Governor Ben Cayetano announced Wednesday he is evaluating whether to put in private hands or close five small airports across the state – including Burns Field in Hanapepe.
Cayetano said the proposal has come about because of decreasing airport revenues caused by the lingering effects of the Sept. 11, 2000 terrorist attacks.
The intent behind the proposal is to ensure the efficient and cost-effective operation of large state airports, including the Lihu’e Airport, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Kaua’i resident Wilma Holi, who has battled the state to prevent the expansion of commercial uses at Burns Field, said Cayetano’s announcement could encourage compliance with the Kaua’i County General Plan, which she says calls for the Hanapepe airfield to remain in open space.
Currently, at least two commercial helicopter tour companies, including Inter-Island Helicopters, operate at the airfield.
To minimize expansion of commercial uses at the airfield, “we need to come up with a plan for the area,” Holi said.
She said she anticipates a public hearing will be held, and at that time, she “will see what the state is proposing.”
In a news release, Cayetano said revenues from airport concessions have declined drastically with fewer Japanese visitors coming to Hawai’i.
Any closing of the five airports would be part of a “streamlining effort” to make the state airport system more efficient and cost effective, Cayetano said.
Without such an effort, “the state will continue to lose over $2 million annually,” said Brian Minaai, director of the state Department of Transportation.
The agency is obliged to “review all cost-cutting measures that we can in order that service is not degraded at the primary airports (like the Lihu’e Airport),” Minaai said.
By the end of the month, the DOT will request proposals for management contracts for the airport at Hanapepe, Upolu Point and Waimea-Kohola, both located on the Big Island, Dillingham Field, located on the North Shore of O’ahu, and Kapalua, located in West Maui, Minaai said.
He said that the DOT wants to support tourism and provide for tenant facilities and general aviation needs at the five airports.
“At the same time, we will prepare to close them if there is no private commercial interest,” Minaai said.
The DOT noted the passenger counts and air operations for each of the airports last year:
– Burns Field airport had 15,000 passengers and 12,000 operations.
– Upolu Point airport had 100 passengers and 4,300 operations.
– Waimea airport had 2,472 passengers and 5,000 operations.
– Dillingham Field had 36,000 passengers and 81,023 operations.
– Kapalua airport had 95,390 passengers and 12,000 operations.
People interested in leasing one of the airports can obtain an information packet at the DOT airports division planning office at 400 Rodgers Blvd, Suite 700, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96819 or by calling 1-808-838-8810.
The agency said requests will be considered until Oct. 27, 2002.