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

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(NASM)

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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