Were a series of hangar fires in 1930 related to Capone's smuggling?

Chicago Municipal Airport was rocked the night of June 25, 1930 with an explosion in the Gray Goose hangar used by its subsidiary Stout Air Services. The resulting fire quickly spread to the adjacent hangar occupied by UATC, United Air Transport Corp. By the morning both hangars and 27 planes were destroyed in the conflagration. Most of the planes were tri-motors used by the airlines, along with some smaller ones housed in the hangars.


Nobody was hurt in the fire, but the fire severed electrical connections for the airport and surrounding area. The airport quickly brought in emergency lighting to allow planes in the air to land safely.

A couple nights later, a similar fire broke out in a hangar at Palwaukee Airport in Wheeling shortly before 3 a.m. Fortunately, a watchman discovered the fire almost immediately. He an other airport staff were able to extinguish it quickly before the fire spread. Only that single plane was destroyed.

Planes had long been associated with smuggling liquor during prohibition. One Detroit reporter quoted a local bootlegger as saying "Airplanes cost less than a good speedboat."

An article in the Daily Herald Suburban Chicago on July 1, provided more details about the origin. The watchman had noticed a suspicious man there shortly before seeing smoke. After the fire was extinguished, they found a hole punctured in the gas tank of a Stinson in the hangar. The Stinson was owned by Texas Oil, which also owned the plane in which the Municipal fire started. Authorities believed both fires were started by the same person.

According to the Herald, there were reports that Capone's organization had purchased similar planes from Texas Oil. The gang was said to be dissatisfied with the plane's performance and was sending a message to Texas Oil.


Photo from Pat Bukari collection on Flickr