Airport in the Sky
Catalina Island's Airport in the Sky was commissioned by P.K. Wrigley, son of William Wrigley, Jr. Construction of the 3,200 foot runway began in 1940. Initially named Buffalo Springs Airport, the runway was nearly complete when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Construction on the runway came to a halt. During WWII, the entire island was leased to the United States Government, and tourism ceased. Throughout the war, the island served the Merchant Marines, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the United States Army Air Forces, the precursor to the U.S. Air Force. The runway was covered with debris so that enemy aircraft would not be able to use it as a base.
After the war, the island was returned to the Wrigley Family, the runway was completed and construction began on air traffic control tower and terminal building. Airport in the Sky officially opened in 1946.
After nearly 80 years of landings, the asphalt airfield at the airport was desperately in need of rebuilding and the Catalina Island Conservancy, which manages the airport along with protecting 88 percent of the island, was notified that without a plan to rebuild runway, the airport would need to shut down.
The Marines and the Navy came to the rescue. Building a concrete airport in a remote location was an operation that integrated perfectly with military training objectives. 200 Marines and Seabees, worked tirelessly over a 3 month period to give the Airport in the Sky a new airfield.
Private donations funded the materials, including a $1.5 million contribution from aerospace manufacturer ACE Clearwater Enterprises, whose generosity resulted in the airstrip being named Ace Clearwater Airfield. The airport and new runway reopened on May 3, 2019.
Airport in the Sky is privately owned and operated by the Catalina Island Conservancy. It is open to the public and visitors can enjoy a visit to the Nature Center or DC3 Gifts & Grill. The runaway is open to general aviation.