Kenai Aviation plans scheduled flight service this spring
Kenai gets a third option for scheduled flights to Anchorage. Kenai Aviation, which currently offers on-demand charter flights and flight training, plans to begin offering daily service between Kenai and Anchorage starting this spring, with additional service between Anchorage and Homer and Valdez.
Joel Caldwell is director of operations for Kenai Aviation. He said the goal has always been to start regular service alongside charters, although the pandemic has grounded those plans.
“It’s a new thing for everyone as we announce it,” he said. “But for us, it’s something we’ve been planning since even before we bought Kenai Aviation.”
Kenai Aviation originated as a charter service for oil companies transporting workers from Kenai to the North Slope. It is based near the airport on North Willow Street.
The Caldwells bought the operation in 2018. And they’ve grown ever since.
In March 2020, they bought a nine-seater Beechcraft Super King Air to do on-demand charter flights, alongside a five-seat Cessna he uses for small groups.
Joel – who is also a captain for Alaska Airlines – said one of their most popular routes is Dutch Harbor. Fishing companies will charter planes to transport their employees back and forth.
Kenai Aviation also trains pilots in its flight school. Today, it owns eight aircraft, most of which are used for training. It has a staff of four full-time pilots and four part-time pilots.
Joel said they plan to hire more staff and will buy a second nine-seat plane to start with, although he doesn’t say what kind of plane it is yet.
His son, Jacob Caldwell, who is the company’s chief dispatcher, said they would keep ticket prices competitive with existing airlines.
“So finalizing the exact number around taxes,” Jacob said. “But we will be in the same ballpark as the current scheduled providers.”
The airline will join Grant Aviation and Ravn Air at Kenai Airport.
A new airline, Rambler Air, was also planned to make his home at Kenai Municipal Airport this spring.
But Luke Hickerson, Rambler’s vice president of operations, said that’s no longer the case.
He wouldn’t say why. According to an industry publication, the company’s owners, Ascent Global Logistics, initially failed to meet certain certification requirements necessary to start scheduled flights.
Jacob said Kenai Aviation has most of its ducks in a row for a spring launch. He is waiting for the approval of the Ministry of Transport to obtain the authorization to travel
But even without that, he says they can start flying up to five scheduled flights per week per destination. He said the company hoped to start booking in mid-April for flights starting in May. They will begin with an early morning flight from Kenai to Anchorage, a midday flight from Kenai to Anchorage and back, and a late evening flight from Anchorage to Kenai.
Joel said he was excited to bring the Kenai-based service back to the area.
“When we first moved here, I flew back and forth to Anchorage on Southcentral Air,” he said. “The community of Kenai was proud to have its own local airline serving south-central Alaska.”
And he said he wanted to offer Valdez and Homer another airline option, since Grant no longer flies to those communities.
Joel said Kenai Aviation already has a gate at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport that it uses for its charter flights. In Kenai, passengers will check in at the airport counter, pending city approval.
Eland Conway is the Kenai Municipal Airport Manager. He said more options for locals and tourists is always a good thing.
“It has been over a decade since a scheduled airline entered the Kenai market,” Conway said. “We are all thrilled here at the airport that our namesake airline is beginning scheduled passenger service to Anchorage.”
The Caldwells said Kenai Aviation will also continue its on-demand charters and flight school.