In the Beginning…
Founded in 1955 by Orin Seybert, when he was only 19 years old. He was living in Pilot Point, Alaska and owned a 1946 two-seat Taylorcraft. In 1956, a four-seat Piper Tri-Pacer was purchased, and the company was officially named Peninsula Airways. Today, the airline is part of the largest locally based airline group, Ravn Air Group. With its headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska, Ravn Air Group currently employs around 1300 employees state wide.
1955 – 1979
In 1955 Peninsula Airways was founded by Orin Seybert. Ten years later Peninsula Airways became incorporated and purchased the fixed-base operation in King Salmon, Alaska which included the Chevron Airport Dealership. Then in 1967 they became a full-time subcontractor to Reeve Aleutian Airways, meeting Reeve’s certificate obligations to the Chigniks, Perryville and Ivanoff Bay. Two years later acquired all assets of Tibbetts-Herre Airmotive, which had operated out of Naknek, Alaska since 1950. By 1973, regular service was provided between King Salmon and the Pribilof Island communities of St. Paul and St. George. Charter service was also extended into the Aleutian Islands in southwest Alaska, including Unalaska, Atka and Adak with the Grumman Super Widgeon.
In 1977 two Grumman Goose aircraft were purchased from Reeve Aleutian Airways, and the subcontract was expanded to cover all locations certificated to Reeve throughout the Alaskan Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. This required setting up an operating base at Cold Bay.
1980 – 1989
The Civil Aeronautics Board awarded a Part 401 Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to Peninsula Airways, and all aircraft operations were conducted under Part 135 of the Federal Air Regulations. In 1982 Peninsula Airways acquired its first turbine aircraft, a Cessna Conquest, to be operated out of Cold Bay, Alaska. Peninsula Airways was the first Alaskan air carrier to qualify for CAB Part 419 subsidy, allowing the airline to perform Essential Air Service to Atka, St. George and Kodiak Island. Then in 1985 they acquired all assets of Air Transport Service, Inc., based in Kodiak. with approximately six aircraft and scheduled year-round service to all points on the Island. Also an Anchorage base was started with two Cessna Conquest turbo-props offering charter service from Anchorage to the Pribilof Islands.
Scheduled service from Anchorage to King Salmon and Dillingham, Alaska was started in 1986 with the Cessna Conquest. A year later the first Fairchild “Metroliner” was purchased and put into service in 1987. Through the next six years Peninsula Airways added additional Metroliners for a total of six aircraft.
In 1998 Dillingham was set up as a base for operations servicing rural Alaska. A hangar and aircraft were purchased and service to the surrounding communities began. Peninsula Airways was contracted in 1989 by Exxon to support the “Exxon Valdez” oil spill cleanup.
1990 – 1999
Peninsula Airways began doing business as PenAir in 1991 and became a codeshare and Mileage Plan partner with Alaska-based Alaska Airlines. Then in 1996 PenAir transitioned to FAA Part 121 regulations, operating under both Part 135 and 121. PenAir was the first regional airline in the United States to make the 10-19 seat required conversion, including an active dispatch department. In 1997
it acquired its first two Saab 340B aircraft servicing King Salmon and Dillingham, Alaska.
Construction of a new hangar in 1998, located at 6100 Boeing Drive, became home to both PenAir´s fleet and their corporate offices in Anchorage, Alaska.
In 2004 PenAir began a Capacity Purchase Agreement with Alaska Airlines utilizing PenAir’s crew and fleet in the Dutch Harbor/Unalaska market. In 2005 the 50th Anniversary was celebrated! PenAir is Alaska’s largest commuter airline, operating a fleet of 40 aircraft (Part 121 & 135) and providing scheduled service to 36 communities throughout Southwest Alaska. PenAir was the second airline in the state to receive the Medallion Shield Award. The airline’s second, 33,000 square foot hanger was built in Anchorage in 2007. Two years later they expanded into the Bypass Mail operation to include 5 new destinations. They also increased their fleet by welcoming their first “all cargo” Saab 340 aircraft. Then added in 2010 its second “all cargo” Saab aircraft.
2010 – Today
PenAir increased their safety initiatives with their codeshare partner, Alaska Airlines. And initiated even stronger policies and guidelines as one of Alaska´s leaders in aviation safety. As the provider of many of the Medallion Foundation´s procedures, these Safety policies are now being used, not just at PenAir, but implemented throughout the United States by many aviation facilities. As a further commitment and standard of safety, PenAir internally branded their central focus to be “Safety through Compliance.” This empowered their employee group to not only think Safety first but to do so through compliance, achieving a greater understanding of the company´s many policies and assuring that all are being met.
This positive move also guided PenAir to a newer, fresher, streamlined look with a new attitude, energy, dedication and branding, through a complete logo reface.
In 2012 PenAir was awarded two EAS (Essential Air Service) routes in early 2012. These routes meant expanding its operational base to the East Coast of the United States with services from Boston to Presque Isle, Maine and Plattsburgh, New York. PenAir also picked up the seasonal summer route from Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine. In 2015 PenAir was awarded an EAS contract for service between Portland, Oregon and Crescent City, California.
PenAir continued to grow with the addition of new routes throughout the lower 48 in 2016, adding services between its hub in Portland (opened in September of 2015) and North Bend/Coos Bay, Oregon. One month later, on April 21st, PenAir added two additional routes out of the same hub to: Eureka/Arcata and Redding, California.
PenAir purchased 5 Saab 2000s in 2015, primarily for their Alaska operations, offering a larger plane and a faster flight between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor and the Bristol Bay region.
In 2017 PenAir after some years of growth in the “Lower 48” had lost some of its Essential Air Services routes and entered Chapter 11. It consolidated their services all back to Alaska and in December 2018 its assets were purchased by J F Lehman and Co and became part of Alaska’s largest local regional carrier Ravn Air Group.
PenAir continues to serve the Bristol Bay region and the Aleutians as it starts a new chapter in its Alaskan history. PenAir remains an essential part of Alaska’s travel infrastructure.