AOPA and more than 450 supporters of the airport—also known as Dillingham Airfield—rallied to the cause by submitting testimony on the airport’s importance to local employment, tourism, and general aviation businesses that offer flight training and world-class air tours and skydiving, said Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA Western Pacific regional manager.
U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) also stated support for keeping the airport for civilian use in a March 3 letter to Gov. David Ige.
The legislation, SB1368, would create a Kawaihapai Airfield Revitalization Task Force “to address issues currently present that risk the closure of Kawaihapai Airfield.” The task force would report to lawmakers with recommendations on how to keep the airport operating as a general aviation facility by June 30.
A further boost to the airport preservation effort with the midpoint of the legislative session approaching, McCaffrey said, was the FAA recently weighing in with skepticism about the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s plan to terminate its Dillingham operating lease with the military years ahead of schedule.
In a February 1 letter to the state’s Airports Division, the FAA wrote that Hawaii “should not move forward with your proposed June 30, 2021 lease termination without FAA concurrence on a viable relocation plan for displaced tenants currently using HDH.”
The FAA also reminded state airports officials that “relocating” displaced tenants would be a requirement of the federal-grant obligations the state has accepted in the past when receiving federal Airport Improvement Program funding for projects at Kawahapai Airfield. Environmental reviews would also be needed, the FAA said.
Kahele cited the FAA’s communication with state officials in offering to act as an intermediary in finding solutions that would ensure that the airport remains open. His letter to Ige also noted his “highly productive and informative” site visit to the airport on February 17, during which he met with numerous state and local officials, military representatives, and members of the aviation and North Shore communities.
Noting that working with a wide variety of constituencies to address multiple concerns would take time, Kahele urged Ige to rescind the state’s notification of its planned lease termination with the U.S. Army, set for June 30.
Popular focus on the issue also appears to be growing. AOPA has worked hard to bring the airport issue to the attention of local news media and the nonflying public, and recently hosted a virtual legislative webinar to instruct individuals on advocacy methods. The webinar resulted in establishing an “HDH Advocacy A-Team” of participants “who want to actively engage and assist our team and support legislation to save the airfield,” McCaffrey said.
“The ever-growing support for the airport demonstrates its importance to the area, and the success of establishing this team has helped tremendously with our advocacy efforts, and will continue to do so once the measure, with its recommendation for passage, moves to consideration in the House of Representatives,” she said.