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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
University of Florida
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Interviewee: Carl Stengel, Jr.
Interviewer: Mike Rowland
Date of Interview: October 2, 2003
Interviewee: Carl Stengel, Jr.
Interviewer: Mike Rowland
Date: October 2, 2003
R: Today is October 2, 2003, and I'm in the home of Carl Stengel, Jr. My name is Michael
Rowland and we're going to do an oral history interview for the Samuel Proctor Oral
History Program at the University of Florida. Carl, if you would, let's start out by you
telling me about yourself. Where and when were you born?
S: I was born here in the city of Gainesville in 1932 at Alachua General Hospital. At that
time it was Alachua County Hospital. I lived here until I was about four years old, at
which time my mother and daddy divorced and my mother moved to Jacksonville and I
moved to Jacksonville with her. I was up there until my teenage years and came down to
visit my daddy just during the summer. I'd be down here with him in the summer [and
that] was about the only time. My high school years I spent in a military school in
Bamberg, South Carolina, Carlisle Military School. It's not there anymore; they've
moved it to Camden, South Carolina. Then when I graduated from school, I came back
down and went to work here at the airport with my daddy.
R: When did you graduate?
S: I graduated in 1951. I worked with him until February of 1952, at which time I went to
the Korean War in the Air Force.
R: And what did you do with the Air Force?
S: [I did] various jobs [with the Air Force]. I was a drill instructor for a while. When I went
to Korea I was a truck driver and a gunner on an A-26 [Douglas Invader; twin-engine
attack plane]. Then when I came back from Korea, I was stationed at MacDill [Air Force
Base, Tampa, Florida] until I got discharged, at which time I came back, 1956, and
worked for my daddy out there at Stengel Field. But in the meantime, while I was in
Korea, he sold the airport to Rowland Stewart. He had sold the airport to Rowland
Stewart and they had started building boats out there.
R: At Stengel Field?
S: At Stengel Field, yes. Of course they still had some of the airplanes and everything, but
my daddy was out of the airplane business at that time. He was in contracting, and I
worked with him as a contractor. I did that until November or December.
R: What year was that? November/December of what year?
S: [That was] 1956. Then I went to work for Fairchild over at St. Augustine. They were
overhauling A-26s to send to Brazil. I went to work for them and I worked for them until
Carl Stengel, Jr.
they lost the contract in 1957, about June or July of 1957. I left that and then I went to
Miami and went to work at a place down there called Air [Carrier Engine Serv]. I stayed
in Miami [from] 1957 until 1959. [In] 1959 I went to school [at] Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical School and graduated from there in April or May of 1960. I moved back to
Jacksonville and I worked at Aviation Services in Jacksonville until 1962, I think it was.
Then I went to work [at] the Naval Air Station as an engine mechanic in Jacksonville. [I
was] an engine test-cell mechanic at the Naval Air Station. I was there until 1966, at
which time I lost my head and quit and went back to Miami. I went back to work for [Air
International] building C-47s [Douglas Dakota, military version of DC-3]. They were
transforming C-47s into Magic Dragons for Vietnam. We were putting mini-guns in
them and everything and making gunships out of them. We took the old 1830 engines off
and putting R-2000s on, boosting the horsepower and all this kind of stuff. I stayed there
until 1967, at which time I quit them and went to work for a little aviation service, flying
school, down at Clewiston. They went belly up [out of business]. I left there [and] went
to Okeechobee to work for a crop-dusting service. I stayed at the crop dusting service
until 1973, I think it was. There again I got out of crop dusting and went to work for
family. I started farming. From 1973 to 1976, I farmed down in Immokalee. In 1976, I
moved back up to Lakeland and drove a dump truck for a while, then I went to work for
Piper Aircraft at Lakeland. I worked for Piper until 1982, [but] they went belly up when
the interest rates got so high when old Carter [U.S. President Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981]
got in and ran the interest rates up to 28-29 percent and the inflation was up around 10 or
15 percent and everything. Piper went belly up because they couldn't sell any airplanes.
We were building Cheyennes, a million-dollar airplane, and when you get fifteen or
twenty of them sitting out on the ramp that people can't afford to buy, it don't take long
to go [belly up]. But then I left there and went up to Warner Robins [Georgia] and went
to work at Robins Air Force Base. I stayed up there until 1995 and I retired in 1995.
R: What did you do at Robins?
S: I was a sheet-metal mechanic on F-15s (McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle, a twin-engine
jet fighter]. Of course, I did a lot of other things too, but that was my main job. And then
I left there and came back down here. When I retired I moved back to Gainesville [and]
I've been here living the good life ever since.
R: Tell me about your father. When and where was he born?
S: He was born in [Chippewa Falls], Wisconsin. I think it was [Chippewa Falls]. I'll have
to check with my wife there, but I'm pretty sure he was born in [Chippewa Falls],
Wisconsin, in 1905. This is what he tells me. When he was seven years old, during the
summer he would go to Canada and work on a farm. When he was seven years old he
hired out as a tractor mechanic.
Carl Stengel, Jr.
R: When he was seven years old?
S: When he was seven years old he went to work on a farm in Canada during the summer.
One of his responsibilities was to maintain tractors. They had mechanical tractors up
there [and] he would go up there during the summer. At that time he fell in love with
motorcycles, when he was about eight or ten years old. He got his first motorcycle when
he was, I think he said, eleven years old. He lived in [Chippewa Falls] with his family
during the winter, but when he was thirteen he left home. He got his motorcycle and rode
from Wisconsin down here to Florida.
R: Did he run away from home?
S: No, he just left to find his way in the world when he was thirteen years old. He went over
to Ormond Beach, Florida. He got to Ormond Beach and he hired on as a highway
patrolman. [He] was a motorcycle policeman there at Ormond Beach. This was when he
was thirteen, and he stayed there until he was fifteen or sixteen.
R: So he was a police officer when he was in his early teens?
S: Yeah. He said he lost every piece of hide [skin] on him at one time or another, getting
run off [highway] US 1 on that motorcycle [by] speeders. [In 1924], he left Ormond
Beach and was headed to California. Well he got as far as Gainesville and they had a
football game. The University of Florida was playing, I don't remember who it was, but
they had a football game. He had his motorcycle [and was] hired on with the Gainesville
Police Department to patrol the traffic at the football game. That's how he wound up
here in Gainesville. He liked it so much, and they hired him on as [a] full-time
motorcycle policeman, the first motorcycle policeman that the city of Gainesville had. In
fact, he introduced Gainesville to the motorcycle. He hired on and stayed here ever since.
R: How did he get into aviation?
S: [He learned to fly in 1919 at Ormond Beach at the age of 14]. He started flying in 1930
or 1931. He had a place out here. He was a motorcycle policeman at the time and he had
a little old farmhouse out here [at] what is now Gainesville Regional Airport. From what
he tells me, there was a barnstormer [who] came by in an airplane and was giving rides
around the city [for] two or three dollars, or whatever it was. Anyway, he wrecked his
airplane, and daddy bought the airplane and patched it up. He went in and fixed it [and]
patched it and everything, and [began to fly in Gainesville].
R: He taught himself?
Carl Stengel, Jr.
S: He taught himself how to fly. He'd get out there and run down this cow pasture with it.
It was an old Jenny [Curtiss biplane, popular as a barnstorming aircraft], I think. But
anyway, he taught himself how to fly. Then he said he got good enough after he had eight
or ten hours in there to get it on the ground and back without wrecking it. He thought he
was good then, so he started teaching other people how to fly.
R: When was that?
S: That was in the early 1930s. I don't know exactly what year; it was before I was born.
R: And eventually he left the police department to pursue aviation full time.
R: When was that?
S: He left the police department in 1937 and went to open Stengel Field full time. He stayed
out there on Waldo Road, where the airport is now, for a number of years, until about
1938 or 1939. When World War II started, the military came in and took over the airport
out there and made a B-25 [North American Mitchell twin-engine bombers] base out of
it. They went in and paved the runways. Well he moved over here on the other side of
town, over on Archer Road. He bought twenty or thirty acres over there and opened his
flying service over there on Archer Road; this was 1938 or 1939. He was teaching
University of Florida students how to fly, and then he got a contract with the Army to
teach Army pilots. All during World War II he taught Army pilots out here at Stengel
Field. He built it up.
R: When he first started Stengel Flying Service, it was located out where the Gainesville
Regional Airport is today, right?
R: Was the Flying Service only pilot training, or did he some other things going on?
S: I'm not really familiar with all that. I imagine he had other things going on. I know he
ran a chicken farm. He was selling chickens to the local hotel, him and, I think it was,
Strickland, who used to be on the police department with him.
R: The reason I ask that is because at some point he got into flying the mail.
S: Yeah, they did that as a publicity stunt, but that was from Stengel Field over here.
Carl Stengel, Jr.
R: Okay, so after the Army had come in during World War II and taken over the airport, he
moved down to Stengel Field, and then at that point he started flying some mail?
S: Right. He flew that mail out of here. Of course, he had big ideas about aviation. It was
his dream from the time he got into aviation to build a string of airports from here to
Chicago, where a man could get in an airplane and fly from here to Chicago and have a
place to land all along the way to refuel. At that time, you know, there were very few
airports. That was his dream, to get a string of airports built from here to Chicago.
R: Back during that time, there were also a couple of other small airports or airfields here in
Gainesville. There was Jarvis Field and Chambers Field. Do you know anything about
either of those?
S: I don't know anything about them. Now, during the war, he had a field up here at Starke.
He had an auxiliary field.
PS: [Mrs. Stengel] He was at Jarvis Field for a while.
S: Was that Jarvis Field at Starke?
PS: I don't know where it was, but he was at Jarvis Field.
S: Well, he had that anyway, that was one of his enterprises. But it was a secondary field for
the pilots from here to be able to fly cross-country, to go up there and shoot there takeoffs
and landings when they were too busy here. They had another field over at Green Cove
Springs. It was just a landing strip, really. Of course, they had an op[eration]s building
and all this, but it was just an auxiliary type field where they would do a cross-country
over to it, shoot take offs and landings, and come back. We had one down at Miami.
That airport is in no longer there, they built a big housing complex on what used to be the
little old airport down there. It was right in the middle of town.
R: Leading up to World War II, how would you summarize Carl's contributions to local
S: He promoted it and contributed quite a bit, like flying the airmail. That airmail service,
they flew the first air mail that was flown in the state of Florida, and he flew it from
Gainesville to Ocala, which was a big route back in those days, I guess. It's not much
today, but that was the first. He flew letters from here to Ocala and then back for the mail
service. [The reason] he set up the field out there was mainly to teach students at the
University of Florida, to run a flight school for the students that were going to the
university and were future officers and what have you in the Army. Then he got the
Carl Stengel, Jr.
contract with the Army to train pilots. I don't know if [at] that time they still took
university students or not, I wasn't here at that time. That was during my younger years
and, like I say, I was a kid. I wasn't too interested in anything that was going on except
what we were doing down at the local fishing hole at that time, what the football team
was doing, and stuff like that. I wasn't really into the running of the airport.
R: When the Army took over the airport, did your father ever talk about how he felt about
S: To him it was a great thing. Of course, people back then were more patriotic than they
are now. [When] the Army took his field over that was ideal for him, because he just
moved across town [and] opened up another one. At that time, it had already become the
R: Right, he was the first manager.
S: Right. It was the Gainesville Municipal Airport, which wasn't much of an airport, but he
had a hangar out there. He had a little restaurant. I think he built a few cabins that were
across the road; they're not there anymore. The intersection has changed at 39th Avenue
and Waldo Road. That used to be just an intersection, that's all it was, and he had a few
cabins for people [who] would come in the airport and need to stay overnight or
something. He had some cabins there to rent to them that he'd built. That was part of his
dream, to build a string of airports from here to Chicago [so] a man could get on an
airplane and fly [and] have a place to where he could go to Chicago without having to go
way out of the way. [For] early [aerial] navigation, they used to stick a light [out] every
ten miles. The FAA, well, at that time the CAA, came in and put up a string of lights
from one airport to the next; every ten miles they'd have a light on a pole to mark the
airway. You marked the airways from here to Jacksonville, from here to Tampa, or what
have you [by that method]. He was implemented in starting that, or that was one of his
ideas. How much implementation into actually starting it, I don't know, but that was one
of the ideas he had on this thing. He was going to have that string run all the way to
Chicago. He wanted to have that string of lights run like that, and an airport every 100
miles. He wanted an airport at least every 100 miles so a man could fly 100 miles, land,
[and] get his airplane refueled. Of course, back in those days, airplanes didn't have very
much range. [On] the early airplanes, the most range was 250-300 miles. It wasn't until
later on and during the war when they started building longer range airplanes and adding
more fuel. [It was then that they] got an airplane that would carry more fuel, and the
engines got more ephemeral too. [In] the early days, the engines might run ten hours
really good, and then they might not, or they might run 100 hours or 200 hours. But even
when I started in aviation back in the 1940s, when you got 400 or 500 hours on the
engine, you were really doing pretty good. Then they got to where the first time they ever
Carl Stengel, Jr.
got an engine to run 900 hours without an overhaul, that was great.
R: Let's go back to the Alachua Army Air Field for just a minute. You mentioned that it
was a B-25 base. Do you know what kinds of operations they had going on there?
S: Well it was a training base. They used B-25s; it was a transition from B-25s for
squadrons to go overseas. All the pilots would come here and they would go out there.
They had quite a big base out there.
R: Do you know how big? How many personnel? How many airplanes?
S: Now I don't know the number of airplanes that they had, but I know they had a full-size
[operation]. They had 2,000 or 3,000 people stationed out there.
R: Have you heard any stories over the years about the base?
S: I haven't heard anything about that base. I mean, I used to go out there.
R: During the war?
S: Well right after the war, not during the war. I was in military school, mostly, [and] I
wasn't here much of that time. But [I came down] after the war, when I would come
down [during] the summers. I learned how to fly in 1948. I turned sixteen and my daddy
taught me how to fly; that's when I got my license, in 1948. But we used to go out there
quite a bit. At that time, after the war was over and before they actually closed the base
down, it was quite a big operation. In fact, almost all that industrial park out there now is
what used to be the army base. Back during World War II, where all that industrial stuff
[is] now, was barracks, buildings, and what have you for support of the airfield.
R: Do you think the Air Force's presence there during WWII had any lasting affect on
Gainesville and the airport?
S: I would say it did, yeah.
S: Strictly because it's military. It's just like it does anywhere else, it gains in profit. Of
course, the university is Gainesville's big-drawing crowd, but that base was another big
moneymaker for Gainesville. It helped put Gainesville on the map.
R: Do you think it would have been good if the Army, and then later the Air Force, had
Carl Stengel, Jr.
S: I think it would have been a great deal if they had stayed. It would have been greater,
because after the war, aviation actually fell away in Gainesville. People lost interest in
[aviation]. You could buy airplanes for $1 or $2 a piece surplus, you know. Fact is, what
they wasn't given away [was really cheap]. If you couldn't get it for $1 or $2, they'd give
it to you. Then you had so many pilots that had learned how to fly during the war that
wanted to forget the war. You didn't have as much interest in aviation in those few years.
Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, there wasn't as much interest in aviation because
people had other things to do. And of course in 1951, the Korean War started, and
everything moved away from here to go to the Korean War. Then Gainesville didn't have
anything to offer. Stengel Field was just a little, everyday, learn-how-to-fly, hop-in-a-
bucket type of thing. We still had a lot of fun flying, I had fun flying, but there wasn't
much interest in aviation at that time.
R: Let's talk about Stengel Field. How big was the operation there?
S: Well at the peak of the operation, at the peak of the war, I think he had 600 students in a
class. There were about 600 students to a class. We had thirty-six or thirty-eight
instructors, plus [the] support personnel; I'm not sure how many that was. But we had
five hangers and 110 airplanes, I think it was.
R: Do you remember any names of folks who worked for your father?
S: I remember Doc Chittix and Phil Quigly. Phil didn't work for my daddy, he worked for
Curtiss Pitts. Curtiss Pitts came out there, I don't know exactly when it was, but I know
it was in the late 1940s. He ran the A&E School and crop duster service and what have
you. Phil Quigly went to work for him as a test pilot or whatever. He was quite a man in
aviation for awhile. Of course, you know Curtiss Pitts built Betty Skelton's first airplane,
the Little Stinker, and that was built up at Stengel Field. They built another one while I
was there for Carol Bailey, which was another Pitts Special. At'one time, they had
intended on building a whole bunch of airplanes out there, but then things happened. The
Korean War and a few other things came along, and I think their plans fell through,
[although] I don't know exactly what all it was. Like I said, daddy sold the airport. It had
gotten down to where it was losing money. It wasn't a money-making outfit anymore,
and aviation was on the downslide. My daddy went into construction. That was his
second great passion, to build buildings.
R: He left Gainesville at that point?
S: No, he stayed in Gainesville, but he left the aviation field and went into the construction
Carl Stengel, Jr.
field. Of course, he didn't do a whole lot of building here in town, but he did a lot of
construction projects out of Gainesville. He lived in Gainesville up until his death. He
stayed here. He moved his business over to Levy County, I think it was, or Dixie County.
R: Now Carl continued pilot training through the 1940s. Do you have any idea how many
people he trained over the years?
S: I heard a figure one time, but I'm not really sure what it was.
R: Do you know if there are any records or any books that might indicate that?
S: There are some records, and we've got some somewhere. I can look them up. I can get
you names and dates and all that kind of stuff out of stuff that she has on file in there. I'll
be glad to do it for you, [well I'll] let her do it because she knows where to look.
R: Do you remember any memorable stories about your father?
S: No. I can remember some [stories] of the airfield out there.
R: Can you share some with me?
S: Back during one of the summers that I was here, they had a hurricane run through.
R: Do you remember what summer that was?
S: Oh, boy, it was in the late 1940s. I don't know exactly which one. As I say, I was a
young man. Some airplane students had gone across country, and they had one that was
coming back in. The wind out at the airport had picked up with this hurricane. Now he's
flying a little Piper J-3 Cub [two seat, single engine plane that became the primary trainer
plane for the Civilian Pilot Training program during World War II]. I know you know
what a J-3 is, a Piper Cub. But the runway out there came right over the housing. Daddy
had a housing project across Archer Road from the airport right off the end of the runway,
which we lived in one of those houses. Curtiss Pitts lived in one, Bill Binkey had one,
and Herb Stengel had another one. They all lived across over there.
R: Who is Herb Stengel?
S: He's my cousin, one of my daddy's brother's boys, but he's dead now. He died here a
few years back-about two, three, [or] four years ago. Anyway, the wind was coming
Carl Stengel, Jr.
down the runway, and it must have been blowing right at hurricane strength. This boy
was coming in, and the landing speed on a Piper Cub is about forty miles an hour. He got
over these big oak trees. In fact, these oak trees are still there. Butler Plaza is where the
runway used to be now. Do you remember the old Lone Star Steakhouse that was out
there and that burned down last year? Just about where that Lone Star Steakhouse is is
about where Herb's house was, and the big old oak tree is still there. But this little ol' J-3
[was] coming in on the runway, got over that oak tree, and the wind was so strong it was
like he was a helicopter. He was suspended right over that oak tree. He was heading
toward the runway, but he wasn't going anywhere. He was just sitting there over that oak
tree blowing up and down. The wind would slack a little bit and he would move forward
a little bit, but then the wind would whip back up and it would stop him. It must have
took him, I guess, ten minutes to get to the runway from over that, just coming across the
road there. Well when he came out and hit the runway, of course, he had all the people
from the airport run out there to grab the airplane to keep it from blowing away. They
had to get it in, but he was landing full throttle almost, I guess. I mean, I'm just a kid
watching this. They got that guy in, but he was as white as a sheet.
R: Do you remember his name?
S: No, he was just a student. That was one of the things [I remember]. Another time, we
used to have a hangar club out there that was in the number two hangar. It was a little
nightclub and a restaurant. Mainly it was the field restaurant and nightclub, you know,
everybody to knock-off time went to have a beer and a sandwich or whatever. It was
right toward dark, in the 1950s, and we were sitting there. It was already about 6:00,
6:30, [or] 7:00 [PM] or something like that. It was just before full dark. We'd heard this
airplane buzzing around outside but didn't pay attention to it, you know, it was somebody
just coming in. We were sitting there having a hamburger and a beer and this guy came
in and wanted to know if the airport was open and who to get in touch with or whatever.
He said he was having a little trouble with his airplane. I said, well, what kind of trouble
are you having? He said, well, it's parked in a tree. Right in back of Herb's house, he'd
run into that big oak tree [we were talking about]. He had a Aeronica Coop, or something
like that; a little old Luscomb is what it was. He missed the runway and set her down in
that oak tree. Herb and them had been in the house, of course, it didn't hurt anybody, but
the engine went through the roof of Herb's kitchen. It busted in through the roof of the
kitchen [and] scared them to death. That was another thing when that boy set that
airplane [in the tree]. He was just as calm as anything saying, is anybody around the
airport? I'm having a little trouble with my airplane. [Laughing]
A man had a prize bull back on the other side of the field over there. He got loose
and got out on the airport one night and a man landed an airplane on top of him. Of
course, Daddy invited everybody to the barbeque. It tore the bull up pretty good. It tore
the airplane up too, but nobody was hurt in that. But we had a good barbeque out of it.
Carl Stengel, Jr.
There's numerous little old things like that that you can think back up on, it's just hard to
R: Well, if you think of any others before we finish up, let me know.
R: You said you learned to fly from your father. Did he teach you personally?
S: No, I had one of his instructors, Merle Lewis.
R: What was pilot training like?
S: When I took my pilot training, you still had to have sixty hours to get a license. It's been
quite a few years since I've seen the test, but when I got my private licence I took a ten-
question test, and it was yes or no answers, and it was all on their regulations. I [also]
took a flight test. In comparison to what you have to go through today to get a license, it
wasn't anything, [but] back then it was quite a bit. They taught you how to handle the
airplane. Of course, I was a little slower learner than most people. It took me twelve
hours to solo. Normally, the average person can solo in eight hours. Well, it took me
twelve hours to solo. You had to have forty hours of solo time [and twenty] hours of
instruction time, or something like that. Of course, you had to have one cross-country leg
that was a minimum of 100 miles to show that you could handle a cross-country flight.
[During] those ten questions, the examiner sat across the table from you. Doc Chittix
gave me my exam, and he was the designated flight examiner at that time.
R: Did he work for your father?
S: He worked for my dad, yeah.
R: He sat on one side of the bench and I sat on the other side. He had these ten questions
and he handed me a sheet of them. He says, now you answer these ten questions, and I
checked off yes or no. He sat right there and he looked at it, and he would grade it right
there in front of you, and you knew what you had right then. Well, then [for] your flight
test, the FAA sent a designated person from Jacksonville at that time. The FAA office in
Jacksonville sent the flight examiner down. Of course Doc had to give you a flight test
too. He'd give you a flight test and the cross-country. Pinky Nelson, at that time, was a
Jacksonville FAA man. He came down once a month and gave the test for the FAA.
Now you had to go through him to get your commercial license, but he gave you a flight
test. He came down for my flight test. Pinky came down, we got in, and he wanted to go
ahead to High Springs. At that time, there was a fishing hole back there that he had heard
Carl Stengel, Jr.
about, and he wanted to find out how to get to it. So that's what my flight test consisted
of, let's go and find us some roads that go into this pond. That's what we did for my
flight test. I found the best way for him to get from the airport over to that fishing pond,
and [then we] came back. Of course, I goofed up on my landing. The wind changed
while I was gone. I landed on the same runway I took off on, but I didn't notice until
after I was coming in that I had a tail wind coming in. I had a head-wind taking off, but it
was a tail-wind when I got back. But anyway, Pinky overlooked that. He said, you know
what you did wrong. [I knew], especially when I couldn't get it on the ground. The
airplane kept floating down the runway. I finally got her on the ground. He said, you
know what you did wrong? I said, well, yeah. He said, okay, as long as you knew. So I
got that. At that time, the commercial test to get your commercial license was the same
test that they gave in 1960. In 1948, when I got my license, the test that you took to get
your commercial license was the same test you had to take in 1960 to get a private
Then the commercial license [was] jacked up there and they had all new types of
navigation and all that. When I won my commercial license, the low-frequency radio was
what you had for navigation. You didn't have omni- ranges, you didn't have VORs,
[and] you didn't have all this stuff that they've got today. It's complicated now because
everything's computerized, but they didn't have any of this stuff back then. I mean, it
was strictly pilot teach back in those early days. Pilot teaching I
mean, you had to sit down and figure it out. When you went cross-country, you sat down
and figured out what the wind was and what your heading was going to be and
everything. You didn't get up there and tune the radio and follow a little ol' beam. I
mean, you could follow a beam, but it was a low-frequency beam. As long as you got a
steady hum in your ear, a ping [Stengel imitates the sound]-it would drive you crazy-you
were on course. If you got to one side you got a dot dash, and if you got to the other side
you got a dash dot, if you got off your beams. That was the navigation [system], that was
instrument flying back then. Well, nowadays, you've got a needle up there. It's all pulled
in, and as long as you center that needle and get the heading on that needle, you don't
have to know what the wind is or anything because the needle will always point to where
you want to go and it will keep you on track. If you get off track to one side, it'll show
you that you're off track. That was the difference in the tests. It was like I said, the test
that I took was a little ol' ten-question test. I don't even think they've got a test that
simple anymore. They've got what nowadays they call a recreational pilot's license,
which is for Ultralights [recreational plane that grew from the sport of hang gliding when
people started putting small engines on foot launched hang gliders]. When they first
came out with Ultralights, you didn't even need a pilot's license, but now you've got to
have a recreational license. I don't know why, it doesn't make you any safer. The
airplanes still don't fly but forty miles an hour.
[end of tape A: side 1]
Carl Stengel, Jr.
R: When they first came out with these Ultralights ten or twelve years ago, they were using
Rotax engines, which were lawnmower engines. You know, it might run ten hours, it
might run 100 hundred hours, or it might not run thirty minutes. They were using these
on these Ultralights. But they've got those engines certified now. These Rotax engines
that started out as lawnmower engines or go-cart engines, they're good airworthy engines
R: Do you have any other stories you can think of about your father, Stengel Field, or
aviation here in Gainesville in general?
S: Not other than Curtiss Pitts and the Pitts Special.
R: Did you ever know John Allison?
R: The Gainesville Regional Airport, at one time, was named for him. Now the terminal is
named for him. He was a WWII fighter pilot.
S: I heard of him, but I didn't know him.
R: Are there any other stories you can think of about Stengel Field?
S: Well, the only other one was when Pitts built the Little Stinker out there. They had a big
race plane they used to call Little Monster. It was a number six. It was a model plane, a
single-wing model plane, that they raced in the races a couple times. I used to always
think that when I grew up and got to be a pilot, that was what I was going to fly, that
Little Monster. That was my favorite airplane.
R: Did you get a chance to fly it?
S: I never did get a chance to fly it. It was actually a little tricky airplane from what Phil
Quigley used to tell, and I didn't have enough experience to fly the airplane. And of
course, they weren't going to turn me loose with anything; I wasn't nothing but a kid. As
far as I was concerned, I could fly anything that had wheels on it, but more practical
people knew better. So I guess they saved my life in a way, because I sure would have
R: When you were working for your father during the summers at Stengel Field, what kind
of work were you doing?
Carl Stengel, Jr.
S: [I was doing] general maintenance, just a field man. [I would] mow the grass [or] collect
the garbage. My main claim to fame back then was [that I was] a garbage collector.
Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays were garbage collection days. We had Stengel
Housing. See, we had thirty-eight or forty houses out there, plus a trailer park and all
that. At that time, everybody dumped their garbage in a fifty-five gallon drum that sat on
the corer. All the household garbage and everything was dumped in these big fifty-five
gallon drums. Three days a week I would take a dump truck, me and a helper, and we
would go around and we would dump all this garbage into the truck, take it over to the
dump, and dump it. I guess that was my main road to fame there, the Stengel Field
R: That was an important job. Do you have anything else you'd like to say.
S: I don't know of anything. I've probably got stuff that I can't think of. I think of stuff
every now and then that comes up, but there's nothing outstanding on any of it.
R: I appreciate it. Thank you for your time.
[end of interview]