Kenmore Air soars into new year

The seaplane operation has come a long way since 1946.

With the beginning of a new decade, many local organizations are taking time to reflect on past growth and looking toward the future.

Kenmore Air is one of the oldest, and best-known seaplane operations in the world.

Kenmore Air launched in 1946 with three high school friends — Bob Munro, Reg Collins and Jack Mines — after reuniting following World War II. Having taken off from modest beginnings, Kenmore Air quickly gained success after it became a Seabee dealer for the Northwest. Kenmore Air also became the experts on repairs and maintenance for the local amphibious sports aircraft and developed a number of modifications to improve their performance.

By the early 1950s, Kenmore Air signed on as an aircraft and parts dealer for the popular Cessna and expanded into the charter business with flights and hunting spots throughout the Northwest.

Over the next few decades, the operation significantly expanded its scheduled service offerings and acquired two airlines: Otter Air, a small seaplane company offering scheduled service to Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, and Lake Union Air. With the acquisition of Lake Union Air, Kenmore Air acquired its Seattle seaplane terminal and all but one of its aircraft. Several more turbine de Havilland Otters were added to the fleet to meet increased passenger demand.

Today, Kenmore Air has become a household name. Kenmore Air now has 25 aircraft in operation, 52 pilots on staff and more than 250 employees in peak season.

Kenmore Air has come a long way since the 1940s. When reflecting on what Kenmore Air has accomplished in the last year, Ben Cardin, marketing coordinator and Lake Union station manager, said he was proud.

In 2019, Kenmore Air expanded its Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada route.

“It’s a direct line from Lake Union to Vancouver, B.C.,” Cardin said. “We can get you there in an hour—sometimes less. It’s a great alternative mode of travel for people going for a quick trip.”

Cardin said it’s especially useful for business people.

“We can get you there and have you home before dinner,” he said.

While it is a weather-dependent airline, Kenmore Air has seen steady passenger numbers over the years.

During a typical winter, Kenmore Air sees about 150-200 people a day among all three terminals. A typical summer, however, sees about 500-700 people a day.

Looking into 2020, Kenmore Air is looking forward to hosting more community events.

Cardin said he’s looking forward to organizing a tour of Mt. St. Helens for the 40th anniversary of the last eruption.

Kenmore Air will participate in the upcoming annual Seattle boat show as well as host Mother’s Day and Father’s Day events.

“It’s such a beautiful way to travel,” Cardin said. “There’s no words to describe what it feels like to be up there and see our beautiful region. You just see this really anywhere else.”

To learn more about Kenmore Air, visit