It’s said, one of the secrets to happiness is making your vocation your avocation. For Ken VanWinkle, Director of Operations and Pilot at Kenmore Air Express, this couldn’t be truer. Flying is more than Ken’s job – it’s his passion.

Ken spends the majority of his free time formation flying with the Northwest Beech Boys. This group of highly talented pilots fly Beechcraft Bonanzas in tight formation. Often the wings of these six-seater aircraft are just a few feet apart! 

“It’s very precise. We discuss the flight in advance and then typically only communicate with hand signals while in the air,” Ken explained.

It’s that precision which Ken loves, whether he’s flying his Bonanza or a Kenmore Air Cessna Caravan. “Landing and knowing you did your job right. That you did it well – especially when there are people aboard – is incredibly satisfying,” Ken told me as we sat in his office at Boeing Field.

It takes a lot of experience to be that precise. And experience he has. 

Just beyond the window of his office, we could see a retired Boeing 727. It was parked for maintenance in anticipation of its final flight – a trip to the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Mo. 

“The first position I took [with American Airlines] was the Flight Engineer position on the 727. I actually have that airplane in my logbook,” Ken said as he pointed outside. 

After retiring briefly as a commercial pilot, Ken joined the Kenmore Air family in 2013. And he loves it. Whether he’s flying to the San Juans or taking a group on our Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens Volcano Tour, he always has a smile on his face.  


BONUS: Ken’s Insider Tips

Kenmore Air Express pilots regularly spend layovers on Orcas Island and San Juan Island. Over the years, the crew has developed some go-to spots to grab a bite. These are Ken’s recommendations.

Island Skillet (Eastsound, Orcas) – “I’ve had the entire menu and everything is good.”

Haley’s Sports Bar & Grill (Friday Harbor, San Juan Island) – “They have good food and great service. They’re just incredibly friendly.”