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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
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September 29, 2017     The Catalina Islander
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September 29, 2017
 

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Recallin Part one of an Avalon Air Transport worker's adventure in 1962 BY RICHARD VON KLEINSMID FOR THE ISLANDER Editor's Note: Richard yon Kleinsmid worked for Avalon Air Transport in the late 1950s. Below is part one of his story of a day in 1962 when he had to play flight attendant (in those days they were called stewardesses) aboard DC-3 trying to hurry a couple of dozen people to the Island while it was still too foggy for the Gooses toffy. One morning in what I guess was 1962, there was not just a typi- cal "marine layer" of"June gloom" besetting southern California, but a particularly thick fog that got stuck in place, did not "burn off," and caused a gathering mob of pas- sengers at the Long Beach Airport to become impatient. Our principal mission at Avalon Air Transport was, indeed, to transport people out of humdrum Long Beach through the air to the relative paradise of smog-free Catalina Island, the only real town on which was Avalon, using a fleet of sturdy little amphibian airplanes. Unfortunately, a Grumman Goose could not legally take off in fog. Sometimes a day's first flight, usually scheduled for 7 a.m would, because of "gloom," find itself leaving a lit.tle late. But on this day hours rolled by with no improvement in visibility, and the terminal building gradually filled to overflowing with stalled cus- tomers beginning to notice that the time remaining for their planned vacations was eroding before their eyes. In high season, each hourly "flight" might have more than one Goose-load of passengers-by the ten o'clock flight, maybe three or even four-and an excitable person could begin to wonder, as every hour more passengers accumulat- ed, if on this unhappy day there was even some danger of a riot. At around 10:30, after a few passengers had canceled their reservations and demanded their money back, my father, who ran the place, decided to offer al! cus- tomers the chance to fly immedi- ately to Catalina's inland airport on one of the company's DC-3s. Because the DC-3s had better navigation equipment and required a real co-pilot, they were allowed to take off in fog; because they were big enough to carry 27 passengers at a time, they could deal with three Goose-loads of passengers at once; and because Catalina's airport was well above sea level, they could expect to arrive under a bright sunny sky. The airport was so high because, a little before the war, engineers trying to find enough level land for an airport on rugged Catalina Island decided to shear off the twin peaks of one of its tallest mountains, to fill in the space between them with the earth they had sheared, and to pave the resulting horizontal surface into a runway. To do all that they first had to build a road to connect that place to Avalon. The result was out of the ordi- nary in two ways. The runway was unusually short, beginning and ending with impressively abrupt drop-offs, and to get up there from Avalon required something like a 45-min- ute drive and a willingness to brave numerous blind hair-pin turns on a two-way, one-and-a- half-lane, cliff's-edge road. Fortunately, there was never a whole lot of traffic. Employment O " "t" ppo um CODE ENFORCE NT OFFICER- FL L BE FITED POSITION- FLSA Non-Exempt Range 36 6.490 Hourb" Must be available- to work weekends, holidays and some evenin Applications may be obtained at the Front Counter - Lobby Area of CiW Hall 410 Avalon Canyon Road, Avalon, CA 90704 Deadline: Friday, October 6, 2017 by 4pm More Information:- www.Cib/ofAvalon.com The California DMV will conduct business in the City of Avalon October 9-11, 2017 Appointments are available and may be scheduled atCity Hall. California driver license and identification card applications will be processed. All original driver license and identification card applications will require two (2) acceptable California residency documents. Non-commercial drive tests will be conducted and basic vehicle registration renewals/applications will also be processed. DMV hours of operation will be: Monday 1:00pm - 5:00pm Tuesday 8:00am - 5:00pm Wednesday 8:00am - 11:30am Acceptable methods of payment will be: cash, checks, and money orders. (Checks are preferred) Commercial drive tests will no longer be administered in the City of Avalon. The inconvenience of that air- port was central to Avalon Air Transport's decade and a half of success. For $6.60 in those days, you could avoid that airport and in 17 minutes have the fun of flying directly into Avalon Bay on a Goose and landing with an unforgettable, vigorously, climac- tic splash that culminated with you and your airplane powerfully engulfed in the embrace of an ultimately gentle sea, a far more thrilling ride than any offered at a theme park. I find myself wondering how much they charge these days at dear old Disneyland for a [2-minute?] ride down the Matterhorn. It was in some ways a golden age. Almost instantly, Pop got his 27 eager volunteers. The only glitch was that DC-3s required a steward- ess, and on this morning all three of Avalon Air Transport's DC-3 stewardesses had the day off. And so, time being of the essence, it was blithely decided that, once we had loaded all the passengers and their baggage onto the plane, I, as gate manager, would close up the DC-3, this time, with me inside, and thereupon miraculously trans- mogrify myself into the manifest's alleged "Miss Johnson." It seemed to me sort of a hoot, actually. I had long smiled at harmless fraud, and I had long heard about, but never been to, Catalina's storied airport. It was mainly the trip back, though, that I was looking for- ward to. Pilots had often told me that, taking off, you couldn't really count on achieving "air speed" before getting to the end of that little runway, but that, ho ho, up 'there it didn't really matter: you could count on being air-worthy well before you hurtled all the way down into the sea, Whee. I was 19 years old and fearless as any other self-evidently immortal teenager. I dimly recall having a little trouble culling from the, by now, mountainous pile of baggage those bits of it that interested the volun- teers, but otherwise the adventure started out quite smoothly, buoyed by a general sense that fate, or anyway the weather, was being thwarted by this little band's inge- nuity and pluck. It was fun to drag the plane's big old aluminum door up by its cables, somehow or other to lock it shut, and then to hike up the cabin's inclined aisle checking seat belts left and right, enjoying the camaraderie. And, too, I was about to get to go for a ride in a genuine DC-3. Soon I had strapped myself into the little fold-down jump seat for stewardesses at the back next to an urn of stale water, this airline's closest approximation to coffee, tea, or milk, and we all roared off up into and then through the blanket of clouds to the gloriously bright blue sky. Out the right win- dow I could then see peeking up through the clouds, the tops of the long row of mountains that define the LA basin, and, still more delightful, out the left, beck- oning us, all by its lonely self, Catalina's ever so aptly named Airport in the Sky. When I spotted it I think I maybe even laughed, once any- how, out loud. Then we banked and turned left in its direction, and there was nothing much to look at for ten or fifteen minutes from the cabin but the clouds stretching maybe all the way to Mexico and the infinite sky. A dullish trip, I suppose, but I was glad I had not been expected to serve drinks and peanuts or even a little meal. Soon the fog thinned enough to reveal a filtered glimpse of the sea, and then suddenly, straight below us, here came the island's rocky shore swiftly sweeping up to an altitude little below us, and then a flat stretch of gravel and, whoosh, the near end of the runway. A little bounce and squeak, another, and then a gently bumpy roll on terra firma as the tail thought about lowering itself to the ground, then did so with a surprising little jerk as on we rolled [hmm] past the other end the runway and on to another bed-of gravel, whereupon the engines roared and shuddered at cross purposes right and left, I could feel the rudder flop hard to the right, and my little rearmost chair and I, along, of course, with the whole tail end of the plane, swung around in a vigorous clock- wise 180 as the engines roared anew--and with a couple of back- ward hops we clattered to a halt, paused a second, and then tax- ied serenely over to the airport's way-cute terminal buitding. Well, thought I, a little breathlessly, just like stopping your bicycle with a "brodie." Now all I had to do--alas, entirely by myself--wa's welcome everyone to Catalina. To be continued. 9/29 Crossworll Solution IrC TIA[T O R A B CI AI RIDI T! IAi ITI - mu - Dru I' L I z ' -- EU 14 1 Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 THE CATALINA ISLANDER