Of all of the characters (and many of them, being aviators, can be justifiably called that) in the story of Chet’s aviation career, probably the most interesting is J. Earl Steinhauer (1897-1995, right), sometimes referred to as the “Earl of Steinhauer.” An important figure in American aviation history, he was a faithful friend to Chet starting with the Washington Air Derby’s 1932 debut at Washington-Hoover Airport and for many years afterwards.
His obituary (from here) read as follows:
Earl was born June 30, 1897 in Shillington, PA, the son of George and Rose Steinhauer. He went West December 2, 1995 after a short illness. Earl was well known throughout the nation for his lifelong dedication to the advancement of aviation. After graduating from Lemoyne, PA High School in 1915, he worked for Casey Jones at Curtis Field, Long Island, NY as a mechanic. He purchased his first aircraft, an OX-5 Curtis Jenny in July 1923. He received Pilot License #237 from FAI (Federal Aeronautique International) signed by Orville Wright in 1926.
Earl was in charge of security and the fueling of the “Spirit of St. Louis” while at Roosevelt Field prior to and during Lindbergh’s take-off on his historic flight to Paris in 1927. In 1928, he received his US Pilot’s License #3784 and was manager of Hoover Field until 1930 when he took over the operation of College Park Airport, College Park, Maryland. While manager of College Park Airport he also was assistant official starter 1932 – 1936 and official starter 1937 – 1939 at the National Air Races and again in 1946 after WWII. In 1933 he was accredited with proposing that December 17 become “National Aviation Day.” In 1934 he won Washington Air Derby Association’s award for outstanding contribution of the year to the advancement of aviation. He also started the Motor Vehicle Inspection System for Washington, D.C. this same year. In 1938 he was named President of the Washington Air Derby Association. Earl was appointed assistant operation manager, Washington National Airport, in 1938 and operation manager in 1941. Earl resigned in 1944 to become assistant general manager of Fairchild Aircraft, Hagerstown, Maryland. He was named general manager in 1955 and held this position until his retirement in 1962. Earl was also a consultant to the New York Port Authority 1944 –1946.
Earl helped form the OX-5 Club in 1955. His membership number is 155. He was always a strong supporter of the QBs. The QB Beam published Earl’s “Ramblings” for over 20 years. These articles and many poems written by Earl – some about airplanes, others about everyday life – all reveal his ever-present sense of humor, his good fellowship and his respect of others. Earl was not interested in setting records for himself or becoming a hero. Earl helped set others records and helped others receive the accolades. Earl’s interest was for the safety of the event and the hope that it would advance aviation. All of us in aviation have benefited tremendously from his work – the selling of aviation during its formative years.
Earl is survived by his wife Alta, daughter Betty Toomey, step-daughter Sally Baker, step-son Tom Elberty, six grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and many, many friends. God bless you, Earl, we all will miss you.
Below: Earl and Ted Steinhauer relaxing at Chet’s “Cracker Box Manor” summer home, Spring Lake, Michigan, 1957.