Southeast Alaska commuter airline offers to resurrect PenAir amid Ravn bankruptcy

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Officials at a southeast Alaska commuter airline said they hoped to restart operations at PenAir, a former Alaskan aviation stalwart that went bankrupt in 2017.

But first, Alaska Seaplanes executives say, they need PenAir owner Ravn Air Group to accept — quickly — the company’s confidential offer.

A subsidiary of Ravn bought PenAir in a bankruptcy auction in 2018, but Ravn Air Group suddenly entered bankruptcy last month, blaming the slowdowns of COVID-19. Ravn’s departure left communities in the state at least briefly without scheduled air service. Some, like Homer and Unalaska, remain without scheduled direct flights to Anchorage.

Now that Ravn has initiated a plan to liquidate and dispose of assets through a trust that includes PenAir’s assets, Alaska Seaplanes wants to acquire the Federal Aviation Administration’s operating certificate and the assets of Peninsula Airways, or PenAir.

The move could restore long-term air service to communities on the Alaska Peninsula and those in the Aleutian Islands, including Unalaska, Alaska Seaplanes President Kent Craford said Friday.

Ravn must complete the sale by the first week of June when the certificate expires, Craford said.

Alaska Seaplanes is urging Ravn to act quickly on the offer, to help it repay its suppliers, small businesses and lenders, but also so that Alaska Seaplanes can “come in and restart PenAir and quickly restart service to the communities of the Alaska Peninsula,” he said.

A Ravn spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions on Friday.

Ravn operated a fleet of 72 aircraft at 21 hub airports and served 115 destinations in Alaska. The company reports between $100 million and $500 million in assets and liabilities, according to bankruptcy filings.

Ravn has hired one of the state’s most influential lobbyists, Anchorage-based Ashley Reed, on a $5,000 monthly contract for lobbying and consulting work, according to a deposit this week with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Juneau-based Kalinin Holdings Inc., doing business as Alaska Seaplanes, is owned by the Stedman and Craford families. The airline serves 13 communities with passenger, cargo and charter service throughout Southeast Alaska.

PenAir, founded in 1955, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August 2017. It was one of the largest regional airlines in the state and served small communities such as Cold Bay, Sand Point and McGrath with flights to and from Anchorage.

In 2012, PenAir expanded outside of Alaska. The company’s financial performance deteriorated in part because its Denver and Portland hubs failed to meet expectations, PenAir said in a filing. Its founder said the acquisition of a fleet of Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprops also increased debt.

The new PenAir division would be led by Alaska Seaplanes board member Wayne Heller, a veteran airline executive with extensive experience running regional airlines, according to the company.

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