Santa Catalina, of course, is a popular tourist destination. Each year, millions of people visit the island to engage in recreational activities like fishing, swimming, sunbathing, arts and more. But Santa Catalina’s main airport, The Airport in the Sky, has been slowly degrading. This prompted the donation of $5 million to a nonprofit land trust to rebuild the aging runway, with the U.S. Marines spearheading the project.
With that said, the Marines aren’t using $5 million to rebuild the island’s runway. Rather, the land trust organization has been using this money to slowly patch the dilapidated runway. Unfortunately, they’ve made little progress in restoring The Airport in the Sky to its original condition, which is why they’ve partnered with the Marines to gain ground on the project. After discussing restoration options with the Department of Defense (DOD), the land trust organization decided that this was a project for the Marines.
So, why are the Marines interested in rebuilding Santa Catalina’s The Airport in the Sky if they aren’t being paid for it? Several military officials have explained that this project is a training experience for Marines. It provides Marines with a real-world scenario in which they must work together to complete the cumbersome task of rebuilding the island’s runway.
“This is a great opportunity for the Marines. We’re used to working on expeditionary runways, filling potholes of that nature. We’re creating a 3,000-foot-long runway, 60 feet wide, 5 inches deep,” said Marine Zachary Bodner in an interview with ABC News.
The Airport in the Sky has origins dating back to the early 1940’s, during which it was constructed atop a mountain. It’s since become known as the island’s main airport, shuffling millions of people to and from Santa Catalina each year.
When you think of common operations carried out by the Marines, rebuilding runways probably doesn’t come to mind. However, the Marines — along with other branches of the U.S. military — are responsible for more than just combat operations. In fact, most of their time is spent on other activities, including infrastructure development and improvement.
The Airport in the Sky is expected to reopen later this year in spring.