EXCLUSIVE: State places Dillingham Airfield in limbo

EXCLUSIVE: State places Dillingham Airfield in limbo

MOKULEIA,OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Once considered an end-of-the-road airport, the Dillingham Airfield on Oahu's North Shore has emerged as a Mecca of sorts for skydiving enthusiasts and other commercial aviation ventures.

But Hawaii News Now has learned that the state is considering giving back the 65-acre property to the U.S. Army, in a move that puts the future of several thriving businesses up in the air.

The state said it's losing $700,000 to $1.5 million a year on the airport, which it has operated since 1962.

Longtime tenants said returning the airport would not only hurt their businesses but will have a huge negative impact on the local economy.

"To lose a facility like this would hurt the North Shore community. we have over 50 people here ... that is their means of support," said Frank Hinshaw, president of Skydive Hawaii.

Hinshaw's company has been a pioneer in the recreational aviation industry.

The company traces its roots to the early 1980s when it operated out of tents and cardboard boxes on the eastern side of the airport, then known as "glider's hell."

That part of the airport is now considered a paradise of sorts for skydiving enthusiast. Each year, more than 20,000 people from all over the world book skydiving jumps with Hinshaw's company.

The state's lease with the Army doesn't run out until 2014 but the Army says the state can opt out even before that.

Scott Blackley, whose company supplies fuel for many of the airfield's tenants, said it would be unfortunate if the airport's commercial aviation tenants were forced to move.

But he added that the state has done a poor job of promoting those businesses.

"It just doesn't seem like we have the opportunities for growth," said Blackley, owner of North Shore Aviation Services Inc.

"There's a lot of potential with individuals and companies that want to improve on the airport."

The Army had no comment on the airport's future, saying the state has not yet told them whether the lease will be terminated.

To do so, the Army says the state would have to return the land in good condition, which will cost the state even more money.

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