Aviation groups lobby to maintain Hawaii commercial airfield

HONOLULU — Two national aviation organizations made requests to state and federal authorities to take steps that will extend the lifespan of a commercial airfield in Hawaii.

Businesses are alarmed by the surprise announcement that the state Department of Transportation intends to pull out as landlord of Dillingham Airfield at the end of June, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, representing more than 1,000 members in Hawaii, requested a postponement of the termination for at least 14 months in a March 2 letter to Democratic Gov. David Ige.

The delay would provide sufficient time to identify a new sponsor for the airport on Oahu’s North Shore and new management for its community water system, the aircraft association said.

The United States Parachute Association sent a March 2 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration imploring the agency not to release the state from its grant obligations.

Hawaii received $1.3 million from the FAA in three Dillingham improvement grants distributed in 1988, 2003 and 2005.

Businesses at the airfield attract 55,000 visitors annually, the parachute association said.

“Dillingham Airfield is a thriving civil airport with 11 aviation business that employ some 133 people,” parachute association Executive Director Edward Scott said.

There are 47 civilian-based aircraft and more than 36,000 civilian aircraft flights annually at Dillingham, the FAA said.

Tenants are on 30-day revocable permits with the state, which leases the airfield from the U.S. Army at no cost.

The initial term of the lease was 25 years, ending in 2033, but the term was later changed to five-year increments, the FAA said.

The state transportation department said in February that its Airports Division “concluded that operating Dillingham Airfield is not in the best interest of the state of Hawaii.”

The agency referred to the previous statement when asked for an updated comment.

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