Aviation Icon, Dick Taylor, passes leaving a legacy second to none

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin


The passing of Dick Taylor should be mourned by all who are involved in aviation; for he was unusual, if not unique, in his mastery of all phases of our business— academic training, a pilot in WWII, an aircraft designer, a test pilot, a business executive, an able translator of airplane operations into effective regulations, a record-holding GA pilot, aviation honoree, a patron of aviation history and a great father/grandfather. Hopefully, there are other Dick Taylor’s out there who can emulate his exceptional achievements.

ACADEMIC TRAINING— Taylor’s resume begins with his graduation from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME). His alma mater later recognized him with a Doctor of Engineering.

World War II Flying— As with others of the greatest generation, Dick served in World War II as a US Army artillery spotter pilot in Europe.d22

DESIGN ENGINEER— Almost 70 years ago, Boeing hired him for the job of a design engineer.  Here he explored the details of what makes a great plane, a valuable lesson for the rest of his career.


TEST FLIGHT PILOT— He moved from the conceptual aspects of the business to the real world; Taylor became a flight test. His assignments included structural integrity demonstration and flight control development tests. As commercial airplane pilot, his log book includes time in the Boeing Stratocruiser and models B-47, B-50, C-97, B-52, KC-135, 707, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767 and 777.


BUSINESS EXECUTIVE— With that strong background, Taylor’s talent escalated and he quickly moved through these impressive titles:

  • Chief of Flight Test
  • Director of Engineering-Wichita Division,
  • Director of Engineering for the Model 737,
  • Vice-President/General Manager of Military Airplane Systems Division,
  • Vice President- Washington, D.C. office, special assistant to the President of Boeing Commercial Airplane Company,
  • Vice President/General Manager of the 707/727/737 Division,
  • Vice-President of Government Technical Liaison and
  • Vice President of Product Development-Renton Division.

The specific accomplishments in those positions are too numerous to mention.

REGULATORY TRANSLATOR—There are many aerospace executives who have a deep comprehension of the engineering, manufacturing, R&D, finances, marketing and administration of their business. One of the hallmarks of commercial in selling commercial aircraft is understanding the needs of the airlines. Dick was good at that, too. What was unusual is that he comprehended the work of the regulator as the authority which allows/prohibits the carrier to use the innovation introduced by the manufacturer. The regulator does not fully understand many aspects of the OEM’s business. It takes a special talent to be able to explain a new bit of engineering and its benefits to the FAA. Economics and even reduced pilot workload are not part of the FAA’s vocabulary. Dick understood how best to present the win/win terms of a Boeing innovation. This skill was largely responsible for the FAA approval of:

  • two-person flight crew for the 737, 757 and 767,
  • ETOPS; he is known as the father of this advancement and history shows that Taylor did the following basics:
    • five papers on ETOPS,
    • he was the ambassador for Boeing a achieving ETOPS capability for all modern twinjets.
    • His technical work helped to design the rigorous ETOPS maintenance and operations programs and
    • He met with the world’s CAAs to assure them of ETOPS safety.
  • Free Flight Implementation:
    • His RTCA Conference paper pointed the industry towards this innovative ATC program.

Convincing the FAA and other CAAs to adopt one of these advances would be a life goal for mere mortals; the successful implementation of three places Dick in the Regulatory Hall of Fame.

RECORD HOLDING GA Pilot— Taylor has set nine world speed records in his own Piper Aerostar that he continues to operate using the latest GPS, navigation, terrain avoidance and control systems.


AVIATION HONOREE— Many of the best in aviation, particularly those like Dick who worked in the tranches, do not receive proper recognition. The degree to which his abilities were acclaimed by all is shown by this list:

  • Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
  • Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots,
  • recipient of the Society’s James H. Doolittle award for excellence in technical management,
  • the FAA Distinguished Service Award in 1991, the highest honor conferred to individuals outside the agency,
  • the National Aeronautics Association awarded Taylor their Elder Statesman of Aviation Award, and
  • Aviation Week awarded him with the Philip J. Klass Lifetime Achievement Laureate Award.

All of those are impressive. The FAA Distinguished Service Award is significant in that his primary role was to increase the work load of that institution’s staff.

PATRON OF AVIATION HISTORY— It would be easy to rest on his laurels, but Dick was very active assuring that the work of his business was preserved; he held these two position from which he helped in that mission:

  • director for the Museum of Flight in Seattle and
  • director emeritus for the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh.

REMARKABLE HUMAN BEING— Pete Bunce, GAMA’s President and CEO, summed up this excellent character trait as follows:

“Even with all of these achievements, Dick’s proudest role was as a father and grandfather, where his passion for all things aviation has been passed on. On behalf of GAMA, I want to express our heartfelt condolences to the entire Taylor family, including Dick’s son, Steve, who served as GAMA’s Chairman in 2014. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all at this difficult time.”

A lengthy, praise-filled resume is proof of Dick’s important and lasting impact on aviation. A great man who did great things for our business.


ARTICLE: GAMA Mourns the Passing of Aviation Legend Dick Taylor

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Be the first to comment on "Aviation Icon, Dick Taylor, passes leaving a legacy second to none"

Leave a comment