Puyallup Tribe partners with Kenmore Air for South Puget Sound Seaplane Operation

Flights from Tacoma and a new restaurant are all part of the plan, which is expected to launch next year.

Kenmore Air has been serving the Pacific Northwest for 75 years, with floatplane tours and commuter runs to the San Juan Islands and British Columbia. [Courtesy: Kenmore Air]

The Puyallup Tribe of Washington State and Pacific Northwest seaplane giant Kenmore Air are partnering to bring seaplane operations to the South Puget Sound.

On Tuesday, the partners announced plans to build a new dock and terminal on property purchased by the Tribe along Ruston Way in Tacoma. The land was once inhabited by the Puyallup Tribe. For generations, they existed off salmon, shellfish, and native plants. Today, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians is a sovereign nation of more than 5,000 members and is one of the largest employers in Pierce County, Washington. The name, pronounced "pew-AWL-up," means "generous people.” 

According to Matt Wadhwani, CFO for the tribe, the partnership has been a year in the making, noting that it was important that tribal concerns aligned with the values of Kenmore Air.

Wadhwani says the partnership will also create job opportunities for tribal members, which is one of the goals with tribal developments such as the Emerald Queen Casino and luxury hotel in Tacoma.

“With all of our developments creating jobs for tribal members and training them is key,” he said. “Kenmore Air was very supportive,” 

Wadhwani notes there are many training opportunities to be had such as aircraft maintenance, operating the terminal and flight training.

He notes Kenmore's presence in the South Sound will likely be appreciated by the traveling community who will no longer will have to drive all the way to north Seattle to get a Kenmore Air flight in one of the company’s iconic de Havilland Beavers on floats.

The enthusiasm is echoed by Todd Banks, president of Kenmore Air. 

“We are honored to work with the Puyallup Tribe and thrilled to bring seaplane service to the homelands of the Puyallup people and to South Puget Sound,” he said. 

Kenmore Air has been serving the Pacific Northwest for 75 years, with floatplane tours and commuter runs to the San Juan Islands and British Columbia.

The seaplane dock will be built next to the Ram, a popular waterfront restaurant. A second building which contained another restaurant until the pandemic, is being renovated to house a new Native/internationally inspired restaurant by world-renowned Chef Roy Yamaguchi. Both the new restaurant and seaplane terminal are on target to begin operations in late 2023.

Ruston Way is located along the Tacoma waterfront bordering Commencement Bay. The street contains a wide, walkable path that hugs the shoreline for approximately 2.5 miles. In addition to spectacular views of the Sound and the mountains in the distance, the path is interspersed with historical markers, sculptures, mosaics and poems carved into the pavement.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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