Catalina flights are available using a helicopter from Long Beach and San Pedro. The port at Long Beach is adjacent to the Queen Mary and port at San Pedro is adjacent to the Catalina Passenger Terminal. The cost of taking a Catalina Island helicopter as compared to a ferry is substantially higher, but is an enthralling experience to say the least. The only Catalina Island Airport (the only place on the island equipped to handle aircraft besides helicopters) is nicknamed the Airport in the Sky. It is a tiny airport with a single airstrip that is nonetheless a frequently used port for general aviation. It is known as much for its restaurant and famous (and expensive) buffalo burgers as it is for its other amenities. If you are taking a helicopter flight to Catalina, you will likely be landing at one of the heliports along the waterfront. If you take any other kind of aircraft you will land at Catalina Airport (AVX).
The Catalina Island Airport is in fact open to the public for general aviation purposes. Incoming pilots must radio in to state their intentions for flying to the island and remit a landing fee. There are no inbound or outbound passenger flights to the Catalina Island Airport, and although some larger freight planes use the strip, it primarily functions as a hub for general aviation. The airport you fly into will largely depend upon which part of Southern California you plan to stay in. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the busiest hub for transportation in the city, and the fifth busiest airport in the world. Other airports in the greater Los Angeles area include Bob Hope Airport (which serves the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys), Long Beach Airport, and John Wayne Airport (serving Orange County).
Once you know which airport you are flying into, you can make arrangements to get to the island, whether Catalina flights or ferries. There are many more areas from which to take ferries, but for those committed to the idea of a Catalina Island helicopter flight, the two locations are not at all difficult to access. There are several providers of these Catalina flights that vary in price. Most flights require a minimum load (they generally carry up to six people). Whether flying by helicopter or chartered plane the same rule applies.
A Catalina Island helicopter is not the only option for getting to this destination by air. You can also charter a plane from a variety of locations within LA and Orange County, including Long Beach and San Pedro, depending on the size of your group and a number of other factors. All Catalina flights must land during daytime hours.
If you are traveling to Los Angeles or are a resident of the city that wishes to visit Catalina Island and do so on a budget, it may be advisable to look into one of the ferries that make the trip. They depart from a greater number of locations and generally cost a significant amount less. The experience of flying into the Airport in the Sky is, however, something that you will not soon forget. Be sure to bring your camera in any event, as the trip to the island and the island itself provide countless photos opportunities.
Image: SpecialKRB (flickr)