Ravn sells off dozens of small planes to Alaska companies

Ravn Alaska prepares to board a de Havilland Dash 8 for a flight from Dillingham and King Salmon to Anchorage. (Avery Lill/ KDLG)

The bankrupt RavnAir Group sold off dozens of its small planes to several Alaska aviation companies at auction Tuesday, but Ravn’s largest planes and most valuable airline operating certificates won’t be sold until Wednesday.

At Tuesday’s auction, run by a Ravn bankruptcy attorney on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, the company sold 15 of its Cessna planes for $10 million to Grant Aviation, which serves the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Islands.

Four more Cessnas went to Fairbanks-based Wright Air Service, which also bought Ravn buildings and equipment in Fairbanks, the North Slope communities of Utqiagvik and Deadhorse and the Yukon River village of Galena, paying a total of $12.8 million.

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Ravn sold 14 more Cessna planes to Bethel-based Yute Commuter Service for some $1.5 million. Yute also bought two of Ravn’s buildings, in Bethel and another hub community, St. Mary’s.

And Ravn sold its Beechcraft fleet — which the company says includes eight planes — for $5 million to Anchorage-based ACE Air Cargo.

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The winning bids must still be approved by a federal bankruptcy judge at a hearing Thursday.

And still on the block when the auction resumes Wednesday morning are 10 of Ravn’s larger planes: Nine de Havilland DASH-8s and a Saab 340.

Those planes will be sold with the federal operating certificates for two of Ravn’s three airlines, PenAir and Corvus Airlines, which operated the company’s flights between Anchorage and larger hub communities on the Kenai Peninsula, and in the Aleutian Islands and other areas of rural Alaska.

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The smaller planes sold Tuesday were generally used for shorter flights between those hub communities and smaller, remote villages. Those flights were operated by Ravn’s third airline, Hageland Aviation.

Ravn was Alaska’s largest rural air service before the COVID-19 pandemic forced it into bankruptcy earlier this year. With Tuesday’s sale of the planes, the fate of the company is unknown; spokeswoman Debbie Reinwand and Chief Executive Officer Dave Pflieger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the companies that bought some of Ravn’s planes said it plans to use them largely to bolster existing service that it offers in Southwest Alaska.

Yute Commuter Service currently owns 12 planes, said co-owner Wade Renfro, and will more than double its fleet with the purchase of the 14 new Cessnas. The company intends to offer more frequent service to its existing destinations in the region, which was also served by Ravn before the bankruptcy.

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“We can pick up some of the slack that will be left after COVID runs its course and people are back to traveling on a regular basis,” he said. “It’ll keep the villages from seeing any real interruption of service.”

Renfro’s companies have been involved in several accidents in the past year. But he said Yute is small enough to keep a “huge emphasis on safety,” and plans to put the new planes into service slowly, rather than all at once.

“It’s going to be a slower growth process,” he said.