An Interview with Kenai Aviation
Kenai Aviation offers scheduled flights and charter services across the Kenai Peninsula. The following twelve questions are from an interview with Jacob Caldwell. You can find more about Kenai Aviation on their website and on Facebook and Instagram.
1. What does Kenai Aviation do?
“We do a little bit of everything when it comes to general aviation in Alaska. On the commercial side, we do on-demand charters. So when someone calls us and says, ‘I need to get from here to here.’ We say, ‘here is our price’ and we make that happen. We also run scheduled service flights between Kenai and Anchorage, and Anchorage and Homer. We have daily flights that are available at seat fare. We are running Monday through Friday right now and are doubling that schedule beginning May 1st—going to seven days a week at that point. Also on the commercial side, we do sightseeing flights out of the Kenai airport. We also have a full flight school here in Kenai. We do full flight training anywhere from someone who has not never touched an airplane all the way to the highest level of commercial. So we do a little bit of everything.”
2. How long has Kenai Aviation been around?
“Kenai Aviation started as an on-demand, charter-based air provider for the oil field back in 1961. Bob Bielefeld was the founder. He was an oil field worker who moved up here. He was a part of the Swanson river oil find here on the Kenai Peninsula. He saw there was a need for air service to assist in the oil field. So he went to the factory and bought a brand new Piper Tri-Pacer and started up Kenai Aviation in 1961 as an oil service air carrier.”
3. Tell me about your aircraft
“On our charter side of the house, we have a Cessna 206, a 5-seater, which is what we do most of our sightseeing with. And that’s just short range, little hops around the Kenai area, the peninsula. We also have a King Air 200 that we run all over the state and beyond. We’ve done multiple charters from here to Seattle. That thing goes all over. For our scheduled flights that we’re now running we brought a brand new Tecnam Traveler, a high-wing, twin-engine piston aircraft. It’s a first-of-its-kind plane designed for passenger service. We’ve used a lot of planes over the years for moving people from point A to point B and adapted them to moving people. The Tecnam Traveler was primarily designed to be a 9-passenger commuter aircraft all the way from the interior to the way the seats are setup. It feels more like a commercial airliner than a bush plane, from USB plugs to legroom for the comfort of the passenger.”
4. Let's say I want to do charter services in the bush. Do you have aircraft equipped with floats, skis, or tundra tires?
“No. We just do airport to airport. We have a lot of great operators that we’ll recommend if you’re looking for off-airport locations.”
5. Are you certified for IFR or VFR?
“Our Cessna 206 is VFR (Visual Flight Rules), but our other two aircraft are IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) certified.”
6. What sort of goals do you have guys have for offering scheduled flights on the Kenai Peninsula. “Our goals are twofold: first, my Dad, Joel, and I, have been here on the Peninsula going on 30 years now (since 1994). We’ve been locals here and want to provide a service for our local community. That’s part number one. Part number two goes along with that. As a charter airline, it’s hard to know who to call when they want to go somewhere. The question people ask when they book a trip somewhere is “Who goes there?” And trying to advertise to people as “We’ll go from anywhere to anywhere” is hard—It’s hard to get your name out. Scheduled service allows people to see us everyday flying back and forth across the Peninsula. And they see us talking about our charter services. So it helps as advertise us as a charter operator when we fly scheduled flights.”
7. What distinguishes Kenai Aviation from Competitors (like RAVN, for example).
“To put it simply, we are local and customer-service focused. We’re an airline by Alaskans for Alaskans. We are focused on providing the best, most reliable service here for the locals. Going for the professional, almost executive quality at the price we expect for normal transportation. Not a first-class experience for cost, but the higher quality experience over something like RAVN. All throughout the process we focus on simplicity and flexibility. We want to make sure it’s easy to figure out how to book, when do you do book that it’s easy to make changes (we don’t have change fees)—we are here to make the travel experience as convenient and simple as possible. ”
8. What’s your policy regarding carry-ons and checked baggage?
“We allow carry-ons per passenger at no charge. Each passenger is allowed up to 50 pounds of checked package. If you have 3 pieces that are 10 pounds per piece—that’s included. If you exceed 50 pounds across your checked bags, then once you have more than 50 cumulative pounds of checked baggage, that’s at the charge of local freight weight (currently $1/pound) for each pound past 50.”
9. What’s Does your Summer Flight Schedule Look Like?
“For Kenai, up to 8 flights per day. For Homer, up to 4 flights per day. Our flights are busiest during the middle of the week. We start at 4am and we don’t end until 12:30am during the summer.”
10. For the Summer, do you guys have any deals going on?
“As of right now, we don’t have any plans at this time but you can keep an eye on social media. We are most active on Facebook and also Instagram. (Link those in the article).”
11. What would differentiate you guys from other carriers providing flight seeing services?
“For flight seeing out of Kenai, we do an hour to an hour and a half long flight, go look around, and then come back. You don’t get the experience of landing anywhere remotely, but our prices are usually more affordable. We have two primary fixed routes and we are always open to customize for groups if they desire it.”