Papa Otto: His Life in Aviation
March 17, 2014
My grandfather, Papa Otto, took his first flight in 1945. It was then that aviation became his passion.
Otto joined the Air Corp at the Janesville, WI recruiting office on August 9, 1946. The Air Corp was a part of the Army at that time. During his service, it turned into the Air Force and became its own branch of the armed forces. He did basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. Then he was accepted into the flight training program where he learned to fly North American AT6s (Advanced Trainer) at Randolph Field. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1948.
He took additional flight training on the GI bill and aircraft engine mechanics at a vocational school in the summer of 1949. He received his commercial license through the Janesville Flying Service and took his first aviation job with the Casper Air Service in Casper, WY for $1.00 per hour. His duties were to haul passengers, do mechanic work, and clean toilets. He also dusted for grasshoppers with a DC3 twin engine cargo plane. During the Korean War, he served as a civilian mechanic at Hill Air Force Base in Ogdon, Utah. For eight months, he refurbished engines on B25s, A26s, and B29s. Using those skills, he became a mechanic for United Airlines. In August of 1952, he applied for a copilot position, which landed him a seat in United’s flight school in Denver. He flew DC3s out of Denver for United Airlines until 1954 when he went to work for a mining company. During that time, there was a big uranium boom, just like the Gold Rush in 1849. Otto did airborne radiometric surveys looking for uranium and found one of the largest deposits in the US. The mining companies went into decline in 1959, and he moved on in his career.
Since 1967, Otto has crop-dusted and prospected all over the country, from South Carolina to Wisconsin, New Mexico, and back to Colorado where he now lives. I never got to fly with him, but my mom did a lot when she was young. The stories she can tell! He retired from aviation at the age of 74, went on to write a book, and is currently working on an invention. His service to his country and extensive experience as a pilot leaves a different impression of the man I know as an amazing storyteller, tinkerer, and yodeler.
Midwest Genealogy Center