EXCLUSIVE: Rents at Dillingham Airfield double

EXCLUSIVE: Rents at Dillingham Airfield double
Bill Star
Bill Star

MOKULEIA,OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Soaring rents at the Dillingham Airfield are prompting an exodus by small businesses at the North Shore airport.

"I've seen three hangars, people have just moved out. Boom," said Bill Star, owner of Honolulu Soaring, which has operated glider rides at the airfield for over 40 years.

Steve Lowry is one of the small business operators on the edge. He and his wife Ana Gromacki run an award-winning program that teaches hundreds of young kids to fly in a glider

Rent for his nonprofit has doubled in just a year.

"It's risen so dramatically -- the cost of hangars and the cost of business -- that we're probably thinking of selling the business and selling the aircraft and of course, the program would go away," Lowry said.

The state has sent rent hike notices to most of the airfield's tenants.

The Department of Transportation wouldn't tell us why they're jacking up the rents.

But we do know that the state is losing about $1 million a year running the 65-acre property and is considering giving it back to the U.S. Army.

Some of the tenants said they would be willing to pay higher rents if the airport was better maintained.

During a recent trip there, we saw weeds and grass growing on the tarmac and rusted fences and badly maintained hangars.

"Dillingham seems to be the arm pit of the airport system. They don't want to spend a lot of money out here," said Scott Blackley, owner of North Shore Aviation Services, a local aviation fuel supplier which has seen its monthly rent more than double to $2,200.

The airstrip in Mokuleia is the only place on Oahu for amateur skydiving and gliding, a big draw for tourists and a year-round money maker for the seasonal North Shore economy.

"I'm just waiting to see if there's some common sense that can come into this," said Star.

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