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Aviation expertise honored with two awards

Maria Carter
Posted 2/24/16

MIDDLEBURG – A Middleburg man has the legacy of the famed Wright Brothers looking down on his 50-year career in aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration honored Jim Naylor with both the …

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Aviation expertise honored with two awards


Posted

MIDDLEBURG – A Middleburg man has the legacy of the famed Wright Brothers looking down on his 50-year career in aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration honored Jim Naylor with both the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in a December ceremony in Orlando. The Wright Brothers had the first successful flight in history, and Charles Taylor was the mechanic who built the engine that helped them make history from Kitty Hawk, N.C.

“Basically all it amounts to is I lived 50 years as a mechanic and a pilot. I let a lot of students try to kill me but I survived,” Naylor said, downplaying the prestige of the awards.

The purpose of the awards is to recognize individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years in the aviation profession.

“There’s no truth to the rumor that I was handing Charles Taylor the wrenches while he was working on it either,” Jim joked.

Naylor is a retired Navy Lieutenant and a Designated Mechanic Examiner for the FAA.

“Ever since I was a youngster I wanted to fly,” he said.

He joined the U.S. Navy and was able to pay for an hour of flying lessons per month, eventually meeting the 40-hour minimum to get a pilot’s license.

“I couldn’t afford to buy an airplane and pay to have someone work on it, so I thought I’d go for my mechanic license,” he said.

And he became more serious about getting his mechanic license after experiencing his first engine failure with his wife.

“He was going through all the emergency procedures and I looked at him and said, ‘I know you can do this, honey,’” said Wilma Naylor.

After retiring from the Navy after 22 years, he became a flight instructor in Albany, Ga. and later in Jacksonville.

He is also an adjunct professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville where he teaches students in the aviation maintenance school to become mechanics.

He has owned several airplanes, but his favorite aircraft is the Mooney M20, a high-performing, four-place, single-engine, piston-powered aircraft.

“It goes really fast and doesn’t use a lot of gas,” he said.

Only about 2,200 people have been awarded the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, and about 3,500 have ever received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. Naylor was regarded as one of the “elite few” who have earned both awards at his ceremony in December, the highest honors the FAA can present to a pilot or mechanic.

Married for 53 years, the Naylors have lived in Clay County for 41 years. They have two children and five grandchildren.

Aside from flying and building and repairing planes, the two are also involved in the Jacksonville Woodworker’s Club and actively participate in the club’s philanthropic efforts.

Although he didn’t want to be in the limelight, Naylor said he was truly honored to receive the awards.

“During the ceremony you were emotional, you could only say ‘thank you for coming,’” said his wife Wilma Naylor.

“I didn’t intend to say anything else,” Jim Naylor replied.

“I’m just so proud of him,” she said, smiling at her husband.