The People and Planes of Friday Harbor

Time and tide wait for no man, but they seem to linger a little around the flying paradise of the San Juan Islands.

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Visitors can still find traces of the old Friday Harbor, according to Island Air owner Jackie Hamilton, who moved to the islands right after high school. It’s still “the classic small town,” she says. Hamilton doesn’t bother to advertise her business, because she knows that if somebody needs a charter or is interested in flight instruction, the word will travel—or she’ll run into the potential customer in the grocery store.

There’s also a certain continuity in Friday Harbor because people who move to the San Juans tend to stay. Originally from New York, Chris Pagnotta began flying in the islands in 1995. “I’ll never leave,” he says.

“The word ‘freedom’ comes to mind,” says Gregg Munro, explaining why he chose flying seaplanes in a place like the San Juans instead of seeking a job with one of the major airlines. With all the growth surrounding it, Friday Harbor is still an airport of small airplanes, short flights, uncontrolled airspace, and pilots who just want to be in the air over one of the most magnificent island chains on Earth.

Sidebar: The Details

THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS lie in the Strait of Georgia, between Canada’s Vancouver Island and Washington state. On the westernmost of the four large islands, Friday Harbor can be reached by ferry or small airliner. For travel information, visit

Sidebar: Vital Stats

3,400-foot runway; 45 spaces for guest aircraft

Dining: The locals say the best food is at Cafe Vinny’s (Italian) and the best view is from Downriggers. There are 25 restaurants in walking distance of the airport—and 22 espresso machines.

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