By 1953, Catalina Island had been without seaplane service for four years. In August of that year, pilot Dick Probert began Avalon Air Transport, an airline that would ferry passengers from Long Beach, California to the Island town of Avalon. Dick Probert invested much of his own savings and took on financial partner Jean Chisholm to begin the new airline. Probert purchased a single Grumman Goose from Cordova Airlines of Alaska. After transferring the Goose from Alaska and making the necessary repairs, Probert found a floating dock anchored in Descanso Bay to operate from. Shortly there after, he moved operations to the Avalon Pleasure Pier in Avalon Harbor. Avalon Air Transport and began operations with one Goose, two pilots, and a small office staff. In 1954 Jean Chisolm's 50% of stock was purchased by Walt von Kleinsmid, who became Dick's partner. Walt was previously a construction company executive before becoming Director of Operations at AAT. Nancy Norma Ince started with the company in 1954 and was promoted to chief stewardess in 1957. In 1965, Dick and Nancy were married. Below is an assortment of photographs from the early days of Avalon Air Transport.
Avalon Air Transport founders, Dick Probert and Walt von Kleinsmid.
Plaque inscription reads: "This plaque is presented by the citizens of Avalon in appreciation of the faithful, unparalled, and outstanding service performed by Avalon Air Transport since their first flight to Avalon, August 22, 1953. Presented September 17, 1958"
Dick Probert at the rear hatch of "Mother Goose" which is dry docked at the Naval Yard where she was stored during the winter.
Dick Probert and Walt von Kleinsmid with AAT Goose N1543V, Ship #5. Photo courtesy of Richard von Kleinsmid.
Avalon Air Transport employees and three Gooses at Long Beach Airport in the mid 1950s. Photo courtesy of Richard von Kleinsmid.
Dick Probert (L) with Chief Stewardess Nancy Ince. Captain Lloyd Burkhart is pictured at right.
Pictured from left to right are Dick Probert, Chief Stewardess Nancy Ince, Sikorsky copilot Gil Chase and Pacific Landing and Long Beach Airport Station Manager John Davy.
Unloading mail in Avalon during winter operations. Avalon Air Transport received the Air Mail contract for Catalina in 1955. The first mail to come to Avalon by air was carried aboard AAT Goose N1503V with Dick Probert at the controls.
Big Band Leader Russ Morgan congratulates Dick Probert on the successful operation of his 4 engine flying boat. Avalon Mayor Roy Taylor and City Manager approve.
Dick Probert at the controls of a Goose circa 1964.