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Dillingham, Hawaii, Airport Gets A Lifeline

The historic and busy GA field due to close at the end of the year got bailed out for now. What happened?

Dillingham Airport
A screenshot from Google Maps of Dillingham Airfield.
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Dillingham Airfield has gotten a much-needed reprieve when the Hawaii Department of Transportation announced that it would cancel its plans to close the popular and historic airport. According to AOPA, the airport, located on the North shore of Oahu, the state’s most populous island, provides more than $12.6 million in economic impact to the community, and there are, according to AOPA’s statement, 130 people employed at 11 airport businesses on the field. AOPA has been working with both Hawaii state and U.S.  legislators to push for the preservation of the field, work it believes influenced the HDoTs decision to rescind the early closing order.

As part of its political action efforts, AOPA reminded the decision makers that it has grant obligations to the FAA required by law to fulfil, which closing the airport ahead of its lease termination, which expires in three years’ time, would violate.

But AOPA doesn’t see the reprieve as a final step but, rather, as additional time to negotiate the continued long-term operation of the field. In March, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) wrote a letter urging Hawaii Gov. David Ige to maintain the civilian use of the airfield. AOPA reported that Kahele said, “The Hawai’i DOT’s decision to revoke its notice of early termination of its lease with the Army allows for much needed continued dialogue about the future of Kawaihāpai (Dillingham) Airfield. Since taking office, my staff and I have made a concerted effort to find long-term solutions for the ongoing maintenance and operations to maximize the potential of Kawaihāpai.” He went on to say, “The Airfield is a critical economic driver for the North Shore and serves as an educational epicenter for aspiring local pilots as well as the general aviation and skydiving communities.”

So, the good guys win this round, though the fight’s hardly over, and not just in Dillingham but with other airfields threatened with early closures, and never, it seems for anything resembling a good reason.

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