The Spirit of Santa Monica

Between 1920 and 1975, Donald Douglas’ company—and a southern California city—helped shape aviation history.

(Courtesy Bill Wasserzieher)

Santa Monica Years


Donald W. Douglas, during the company's Santa Monica years. Tom Steers, who spent 43 years with the company as a flight engineer and instructor pilot, recalls: “As a flight line radio and radar technician, I installed the instruments in the Super DC-3, and one hot August day I was squeezed in the shoe-box area between fuselage, control quadrant and the rudder pedals, when someone asked me, ‘How’s it going, son?’ I assumed that it was one of the older mechanics, so I let loose with a few ramp expletives emphasizing that whoever the lightning-struck designer was it sure-as-hell was my wish that he was doing this instead of me. Whoever-it-was let out a loud chuckle. I slid out to see who I was talking to. I did, and I could have died. I sat there like a dummy trying to sound sensible and at the same time being apologetic and just screwing up the whole attempt. Mr. Douglas reached over and [tousled] my hair and said, ‘Son, when we designed the DC-3, we didn’t have young radio technicians like you around. Let me say this: you keep at it and if it can’t be done, give me a call.’ He looked down with such a sincere smile, and I just knew he understood my efforts and the nature of the challenge.”

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