Dillingham Airfield, the small airport on the North shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu that has been in danger of shuttering this year, has received a reprieve by the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT). The state agency's aviation division, HDOTA, has managed the field under a series of leases with the U.S. Army since 1962, but in recent years indicated plans to exit the lease earlier than the July 2024 expiration and has been negotiating those terms.
However, ultimate closure has been pushed back a few times from a number of factors, including the pandemic. Earlier this year, HDOTA had said it had planned to exit the lease at the end of this year.
But in a September 17 letter to the U.S. Army and the Army Corps of Engineers, HDOT said there has been progress on a joint-use agreement and a long-term lease. The agency said it must be able to have necessary control of the airfield and improvements to ensure it is in compliance with FAA grant assurances and that it was not responsible for the management of the water system outside the leasehold. HDOT, however, stressed that agreement must be reached on key issues, such as management of the aging water system, otherwise, it would once again look to exit the leasehold.
The reprieve of Dillingham Airfield, also known as Kawaihāpai Airfield, follows an advocacy push that has been involved local groups such as the Save Dillingham Airport group, along with Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and lawmakers including Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii).
“The Hawaii 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 Airfield,” Kahele said. “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.”
Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA Western Pacific regional manager, agreed: “This reprieve from early termination of the lease at Dillingham (Kawaihāpai) Airfield gives the stakeholders an excellent opportunity to find solutions to the existing problems, and more importantly, opens the door to set the foundation for a vibrant and growing GA community for years to come.”