Alaska Seaplanes bids to acquire PenAir, restart service to SW Alaska

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Four Saab 2000 planes operated by PenAir sit idle outside the carrier’s hangar in Anchorage. Photo: Scott McMurren

Alaska Seaplanes, the largest commuter air carrier in Southeast Alaska, made an offer to acquire the operating certificate and assets of PenAir. RavnAir, PenAir’s parent corporation, is in bankruptcy and no planes are flying right now. Several communities in Southwest Alaska have no scheduled air service.

As part of RavnAir’s liquidation plans, which have been approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the PenAir operating certificate has been placed in a “liquidation trust” to be sold so creditors can get paid.

“Spinning off PenAir’s operating certificate, prior to the first week in June is critical as the certificate only has a small window of time before it expires or must be surrendered back to the FAA per government regulations,” said Mike Stedman, co-owner of Alaska Seaplanes.

“We’re working with the creditors’ committee to consummate a deal quickly,” said Kent Craford, another co-owner of Alaska Seaplanes. “It’s a perishable asset and the clock is ticking.”

Prior to PenAir’s shutdown on April 3, 2020, the air carrier flew its fleet of Saab 2000s from Anchorage to Cold Bay, Sand Point, King Salmon, Dillingham and St. Paul Island. Until Oct. 17, 2020, when a PenAir plane crashed on landing at Dutch Harbor, the airline provided service there as part of an agreement with Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Seaplanes’ financial partner on this bid is Wexford Capital, which previously bid for PenAir during the carrier’s first bankruptcy in 2018. RavnAir won that bidding war.

Wayne Heller, a board member of Alaska Seaplanes and former vice-president of Republic Airways, will be tapped to manage the day-to-day operations of PenAir if the offer is accepted.

“With RavnAir’s cooperation, it’s not inconceivable that we could get something done to rehire key personnel, go to the FAA and say we want to relaunch PenAir operations,” said Heller.

Heller currently serves as CEO of Sterling Flight Training in Jacksonville, FL , which is owned by Wexford Capital.

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