Kevin Waters

The Heart and Soul of Penobscot Island Air.

Kevin Waters

Kevin was the owner of Penobscot Island Air, but more importantly, he was its heart and soul. Kevin died suddenly and unexpectedly on July 5, 2020.  Although Kevin’s life ended way too soon, he lived life to the fullest in the 62 years that he was here on earth. As Shawn Michaud, one of Penobscot Island Air’s pilots stated in the Facebook posting announcing Kevin’s passing  ” Some say there are angels among us,  that they are put here to make our lives better…to show us what love and compassion are truly about.  If this is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not, heaven took one home last night.”

To really understand who we are at Penobscot Island Air, it is important to know a little bit about Kevin’s background.

Kevin grew up in Hampton N.H., graduating from Winnicunnett High School in 1975.  Kevin’s love of sports during his high school years included participation in varsity football and hockey, where he served as the team’s Captain.  Shortly after graduation, the mountains of Lincoln, NH, and Loon Mountain became home.  Kevin’s career at Loon Mountain began in snowmaking, soon advancing to become a  member of the Loon Mountain Ski Patrol. Not only did Kevin cherish the friends he made during that time period, but he had some of the most far-fetched stories of the ongoing antic that occurred on a regular basis.  Kevin loved those Loon Mountain days.  It was during this time period that Kevin joined that Coast Guard full time.  Key West, Boothbay Harbor and Woods Hole were several of the duty stations where Kevin was stationed. Months and months were spent in the Caribbean during the conflict in Grenada, solidifying Kevin’s desire to return to the New England.  Kevin was as comfortable on the water as he was in the air.  He served a total of 8 years in the Coast Guard.  After an Honorable Discharge from the Coast Guard, Kevin’s passion for flying took him to Flight School in Greeley, Colorado.  It was there that he earned his multi-engine, instrument, and helicopter ratings. Kevin loved flying out West, but his heart was in Maine.  Shortly after graduation, Kevin returned to Maine.

On June 26, 1993, Kevin married Terry Sinclair at the Children’s Chapel in Rockport Maine.   Terry was a nurse Kevin had met years earlier while stationed in Boothbay Harbor. (Kevin knew that they would be married one day, but who knew that it would be thirteen years after they met!)

Kevin’s early career in aviation included positions with Atlantic North and Colgan Airlines but it was mid-coast Maine that tugged at his heartstrings.  Kevin joined Clint Demons of Penobscot Air as a line pilot in 1998. It was during this time that Kevin began flying to the islands of Penobscot Bay.  There was no going back for Kevin, this was home. The air service changed hands several times over the next 5 years,  with the last owner abruptly suspending air service several days before Christmas 2004.  Kevin immediately began steps to obtain the necessary FAA documentation, insurance paperwork, and leasing an aircraft, with the goal of beginning operations as a single pilot operator. None of this would have been possible without the $17,000 collection initiated on Matinicus island.  This seed money was dropped off at Kevin and Terry’s house in a brown paper bag, no questions asked.  As the saying goes, the rest is history.

In January 2005, daily flight operations were started and Penobscot Island Air was in business.  Initially, operations were conducted from the Knox County Flying Club office, with a quick upgrade to a construction trailer which was located where the present office is located.  Bales of hay were carefully place around the base of the trailer to help with “climate control”,  Kevin’s way of trying to keep the indoor trailer temperature above 50 degrees. To say that the first winter at Penobscot Island Air headquarters was “brisk” would be an understatement.

Penobscot Island Air’s initial business was flying people from the Knox County airport to the islands and from the islands to the mainland. Slowly the company started expanding and moving passengers and freight 7 days per week and 365 days a year.  As business increased, additional aircraft were purchased along with vans and a utility boat. These assets are utilized to support the delivery of freight and allowed limited passenger movement when flying is not an option due to adverse weather conditions.  Medivacs, a service provided to the islands of Penobscot Bay became part of Penobscot Island Air’s commitment to the island communities. Medical personnel supports the patient and Penobscot Island Air provides the air transport from the islands during these missions, some years the number of these flights has exceeded 300.

Penobscot Island Air has grown significantly from its early days, averaging over 10,000 enplanements annually.  (these numbers were not achieved during 2020 due to the Covid pandemic). Freight delivery has grown to include UPS, FedEx, and USPS contracts, servicing the islands in Penobscot Bay.

Penobscot Island Air’s fleet of planes currently consists of 3 Cessna 206s, 2 Cessna 207s, and an amphibious Cessna 206,  a far cry from the one plane which the company started with 16 years ago.

Kevin truly loved his crews and the customers he served. They were family.  “You count and don’t forget it”.  Kevin made everyone feel special.  It didn’t matter who you were, you were important…Kevin’s actions always spoke just as loud as his words.  There was no bias, no double meanings, no thought of “what’s in it for me”…” Kevin’s heart was bigger than the bay” as one article several years ago stated.  Kevin was just the “real deal”.

Anyone who knew Kevin knows that he had a language of his own… “Gitney” and/or “gonculator” were interchangeable words for anything Kevin was looking for, “plane sneakers” meant tundra tires for the planes,  “googles” were reading glasses, “mobile black rug” was any black dog,  “refreshing day” meant it was 10 below and blizzard conditions, “lid” was a hat,  “Flintstone mobile” was the car, “ankle biter” was a child, “sweatless” meant don’t worry,  everyone was called “honey”  “the High Command” was a wife…the list went on and on….

Someone recently asked, “How can a small company that just moves people, boxes, mail and groceries in banana boxes be so special?”  The response “I don’t know but ask anyone who has spent any time around Kevin and his crew, maybe they can tell you what the magic is”.  Kind of strange to think that one small company that was started “on a shoe string” could have such a positive impact on people.   Kindness, honesty, respect,  trust…maybe a combination…Kevin set the example in all he said and did.

After Kevin’s passing, Terry made the commitment to keep Kevin’s dream alive.  This has been possible only because we have the “best crew ever” as Kevin often described the present Penobscot Island Air family. This includes the ground crew, both here at the airport in Owl’s Head as well as those who deliver on the islands, maintenance crew, flight schedulers/dispatchers, pilots and our “extended family”…our customers.   Without the tremendous support and dedication of all of these people, it would be impossible to keep such a complex operation running smoothly, a tribute to all of those at Penobscot Island Air!

As Shawn Michaud stated in a posting on Facebook:  He (Kevin) will be missed no doubt…but he will be a part of everything we do at PIA.  He will be on every flight, overseeing every boat operation, mingling amongst all of you as you board your next flight, and in every one of our deliveries – watch over us.   I know this as strongly as I know the sun will rise tomorrow.  Rest easy Boatswain, we have the watch…you are relieved of your earthly duties; there are bigger plans for you now.