Forklifting this Beaver to its parking spot for the night
Kenmore Air is the world’s second largest seaplane operator, with their main base of operations located just northeast of Seattle (in Kenmore) and just a few miles away from where I live. I have had a few opportunities to fly their seaplanes, but I have always been wanting to take a closer look at their operations and learn a bit more about how they keep their 18 seaplanes going.
Multiple planes are being worked on inside Kenmore Air’s new hangar
When I heard that they just recently opened up a brand-new maintenance hangar, I figured that this would be a great excuse to get a behind-the-scenes tour. I went in, not fully knowing what to expect, but found out quite a bit about the planes, the facility, and the people that make it all happen.
The Wild Orca seaplane in all its glory. Fun fact: though the DHC-3 is nearly 2x as long as an adult male orca, a fully-grown orca will weigh nearly twice as much as this plane – Photo: Lee Zerrilla | AirlineReporter
At a sun-filled event, Kenmore Air unveiled the Wild Orca seaplane, a 1954 de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Turbo Otter that’s been dressed up in the familiar markings of Orcinus Orca.
Inside and out, this plane has been made over with all-things Orca, from the sleek, stunning paint job to the custom embroidery on the cabin bulkhead. The whale paint job isn’t just for fun, however, and as it traverses the skies of the Pacific Northwest, hundreds or thousands of feet above the water, its goal is to bring attention to our friends below the surface.
The tale of the tail begins with longtime Kenmore Air pilots Anna Gullickson and Michael Hays. In 2014, the pair founded Wild Orca, a Washington State-based non-profit aimed at raising public awareness and funds for these majestic mammals and the organizations that support them. Listening to either of them speak, it becomes apparent that their bird’s-eye perspective gives them a personal connection to the Northwest’s Orca population.
A Piaggio P 180 Avanti II at Boeing Field (BFI). Image by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
It’s not every day that you hear about a new airline starting service. With the immensely strong barriers to entry including existing airlines, financing issues, and federal regulations, there are not many new airlines founded today. Anymore, it seems like the industry is consolidating via mergers, but Arrow is aiming to show that new niche airlines can succeed even in this economy. This new airline is banking on people valuing their time and wanting to avoid the hassle of traveling with traditional airlines and long security lines. I had the opportunity to meet with Arrow CEO Russell Belden this past Monday and take a flight from Seattle to Oakland (and back).
Arrow is unique in few ways. First of which is that it is a private club in which people can purchase memberships ($500 per month with a one year commitment) and then have access to purchase tickets on their aircraft. But unlike other private jet services which operate similarly, Arrow will have scheduled services.
They are planning to launch Seattle (out of Boeing Field – BFI) to Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC), which will cost members about $500 each way. The ticket costs are comparable to a first class ticket on other airlines serving similar routes.
Once Arrow receives 200 membership commitments they will purchase their initial aircraft and make plans to begin service within three months (delivery time-frame for a new plane).
The interior of the Piaggio. Photo by Colin Cook / AirlineReporter.com.
Arrow has a target market of business professionals who have much better things to do than simply wait in line. Sure, a flight on Arrow might cost slightly more than a typical first or business class ticket, but isn’t a CEO’s time exceptionally valuable?
Arrow believes they will be able to shave off as much as two hours simply due to eliminating the added hassles of the typical airport experience. With on-board Wi-Fi to be installed on their new aircraft, it will also enable professionals to keep in constant contact and be productive at 30,000 feet. While our test flight did not have Wi-Fi on board, we actually had an intermittent signal on our mobile phones throughout the journey.
Downtown Seattle Skyline Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.
As a newly transplanted Australian to the Pacific Northwest, I sometimes feel that I am a tourist in my own city. David has lived here quite a while, so to him, this is his backyard. But to me, this is all new, though I have visited a few times; I am still constantly exploring this city. With Aviation Geek Fest approaching, I am sure there are other people who are visiting and wondering what other non AvGeek things can be seen in Seattle.
Seattle has so many different things to see & do that the possibility is endless, but if you are in town for just a few days, well these sights should be on your ’œmust do’ list. If you live in the area or have visited and have other ideas, be sure to share them in the comments.
- Pike Place Market’“ The quintessential experience in Seattle. The longest operating Farmers Market in the USA, home to fresh fruit & veggies, fresh seafood and anything your heart could desire. The Market contains the ’œPike Place Seafood Market’ home of the flying fish and make sure to take a walk downstairs to the Market Theater Gum Wall, shove on a piece of gum — just don’t touch. If you are looking for souvenirs to bring home, you will have no problem finding something.
Pikes Place Market in Downtown Seattle is one of the most iconic places to visit Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.
- Coffee, need more Coffee ’“ Seattle is home to a number of coffee companies but I am sure you have all heard of this small company with just a number of shops around the country. They call themselves Starbucks. Their first ever store (well not really the first but that is a whole other story) is located down in the Pikes Place Market area. Not only can you line up to buy a cup of their coffee (and sometimes that line is looooong) they also sell merchandise that is not available anywhere else.
- Seattle Center’“ This is easy to find since it is the home to that weird looking pointy thing, the Seattle Space Needle. Built for the world’s fair in 1962, the Space Needle and the surrounding area is a big draw card for tourists. The Space Needle will set you back around $20 to get up to the observation deck, but remember what Seattle’s weather is known for — not seeing very far. One way to cut back on the fee is to have a meal in the restaurant (Sky City Restaurant) at the top (or check out tip #5). Also in the area are the Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project & Sci Fi Museum (EMP). The EMP building alone is worth a visit just to see this spectacle from the outside (see photo below).
Experience Music Project/Sci Fi Museum is an eclectic looking building Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.
- Ride the Seattle Monorail– The nation’s first commercial monorail, at $2 a ride, is a pretty good way of going from Seattle Center to the downtown area. Still running the very retro styled monorail cars, this is a good flash back. The ride takes barely 2 minutes and is a great way to skirt above the streets.
The Nations oldest Commercial Monorail, marked 50 years of service in 2012! Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.
- Columbia Center Tower ’“ Located on the Corner of Columbia Street & 5th Ave, the Columbia Center is the Pacific Northwest’s tallest building. It towers over the Space Needle and dominates the skyline on a clear day. There is an observation deck on the 73rd floor that has views over the city that will astound you. They don’t go 360 degrees like the space needle, but the entry is only $9 per person! What is even better, if you are there mid-week (Monday to Friday), there is a Starbucks on the 40thfloor with views almost as good for free.
View of Seattle from the Columbia Center Tower Photo by Malcolm Muir / AirlineReporter.com.
- Take a flight seeing tour around Seattle – Kenmore Air and Rainier Flight offer aircraft tours of the city and with Seattle HeliTours you can go in a helicopter. What better way to see Seattle than from the sky? As an AvGeek it should come as no surprise that these might be some of the best touristic options in Seattle. But to make it even better, why not do it on-board a Seaplane taking off from South Lake Union, right next to downtown, with Kenmore.
- Ride a Ferry – If you like planes, you might also like boats. For a few bucks, you can walk on to a ferry in downtown Seattle and enjoy the ride. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, head north to Anacortes, WA to catch the ferry up to the San Juan Islands.
No matter what you want to see, or what you enjoy doing, you are sure to be able to find it in Seattle. There are so many more things to do, please share some of your favorites in the comments.
||This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos
AirlineReporter.com correspondent Colin Cook prepares for his Kenmore Air seaplane ride in a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver. Image by Colin Cook.
This story was written by AirlineReporter.com correspondent Colin Cook:
A few months back, Kenmore Air announced via their Facebook page a competition to select a destination in the San Juan Islands for a special fare. The contest allowed fans of their page to vote on whether to offer the special $69 fare to Orcas Island, San Juan Island, or Lopez Island. Having never been to any of the islands personally, I was quite interested. At the end of the week, they announced Orcas Island as the winner and I quickly began planning my trip. Having flown Kenmore previously, I know that flying with them is just such a treat (note: Colin paid for his own trip out of pocket).
One of the benefits of flying Kenmore Air — you can sit in the co-pilot seat. Image by Colin Cook.
When traveling through traditional airlines, we all know the hassle the airport and the TSA regulations can be. Well with Kenmore, you don’t have to deal with any of that. The only caveat being, there is a 25 pound weight limit on luggage to ensure the plane can lift off the water, so one needs to pack on the lighter side. I showed up about 30 minutes before my flight and it couldn’t have been easier. No security. No long lines. They even allow regular size liquid containers. It is such an enjoyable contrast to the type of travel I’m used to.
Depart: Kenmore Air Harbor (KEH) to Rosario Resort (RSJ)
via stops at Lake Union (LKE) and Friday Harbor (FBS)
Equipment: de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
Date: Friday 9/28/12; Depart 3pm, arrive 4:45pm (15 mins late)
You can’t get views of Seattle like this on just any airline. Image by Colin Cook.
On my journey to Rosario, I got the unique pleasure of stopping at Lake Union to pick up some additional passengers. Typically, it would be a drag to have to make multiple stops en route to our destination, but that is not the case on a sea plane. Not to mention, that it was so cool to get to take off and land multiple times along the way. It was awesome to see the downtown Seattle skyline as I approached and landed to the south on Lake Union. After picking up the other passengers, we all continued our journey north to the San Juan’s.
BONUS VIDEO: Landing in Lake Union in a Kenmore Air Seaplane
The flight from Lake Union to Rosario was roughly 40 minutes. I was extremely lucky in that I was able to ride up front next to the pilot, which provided for great views (not only of the scenery, but also the controls of the plane). The Beaver traveled roughly 100-120 MPH ground speed, cruising at 1500 feet for most of the journey. While our pilot looked quite young, you could tell he was experienced as our take-offs and landings were as smooth as water (pardon the pun).
City views are pretty nice, but San Juan Island views are even better. Image by Colin Cook.
For anyone that’s been up to the San Juans, I don’t have to tell you how amazing it is up there. To say that it’s gorgeous is an absolute understatement. The panoramic views of the water with shimmering reflections of the sun, stately green trees, and multiple islands of various sizes are spectacular. We arrived at Friday Harbor to drop off a few passengers and then continued our short remaining journey to Rosario. Once we arrived, we checked into the resort and took a moment to learn about some of the history.
Part of the Rosario resort taken from the seaplane. Image by Colin Cook.
One thing I would definitely recommend to anyone staying at Rosario Resort is the Saturday afternoon session with the assistant manager, Christopher Peacock. During that event, Peacock plays the pipe organ and piano while showing some historic photos and telling guests about the history of the resort. The resort was the one time home of Robert Moran who made his fortune as a shipbuilder in Seattle, in addition to serving as Mayor of Seattle from 1888-1890.Mr. Moran retired at Rosario when he was given two years to live due to a heart condition.
The house was constructed with the same meticulous attention to detail as the ship building, and the stained glass window & chandelier are beautiful period accents. He moved there in 1905 and lived there for the majority of his life before passing away in 1943. Apparently getting out of the city life and away from work-related stress really does wonders for the human soul.
While visiting the island, I was able to check out some other areas as well, but using a rental car service. I drove through Moran State Park and went up to the observation tower on top of Mount Constitution. The view from the summit was quite impressive as you could see Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Victoria, and Vancouver in the distance. The panoramic views were definitely worth the drive up and cost of the rental.
After the drive, it was time to leave and the float plane was there waiting for my journey back home.
And lift off. Kenmore Air de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver seaplane takes off from the water. Image by Colin Cook.
Depart: Rosario Resort (RSJ) to Kenmore Air Harbor (KEH)
via stops at Friday Harbor (FBS) and Lake Union (LKE)
Equipment: de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
Date: Sunday 9/30/12; Depart 4:30pm, arrive 5:50pm (10 mins early)
During the return trip, the weather was absolutely phenomenal. Very sunny and the visibility was quite good. It was interesting for me to use my iPhone to see exactly where we were traveling as we flew. As long as it is okay with the pilot, passengers are allowed to use any electronic device and since we were flying low, I had signal over populated islands. (If using my phone on a small plane like a Beaver doesn’t impact the instruments, how would using it on a large jet impact things? Just asking).
Flying over Gasworks park in Seattle. Image by Colin Cook.
The return journey went quite quickly and we stopped both at Friday Harbor and Lake Union again. This time on approach to Lake Union, we flew over downtown Seattle and landed to the north, which was pretty sweet. It is a unique experience to fly over buildings that I recognized only from the ground. w
Soon after, we were back in Kenmore and my trip was over. It was an awesome trip and I’m glad I got to see Orcas Island and flying on a Kenmore Air seaplane. If you live in the Seattle area and haven’t experienced it or plan to make a trip in the future, I would highly recommend making this trip!
ADDITIONAL KENMORE AIR TRIP PHOTOS: