Image: Bruce Kennedy
AP file
Former Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Bruce R. Kennedy was killed when his single-engine plane crashed into a high school parking lot in central Washington state, his wife said Friday.
updated 6/29/2007 7:31:55 PM ET 2007-06-29T23:31:55

Former Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Bruce R. Kennedy, who led the company’s expansion before stepping down in 1991 to pursue humanitarian interests, was killed when his single-engine plane crashed into a high school parking lot in central Washington, his wife said Friday.

“We have every reason to believe the plane was Bruce’s Cessna 182,” his wife, Karleen Kennedy, said in a statement released by the airline.

“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,” the statement said.

The plane crashed and burned as the pilot attempted to land in Cashmere, near Wenatchee, Thursday evening, and the pilot was dead at the scene, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

When Kennedy’s family got word of the crash, his son, Kevin, drove to the scene, the statement said. Kennedy was on his way from Hot Springs, Mont., to visit his grandchildren in Wenatchee.

Kennedy, 68, served as Alaska Air’s chairman and CEO from 1979 to 1991, and continued to serve on the company’s board of directors until his death. He is credited with expanding Alaska’s routes into southern California and to Mexico, and developing Alaska’s Horizon Air subsidiary.

At the time of his death, he served as the chairman of the board for Quest Aircraft Co. of Sandpoint, Idaho, which makes planes for humanitarian routes in remote and conflicted parts of the world.

The Quest site said that after 32 years with Alaska Airlines, Kennedy left to pursue humanitarian efforts. He and his wife traveled to China to teach English with the Christian group Educational Services International, and the couple also volunteered with World Relief and sheltered dozens of refugee families in their home.

“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.”

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