Torrance Municipal Airport- Documentary

Saturday, October 15, 2005
Premiere flaps up for documentary on Torrance’s airport
By Andrea Sudano
The Torrance (CA) Daily Breeze

To hear Iris Critchell tell it, not much has changed about the Torrance Municipal Airport in 60 years. The facility remains bordered by farmland and the runway is still concrete — the planes are just newer, said the Redondo Beach native who ferried bombers from the airport during World War II. “I was just there and still marveled about the crops along the side of the runway,” Critchell, 84, said. “We loved getting the corn, squash, tomatoes and other vegetables raised there.”

Now, she’s lent her memory to “Taking Flight: The History of Torrance Municipal Airport,” a documentary commissioned by the Torrance City Council that premieres Monday for city officials and next month on the city’s public cable channel.

Critchell is one of about a dozen people interviewed in the 50-minute documentary, which chronicles the airport’s evolution from a military facility into a modern municipal airport, said the film’s producer, Maria Gavin.

Nestled today between Pacific Coast Highway and Skypark Drive, the airport started as Lomita Air Strip, a World War II training camp for Army Air Corps P-38 squadrons.

The airport was handed over to the city in 1946 and eventually named Zamperini Field, after Torrance resident and war hero Louis Zamperini, who is also in the film.

Today it sits on 500 acres of land and is home to more than 800 aircraft. In recent years, the city has talked of upgrading and modernizing its hangars and maybe adding a restaurant. More than a dozen aviation businesses operate out of the airport.

In the works for about a year, the documentary was the brainchild of Torrance Air Fair Association members, who were inspired by a similar film made about the Van Nuys Airport, said Nancy Clinton, the association’s president.

“It’s very important,” she said. “We’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time.”

Critchell jumped at the chance to participate in the film about what she believes is one of the South Bay’s best-kept secrets.

“People can come into the community and not even know it’s there,” she said. “This would be an excellent way of informing them of the services it provides.”

City officials will gather Monday with popcorn to view the film’s premiere, and Torrance’s CitiCABLE3 will begin airing the documentary on Nov. 2, officials said.

“There’s no question that the history of the Torrance airport is important not only to the city of Torrance but also to the South Bay,” Mayor Dan Walker said. “I think everyone who lives in Torrance will be interested in having greater knowledge and background of the history of the airport.”

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