Two if By Seaplane: Kenmore Air serves Pacific Northwest via two locations

BUSINESS PROFILE By Jodi Prill, Associate Editor Two if by seaplane Kenmore Air serves Pacific Northwest via two locations KENMORE, WA - This northern suburb of Seattle is home to seaplane operator Kenmore Air...

Customs regulations must also be obeyed by Kenmore Air and, as Brooks says, "have severe financial consequences" on the business. "There's a requirement that small charter and air taxi operators must adhere to custom AIPS (Advance Passenger Information System)," he explains. Major airlines have these systems already in place, but Kenmore had to design its own system at a cost of $150,000. "Now we are subject to the exact same fines that larger airlines are subject to. For example, for each flight we could be fined up to $40,000 and $10,000 for each error in transmission. That's just disproportionate to the size of our airline." An error, Brooks says, could be a misspelling of a passenger's name or the wrong birthdate. Airlines are allowed a 97 percent accuracy rate for each flight. Since Kenmore flies so few passengers, there is basically no room for error. "Some of the fines are pending, some we just really fight," Brooks says. "Often they just throw them at us indiscriminately. We argue, but one of these days they're going to stick and they're going to hurt."

Additionally, Kenmore was required to build a full customs facility at its Lake Washington base at a cost of $50,000 because it is an official U.S. Customs port of entry.

Brooks says revenue has been fairly flat since 9/11, but he's optimistic the company could make some headway this year. "We've had to work a lot harder, and we've done more advertising than we've done in the past."

Marketing is key to making travelers and local residents aware of Kenmore Air's services. Banks says the company uses radio, TV, and newspaper ads which are designed and planned through an outside marketing company. "The biggest seller is just seeing a float plane take off and land," Banks adds.

Kenmore Air expects to add a Seattle-Vancouver route in 2004, which Brooks says shows the potential for "considerable, long-term growth."


The Seaplane Pilots Association ( offers the following information for those interested in establishing a seaplane base:

  • The FAA recommends that bodies of water designated as seaplane bases be at least 2,500 feet long by 200 feet wide with a depth of three feet or more. In addition, a 20:1 glide path to the landing lane is the recommended minimum for obstacle clearance. If the site is to be used for mooring or services, a sandy beach, mooring buoy, floating (obstacle-free) dock or ramp can meet those needs.
  • Bodies of water within wilderness areas or other sensitive areas may be deemed unsuitable for seaplane operations.
  • Approval of an FAA Notice of Landing Area Proposal (form 7480-1) is required prior to establishment of a seaplane base. In some states, a state-issued seaplane base license is also required. Permission from the agency with jurisdiction over the water's surface is almost always required, and local zoning or regulations may also have an impact on the establishment of seaplane bases.

We Recommend