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Octave Chanute[ edit ] Chanute Field was named in honor of Octave Chanute — , a pioneer aeronautical engineer and experimenter, and friend and adviser to the Wright Brothers. In April , the United States was woefully weak in the air.
In comparison, France began the war with over 1, aircraft. The War Department immediately opened ground schools at eight colleges and established twenty-seven flying fields to train pilots. The War Department selected Rantoul because it was one of the few level sites in Illinois in close proximity to the Illinois Central Railroad and the ground school at the University of Illinois.
The village of Rantoul would also be a source for electricity and water. Building materiel began arriving on site on 25 May, and work began in earnest on 4 June. Benedict, arrived in late June, and on 4 July, the first airplanes arrived at the new facility.
Dunsworth arrived on 15 July and took command. He ordered flight training to begin on 17 July and Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" trainers were flying from dawn until dusk. On 20 August, the field was closed to visitors as they had become a distraction to the pilot training school. It had a maximum student capacity of In December, the last Aero Squadrons were demobilized and the airplanes flown out to other airfields. The base became a storage depot for OX-5 aircraft engines and paint, with a staff of about 30 personnel.
Thousands of officers and enlisted men were released, leaving only 10, men to fly and repair the planes and engines left over from the war. Hundreds of small flying fields closed, forcing consolidation of supply and aviation repair depots.
In November , the first talk of base closure occurred and in August , the recommendation was made in Washington to close Chanute Field. However, on 11 February Congress approved funding to buy Chanute Field.
The state of the facility, however, was less than optimal. The facility was constructed rapidly due to the pressing need to train pilots during World War I, and by , the facility was falling into disrepair.
The completion of Hangar 10 in represented the last major construction at Chanute until From to Chanute Field provided all technical training for the U. After several fires the Army Air Corps named Chanute as one of four bases to be rebuilt. Two additional hangars, theaters, numerous barracks and family housing units, a gymnasium, and a network of concrete runways were also added.
These projects were completed in , just months before Pearl Harbor. The Department of Basic Instruction, inaugurated in at Chanute, relocated to the new location. The department returned to Chanute, however, when Scott became a radio school in Four of the departments—mechanics, communications, photography, and armament—taught both officers and enlisted personnel.
The new command was responsible for the orientation, classification, basic, and technical training of enlisted men and the training of non-rated officers at officer candidate and officer training schools and in technical subjects like armament, engineering, communications, and photography. The headquarters of the new command moved from Chanute to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in These trainers were used to teach both Link trainer operators and maintenance technicians.
The Control Tower Operator Course at Chanute Field used a model airport and a full-scale mockup control tower shown above. Enlisted personnel learn how to pack parachutes at Chanute Field. The technical training mission remained, however a massive influx of new recruits and volunteers led to a critical housing shortage.
Many soldiers were housed temporarily in large tents. Along with the military at Chanute, the city of Rantoul mobilized during the war, with family opening their homes on holidays and aggressively participating in war bond and defense stamp drives. To help provide recreational opportunities for the large number of students at Chanute, local organizations such as the St. Helicopter pilot training remained at Chanute until 1 June when it transferred to Sheppard Field , Texas.
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Formed without pilots with the purpose of training the officer corps and ground support personnel, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was the first unit of what popularly became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Over enlisted men were trained at Chanute in aircraft ground support trades such as airplane mechanics, supply clerks, armorers, and weather forecasters.
This small number of enlisted men was to become the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee Field and Maxwell Field in Alabama — the famed Tuskegee Airmen. At this time, Chanute was also undergoing a major technological shift with the introduction and adoption of jet engines and the required technical curricula to support them.
One of the first generalized courses was airplane and engine mechanic, jet propulsion, which opened at Chanute on 17 September. By 1 January , the wing possessed 37 detachments: This unit, eventually grew to over detachments, was to become the nucleus of a new field training program at Air Force Bases worldwide.
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Effective 1 September , ATC discontinued the th Field Training Wing when ATC decided that there would be less duplication of effort if field training responsibilities were reassigned to the technical training centers.
In October , the student load had been 5, but by almost 12, students were at Chanute for critical training. Between late July and the end of October , the command brought on active duty about 20, reservists. Most of this work was done at Chanute. At that time, the training program covered 59 languages.
This program provided language instruction for USAF personnel. Beginning in the late s Chanute also trained thousands of allied airmen from Asia and the Middle East. The base invested heavily in quality-of-life programs, building new student dormitories and other support facilities. With the introduction of modular F engines used in the F and F aircraft, new Chanute training courses emerged to keep abreast of the changing equipment students would encounter in the field.
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The Jet Engine Branch received four J engines during to familiarize students with engines used in the T pilot trainer aircraft and the F-5 aggressor aircraft. The zones would be used to conduct short-field landings and air drops to help C pilots and navigators maintain proficiency.
Additional benefits of the landing zone included opportunities for training experiences for students during drop operations, and increased interface between the active force and the Air Reserve Forces. These training facilities were housed at a hangar located on the flight line. The end of the Cold War and the reduced threat of future conflicts prompted the government to downsize the armed forces.
Even before the base closed, Rantoul was hard at work on plans to convert Chanute "from swords to plowshares. Podagrosi and the late Major General Frank W. These leaders, working closely with Ray Boudreaux, the Director of Redevelopment on the base property, were responsible for attracting many large businesses to the base.