'Flying Boats' Still Deliver The Goods

Times Staff Writer

After more than half a century of distinguished service, we'd forgive a legend for easing off the throttle a bit. But hundreds of Douglas DC-3s refuse to rest on their accolades or tail wheels — despite a septuagenarian anniversary this December.

Over 10,000 of the transports were built in Santa Monica and Long Beach between 1935 and the end of World War II. Today, roughly 300 DC-3s are still flying in the U.S., about 100 in commercial service. These include two operated by Catalina Flying Boats, Inc. of Long Beach. They earn their fuel hauling thousands of pounds of cargo to Santa Catalina Island almost daily.

Pallets laden with everything from oysters to office supplies clear the DC-3s' cargo doors with barely inches to spare. And the packing continues until only enough space remains for pilots to squeeze sideways past the freight to reach the cockpit.

The crews who load, fly and maintain these airborne delivery vans are easing a pioneering era in aviation to its close. But in the meantime, young men flying old planes bridge decades and distance while delivering the goods to Catalina.

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