Waterman also encouraged daredevils to try for aviation firsts. The day after the Army crew took off, "Bobbi" Trout set an endurance record of 12 hours, 11 minutes, flying her Golden Eagle monoplane in circles over the airport.
Trout's flight reportedly infuriated Spaatz -- who years later became a general and, in 1947, the first Air Force chief of staff. He complained to Waterman about a woman flying in his airspace, aviation historian Jack Carpenter says in the film.
" 'What do you want me to do? Shoot her down?' replied Waterman,' " Carpenter says.
Waterman himself broke the altitude record at the airport in July 1929, reaching 20,000 feet while carrying a 2,200-pound load.
On Nov. 22, 1929, Amelia Earhart took off from Van Nuys and set a speed record of 184 mph.
Pancho Barnes broke that record on Oct. 25, 1930, with 196.19 mph. She took aerial photos of the Stanford-USC football game in Palo Alto, returning to Van Nuys about the time the game ended.
But the 1929 stock market crash was disastrous for Van Nuys' aircraft builders and many of its plane owners, who went broke. According to the documentary, however, the place wasn't idle: On its landing strip, planeloads of Mexican liquor poured into Prohibition-era Los Angeles.
By now, there wasn't much airport to manage. But Waterman stayed, even when Bach -- his financial backer -- went belly up. (The company reorganized under another name in 1931.)
In 1932, Waterman unveiled a flying automobile -- a tailless flying-wing monoplane that he called his "Whatsit." He moved to Santa Monica and continued to tinker with the craft, debuting other models, including a wingless "Arrowbile" in 1937.
In 1933, debts forced the airport into the hands of a single owner: Drusilla Daily Warner. Warner's son, Dean Daily, ran the airport until 1941.
Daily, a former cameraman and soundman, used his connections with the film industry to promote the airport not only as a departure point but as a film location. While growing banana squash between the runways to make ends meet, he snared film shoots, including "Lost Horizon" with Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt in 1937 and "Test Pilot" with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy in 1938.
By 1941, Daily had built it into the largest and busiest general aviation airport in the nation. But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that December changed everything. The Army took over, enlarged the airport, extended and paved the runways and called it home.
"Six squadrons of P-38s trained here," Reynosa said in the Times interview. "It was also the first location for production test flights of America's first jet fighter, the P-80."
After the war, the city of Los Angeles bought the airport as war surplus for $1. The city renamed it San Fernando Valley Airport in 1949. In 1957, it became Van Nuys Airport and the runway was extended to 8,000 feet. The Sherman Way Tunnel supported the longer runway. Today, the airport encompasses 730 acres.
As for "Casablanca," the hangars and Art Deco tower (torn down in the 1960s) appear in background scenes. But the famous farewell between Rick and Ilsa, on a foggy Moroccan runway, was filmed on a Warner Bros. soundstage.
$20.5 million, seven-month plan to modernize the airport’s 8,000-foot primary runway marks the largest maintenance project conducted at the airport in over 50 years
Legendary Pilot Clay Lacy Honored With Prestigious Pathfinder Award For Pioneering Contributions To Aviation /* Style Definitions */ span.prnews_span...
Company's fourth facility is the first in Southern California.
Clay Lacy will receive the 2011 NBAA Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, and international business aviation pioneer Don Spruston will receive the 2011 NBAA John P. "Jack" Doswell Award.