carl chub wheeler

Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Celebrates the Life of Carl “Chub” Wheeler

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum celebrated the life of aviation icon and museum Life Member Carl “Chub” Wheeler who passed away September 17 at the age of 103.   Family and friends of Mr. Wheeler gathered at historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport and spent much of Sunday afternoon visiting and sharing their favorite “Chub” stories.  The museum’s location is especially appropriate, since much of Wheeler’s early aviation activity was centered around the Curtiss-Wright hangars at what was then called Curtiss-Steinberg Airport.

Family and friends of Carl “Chub” Wheeler
gather near a DC-3 at the museum

Much of Wheeler’s aviation career is included in his biography submitted by the museum for his nomination and acceptance to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2014:

“Born in 1911, Chub has seen a century of aviation history unfold during his lifetime. As a young man, Chub was a frequent visitor at Curtiss Steinberg Airport, now known as St. Louis Downtown Airport. He was hired as a line boy, and then learned to fly in an OX-5 powered Curtis Robin, obtaining his pilot’s license in 1935. He purchased the Curtis Robin for $450, and then earned his flight instructor’s certificate.

“The flight instructor’s certificate was just a beginning for Chub. He and partner Bill Hart formed a flying school at Curtiss Steinberg airport and used the Curtis Robin to offer flying lessons. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program was created to train pilots in response to the impending war in Europe, Parks Air College became a training center. Chub became a flight instructor for Parks Air College first as a civilian, and then as a member of the Army Reserves flying PT-13s, PT-17s, PT-19s and PT-23s. He served at all four Parks Air College locations during the war, finally becoming responsible for the operation of their flight school at Cape Girardeau, MO.

“After the war, Chub returned to East St. Louis to become the airport manager at Curtiss-Steinberg airport during 1946 and 1947. He became a corporate pilot flying DC-3s and Beech D-18s for Monsanto Company, later moving on to fly for Peabody Coal and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When the Post-Dispatch transitioned to new equipment in the late 1950s, Chub retired from corporate flying and went to work for the Defense Mapping Agency, Aeronautical Chart and Information Service and finished his flying career with them.

“In retirement, Chub became a founding board member and tireless supporter of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum in Cahokia, Illinois. He has been a frequent speaker to museum and aviation groups, using his personal history and knowledge of aviation in our region to bring the past alive again.”

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum salutes Carl “Chub” Wheeler for a life well lived with these photos from our encounters over the last few years:

Flying the 1929 Ford Trimotor at St. Louis Downtown Airport, Sept. 2011
(Mark Nankivil photos)

100th Birthday, October 2011

Visit to Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum with Daughter Mary Kay, September 2015

Aviation Community Mourns Passing of Carl “Chub” Wheeler

The Midwest Aviation community mourns the passing of aviation icon Carl “Chub” Wheeler September 17 at the age of 103.  Chub began his flying career at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport, now St. Louis Downtown Airport, and received his pilot’s license in 1935. He became an instructor before and during World War II, airport manager and corporate pilot. He was a Life Member of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum that resides in historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at the airport, and 2014 inductee into the IL Aviation Hall of FameOur condolences go out to his family and our aviation family as well.   Below, “Chub” Wheeler with daughter, Mary Kay, September 13, 2015. 

 

 

 


Aviation Legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler Honored on 103rd Birthday at Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, recently hosted a 103rd birthday celebration Sunday for local aviation legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler.  Family and friends gathered to commemorate his life and an aviation career that spanned nearly 70 years.  Mark and Elaine Harter flew in their 1937 Waco YKS-7 cabin biplane especially for the occasion.  Mark Harter earned his tail-wheel endorsement from none other than “Chub” Wheeler himself in the 1980s.  Wheeler, a Founder and Life Member of the museum, took his first airplane ride in 1930 at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport (now called St. Louis Downtown Airport, where the museum is located) and soloed in a Curtiss Robin in 1935.  During his aviation career, “Chub” Wheeler instructed new flight students at Parks Air College during World War II, managed Curtiss-Steinberg Airport in 1946-1947, flew corporate DC-3s for several St. Louis businesses, and flew for the Defense Mapping Agency in the 1950s.  He continued to fly until the age of 92, and owned a number of aircraft.

The following biography was prepared by Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum President Mark Nankivil for “Chub” Wheeler’s successful nomination to the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013:
Carl “Chub” Elliott Wheeler
- Born October 1, 1911 in Murphysboro, IL
- Moved to East St. Louis, IL (Chub’s father was a railroad engineer with the M&O) after the 1925 Tri-State Tornado nearly destroyed all of Murphysboro, IL, killing 450 people there.
- In 1928, Parks Air College opens and construction of Curtiss-Steinberg Airport starts (full operations in 1930) in East St. Louis, IL (now Cahokia, IL)
 - On September 1, 1930, Chub takes his first airplane ride at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport.  A pilot named Giggs took Chub up for a 10 minute ride, reaching at one point an altitude of 2,000 feet in a Travel Air 2000, C9986.  Chub still has that ticket in his possession.
 - Once in high school, Chub would walk to Parks (3 miles from his home) and Curtiss Steinberg to see the aircraft and with frequent visits, came to be accepted at the airports and was able to freely roam the airports and hangars.  All the visits and time spent at the airports led to Chub being hired as a line boy at Curtiss-Steinberg, making $14/week servicing aircraft such as Union Electric’s Ford Trimotor.  His work there led to a friendship with Earl Hayden who in turn taught Chub to fly in Earl’s OX-5 powered Curtiss Robin (NC341K), soloing on September 2, 1935 and earning his pilot’s license on October 6, 1935 (Pilot Certificate #34908).  In his first year of flying, he had a total time of 81 hours.  Later, after taking a job at Mobil Oil, Chub saved enough money to buy the Curtiss Robin from Earl for $450.00.
- Chub earns his flight instructor’s certificate and teaches his first student, Roy Crouse, in an OX-5 powered Travel Air 2000, NC6085.
- Chub and partner Bill Hart set up a flying school at Curtiss-Steinberg and used the Curtiss Robin to offer flying lessons during weekends (while continuing to work at Mobil Oil during the week), putting 400 hours on the Robin before selling it in 1939 to purchase a Luscombe 8F.  In May, 1939, Chub had 555:15 hour total flying time, earned his ATP rating by 1940 and by May, 1941, had a total of 1,617:45 hours in his logbooks.
- In 1940, Chub and Bill Hart move their flying school to Lakeside Airport (near Collinsville, Illinois) when Parks Air College expanded its pilot training to Curtiss-Steinberg Airport as part of the expansion of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), which was created in response to the impending war in Europe.  Before long, Chub closed his flying school and went to work at Parks Air College as a flight instructor.  Over 37,000 cadets passed through the program at Parks operated facilities, including Curtiss-Steinberg, with 24,000 becoming commissioned pilots during the war.
- With the declaration of war after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Chub, as a civilian instructor, was drafted into the Army Reserves.  This was done by the military to keep the civilian instructors from leaving to join the Army Air Corps and going off to the war fronts.  Their assigned rank was one rank above the students they were instructing.  Post war, their inactive reserve status kept them from receiving any of the benefits provided to active duty military personnel.

-  Chub was a primary flight instructor throughout the war and served at all four of Parks Air College flight schools during the war, at the end of the war being responsible for operating the flight school at Cape Girardeau, MO. Aircraft types he flew for training were the PT-13, PT-17, PT-19 and PT-23.  Chub was flight leader for the “Thunderbolts” which was a demonstration team showing off the capabilities of the flight trainers being used at the time.

- After the war was over, Chub came back to East St. Louis to become the Airport Manager at Curtiss-Steinberg (later called Parks-Metropolitan) Airport during 1946 and 1947.
- Chub became a corporate pilot in 1948, first with the Monsanto Company flying Douglas DC-3s and Beech D-18s for the President of the Board of Directors.  After Monsanto downsized their staffing, Chub went to work for Peabody Coal flying DC-3s and later, worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch flying the DC-3 there as well.  When the Post-Dispatch transitioned to new equipment in the late ‘50s, Chub retired from corporate flying and went to work for the Defense Mapping Agency, Aeronautical Chart and Information Service, and finished his flying career with them.
- Chub flew until he gave up his medical at the age of 92, the last aircraft he personally owned being a 1946 Fairchild 24.  Total flying time in his career was over 15,000 hours.

- Aircraft Chub has owned include the Curtiss Robin, Fairchild 22, Travel Air J-5 Speedwing, BT-13s, PT-23, J-3 Cubs, Piper Pacer, Aeronca Champ, Aeronca 7AC, and his final aircraft, a 1946 Ranger powered Fairchild 24.

 - Associations: OX-5 Aviation Pioneers, Quiet Birdmen, Experimental Aircraft Association, Antique Airplane Association, Founding Board Member/Life Member for the St. Louis Aviation Museum (now the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum located at St. Louis-Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL)
- Awards & Recognition:  FAA Wright Brothers’ “Master Pilot Award” (2009), Experimental Aircraft Association’s “Timeless Voices of Aviation”, OX5 Aviation Pioneers 2012 “Legion of Merit” Award

Local Aviation Legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler Honored on 102nd Birthday

The Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, located in historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar 2 at St. Louis Downtown Airport, hosted a birthday celebration Sunday for local aviation legend Carl “Chub” Wheeler who recently turned 102 years old.  Family and friends gathered to commemorate his life and an aviation career that spanned nearly 70 years.  Wheeler, a Founder and Life Member of the museum, took his first airplane ride in 1930 at Curtiss-Steinberg Airport (now called St. Louis Downtown Airport, where the museum is located) and soloed in a Curtiss Robin in 1935.  During his aviation career, “Chub” Wheeler instructed new flight students at Parks Air College during World War II, managed Curtiss-Steinberg Airport in 1946-1947, flew corporate DC-3s for several St. Louis businesses, and flew for the Defense Mapping Agency in the 1950s.  He continued to fly until the age of 92, and owned a number of aircraft.
Museum staff welcomed Wheeler, his son Jim and Daughter Mary Kay Sunday morning, and they quickly became the center of attention.  They were delighted to find that a flight around the St. Louis area was being prepared for them.  Mark and Elaine Harter flew in their 1937 Waco YKS-7 cabin biplane especially for the occasion, and in no time all three were ready for takeoff.  Harter, who earned his tail-wheel endorsement from none other than “Chub” Wheeler himself in the 1980s, flew his special passengers along the riverfront and received permission for a few fly-bys near the museum.  Following the flight, all guests were treated to barbeque lunch, birthday cake, and a presentation of a special birthday gift to Wheeler.

For additional coverage of the event and a biography of “Chub” Wheeler, click here.