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Former Alaska Air CEO Lost In C182 Landing Accident

Bruce R. Kennedy Led Alaska Air Expansion As An International Carrier

Bruce R. Kennedy, who led Alaska Airlines' expansion as an international carrier, died Thursday when his single-engine Cessna 182 crashed into a high school parking lot while trying to land in Cashmere, WA.

According to the Chelan County Sheriff's Office, the plane went down around 1900 local time when it hit a parked flatbed truck and a tree before stopping a few feet from a house and catching fire. Kennedy, who was 68, was dead at the scene. He was the only person on board.

The NTSB has begun an investigation.

"While we are deeply saddened by the loss of someone we love and admire so much, we rejoice in the knowledge that Bruce is united with his Lord Jesus and take comfort in the fact that he died doing something he loved," said his wife Karleen Kennedy.

Kennedy was on his way from Hot Springs, MT, to visit his grandchildren in Wenatchee. He had filed a flight plan for Wenatchee and it had not been closed as expected, according to a family press release.

Kennedy had flown to Sandpoint, ID, to visit Quest Aircraft, where he was board chair, and then on to Hot Springs, MT, "one of his favorite aviation destinations," according to the release. From there, his final flight was to taken him to Wenatchee via Cashmere.

Quest was formed in 2000 to design and manufacture aircraft to serve the needs of mission and humanitarian flying in challenging parts of the world, as well as for commercial sales.

The Kodiak (shown below), a turbine-powered, single-engine plane being produced at Quest's Sandpoint plant, is on the verge of receiving a type certificate from the FAA.

A company director since 1972, Kennedy served in one or more capacities as Alaska Airlines' chairman, CEO, and president between 1978 and 1991. He also held the same positions with Alaska Air Group from its inception in 1985 to 1991.

Kennedy oversaw Alaska Air Group's acquisition of Horizon Air and Jet America, fueling the company's growth from an airline serving Seattle and ten cities in Alaska to a combined operation today with 92 destinations in the US, Canada, and Mexico, according to Alaska Air Group. 

During his tenure, revenues increased tenfold to surpass one billion dollars, and both airlines (Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air) became widely recognized for excellent customer service and for an unexcelled record of consistent profitability.

He continued to serve on the board of Alaska Air Group after his early retirement from the company in 1991.

"All of us at Alaska Air Group are deeply saddened by this terrible loss of a revered leader and dear friend," said Alaska Air Group's chairman and CEO Bill Ayer.

"Bruce's legacy extends far beyond his storied leadership of this airline. In his 12 years as chairman and CEO, he led Alaska on a path of significant expansion and financial stability while maintaining a strong culture of resourcefulness and integrity."

"As chairman emeritus, he continued to provide considerable leadership and strategic vision for the company right through to current times. For all those who worked with Bruce, we remember him as a man of great vision and compassion. His impact on our airline, the Seattle community, the state of Alaska, and the important causes he believed in has been immeasurable."

Kennedy was awarded honorary degrees from Seattle Pacific University and University of Alaska. Seattle's Museum of Flight honored him last year with its Pathfinder Award in recognition of a professional life dedicated to aviation.

Following more than 30 years with Alaska Airlines, Kennedy left the company to pursue humanitarian efforts. He and his wife traveled to China with the Christian group Educational Services International and volunteered with World Relief. Kennedy also served on the boards of several Christian organizations.

"Bruce was a great visionary and a great human being," said Quest Chief Executive Paul Schaller.

"His inspiration and dedication to Quest will be greatly missed."

FMI: www.alaskaair.com, www.questaircraft.com

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