Long Beach Bids Adieu to DC-3s

The historic air freighters are being replaced by Cessna Caravans.

Catalina Flying Boats
Catalina Flying Boats replaced its pair of Douglas DC-3s with two single-engine Cessna Caravan turboprops.Peter Murray Photography

A pair of Douglas DC-3s operated by Catalina Flying Boats Air Freight Service have been a part of the Long Beach Airport landscape for nearly 30 years. Recently, the rumble of the twin radial engines that powered the venerable World War II-era transports, lovingly known as Gooney Birds, took off from LGB for the last time as the Southern California freight company replaced them with a pair of single-engine Cessna Caravan turboprops.

After a stint in a rehab shop in Ohio to prepare the airplanes for the next stage of their lives, a humanitarian role in South Africa, the DC-3s will begin the ferry flight across the North Atlantic and south through Europe. Despite the reduced operating expenses of the new Caravans to haul the mail and cargo, the historic airplanes will be missed. One of Catalina’s DC-3s could be tracked back to active service in 1944.

Catalina Flying Boats pilot James “JAD” Davy, said it has been an honor to have been behind the controls of a historic aircraft after piloting one of the company’s DC-3s over Long Beach Airport for the last time, to the enjoyment of a gathering of aviation enthusiasts gathered near the airport’s edge.

Davy flew DC-3s for Catalina Flying Boats since 1992. Douglas Aircraft produced more than 13,000 DC-3s, most of which were built for service during World War II.