Melvin 'Mel' Christler
1918 - 2005
Mel spent more than 60 of years in aviation. A brief outline of his extensive aviation career follows.
Solo: March 2, 1937 in a J-2 Taylor Cub. Built time in an Eagle Rock. License #39,164 (Department of Air Commerce), Commercial 1939, Instructor 1941, ATR 1950, and FAA Flight Examiner 1971 to present.
Civilian Pilot Training in 1941 lasting 2 Yi years instructing at an USAAF flight school rising to Flight Commander.
In the spring of 1944, Mel entered the US Army Air Transport Command as a Flight Officer. He ferried B-17s, C-47s, and B-24s in the CONUS prior to going to India in the CBI theater flying C-109s (converted B-24s) ferrying fuel over the "Hump" to B-29 bases in China supporting the bombing of Japan. Mel completed 60 missions flying the heavily loaded tankers at 23,000 feet without fighter support for which he received the Air Metal with 3 oak leaf clusters.
In 1945, Mel returned to northern Wyoming and started the Big Hom Flying Service. In 1953, he became a partner in Christler and Avery Aviation. Both companies operated out Greybull, Wyoming and performed a wide variety of aviation service in agricultural application, fire fighting, instruction, maintenance, charter, etc. During this time, these operations were responsible for providing the first helicopter service in Wyoming as well as acquiring numerous aircraft for their operation such as Douglas B-18s, Northrop Delta, Beech C-45s, Consolidated PB4Y2s, North American B-25s, etc. All of which Mel had a type rating to fly.
In 1961, Mel started Christler Flying Service, which was based at Thermopolis, Wyoming. His primary client was the Empire Oil Company, he flew Beech Queen Airs and later the first corporate jet in Wyoming, a Jet Commander. During this time, Mel acquired a DC-3 which he converted into a combination tanker, sprayer, and/or smoke jumper platform. In 1970, Mel purchased five Lockheed Constellations for the purpose of conversion to agri-spraying. One of these aircraft was later found to have been Columbine 2, President Eisenhowers's aircraft! Mel and a partner restored that aircraft and it is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico-very airworthy and very much a part of Mel's life.
Mel served on the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission from 1962 to 1968.
Mel's instruction career spans his complete time in aviation. He has instructed more than 1,000 students, many whom have gone on to the airlines, military aviation and all facets of commercial aviation.
He died on Dec. 26, 2005.