Floatplane service accounts for a significant amount of Seattle’s aviation activity and, at the centre of it, is a local company; Kenmore Air.  This year sees Kenmore mark its 75th anniversary and, to celebrate, the company organised a public celebration.  Rob Edgcumbe headed along for Global Aviation Resource to see the celebrations as they got underway.

Kenmore Air has now been a part of the Seattle aviation world for 75 years. Based, as the name might suggest, in Kenmore WA, Kenmore provides a variety of aviation services.  The most well know part of the business revolves around floatplane operations but there is more to Kenmore than just that.  However, it is one of the more photogenic aspects of their operation!

Kenmore Air has been celebrating their anniversary throughout the summer.  They have introduced special flights, priced appropriately at $75, that take in the local Seattle scenery.  These have been running for a while now and have proved very popular and, during the anniversary celebrations, people were able to sign up for these trips and there were clearly plenty of takers.  With COVID having severely curtailed the company’s operations for a while, getting utilisation up and bringing in some additional revenue will certainly have been welcome.


Kenmore Air’s main hangar at their Kenmore WA base © Rob Edgcumbe – Global Aviation Resource

Flyover of three company Otters to open up the celebrations © Rob Edgcumbe – Global Aviation Resource

A commemorative plaque to celebrate the anniversary © Rob Edgcumbe – Global Aviation Resource

Floatplanes aren’t the only aircraft that Kenmore operates.  It also has a fleet of land-based aircraft that it uses to support services to local islands.  These flights operate from Boeing Field and Kenmore also provides some tourist flights from the site, including aerial sightseeing tours of the local volcanoes, Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens.  This fleet is predominantly made up of Cessna 208 Grand Caravans but a recent addition to the fleet has been a PC-12.

The floatplanes are a major part of the business, though.  Operating to the various islands around the Pacific Northwest, the de Havilland Canada stable comprises the majority of the fleet.  There are some smaller types for training both new and returning floatplane pilots and these can be used when passenger numbers aren’t high.  Otherwise, the operations are based around the DHC-2 Beaver, the DHC-2T Turbo Beaver and the DHC-3T Turbo Otter.

Kenmore is the home of the services but there is also a terminal on Lake Union in downtown Seattle and flights from Kenmore often include a stop at Lake Union to pick up additional passengers.  Weekend operations at Lake Union can be problematic in the summer when the number of water-craft on the lake is very high and safe operations can be restricted.

A newly overhauled Beaver provides a backdrop for the festivities © Rob Edgcumbe – Global Aviation Resource

The return of the three Otters after their flyover © Rob Edgcumbe – Global Aviation Resource

Some musical entertainment to keep everyone going for the afternoon © Rob Edgcumbe – Global Aviation Resource

The capabilities that the company has developed over the years to support its own fleet have provided it with the ability to provide maintenance and overhaul services to other owners too.  A trip to the hangars at Kenmore is just as likely to show private aircraft as it is Kenmore’s own, with all being worked on to a very high standard.  I wonder whether the aircraft were even in as good condition when they left the de Havilland Canada factory!  An engine overhaul facility is also available for the Pratt and Whitney radials.

The celebration event took place on Saturday 28th August. It was a free event for anyone to attend and since the location is not great for car parking, a free shuttle service was run from a local Park and Ride facility.  With a gloriously sunny day, plenty of people took advantage and Kenmore Air had arranged for food trucks to attend and a bar was also set up by the local Cairn brewery.  A local high school band provided some initial entertainment and a band that played for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  With warm temps and plenty of sun, Kenmore made sure to have tubs of free, chilled bottled water available for everyone which was a great idea.

Ahead of the speeches, a flyover was undertaken by three of the company Otters.  They ran over the base in echelon formation from the lake before lining up astern for approach to land at the lake.  The first Otter touched down alongside the base giving everyone a great view of the plane while the others went a little further out into the lake before touching down.  There then followed some speeches by various past and present company dignitaries as well as some local politicians.  Once the speeches concluded, the band got the place going while the pleasure flights started in earnest.

It was a great idea by the company to set up such a celebration given the significant anniversary they are marking this year.  Thank goodness it wasn’t last year when it would have been impossible to set up such an event.  By making it so open and welcoming, they were rewarded with a great attendance (having a lovely day didn’t hurt – I bet they were very glad about that).  Here’s to many more years of success for Kenmore Air.