Catalina's first airshow flies into history

October 15, 2012

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    Water-powered jetpack pilot Dean O'Malley. Photo by Roger Meadows.

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    A DC-3 overflies the Catalina Flyer. Photo by Roger Meadows.

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    Beautiful weekend, beautiful airplanes for the first Catalina Air Show and Festival. Photo by Dan Teckenoff.

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    Row 44's 1950's-era Grumman Albatross splashes down. Photo by Dan Teckenoff.

Excitement was in the air at Catalina Island, Calif., on Sept. 29 and 30, the weekend of the first Catalina Air Show and Festival commemorating the 100th anniversary of Glenn L. Martin's historic flight to the island on May 10, 1912.

On that misty morning, Martin took off in his amphibious biplane from Newport Bay, climbed through the marine layer, and flew for more than 30 miles to make a perfect landing in Avalon Bay. Martin logged several milestones that day, including the first flight to Catalina Island, the longest over-water flight in the world to that date, and the first sea landing in history. A true visionary, Martin founded the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912. It was the first of three well-known companies that would carry his name, including Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin.

The fun began on Sept. 28 with the splashdown of Row 44's 1950's-era Grumman Albatross amphibian. On Sept. 29, spectators watched aircraft ranging from Clay Lacy's DC-3 to Frank Donnelly's Taylorcraft perform over Avalon Bay in an aerobatic “box” marked by boats. Making his own history, water-powered jetpack pilot Dean O'Malley reportedly set a world record for the longest distance traveled by a water jetpack, reprising Martin's flight from Newport Beach to Catalina Island. The island's tiny Airport in the Sky squeezed in approximately 100 aircraft, and on Sept. 30, airshow performers showed off their airplanes and signed autographs.

“It inspired me to do more flying,” said one pilot who came from Northern California to see the show. “I sure hope they do it again.”

The Catalina Air Show and Festival is an event that bears repeating, hopefully, before another 100 years flies by.