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 1940’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 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.
Several years later, Kenmore Air furthered their expansion with a new hangar and office building and in 1963 Kenmore Air acquired its first de Havilland Beaver, leading to a rebuilding and modification program specifically for this aircraft.
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, 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 turbine de Havilland Otters were added to the fleet to meet increased passenger demand.
With 25 aircraft in operation, 52 pilots on staff and more than 250 employees in peak season, Kenmore Air is among the best-known and most respected seaplane operations in the world. We fly an eclectic mix of piston de Havilland Beavers and turbine de Havilland Otters and Cessna Caravans, landing passengers on lakes, harbors, and tarmac among the mist-shrouded fjords and islands of the US and Canadian northwest.
Kenmore Air continues to set the world standard by which seaplanes are judged and is renowned for its superior expertise in aircraft maintenance and construction. In 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.