Robert Edmund Ellis was born in 1903 in St. Albans, Vermont. He learned to fly as a Naval Reservist, and became a commercial pilot in 1929 working briefly for Alaska Washington Airways. He flew as navigator on the first non-stop flight between Seattle and Juneau. While he established Ellis Air Transport in 1936, he was recalled to active duty during WWII, serving in Alaska. After the war, he returned to building Ellis Air, primarily using the Grumman Goose. From 1946-1948 he served as the Mayor of Ketchikan, serving in the Territorial Senate from 1955 through 1959. In 1962 Ellis Air merged with Alaska Coastal Airlines, and merged again with Alaska Airlines in 1968.