Clyde Carlson, owner and founder, started Northwest Seaplanes in 1988 providing exclusive service with two Dehavilland Beavers to Hakai Lodge which is located 70 miles north of Vancouver Island. Providing seaplane service to Hakai Lodge was not Clyde’s first adventure in aviation.
Clyde started his seaplane career thanks to the GI Bill in 1968. Soon after completing his commercial pilot training, Clyde began working for Lake Union Air Service flying Cessna 206′s to River Inlet Resort. As his passion for seaplanes grew, he started Western Air Charters in 1976 with a fleet of four Cessna 206′s providing seasonal tourism air service for the now bustling cruise ship industry in Juneau, Alaska.
Residing in Seattle, Clyde purchased Lake Union Air Service in 1980. Soon after Clyde became the pioneer of scheduled seaplane service from Lake Union to the San Juan Islands and then Victoria, BC. By 1986, Lake Union Air became the scheduled largest seaplane in the United States offering year-round scheduled and charter flights throughout the San Juan Islands and British Columbia with a fleet of 8 aircraft.
Not long after selling Lake Union Air in 1987, Northwest Seaplanes was conceived providing seasonal scheduled and charter service to boating and trophy salmon fishing destinations throughout British Columbia’s Inside Passage.
In 2002 the Carlson’s purchased West Isle Air, which is now San Juan Airlines, and expanded their name in the wheel plane business. They operated daily scheduled flights in Cessna Caravans and Piper Chieftains from the San Juan Islands and Port Angeles to Boeing Field which they sold the routes to Kenmore Air in 2005. Now, San Juan Airlines operates daily scheduled and charter flights to and from Anacortes and Bellingham to the San Juan Islands and British Columbia with a fleet of Cessna 207′s.
Clyde is not alone in his business ventures. His son, Shane Carlson, is following in his footsteps and carrying on the family business. Shane began his flying career working the docks of Lake Union Air and took his first flying lessons during his lunch break starting at age 15. Shane pursued his flight training at Big Bend Community College earning his associates degree on Commercial Aviation. Now Shane has been flying commercially for the family business for 17 years and manages the seaplane operations of both Northwest Seaplanes and Chelan Seaplanes.
Because of our well-trained, professional, and courteous pilots and our meticulously maintained fleet, Northwest Seaplanes has logged over 24 years of accident and incident free flying. From our pilots to our dedicated maintenance staff, you will feel comfortable knowing you are flying with experienced professionals. This tradition and safety culture has been continued through our sister company, Chelan Seaplanes. Safety and customer service is our utmost goal and has led the Carlson’s to success for over 40 years in the business.
When you are flying aboard a Northwest Seaplanes Dehavilland Beaver, you are flying in the hands of the safest and most professional bush pilots in the industry!