Allen Burton Wheeler
Allen was born in Moose Lake Minnesota Jan 16, 1932 and was the youngest of three siblings. The family moved to Hillsboro Wisconsin on a 180 acre farm and dairy during the great depression.
Dad remembered milking cows at 5 am and then walking 5 miles in the snow to school. Allen attended Hillsboro High School and at an early age exhibited excellence in both athletics and academics. Allen was a standout in several sports in the mid-1940’s including basketball, baseball and football.
Allen was also valedictorian of his alma mater, and was selected upon graduation for an academic scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin Madison, where he earned a B.S. in Geology.
During his tenure at U. of W., Allen was an active member of the college rowing team. While rowing with the crew during a workout on Lake Mendota, he observed an Air Force F-86 Sabre jet execute a perfect 8 point slow roll over their heads at 400 knots. The next day Allen enlisted in the Air Force ROTC during the Korean War, and was commissioned as an officer after graduation.
In 1952 , he began primary flight training at Lackland AFB Texas flying the T-28 Trojan and later heavy transport aircraft with the rank of Captain. Allen served in the Air Force reserves for 12 years before being honorably discharged in the mid-1960’s.
After leaving the military, Allen was hired as a first officer on the DC-3 for Pacific Airlines based in San Francisco, CA. While flying for Pacific Airlines, Allen and his captain Bill Cleal were one of the first flight crew to be hijacked in U.S. history on July 1, 1961. The gunman shot the gate agent and gained access to the flight deck by force demanding they fly to Arkansas. The would be hijacker panicked and shot the Captain after engine start and while taxiing. As he turned to shoot Allen next, dad’s quick reactions saved other lives as he closed both throttles stopping the aircraft and subduing the gunman.
Dad met the love of his life Margerey Rose Estes who was a chief stewardess for Northern Consolidated Airlines based in Anchorage, AK. They fell in love and bore two sons Douglass and Bruce respectively, and were married for 27 years.
In 1966, Allen was hired by Pan American Worls Airways as a Flight Engineer on the Boeing 707 and encountered enemy small arms fire while airlifting Vietnam troops from Da Nang airfield with bullet holes in the aircraft.
Allen also possessed an entrepreneurial side. Allen moved the young family from San Francisco to Redding, CA. in 1966 where he and a handful of ex-military pilots started one the original and most successful houseboat businesses on Lake Shasta, CA., namely holiday Flotels.
In 1977, Allen moved his family to the Santa Ynez Valley as he continued his flying career as a First Officer on the B-747 for United Airlines until his retirement in 1989.
Allen’s professional aviation career spanned over three decades, flying to every corner of the globe where only the few have experienced.
Allen was a courageous, compassionate and generous human being. Honorable to the last and a great father. He will be greatly missed by all. Allen is survived by his two sons Douglass ( Lompoc, CA.) and Bruce Palm Springs, CA. ) and nephews Russ Kane (Santa Barbara, CA. ), and Jeff Kane ( Sunset Beach, CA. Grand children (Bruce, Palm Springs) Courtlyn, Chase, Cade and Clay are all involved in sports, including Dance and all are excellent students. Allen even inspired Bruce’s sons to pursue careers in aviation. Grand children Grant and Kristin (Russ Kane, Santa Barbara, CA.), are excellent students as well as Grant is attending Cal Berkely in Economics.
Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from May 27 to May 31, 2016