I have been Flying a DeHavilland Beaver for Kenmore Air, a Part 135 seaplane airline in Seattle, Washington for the past 4 years. My first flying position with Kenmore was as a Flight Instructor in a Piper SuperCub providing seaplane ratings and advanced instruction in mountain lakes and rivers. After building approximately 500 hours of seaplane time I moved on to the passenger operation in the DHC-2 Beaver.
The company’s passenger operation consists of mostly schedule departures to the San Juan Islands, and British Columbia. On a typical day I can expect to fly 4 or 5 scheduled departures with any combination of destinations. During the summer we fly as far as the north end of Vancouver Island. On occasion, particularly with charter flights, pilots will occasionally spend a night at one of the wilderness lodge destinations as to permit an early departure in the morning. The lodges the company serves are typically high end fishing destinations and boat marinas. It is very common to encounter a pod of orca whales while approaching the destinations and on some occasions they block the path to the docks (my favorite kind of delay.) Working for a small airline provides lots of flexibility and allows a lifestyle that is rare in aviation as almost every night is spent at home by the time the sun goes down. The flying is all VFR which can be both a blessing and a curse. We operate at altitudes and on flight paths where there is no weather reporting so it is common for the leader of the pack during a departure time to have to scout the route to the destination. For this reason it is very important to posses and exercise sound judgement and decision making. The destinations do not have fuel available so we must plan to carry enough fuel to get to and from the destinations with proper reserves considering performance, passenger loading, and weather.
On any one scheduled departures, pilots can expect to make up to 5 stops at various destinations where we will both pickup and drop off passengers. Its not unusual to exceed 15 landings in a day. Prior to departure pilots are provided with a roundtrip passenger manifest. Its the pilots responsibility to decided how to route the flight in order to accommodate pickup, and drop-offs in the most efficient manner. Improper planning will lead to finding there are not enough seats for everyone who has booked a flight so it is important to think routing out very carefully.
The airline employes a few types of pilots. A few are younger newer pilots who have worked there way up through the company, most by starting as a line crew member working on the dock fueling and servicing aircraft during the busy summer season. From there they are selected to become flight instructors for 1 or 2 seasons prior to joining the scheduled operation. Other pilots have retired from airline careers and posses seaplane experience from back in the day when it was easier to acquire seaplane experience through renting (renting isn’t possible in the modern day.) The other pilots have careers in other fields such as law and medicine. These pilots work on a part-time or seasonal basis. About 75% of the airlines business occurs between June and September so the company relies on a group of seasonal pilots to meet the schedule needs. In the summer the roster has as many as 60 pilots. In the winter it is reduced to a core group of about 10 pilots. During the winter many pilots are utilized in other areas in order to keep active such as assisting in the busy maintenance and parts department.
From flying celebrities to high end resorts to thundering past a pod of breaching Orcas whales, flying seaplanes has provided me with some of the most memorable experiences and views of my entire life. It has been an absolute pleasure working with such a tight group of professional and friendly pilots.
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