Chuck Campbell, senior Pietenpol builder and fixture at the Barnwell Corvair Colleges, has passed from this life. In a world were many people succumb to pessimistic outlooks, Chuck would have none of it. He made really great progress on building his plane every year, and he got about 95% of it done before time caught up with him. His outlook was contagious, perhaps fueled by being a member of “the Greatest Generation”, he kept things in perspective. Things that derailed or slowed other builders half his age, we not serious issues to Chuck. In his youth, he had flown F-6F Hellcats into combat against the Empire of Japan, and maybe he understood what a really daunting challenge was.
A few days ago, Chucks son Joel, sent the note below:
I’m saddened to tell you that my dad developed some medical issues and is now at a Hospice House on his last “final approach”. We’re hoping that his final landing will be a soft one and know that he has many waiting for him in the “pilot’s lounge” to welcome him home.
What is especially hard is that he wasn’t able to see his Pietenpol project completed but I know he wouldn’t have traded the build process for anything. It gave him so much joy and kept his aging mind and body young far longer than some. Hopefully one day it will fly and he’ll surely smile down from Heaven as it lifts off.
If you’re so inclined, please pray for Blue Skys and Tailwinds for my dad.
Word came from the family yesterday that Chuck was gone. Although I has read Joel’s note a few days before, Chucks passing felt like something small but very important, broke inside me. I spent a lot of the day thinking about a handful of men of Chucks generation, men I was very fortunate to know, all of whom I will never speak to again, my own Father among them. They carried themselves with a humility and dignity, a direct reflection of their lives built on Meaning, having stood for important ideals. I know many good young people, but we will not see men quite like this ever again, and when our first hand memories of them are gone also, the world really will have lost something irreplaceable.
Above: 2014- Tim Hansen sent in this photo he calls Hero’s Engine Runs. It was taken of Chuck Campbell as he donned a leather hat and scarf for the first run of his engine. It was a magnificent moment. Chuck flew F6F Hellcats in WWII. He was over 90 years old, still in great shape and enjoyed learning and building.
Many people cheered Chuck on during his build, but he formed a special connection with Bob Dewenter and Keith Goff. Both of them earn special mention here as outstanding friends to Chuck.
I encourage builders to share their thoughts in the comments section, I’d like to show Chuck’s family we understood what a treasure he was.
12 Replies to “Chuck Campbell, 95, departs for blue sky.”
Oh he lived!!
How lucky he was to survive to old age and still have his mind, body and soul.
I was lucky to have my Dad until he was 93. My Dad was a WWII Vet and served in Alaska diring the War. He was in the Navy as a Aircraft Mech. He got his pilots license before I was born. I had the great honor of taking him flying several time during my flying days.
Another Hero I regret never having met.
RIP Chuck. I enjoyed your company and had a lot of fun going for a ride with you in the 601. I recall he questioned me why I didn’t go as low with him on board during high speed passes. He alluded that I was discriminating because of his age. ( I think he was 89 or 90 then) I promptly went around and did an extra low pass over the runway and the smile on his face was priceless!
I didn’t know him well but he sure seemed to be a fine young man when I met him at Corvair College. Here is a short question I had asked him as he awaited his engine run:
(Starts at 3:47)
Condolences to the family and friends … that warm smile will certainly be missed by many.
I often thought, “I can’t quit. Look at Chuck Campbell”, and his perseverance and joyful attitude would keep me going. Chuck was the consummate positive attitude. He will be missed. Fair winds and following seas, Chuck.
When I met Chuck at Barnwell, I was struck then by how genuine and positive he was, and remember thinking to myself that he was the most spry and energetic person I met, and could not believe he was over 90. Like Terry, I too added him to my mental list of people who show there are no excuses, either for not sticking with a build, or for ever being negative. He was a great guy and I hope his story continues to inspire others. Thank You Chuck, Blue Skies.
People like Chuck are inspiring as they draw from a spring larger than any one person. My parents didn’t make it as long as he did while they were part of his generation. The notion that we carry on and never give up was one of many life lessons they passed on. I suspect that was a big part of Chuck’s life as well. Faith, love and charity abound.
I’ve enough projects to keep me busy for at least another twenty years, so I cherish the memory of such people.
I need a few more days to digest Chucks passing before I can make a rational comment. I cant see this computer screen through my tears
Ginger & I had the pleasure of meeting Chuck at Barnwell. We were both amazed at his passion for aviation and life in general. He will be greatly missed. Our sincere condolences to his family & friends.
What an awesome inspiration he has been.
I grew up on the Texas coast surfing. We had a word, “stoke” — and that is what I see in Chuck’s picture. Stoke, pure and simple. Look at the incredible thrill on his face! I zoomed in on the picture just to get a better look. He has built his engine, it is running, and it’s as if I can hear the hoot of pure stoke he was obviously feeling in that moment!
My hope is to be like that all the way.
So, there I was at Corvair College 31 ready to help anyone who would accept it.
I remember specifically Keith Geoff, Terry Hand and Christopher Price being there.
We had all huddled around the same table Chuck Campbell was using and I had decided to hang out at this spot, just to help.
We did not know who Chuck was, and it made no matter. He just seemed to welcome our assistance.
Soon there was a train of individuals showing up asking Chuck questions like “are you the one who flew a fighter off an aircraft carrier during the war?”.
In a humble voice he admitted to being such a pilot.
More and more of this activity persisted over the next few hours while Keith, Terry, Christopher, Chuck and I wrenched over Chucks engine build all the time
with William stopping by to ensure we were doing it right!
Suddenly it was amazing to be in this 90 something year old man’s presence. Anyone who had met Chuck now for the first time could see and feel his extremely
During a break, I was able to steal a few minutes of Chucks time in a personal private conversation. I saw Chuck as the man who could easily be flying a P-51 Mustang
at 500+ MPH around the air pylons at the Reno Air races with his hair on fire shouting like a little kid “yahooooo”, woooohooo”.
But soon into our conversation I realized that this was not who Chuck was.
That day at Corvair College, I could never have asked Chuck for permission to enter HIS world, the world that once contained a very young man who
flew his Hellcat off an aircraft carrier into harms way to defend this nation’s and my family’s way of life.
It was so much easier to imagine him to be one who could be flying 500+ MPH in his very own P-51 Mustang in Reno.
I had formed a very incorrect picture of Chuck and during this conversation the correction came to me.
Rather, Chuck had shown up to Corvair College asking US to allow HIM to enter OUR Pietenpol world. THIS IS MY CONNECTION to Chuck. Why is this guy
who looked like he belonged in Reno with his hair on fire screaming YaaaaHooooo!!!! Wooooooo Hoooooo!!! at 500+ MPH wanting to enter MY world of the Pietenpol????
I think I might know part of the answer to this question but I would never ask him if I was correct purely out of respect.
But I do know that it is the source of the link that formed a bond between Chuck and me.
I would not ever have had the guts to ever ask such a man permission to enter his world, but he wanted to enter mine. The world of the Pietenpol.
I was lucky to enjoy Chuck’s company one summer afternoon at Broadhead during the Pietenpol gathering. Under a shade tree, we just talked.
Oh how I miss that irreplaceable day now. His daughter was there with her small white curly haired pup. My son Tim did his best to rub the fur off the back
of several dogs (including Grace’s scoob-ee) that day but nobody seemed to care about these dog’s furry misfortune as much as me.
I can count on 5 fingers (of course excluding family) the people who have passed from this world that I would give anything to resurrect.
A small number of people I miss very very deeply, and Chuck is one of them. Among the few is Fred Walker who would say any time of the day “EVENING!”
or Tim Rourig who would say “It doesn’t make you a bad person”. Of course there is P.F. Beck who would tell me “that’s OK”.
Death of a friend does NOT need to be a sad affair. Instead we must take or accept a small part of their soul and accept it into our own.
A day will not go by that I don’t tell someone I feel “fine as frog’s hair” (thanks Fred).
I know that whatever I do in good faith it will never “make me a bad person” (thanks Tim).
I desperately want now a piece of Chuck’s soul to attach to mine so that every day I can smile as he did and embrace the day
with his purely positive attitude and greet everyone I encounter like Chuck greeted all of us with his
HUGE smile and WARM authentic heart felt “Hello Friend”.
We have lost another great one. I was lucky enough to know and fly with WW Two aviators early in my Air Force and Airline flying career. Plus both my parents were veterans of that war, Mom in the Navy stateside and Dad a Purple Heart veteran of the war in Europe as a footsoldier. They were all great people and Chuck was one of the best. It was fun to get to know him a little bit at a couple of Corvair Colleges. I wish I could have known him better but count myself lucky to have known him at all.