’s emails.

Click here for a short slide show of the lunch

For the motorcycle riders click here for a slide show of some rare and unusual motorcycles

Kid Directs Traffic at NY’s JFK Airport

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating how a child was allowed to direct air traffic at the nation’s sixth-busiest airport – New York’s JFK International.

As CBS News Correspondent Kelly Wallace reports, the Feb. 17 incident involved a child on the radio to pilots of planes awaiting takeoff. The boy was allowed to make at least five transmissions to commercial jets.

In tapes obtained by CBS News, the boy is clearly heard:

Boy: AMX 403, Contact departures. Adios.

Pilot: Contact departures. Aeromexico 403. Adios.

An adult — reportedly a controller — made sure the pilots were in on the joke, Wallace says.

“That’s what you get guys when the kids are out of school!” the adult says on the tapes.

Another transmission from the tape:

Boy: Jet Blue 171 cleared for takeoff.

Pilot: Cleared for takeoff. Jet blue 171.

Boy: Jet Blue 171 — contact departures.

Pilot: Over to departures. Jet blue 171. Awesome job. (chuckle)

In a statement, the FAA says, “Pending … our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic. This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all faa employees.”

The FAA confirms to CBS News that the two employees who have been suspended are the controller who brought his son into the tower (the FAA confirms it is his voice on the recording) and the supervisor who “tolerated” the incident.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says, “We do not condone this type of behavior in any way. It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day in the advancement of aviation safety.”

Air control towers are highly secure areas, Wallace points out, and it’s still not clear how this could have been allowed.

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg says, “You’re dealing with two separate violations here: access to the tower itself, and access to radio frequencies. And you’re dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. … The bottom line here is any air traffic controller on the ground in that particular case who was handling departure control would be multi-tasking, talking to more than one pilot at the same time. In order for his son, or whoever the kid is, to make those radio calls, he had to relinquish control of the microphone and stop talking to those other pilots.

“You’re talking about multiple runways with both departure and approach, and one miscue can lead to disaster. The good news is, of course, if there is any good news out of this, is that this happened on the ground, and not at an air traffic control center, where you’re dealing with many more planes in the air in terms of aircraft separation.”

Usually, says Greenberg, “No one has an opportunity to talk on that microphone other than a licensed air traffic controller.

” … Ironically, this incident happens at a time when the air traffic controller staffing levels are at a 16-year low. This is one silly way to actually promote that incident.”

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99s Judge Newman

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Overlooking the Key Bridge and Potomac River from the Watergate this past Sunday in the lovely home of Vice-Chair Barb Rohde,

we were given the privilege of spending an afternoon with Pilot and Judge Pauline (“Polly”) Newman.  As so often when a group of 99s get-together, a wonderful atmosphere of unity emerges, that transcends space and time and lasts forever in our memories.  In this case, through the recollection of Polly’s aviation experiences, we became linked to 99s founding mother Ruth Nichols, to aviation in the 1940s and 1950s and to the incredible life story of yet another strong, independent, intelligent woman in aviation. Polly impressed us all with her soft-spoken, articulate description of her education and with her flying accomplishments.  Dr. and Judge Newman is remarkably well-educated with degrees from Vassar and Columbia, a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Yale, and a Law degree (L.L.B) from New York University. Of all the things her family told her she could not do—they never said she could not fly. And fly she did. She was swept up into the exciting time in aviation after WWII, and had the tremendous opportunity to be trained by the “hot” <err–savvy> veteran pilots looking for work in New Haven, Conn. Her primary training was by the best, and she received Airman’s certificate #3708. 

She worked for a few years as a Scientist at American Cyanamid Co, and some of her best adventures were her Sunday flights in a Piper cub, where she learned to do aerobatics as well as those that could be done in a Stearman.  Her most memorable aviation adventure during this time was a trip from the tip of Cape Cod across Buzzards Bay with passengers, where she encountered such incredibly strong head wind that she seemed suspended in space. In her head, she could hear the voices of her past instructors [“keep your eye on land/ground for perspective” and “know where the nearest airport is”].  She descended to ~6 ft off the water to get forward speed and prepared for an emergency landing into Newport. She was aware by then of the strong, wicked winds as she lined up for a wheel landing, but was perplexed and detoured by all the men on the field. Not knowing why they were there, and not wanting to hit them, she maneuvered for an adjacent grass field—only to have them run over to it. As she landed, she realized that they were there to hold the plane down, and that she had landed a J3 in winds gusting to 60 kt!

Polly flew with Ruth Nichols in the CAP, and both shared the ambition of becoming astronauts in the 1950s. (precocious, that is, as this would not become a reality for any American woman until 1983 and Sally Ride).  She offered a kind and thoughtful perspective on the life, accomplishments and tragedies of Ms Nichols.  Ruth Nichols participated in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby and was one of the original founding 99s, always wanted to push further and break records. She set numerous speed records including a transcontinental speed record (in 1930—beating Lindberg) and was one of the first women to fly jets.  In her later years, after 6-major accidents, she turned her efforts to humanitarian work with the CAP.

We all sat spellbound this past Sunday and were indeed fortunate to have Judge Newman as our guide.  For those of us who knew Fay Gilles Wells, or Dr. Linda Thompson (MD) who treated Bobbi Trout,  Polly gave us a grasp of the human link and continuity to our sisters-past in aviation that left us all with a new contextual reality of greater depth and appreciation for all that we share here and now.

Click here for a slide presentation of the event.

 Attendees: Barb Rohde, Pauline Newman, Laura Takacs, Linda Litwin, Debi Katzen Dreyfuss, Joyce Breiner Yaney, Roseanne DeLuca, Julia Reiners, Pauline Parent, Pat Manos Kraemer

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