KENMORE, Wash. — On the waters of North Lake Washington, every morning around 7 a.m., seaplanes clear the docks – buzzing across the water, and into the sky. They've been taking off from here ever since Bob Munro started Kenmore Air with two high school friends in 1946. Munro died in 2000 and the airline, seaplane maintenance and parts supply business he started continues to thrive. The company turns 75 this year and today Munro’s descendants keep the fleet of yellow and white seaplanes flying high.
“I love that sound, it's just ingrained in me,” said Allison Russell – Munro’s granddaughter and Kenmore Air’s accountant, about the noise of engines in the morning right outside her office.
Her brother, Todd Banks, Munro’s grandson, is president of the company. “He’s definitely the favorite child,” his sister joked. This type of ribbing goes on daily here at Kenmore HQ. It’s part of how this place operates, employees and customers all become family here, because a sense of family is just ingrained. In fact, this brother/sister team used to work the docks here as teens, just like Todd’s son does now.
"My son's working line crew this morning so he's fueling airplanes and loading bags and up early and working hard it's great to see him out there,” said Banks.
From the dockside flower garden to the family dog, Buddy, in the office - Kenmore Air keeps it homey. Literally. Bob Munro's house still stands on the property. Todd and Allison’s mom grew up here, and their uncle, Gregg Munro – Kenmore Air’s Chairman lives there now. So does Buddy.
The family behind biggest floatplane operation in the US keeps it afloat by treating employees and customers like relatives and sticking to their grandfather's credo:
"It was always 'Do the right thing.' And we’d ask ‘OK, well what does that mean?’ and he goes, ‘Well, just do the right thing’,” said Banks.
The family has clearly figured out what Bob Munro meant by ‘do the right thing’. And even after 75 years, there’s still one thing that never gets old:
"We love being able to take people from the metropolitan area and share the beautiful places that we fly to,” said Banks.
His sister adds “I mean every time I go up in a plane I'm just amazed at where we live, with all the water the mountains and in the beauty and that we get to help provide experiences for people like that, it’s humbling. I don't take it for granted. I think it's a really special thing.”
Hang around Kenmore Air's headquarters long enough, and seaplanes aren't the only things you'll notice in the sky. You might spot a pair of eagles circling above.
They're members of this family too.
"We affectionately call the eagles Bob and Ruth Munro, for both of my grandparents,” said Banks. “It feels like they're watching over us cheering us on.”
Kenmore Air is offering a special $75 dollar scenic flight to celebrate their 75th Anniversary.