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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Rheinstrom, CR-292800-80, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.


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C.A. Rheinstrom, Date Unknown (Source: NASM)
C.A. Rheinstrom, Date Unknown (Source: NASM)

Charles Rheinstrom visited Tucson once, on a day between January 13 and January 23, 1934. He entered neither dates of his arrival or departure, nor the make, model or registration number of his airplane. He did cite his home base as Ft. Worth, TX, but he could have meant that Ft. Worth was the place he arrived from. He carried one passenger, M. Lyles. He noted in the remarks column of the Register, "American Airways."

Rheinstrom was born January 10, 1902 in Philadelphia, PA. The 1910 U.S. Census, his first, placed him at age 8, living in Rockport, OH with his father, a traveling salesman, his mother, older sister and younger brother.

Right, from his NASM biographical file (cited, left sidebar) is an undated (probably ca. 1930s) portrait of Rheinstrom. He attended the University of Minnesota, studying engineering, 1920-23.

The 1920 Census records him at age 17 living with his parents and siblings in Sioux City, IA. His father was now employed as a manager of a tire company. His father's mother, age 71, also lived with the family. Interestingly, her mother was born in Germany, making Rheinstrom a 3rd generation immigrant.

His aviation business record includes work with Thompson Aeronautical Services, Cleveland, OH beginning in 1928. Thompson was one of the American Airways stable of local air carriers. Although the nature of his work with Thompson is not clear, it was probably to do with traffic or scheduling.

For example, when airmail pilots that worked for Thompson refused to land at the Ann Arbor, MI airfield because it was in such poor condition, Rheinstrom was cited in an article from the Ypsilanti (MI) Daily Press on July 13, 1929, "Last week [one of the pilots] declared that he would no longer make the trip to the local port unless he were paid an additional sum, as a result of which Postmaster Pack (of Ann Arbor) reported the situation to Washington officials and late Tuesday was authorized to meet the additional expense pending a final adjustment of the case''

"Due to the excellent conditions at the local port both for the landing and taking off of planes, which has aroused a considerable amount of favorable comment among pilots making the stop, the Board of Commerce has invited the Thompson people to consider the matter of stopping here and has assured the cooperation of local officials in going into the matter,'' concluded the report.

"The Ypsilanti City Airport was a project of the Board of Commerce and was dedicated in June 1927. The aviation committee of the Board of Commerce held a special meeting on Monday, July 15, 1929, to consider the possibility of continuing the use of the Ypsilanti Airport as an airmail stop.

"Charles A. Rheinstrom, Thompson representative, in discussing the situation with John S. Miller, chairman of the local aviation committee, confirmed the report that that company's pilots will not stop at the Ann Arbor port because of its condition, which is unsatisfactory for both landing and taking off, and recommended that Ypsilanti make application to Washington for messenger service from the Ypsilanti post office to the field which would amount to the local office being designated as an official airmail office."

The 1930 Census placed him at age 28 as a roomer with seven others in Detroit, MI. His occupation was recorded as "Traffic Manager" in "Air Transportation." His employer was Thompson at this time.

American Airways came into being ca. 1931. Beginning in 1933 Rheinstrom was traffic manager of the Eastern Division of American Airways, Inc. based in St. Louis, MO. His date of employment corroborates the remark he wrote in the Register, cited above. American Airways became American Airlines in 1934.

VMI Cadet, December 16, 1935 (Source: Site Visitor)
VMI Cadet, December 16, 1935 (Source: Site Visitor)


A year later he was cited in the Virginia Military Institute Cadet, issue December 16, 1935 at left. This new service was probably very attractive to VMI students.

From 1937 he was vice president of Traffic, American Airlines, Inc. (AA) based at La Guardia Field, NY. He was also a director and sales manager. Time Magazine, on May 22, 1939, in an article covering American Airlines' listing on the New York Stock Exchange, described Rheinstrom as, "high-powered." He married in 1940 to Marjorie Gieske of Chicago, IL. This REFERENCE, page 354, presents a thumbnail biography of Rheinstrom ca. 1942.

A spectacular aircraft collision in 1942 placed Rheinstrom in the news. Rheinstrom is quoted from the Hammond (LA) Times of October 25, 1942, "The Air Lines, on the authority of CHARLES A. RHEINSTROM, issued this statement: "American Air Lines flight 28 eastbound, from Los Angeles to New York, was in collision with an army bomber and crashed one-half mile west of Palm Springs at 5:15 p. m. (8:15 p.m. EWT) Friday, Oct. 23. All nine passengers and crew of three were killed. The trip left at 4:30 p.m. and was at normal cruising altitude on course; clear weather and daylight when accident occurred." Later it was determined that the bomber pilot and the AA pilot had planned ahead of time to fly in formation for a short distance after the liner departed Los Angeles. The bomber pilot took off purposely to rendezvous with the liner. The collision occurred as they tried to get aligned.

Lubbock (TX) Avalanche, July 20, 1943 (Source: Web)
Lubbock (TX) Avalanche, July 20, 1943 (Source: Web)


While WWII pounded away overseas, Rheinstrom was involved in expanding AA routes across the southwest plains of the United States. Left, from the Lubbock (TX) Avalanche of July 20, 1943, Rheinstrom is cited in this activity. This is only part of the front page article. Most of the rest of the front page was taken up with war news: "Yanks Advance Toward Munda," "Flyer Reported Dead Returns Home," Big Junkers-52 Convoy Downed," "130 More Villages Taken and German Losses Mount."

After WWII he left AA and founded his own company as an aviation consultant in May, 1946. Rheinstrom wrote personally in 1947 an article entitled, " The Aviation Consultant." This five-page article is part of his (slim) NASM file. It was published in the Winter issue of the Northwestern University Journal of Air Law and Commerce. His lead sentence was, not surprisingly, "The aviation consultant has come of age." The rest of the article articulates, more or less objectively, the role and ethics of an aviation consultant.

Considering the timing of the establishment of his new enterprise, just after a war that demonstrated that air transport was indespensible, the business had fertile basis for success. His challenge, and this shows up in his article, was to describe for potential clients why they would need or want the services of his company. The sales and marketing sound very much like the introduction of any new product to a naive market. Rheinstrom would get to experience that from the advertising side when he joined the J.Walter Thompson Company (see below).

The counsel his company sold was tailored mostly to his individual clients. For example, in 1948 his company published "The Air Transport Requirements of Pennsylvania." And "Passenger Terminal Development of the Cleveland Municipal Airport: Prepared July 1948 for the City of Cleveland, Ohio."

At some point, I am not sure of the year, it appears that Rheinstrom moved to the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) in New York. JWT was a pioneer in the development of the advertising industry, and is allegedly the model fictionalized for the American TV series "Mad Men." Rheinstrom managed the Pan Am account for JWT. The quote that follows is an excerpt from the blog you can view at the link (no guarantee of long-term availability).

"JWT was at the center of the Nixon campaign, although I don’t think any agency actually claimed the account. Bob Haldeman and Ron Ziegler were both JWT guys from California. There was a cadre of people in the New York office who worked on both Nixon campaigns; the lead creative person was a very bright writer named Warren Pfaff who also worked on PanAm. Interestingly, there was a strong CIA connection with PanAm.

"In JWT offices all over the world, the PanAm account executive was often a spook. There was a man named Charlie Rheinstrom, who was theoretically the head of the PanAm account, but never seemed to actually work on the advertising.

"One day in the executive dining room, an ass-kissing young account guy asked him, ‘Charlie, I noticed in your Who’s Who listing that you’re a director of The Beaver Aircraft Company. What do they do?’ Rheinstrom responded, ‘Ah…, The Beaver Aircraft Company manufactures light planes with a unique slotted wing design which enables them to land and take off on very short airstrips.’

At this point, I piped up, ‘Jesus, Charlie – sounds like a CIA front to me.’ Chilling silence."

CIA or not, indeed, Rheinstrom's reach was, via his business contacts, into the political arena as well. He shows up in letters archived in the Richard Nixon Presidential Library White House Special Files Collection. Below are two letters between Rheinstrom and H.R. Haldeman. The first is from Rheinstrom to Haldeman in anticipation of Haldeman's return to the J.Walter Thompson Company. These letters were written during the time that Haldeman managed the campaign for Nixon's 1962 gubernatorial run in California. Nixon lost ("You won't have Nixon to kick around any more.").

Letter, Rheinstrom to Haldeman, October 15, 1962 (Nixon Library)
Letter, Rheinstrom to Haldeman, October 15, 1962 (Nixon Library)

Haldeman worked for the J.Walter Thomson Company in Los Angeles and was a colleague of Rheinstrom's. Further, according to the official transcripts of the court proceedings of the four major Watergate trials, Rheinstrom was called as a witness on December 4, 1974 which, perhaps, may reflect on the possibility of a CIA connection. Below, Haldeman's response to Rheinstrom.

Letter, Haldeman to Rheinstrom, October 22, 1962 (Nixon Library)
Letter, Haldeman to Rheinstrom, October 22, 1962 (Nixon Library)

Rheinstrom was active in domestic and internatioinal airline industry affairs and held several officer positions in various professional organizations. He was first president of the Air Traffic Conference of America and first Chairman of IATA Traffic Committee. He was president of the Wings Club, 1954-55. I know nothing of his personal life and I have no other photographs. If you can help in that regard, please contact me at the link at the top of the right sidebar.

Rheinstrom died at age 78 on May 28, 1980 at Santa Barbara, CA. His obituary from the Santa Barbara News-Press, June 1, 1980, is below. It mentions his wife, Marjorie Gieseke Rheinstrom (1915-1998), whom he married March 9, 1940. I could find no record that they had children. The obituary mentions nothing about military experience. He was buried at Arlington Heights, IL.

C.A. Rheinstrom Obituary, June 1, 1980 (Source: Site Visitor)


As of April 12, 2016 this page is Google Rank #1

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/23/11 REVISED: 04/25/16

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