Ken Molczan is the humblest of men, so when he was asked to appear front and center at the microphone following the Twin Commander University dinner last April, you knew it would be for something special. And indeed it was.
With Molczan at his side, Kevin McCullough, president and CEO of Aero Air, which has been an authorized Twin Commander Service Center since the mid-1950s, narrated a slide show tracing the history of a talented and accomplished technician who first started working with Aero Air nearly 45 years ago –– Ken Molczan.
Complied by Aero Air staff from photos taken over many years by many people, the slide show chronicled Molczan’s early days as a mechanic; the Experimental aircraft he designed, built, and flew; the innovative projects he conceived to boost the performance and reliability of Twin Commanders; and the remarkable sailboat he built in his garage.
When the slide show ended, McCullough and Twin Commander Aircraft President Matt Isley presented Molczan with a special plaque proclaiming him the recipient of the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award.
Named in honor of the first aviation mechanic to be involved with powered flight –– Taylor was the Wright brothers’ mechanic and is credited with designing and building the engine for the Wright Flyer –– the Charles Taylor Award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. To qualify you have to be a U.S. citizen and have worked in aviation maintenance for a minimum of 50 years, at least 30 of which have to have been spent working on N-registered aircraft maintained under FAA regulations.
Molczan’s plaque is titled “Fifty years of Dedicated Service in Aviation Safety” and reads, “In recognition of your contribution to building and maintaining the safest aviation system in the world through practicing and promoting safe aircraft maintenance for more than 50 consecutive years.”
Molczan spent four years in the Air Force as part of an RB47 maintenance crew. He also learned to fly at the base Aero Club. After the Air Force he worked at American Airlines, then went to Boeing where he fixed electrical issues on production 747s. In 1969 he began providing contract maintenance at Aero Air in Hillsboro, Oregon, and became a full-time employee in 1978. He earned his Commercial pilot’s certificate and multiengine rating after joining Aero Air.
Molczan was instrumental in developing several innovations for Twin Commanders including the Super Q Hartzell wide-chord prop modification; replacing sump-tank fuel pumps on the 690A/B with wheel well pumps for easier access; and the medevac door mod that allows the cabin door to open fully against the fuselage.
He is a charter member of the Honeywell TPE331 advisory board, and served as chairman of the Twin Commander Advisory Committee for many years.
In 1976 he began a project to design, build, and fly his own aircraft, and five years later declared it a success when he was awarded an airworthiness certificate. The airplane still resides in his home shop.
On New Years Day 1990 he began lofting plans for a 38-foot George Bueller-designed Wheel House Cutter. After digging a trench in the floor of his garage to lower the boat so he could work topside, salvaging mahogany from a helicopter shipping crate hand-hewn in Borneo to use for decking and the wheelhouse, fashioning a 31-foot mast and 9-foot bowsprit from a donated 100-foot-tall fir tree, and polishing rough-cast brass portholes for 13 years, Molczan launched Lotaryngia (Polish for Lorraine, his wife Wanda’s middle name).
Now semi-retired from Aero Air, Molczan and Wanda enjoy exploring the beautiful waters of the Northwest in their unique craft.
Molczan was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from Twin Commander Aircraft at the 2011 University.
Congratulations, Ken, on a wonderful and rewarding career in aviation, and for your many valuable contributions to the Twin Commander community.