Any honest pilot is quick to point out that, no matter how competent he or she is, each successful flight is made in partnership with the mechanic who works on the airplane.  Some mechanics who helped make aviation history are easily searchable online: Charles E. Taylor was hired to manage the Wright Brothers’ bike shop and ended up designing and building the Flyer’s engine from scratch when no manufacturer could meet the brothers’ specifications. Ernest Eugene Tissot, Sr. prepped Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega when Earhart made the first flight – ever – from Honolulu, Hawaii to California in 1935.
     As airplanes became accepted as military weaponry, the “flight crew” concept was born.  During WWII, a U.S. Air Corps pilot had an average of 10 support personnel for his airplane with a crew chief – the head mechanic – leading the team.  The Tuskegee Airmen were no exception except for one thing – their flight crews were made up entirely of black men due to the U.S. Armed Services segregation practices of the time.  The names of many of these highly trained flight crew personnel are fading into history, but a few live on in the books written by and about the Airmen.
     Charlene E McGee Smith, Ph.D. wrote a biography about her father, Original Tuskegee Airman USAF Col (ret.) Charles E. McGee called Tuskegee Airman.  In it, there’s a paragraph that alludes to the unique relationship between the pilot and his mechanic. An excerpt: “Charles was assigned P-47D No. 280 and named his plane ‘Kitten.’  He chose the name for two reasons.  First, it was his nickname for [his wife] Frances and, second, it was also in honor of his mechanic, Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Wilson, who kept her engine purring.”
     This book and others are available at the CAF Red Tail Project’s online store.  We invite readers to shop early and often for the holiday season because every purchase helps support the Project.


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