It’s remarkable how far aircraft engines progressed after Charlie Taylor did his magic at Kill Devil Hills. Taylor was the Wright Brothers’ engine guy and, by definition, the world’s first bona fide aircraft mechanic. It’s funnier still how simple light aircraft engines have remained over the intervening 118 years. The engines in most of our Cessnas, Beechcrafts and Pipers would be completely recognizable to Taylor in 1903.
The same cannot be said about large engines. Over the course of their time in development, around 10 or 20 years less than that of small engines, big powerplants have swapped technologies five or six times before settling, for the most part, on a formula that delivers ungodly amounts of power with unbelievable levels of reliability.
But it wasn’t always that way.