Three high school friends reunited after World War II founded Kenmore Air in 1946. With one airplane and a single hangar near a swamp at the North end of Lake Washington, Bob Munro, Reg Collins and Jack Mines created what was to become one of the largest and most respected seaplane operations in the world.
As with many great companies, Kenmore Air Harbor’s beginnings were modest. The company experienced many anxious moments in its infancy. From re-zoning the shingle mill site to a commercial seaplane base to petitioning the Kenmore community for support, it was a struggle at times to keep the Air Harbor afloat. Working sixteen-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week left them little time to ponder the future; however.
“Other than Jack’s ideas about a hotel we didn’t have much of a plan other than Reg and I would fix planes and Jack would give flying lessons. We just assumed it was going to work.” – Bob Munro
From the beginning, Kenmore Air’s business philosophy was based on the foundation of integrity and exceptional customer service. The company kept it simple: “Do the right thing”.
In the 40’s, Kenmore Air became a Seabee dealer for the Northwest and quickly the Republic Seabee amphibian became a huge success in the area. Kenmore Air also became the experts on Seabee repairs and maintenance for the local Seabees and developed a number of modifications to improve their performance.
By the early 1950’s, Kenmore 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.
Several years later, Kenmore furthered their expansion with a new hangar and office building and in 1963 Kenmore acquired its first Beaver, leading to a rebuilding and modification program specifically for this plane.
Over the next two decades, Kenmore Air significantly expanded their scheduled service offerings, and acquired two airlines: Otter Air, a small seaplane company offering scheduled service to Victoria, BC, and Lake Union Air. With the acquisition of Lake Union Air, Kenmore acquired its Seattle seaplane terminal and all but one of its aircraft. Several more Turbo Otters were added to the fleet to meet increased passenger demand.
Today, Kenmore Air is among the best-known and most respected seaplane operations in the world, flying an eclectic mix of piston Beavers and turbine Otters and Caravans, landing passengers on glaciers, lakes and harbors among the mist-shrouded fjords and islands of the U.S. and Canadian northwest.
Kenmore Air continues to set the world standard by which floatplanes are judged and is renowned for its superior expertise in plane maintenance and construction.
Kenmore Air currently has 25 aircraft in operation, 52 pilots on staff and more than 250 employees in peak season. The company’s philosophy has remained unchanged since its establishment in 1946: “Do the right thing”.
History continues in the pages of C. Marin Faure’s “Success on the Step“, available for purchase at our Seattle/Lake Union and Kenmore/Lake Washington terminals or online.
In November 2014, Seattle Business Magazine honored the impact and legacy of Washington State’s top family run companies, and Kenmore Air was a proud recipient of the Washington Family Business Award. Click to watch the video.