Taking Flight: Ketchikan's Commercial Aviation History : A collaboration with Don 'Bucky' Dawson with support from Chuck and A.J. Slagle to celebrate a century of commercial aviation in Ketchikan
Flair Air, 1973-1979

Founded in 1973 by Paul Breed, Flair Air was the first air taxi service established on Prince of Wales Island in the vast Alexander Archipelago, the third-largest island in the United States, and was based in the small community of Klawock. He decided on choosing that specific location, on a recommendation from pioneer Ketchikan, Alaska bush pilot Bob Ellis, whose own company had benefitted over the years in providing service there, and believed in the area’s potential future growth. Breed was the former commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Annette Island Air Station, who retired July 1, 1973, after notching a 20-year career as a military aviator, flying twin-engine Grumman HU-16E Albatross flying boat amphibians, Sikorsky H52 Helicopters, and a variety of other aircraft types. Breed first arrived in Alaska in December 1960, after applying for a duty station transfer from San Diego to Kodiak.

On October 12, 1972, Paul Breed filed his application to the Alaska Department of Commerce/Air Transportation Commission (ATC) to seek approval for his air taxi operating certificate, under the Flair Air company name. The ATC subsequently held a special public opinion hearing in Klawock the following summer to determine the need and justification for approval in granting Breed his certificate, which was well attended by island residents, who unanimously spoke in favor of having a locally based air taxi charter company. The lone dissenter was competing Coast Air owner/pilot Bill Clapp, who failed to appear at the hearing due to marginal flying weather at the time, which prevented his company plane from reaching Klawock in time on the day of the meeting to plead his case against Flair Air’s startup. On Friday, August 24, 1973, Paul Breed passed his Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) check ride flying his Cessna 185 Skywagon seaplane (N2727J), purchased from Chuck Traylor with Stikine Air Service in Wrangell, to jump the final government hurdle to be awarded his certificated. He started making revenue flights on September 12, 1973. Paul Breed was initially the sole pilot, and his wife Betty did dispatch, office tasks, and running errands, with backup relief from Klawock good friend Tina Kato. Breed's young son Paul, Jr. earned his allowance cleaning the plane after school. Though Breed was also a licensed Airframe and Powerplant mechanic, he initially flew his plane up to Sitka for contracted routine maintenance service. Flair Air soon operated three airplanes: a Cessna 180, C-185, and Luscombe 8E (one passenger, for charter or instruction).

On December 19, 1973, the new Klawock Airport on was officially opened to the public. Located 1.5 miles Northeast of Klawock, it was built by Bob Day construction Company. The Alaska State Highway Department maintained the unlighted 2,500 ft. by 100 ft. gravel strip. No fuel was available initially. At the end of January 1974, Bob Bullock came onboard as Flair Air’s first hired pilot. Bullock ferried up Flair Air’s first Beaver (N64393) from Kenmore Air in Seattle. After Bob left, he was followed by former Coast Air pilot Kirk Thomas. The business grew, and for the quarter ending January 1975, Flair Air was operating two DHC-2 Beavers seaplanes, with the addition of N17597, and another Cessna 185 (N982SC) mounted on a set of amphibious floats to operate between the Klawock Airport and Ketchikan International Airport, which also added a dedicated seaplane dock adjacent the terminal building. Unfortunately, Breed made an accidental wheels-down water landing next to the Klawock Cannery on June 27, 1975, with N982SC, which flipped the plane, causing it to sink and be taken out of service for substantial damage repair work. At the end of December 1975, Flair Air pilots consisted of Paul Breed, Gerry Bruder, and Kirk Thomas. More personnel changes came on March 22, 1976, when pilot Keith Stigen, then a Klawock resident, started flying for the company. Thomas then left the outfit four days later to start work back in Ketchikan flying for the new company, Tyee Airlines, Inc., co-owned by partners Terry Wills and Art Hack. On November 29, 1976, the Alaska Transportation Commission granted Flair Air an amendment to their ATC Certificate to operate a supplemental base at Craig. Paul and Betty Breed’s company experienced steady growth through the next year and a half.

1978 was a pivotal year for Paul Breed, influenced by fateful circumstances of loss. His beloved wife Betty succumbed to a heart attack, and his good friend and fellow air taxi owner/pilot Jack Swaim died in Webber Airlines tragic Grumman Goose crash near Pt. Baker on August 25, 1978, with the loss of eleven passengers. Breed got a call from Jack’s widow Marilyn asking him if he wanted to run the company and he accepted the offer. On December 31, 1978, Paul Breed was added as Webber Airlines general manager. With backing from Dick Standerfer and his South Coast, Inc. construction company, Paul Breed put up his assets in Flair Air to effect a successful acquisition merger to form South East Alaska Airlines on May 30, 1979. The new company operated from the large Webber Seadrome complex in Ketchikan, at 1515 Tongass Avenue. Breed found himself at the helm of one of Ketchikan’s biggest airline companies, to be covered in a future chapter.

Luscombe 8E, Cessna 180/185 Skywagon (seaplane and amphibian), Cessna 206 amphibian, DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver.

Paul Breed, Bob Bullock, Kirk Thomas, Gerry Bruder, Keith Stigen, John Gundersen, Mike Newbury, and Bill Buc, among others.

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Flair Air KPU Telephone Directory, 1975Flair Air KPU Telephone Directory, 1975
Flair Air Owner/Pilot Paul Breed at Big Salt Lake, circa 1970sFlair Air Owner/Pilot Paul Breed at Big Salt Lake, circa 1970s
Flair Air Owner/Pilot Paul Breed in Southeast Alaska, circa 1973/1974Flair Air Owner/Pilot Paul Breed in Southeast Alaska, circa 1973/1974
Flair Air Pilot Bob Bullock with Cessna 185, Ketchikan, AK, circa mid 1970sFlair Air Pilot Bob Bullock with Cessna 185, Ketchikan, AK, circa mid 1970s
Flair Air Seaplane Base, Klawock, AK, 1975Flair Air Seaplane Base, Klawock, AK, 1975
Flair Air Beaver (N17597) at Waterfall Cannery, circa 1977/1978Flair Air Beaver (N17597) at Waterfall Cannery, circa 1977/1978
Flair Air Logo, circa 1970sFlair Air Logo, circa 1970s
Flair Air Pilot Kirk Thomas with Paul and Betty Breed, Klawock, AK, 1975Flair Air Pilot Kirk Thomas with Paul and Betty Breed, Klawock, AK, 1975