Chanute Air Force Base

Chanute Air Force Base
Chanute Air Force Base


Part of Air Training Command (ATC)
Located in Rantoul, Illinois
Chanute AFB-12apr1998.jpg
Chanute AFB, 12 April 1998
Type Air Force Base
Coordinates 40°17′40″N 088°08′35″W / 40.29444°N 88.14306°W / 40.29444; -88.14306
Built 1917
In use 1917-1993
Controlled by United States Air Force
Garrison 3345th Air Base Group, (1948 - 1993)

Chanute Air Force Base (1917–1993) is a former United States Air Force base located south of and adjacent to Rantoul, Illinois, about 130 miles (210 km) south of Chicago. Its primary mission throughout its existence was Air Force technical training.

Prior to its closing by BRAC in 1993, Chanute was one of the oldest facilities in the United States Air Force. Chanute Field was established on 21 May 1917, being one of the initial World War I Army Air Service installations.[1]

The base has subsequently been identified by the EPA as a toxic waste Superfund site, with the discovery of asbestos, dioxins, furans, and other carcinogenic substances at hidden dumping grounds around the facility [2] [3].


Current status

Many of the Air Force base's buildings and facilities have found new life, with purposes that range from motels, retirement communities, restaurants, a fitness center, an aerospace museum, a prominent data center and several light manufacturing facilities.[citation needed] The golf course, once only available to service members and their guests, is now one of the most popular in east-central Illinois.[citation needed] The housing on base, once homes for airmen with families, are now occupied by civilians.[citation needed] Even so, many buildings remain unoccupied, and they are slowly falling apart due to lack of maintenance. Widespread use of asbestos and discovery of toxic chemical dumps have forced the condemnation of certain parts of the base.

Parts of Chanute AFB has been converted into civilian use, including the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, an airport (Rantoul National Aviation Center) and a 6-month military boot camp academy for youths ages 16–18. This program is called Lincoln's Challenge Academy.


Chanute Air Force Base is located in Illinois
Location of Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois

Chanute AFB was named in honor of Octave Chanute (1832–1910), a pioneer aeronautical engineer and experimenter, and friend and adviser to the Wright Brothers. Chanute's biplane glider (1896) with "two arched wings held rigidly together by vertical struts and diagonal wire bracing" (the principle of the Pratt truss used in the railroad bridges which Chanute constructed) served as a prototype design for airplanes.

Major Commands

Redesignated: Director of Air Service
Redesignated: U.S. Army Air Service, 24 May 1918
Redesignated: U.S. Army Air Corps, 2 July 1926
  • General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force, 1 March 1935
  • Army Air Corps Technical Training Comd, 26 March 1941
Redesignated: AAF Flying Training Comd, 7 July 1943
Redesignated: AAF Training Command, 31 July 1943

Base operating units

  • 10th Aero Sq, 7 July 1917 - 18 April 1921
  • Army Air Corps Technical School, 18 April 1921 - 1 August 1933
  • 98th School Sq, 1 August 1933 - 1 September 1936
  • 10th Air Base Sq (Special), 1 September 1936 - 17 February 1941
  • 9th Air Base Sq (Special), 17 February 1941 - 1 May 1944
  • 3502d AAF Base Unit (Technical School), 1 May 1944 - 26 August 1948
  • 3345th Air Base Gp, 26 August 1948 - 1993
  • 3496th Air Training Command Headquarters 1950 - 1958
  • Naval Technical Training Unit Chanute UNK - 1 December 1992

Tenant operating units

  • 2865th Ground Electronic Engineering-Installation Agency (GEEIA) Sq (AFLC) 1956 - 1970


Chanute Air Force Base Hangar Number 1.

In May 1917, Rantoul was chosen to be the site of Rantoul Aviation Field, however on 6 June 1917 the name was changed to Chanute Field. Rantoul was selected due to its proximity to the Illinois Central Railroad and the War Department’s ground school housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During World War I, Chanute was a pilot training school for the Army Air Service. With the end of the war, the facility was closed in January 1919 and used as a storage depot for surplus war material.

In February 1921 Chanute Field was reopened as a technical training center for the Air Service with various types of training being transferred from Kelly Field, Texas, to Chanute. Nine steel hangars were constructed to serve as classrooms by 1924. However, diminishing funds to the Air Service resulted in a sharp decline in the number of students and the use of the airfield during the Great Depression of the early 1930s.

World War II and ties to Tuskegee Airmen

Chanute Air Force Base Headquarters and Administrative Building.

United States Army Air Service Technical Training Command was established at Chanute in 1941, and during World War II, thousands of airmen were stationed there to train new recruits who cycled in and out.

On March 19, 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron ("Pursuit" being an early World War II synonym for "Fighter") was activated at Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois. Over 250 enlisted men were trained at Chanute in aircraft ground support trades. This small number of enlisted men was to become the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee and Maxwell Fields in Alabama — the famed Tuskegee Airmen.


After World War II, with the formation of the Air Force, Chanute Field was renamed Chanute Air Force Base. It served as a major training facility for Air Force aircraft maintenance officers; Air Force, Army, and Navy meteorology; and enlisted technical training for Air Force aircraft maintenance, flight simulator maintenance, fuel system maintenance and ICBM missile maintenance.

Chanute AFB contained training ICBM Launch Facility "silos" for the Minuteman ICBM maintenance personnel. These training facilities were housed at a hangar located on the flight line. After the deactivation of Chanute AFB, ICBM maintenance training was transferred to Vandenberg AFB.

An Air Force Technical Training Instructors Course was conducted as well. Additionally, Chanute AFB was the site for training firefighters, life support specialists (ejection seat, aircrew survival equipment,aerospace ground equipment, etc.), welders, non-destructive inspection (of materials), airframe repair and most of vehicle maintenance (general purpose, special purpose, fire truck maintenance, materiel handling equipment maintenance) technical schools.


The base was recommended for closure in 1988 and officially closed in 1993. Despite short-term blows to the local economy in the years leading up to and immediately after closing, in many ways, the transition of Chanute Air Force Base from military to civilian use has been successful.[citation needed] There are several condemned areas that are environmental safety issues including an area in the southeast corner of the base, Heritage Lake, which was a dumping ground, and numerous buildings containing asbestos.[4]

In 2000 the base was designated by the EPA as a Priority SuperFund site, following excavation of test pits which identified volatile organic compounds, SVOCs, dioxins and furans, pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls, and metals detected in the soil, ground water, and leachate in landfills there (see: National Priorities List, US Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Register Notice: December 1, 2000. Available at:

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Botner, John K.,, pictures of the base as it stand now.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History
  1. ^ World War I Group, Historical Division, Special Staff, United States Army, Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War (1917–1919)
  2. ^ Kacich, Tom. Air Force done with asbestos cleanup on ex-base pipes. Urbana/Champaign News-Gazette, May 15, 2009
  3. ^ National Priorities List, US Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Register Notice: December 1, 2000. Available at:
  4. ^ National Priorities List, US Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Register Notice: December 1, 2000. Available at:

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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