A nine-seat Beechcrafter Super King Air B200 plane sits in a hanger at Kenai Aviation in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

A nine-seat Beechcrafter Super King Air B200 plane sits in a hanger at Kenai Aviation in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Airline preps to serve Kenai, region

Kenai Aviation seeks to add weekday commuter flights beginning in May

Travelers on the Kenai Peninsula may soon have another airline option for flights around Southcentral Alaska.

Kenai Aviation announced Wednesday it is planning to add weekday commuter flights from Kenai Municipal Airport to Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage starting this May. Kenai Aviation also plans to offer commuter flights to Homer and Valdez.

Joel Caldwell, the director of operations at Kenai Aviation, said Wednesday that the business is looking to satisfy the demand for more travel throughout Southcentral.

“Homer and Valdez have been without any other service other than Ravn,” he said. “So we, as a family, have wanted to for a number of years start our own air service, and go back into those communities, as well (as) serving our own community, Kenai.”

Caldwell runs Kenai Aviation with his son Jacob Caldwell, who works as the director of station operations. Both previously worked for Grant Aviation, and Joel Caldwell is also currently a captain at Alaska Airlines.

Until now, the business has primarily offered charters, flightseeing tours and flight training. Destinations on the charters include a nonstop flight to Seattle, as well as to remote Alaska regions like Dutch Harbor and St. Paul Island.

Jacob Caldwell said Wednesday that working with the City of Kenai to add an airline to the local airport has been a long process. The airline operating agreement is subject to final approval by the council, but will first be reviewed by the Kenai Airport Commission during the body’s Thursday, March 10 meeting.

“There’s some things with the airport lease process that are a little cumbersome, but that’s anything working with the government,” he said. “I think it’s gone pretty well.”

He said the goal is to provide “a little nicer service” for “basically the same price” as the current airlines that operate in the area.

The Kenai Municipal Airport currently only hosts Ravn Air and Grant Aviation for commuter flights across the Southcentral region.

Eland Conway, the manager of the airport, said Wednesday that adding the airline service has been in the works for awhile.

“It’s a fairly painless process,” he said, noting, however, that “it can be time consuming.”

Part of the protocol to approve Kenai Aviation as a commuter service provider was to apply to lease space in the Kenai Municipal Airport, commit to the city’s airline operations agreement, and get the OK from both the Kenai Airport Commission and the Kenai City Council.

Conway said he doesn’t think operations will be disrupted as a result of the additional airline service. “I don’t anticipate any conflicts or time constraints,” he said.

The airport already has adequate terminal, ticket counter, runway and baggage claim space, Conway said.

Regarding the travelers themselves, he said he’s excited for the change.

“We’re excited to add an airline and provide more options,” Conway said.

Last spring the Kenai City Council considered a resolution to add Rambler Air LLC as a third commuter service provider along with Ravn and Grant, but the project didn’t come to fruition.

Conway said last year’s investment into Rambler served as a “dry run” for the Kenai Aviation addition.

Caldwell said bureaucratic hurdles, as well as disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, originally upended their plans. But now, he said, it’s been nice to see actual progress.

“Being able to just kind of struggle on throughout the COVID and everything, we hadn’t been able to add that next step,” he said. “So we’re excited to finally be there.”

Kenai Aviation’s nine-seat Beechcrafter Super King Air B200 plane is intended to begin weekday commuter service operations around May 1.

The current schedule includes a 4:30 a.m. flight from Kenai to Anchorage, a noon flight from Anchorage to Kenai, a 3 p.m. flight from Kenai to Anchorage and an 11:30 p.m. flight from Anchorage to Kenai. Also included on the schedule are multiple flights through Anchorage to Valdez and Homer.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Joel Caldwell, director of operations for Kenai Aviation, sits in the pilot’s seat of Kenai Aviation’s nine-seat Beechcrafter Super King Air B200 plane in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Joel Caldwell, director of operations for Kenai Aviation, sits in the pilot’s seat of Kenai Aviation’s nine-seat Beechcrafter Super King Air B200 plane in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

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