Lake and Pen Air, a family owned airline, has officially opened at the Kenai Municipal Airport.
Dave Wilder has been flying cross Alaska commercially since 1969. He and his wife, Jacque, started Lake and Pen Air in 1991.
The airline offers several flights daily to Merrill Field in Anchorage, Nondalton, Iliamna, Kokhanok and King Salmon and Port Alsworth, the home base of the company.
For the Wilders, the new Kenai location is an exciting work in progress.
“We’re a young company in Kenai and we’re going to have one airplane stationed here all the time,“ Wilder said. “We are still in the beginning stages of working into a schedule that actually works.”
Wilder and his son, Lyle, are two of five pilots who transport passengers in smaller aircrafts, including a Cessna 206 and a Bonanza which both seat five passengers, and a Caravan that seats nine. His daughter, Laura, runs the Anchorage office.
“It is a real, genuine family business,” Wilder said. “We are just a family that loves Alaska and loves the opportunity that God has given to us to be here and be participating, and just making a difference.”
For the Wilders, the idea of commercial flying in Alaska was a dream. He was one of 20 children raised on a farm on the north side of Chicago. Wilder moved to Alaska in 1967 after a buddy suggested he give commercial fishing a try.
In 1969, Wilder started an air taxi service that started that dream.
“I have never, ever had to work,” he said “All I have had to do is fish and fly. It’s pretty magical.”
Sara Pozonsky, Lake and Pen Air acting Kenai manager, said the new Kenai location is a natural place for the business to be.
“We cross over Kenai constantly,” she said. “It is just perfect.”
Currently, Lake and Pen Air has one daily flight to Anchorage at 11 a.m. and a return flight at 6 p.m. five days a week. Ticket prices are $185 round-trip and $105 one-way.
“Even though we have one scheduled flight a day,” she said, “we have flights going over here all the time. And if a pilot knows, he can just stop and pick them up.
“It is really customer service orientated. We just really do our best to cater.“
Pozonsky said because Lake and Pen Air flies into Merrill Field, it offers customers both access and convenience of flying into downtown Anchorage.
“It would be really fun to get on that flight to Anchorage and arrive right downtown,” she said.
For those needing to catch connecting flights at Ted Stevens International Airport, Lake and Pen offers a shuttle service for their customers.
Many Lake and Pen Air customers are hunters or fishers who charter planes to visit southwest Alaska lodges and camps.
For charter flights, the cost is based on an hourly rate.
In celebration of the grand opening, there will be an event on June 7 at the airport where there will be a drawing for two round-trip tickets from Kenai to Anchorage.
Lake and Pen’s Kenai counter can be reached at 907-283-2227.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at email@example.com.