On May 14, Kenmore Air celebrated its 70th anniversary by giving tours of its facility and offering scenic seaplane flights around Lake Washington.
Kenmore Mayor David Baker said in a speech that kicked off the event, “I can’t imagine Kenmore without Kenmore Air.”
Many residents of the area probably can’t imagine it either. The airline was founded in 1946 by high school friends Bob Munro, Reg Collins and Jack Mines. They had one airplane and one hangar at the time.
Now the company employs more than 250 people during peak season, flies a fleet of 25 airplanes and still remains a family-operated business.
“We get fantastic support from the city, especially the mayor. He’s always been a big advocate. We’ve been around for so long,” said Colleen Eastman, the marketing coordinator for Kenmore Air.
The tours on Saturday showed guests through the engine shop, where mechanics service the airline’s fleet and do additional maintenance and work for customers of Kenmore Air.
One well-known current customer of Kenmore Air is Jimmy Graham, a tight end with the Seattle Seahawks. Graham’s floatplane is currently in the Kenmore shop for refurbishment.
According to one Kenmore Air mechanic, a complete refurbishment of a de Havilland Beaver plane like Graham’s and others currently in the shop could cost around a million dollars.
Guests could look at a 9-cylinder floatplane engine up close, one that powers the de Havilland Beaver planes on site. A Beaver floatplane can carry up to 6 passengers and is one of two main aircrafts flown by Kenmore Air.
Later on the tour, guests were taken through Kenmore Air’s new main hangar. The new building can hold up to four or five de Havilland Otter floatplanes, which are larger than the Beavers and can carry 10 passengers each. Kenmore Air’s fleet is made up of eight Otters and eight Beavers, plus several additional land aircrafts.
Mike Edde, a frequent customer of Kenmore Air who toured the facility on Saturday said, “It’s nostalgic. It’s like you went 50 years back.”
According to Eastman, tours of the facilities are available upon request. “We actually get a lot of requests from schools, Boy Scout troops, nursing homes. They just have to call in and we can arrange them,” she said.
The seaplane tours offered to guests on Saturday circled Lake Washington, giving passengers a view of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, the University of Washington and surrounding areas. Even on a rainy day, the aerial views of the land below were stunning.
“For me it’s more the experience,” said Edde about using Kenmore Air to fly up to the San Juan Islands for vacation. “You get to see the islands, because in a seaplane you fly a lot lower.”
Kenmore Air flies to 45 different locations during the summer months, including Lopez Island, Friday Harbor, Nanaimo, Victoria and Sullivan Bay. Prices vary, but a round-trip flight this July from Kenmore to Friday Harbor costs about $300.
“We also offer charter service,” said Eastman. “Some people have a cabin in a different location. We charter up to Semiahmoo, Alderbrook, Port Ludlow.”
The airline offers narrated scenic flights out of its Lake Union terminal for $99 per person.
“Its such a unique and rare experience,” Eastman said. “I love it. I feel spoiled when I get to fly for work. It’s one of those things you never get tired of.”
For more information or to book a flight, visit kenmoreair.com.