Thorp Air Command -

Supporting Owners, Builders and Pilots of the Thorp T-18 and its variants.
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Tony Ginn
PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 2:38 pm 
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I learned today (via Ken Knowles to Howard & Elaine Ginn) that Col Donald Taylor (AF, Retired), the first person to fly a homebuilt (Thorp T-18) aircraft ‘Round the World, passed away peacefully on Dec 2, 2015 at the age of 97. His wife passed just a few years ago. Col Taylor enlisted in the Army Air Forces in December 1941 which began a long Air Force career.

Here’s Col Taylor’s Wikipedia link:
Donald P. Taylor (born October 1, 1918) is an American aviator, notable for being in the late summer and early fall of 1976 the first person in history to successfully fly a homebuilt aircraft around the world. From an early age, he'd resolved "I will build an airplane, and I will fly it round-the-world."His plane, Victoria '76 (named for the only one of Ferdinand Magellan's ships to complete her mission), a Lycoming-powered Thorp T-18 (N455DT) was fitted with improved communications and navigational equipment as well as a new fuel system after his initial 1973 round-the-world attempt had to be aborted due to bad weather between Japan and the Aleutian Islands. Taylor, who lived at the time in California, returned to his starting point of Oshkosh, Wisconsin a hero two months to the day after the 1976-08-01 start of his eastbound journey. The planning of this circumnavigation was especially complicated considering that both the Peoples Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were closed to U.S. general aviators at the time.

Taylor flew Victoria 76 to Australia and back in 1980. Taylor flew Victoria '76 to both the true North Pole and the Magnetic North Pole in 1984. Although the aircraft had a special heritage, he used "her" for routine transportation to-and-from his isolated ranch in the Southern California high semi-desert. In the early 1980s he had offered the T-18 to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. for display, but he was unable to obtain a firm agreement from them to display her to the public as he wished. Instead, Victoria '76 is now on display at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture museum in Oshkosh. His civilian flying awards include the FAA Distinguished Service Award (1977) and the NAA Harmon Internal Trophy (1984 Aviator) which was presented to him on March 20, 1989 by Vice President Dan Quayle.

Taylor retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel from the United States Air Force in 1962, having seen action during World War II in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. During the Korean War he was stationed in Alaska, servicing the newly created Distant Early Warning Line [DEW-Line] stations with air cargo and electronics expertise. In the Late 1950s he commanded an Air Training Command (ATC) Detachment that was responsible for teaching Thor Missile maintenance and operation to RAF personnel in central England.

Taylor has maintained an active involvement and interest in aviation. He was on a mission-control team supporting the round-the-world flight of the Rutan Voyager in December 1986.

The following is an excerpt from this link:

After Lt Col Donald P Taylor retired from the US Air Force in 1962, he began his quest to fly round-the-world. With the help of John Thorp, Lycoming, Sensenich and his wife, Lois, Don built his Thorp T-18 homebuilt aircraft. His first round-the-world flight attempt ended in 1973 when bad weather between Japan and the Aleutians helped him make the decision to abort his flight 4,000 miles short of his goal.

Don's second RTW flight began on August 1, 1976 from Wittman Field in Oshkosh WI. He flew his homebuilt round-the-world returning to Oshkosh on October 1, 1976 setting a new aviation milestone for a light-class homebuilt aircraft. Don Taylor's tenacity and courage carried him through his flight. His dream, "I will build an airplane, and I will fly it round-the-world," had come true.

Departed Oshkosh, WI 08/01/76
Burlington VT
Moncton, Canada
Goose Bay, Labrador
Narssarssuaq, Greenland
Keflavik, Iceland
Leeds-Bradford, England
Venice, Italy
Athens, Greece
Elazig, Turkey
Tehran, Iran
Zahedan, Iran
Karachi, Palistan
Ahmadabad, India
Nugpur, India
Calcutta, India
Bangkok, Thailand
Kula Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuching, Malaysia
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Zamboanga, Philippines
Davaq, Philippines
Yap Island
Truk Island
Ponape Island
Wake Island
Midway Island
Adak, AK
Cold Bay, AK
Anchorage, AK
Fairbanks, AK
White Horse, Canada
Fort Saint John, Canada
Edmonton, Canada
Minot, ND
Arrived Oshkosh, WI 10/01/76

Victoria 76 in EAA Museum.png
Victoria 76 in EAA Museum.png [ 68.3 KiB | Viewed 1811 times ]
Don Taylor flying Victoria 76.png
Don Taylor flying Victoria 76.png [ 76.11 KiB | Viewed 1811 times ]
PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 6:49 pm 
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That's very sad news. Don Taylor was a personal hero of mine as a kid. He arguably did more for the T-18 and the homebuilt aircraft movement than anyone else in the mid seventies/early eighties. When the newsletter was still in circulation he made an effort to send me a thank you note and comments on each issue. I still carry a spark plug tool around with me that he gave me after his North Pole flight. He was a great man!

Lee Walton
Houston, TX

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 24, 2015 2:17 am 
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I'm so sorry to read this news... Don and his accomplishments with his T-18 meant a lot to me also.

In 2002, Don sent a small "good luck piece" and a nice hand written letter to my friend Hal Stephens, who was the "spark-plug" and organizer of the Thorp fly-ins (a few of which I attended) in Placerville, CA. In 2008 Hal passed them on to me... and I was touched by his thoughtful note and generosity. I've got to believe that others probably received similar mementos from Don... it was a great honor for me and I will always be grateful for receiving them. Don's writing is a little hard to read, is on yellow tablet paper, and probably wouldn't copy well, but I'd like to copy his words for this forum -

"23 Aug 02

Dear Hal,

Thanks for info-invite & all to the T-18 Porterville gathering.
About that time in Sept. I've committed to my WW II (51st) Fighter Group reunion in TX. It is - or may be the last one, so I am going.

It seems we older guys are getting our "other wings" at much too fast a rate (than desired).
- Of my other "older groups", one has already folded & another is on the ropes -

Thanks again & please give my best to all our great gang!

The enclosed screw was carried by Victoria N455DT (T-18) to and over the Mag & True No Poles 30-31 July 1983 (Lat 90 deg N)
in a World Record Flight. & No it wasn't in the birds A/C structure. It was in a small wooden board that helped hold the Sperry
10NS-1020 Nav. set that guided me to & from the poles (this before GPS) - maybe someone would like for a good luck piece, etc?

Thanks again,

So, it's my good luck screw now.

When I served on the nominating committee for the Homebuilder's Hall of Fame for EAA National several years, I voted
several times for Don as one of my picks, but there wasn't enough support from the other members to make it happen then... I wish he could
have received that honor also, while he was alive - I think he deserved it, but there were quite a few individuals important to the homebuilding movement and EAA and it was always a hard decision. Blue skies for your "other wings" & Godspeed, Don.

John Evens
Arvada, Colorado

T-18 N71JE (sold)
Kitfox 7 SS N27JE

PostPosted: Thu Dec 24, 2015 5:17 am 
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I met Don Taylor in John Thorp's shop while I was building my T-18 in 1973. I have fun telling people I helped build his T-18 that he later flew to many records. Actually, all I did was hold the end of a 12' piece of aluminum while he stomped the shear! I later got to know him when he retired to Ajo, AZ and came to EAA meeting and gave a short talk on his round the world flight. The meeting was about 300 feet from my hangar and I invited him to go flying in a T-18, even offered to let him fly it by himself but he showed no interest at all. I thought it kind of strange but in any case he was a great man.
Steve Hawley

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