The future of Dillingham Airfield remains up in the air

Oahu’s North Shore community wants a compromise over the Mokuleia airfield
Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 8:40 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A community on Oahu's North Shore is begging for a compromise over the Dillingham Airfield.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation announced last week it would be ending its lease in Mokuleia this summer, three and a half years early.

After June 30th, it will be up the U.S. Army what will ultimately happen.

On Tuesday night, a riled up crowd of North Shore residents packed a town hall meeting at Waialua Elementary School.

But no state or federal representatives were there to answer questions.

“It’s all over the news and the DOT is not here,” one man shouted. “They never come out. They don’t do anything for you."

DOT officials cited numerous reasons for transferring the property back to the Army including lack of control, liability issues and the loss of revenue.

“While we understand the tenants will need to adjust to having to move their operations from HDH (Dillingham Airfield), there are other available options within the State’s airport system,” said Jade Butay, Hawaii Department of Transportation Director.

Scott Blackley, owner of North Shore Aviation Services Corporation, said they have nowhere else to go because of airspace restrictions.

“The gliders can’t go there. They can’t operate out of Honolulu International. They can’t operate out of Kalaeloa because of the Class B airspace, it’s just not possible,” said Blackley.

The Army also issued a statement saying it must fulfill its requirements of military training, readiness, response, security and safety.

“We will not take any action that will impact our ability to fulfill these critical responsibilities,” said Col. Thomas Barrett, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii.

Some tenants received a letter from the state on Tuesday saying they must vacate the property by June 30th.

“Unless something really miraculous happens, it’s a no-win situation,” Blackley said.

The Mokuleia airport is a hot spot for the skydiving and glider community.

"Dillingham Airfield generates some $12 million in revenue every year, has 125 people working there, that's half the people working in Mokuleia," said Frank Hinshaw, President of Skydive Hawaii. “For the state to take this action, it's hard to imagine.”

Area State Senator Gil Riviere said he implored the Governor to intercede and is disappointed at a lack of action.

“The Department of Transportation Aviation Airports division seems very determined to just put their heads down and run for the exists, and I don’t think we can let that happen folks. I think we’re a strong enough community and I think we can get their attention,” Riviere said.

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