Catalina Island Airport Reopens with New Runway

 - May 7, 2019, 12:17 PM
A World War II-vintage DC-3 was chosen to make the first ceremonial landing at the ACE Clearwater Airfield at Catalina Island's newly-reopened Airport in the Sky. The airplane was converted from a war-surplus C-47 in 1947 by Philip and Helen Wrigley, who helped establish the Catalina Island Conservancy and later donated much of their property on the island to it. The twin-engine transport changed hands several times until it was reacquired by the Wrigley's granddaughter Alison Rusack and her husband Geoff, and restored to its 1947 appearance.

The three-month long runway replacement project at California’s Catalina Island Airport was completed and celebrated last week in a reopening ceremony that included a landing by a World War II-vintage Douglas DC-3. The project replaced the “Airport in the Sky’s” crumbling 3,000-foot asphalt airstrip, which cost the Catalina Island Conservancy, the airport’s custodian since 1972, an average of $250,000 a year to repair.

Performed by the U.S. military, the work was part of an Innovative Readiness Training Program that matches community needs with military training opportunities. The U.S. Marines and Navy transported more than 500 tons of equipment and supplies to the island for the $5 million project, $4 million of which was covered through fundraising by the Conservancy, including a $1.5 million donation from California-based aerospace and power generation manufacturing company ACE Clearwater. The remaining $1 million was assumed to be the estimated costs for labor and equipment rental had the project been performed by a commercial contractor.

“We had a wonderful experience working with the military from the first meeting to the end,” said Conservancy CEO Tony Budrovich. “They showed exemplary service and capabilities and learned what it was like to work on Catalina. It’s a remote and sometimes difficult place to make things happen, but they had success. We are so thankful for all of the partners who contributed to this project.”