State DOT pro­poses Kalau­papa Air­port projects

Fire­fight­ing ve­hi­cle garage, ren­o­vated ter­mi­nal planned

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By COLLEEN UECHI

Staff Writer

The state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion is propos­ing to build a fire­fight­ing ve­hi­cle garage and in­stall a new au­to­mated weather sys­tem at the Kalau­papa Air­port, among the many changes that would help bring the fa­cil­ity up to speed with fed­eral stan­dards.

Plans also call for ren­o­vat­ing the air­port ter­mi­nal build­ing, re­plac­ing run­way light­ing and im­prov­ing wheel­chair ac­cess, ac­cord­ing to a draft en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment pub­lished in Mon­day’s edi­tion of the Of­fice of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity Con­trol’s “The En­vi­ron­men­tal No­tice.”

Lo­cated within Kalau­papa Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park, the air­port is man­aged jointly by the state Depart­ment of Health and the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. It was orig­i­nally built around 1931 to 1933 and con­sisted of a graded, un­paved land­ing strip. A ter­mi­nal build­ing was con­structed in 1951, and the airstrip was paved in 1953.

To­day, the air­port in­cludes a 2,700-foot-long run­way and three build­ings — a ter­mi­nal, main­te­nance/of­fice build­ing and a stor­age/mail shed. Air ser­vice to Kalau­papa takes place two to four times a day, weather per­mit­ting. Mail, freight and per­ish­able food ar­rive by cargo plane on a daily ba­sis.

Over the past three decades, daily ex­po­sure to the nearby ocean and high winds have caused “rapid de­te­ri­o­ra­tion and cor­ro­sion on the build­ings,” ac­cord­ing to the as­sess­ment. The pro­posed project would re­pair dam­aged por­tions of the ter­mi­nal, in­clud­ing in­stalling hur­ri­cane-re­sis­tant vinyl win­dows, as well as up­grad­ing elec­tri­cal and fu­el­ing equip­ment at the main­te­nance build­ing.

Other steps would bring the build­ings up to the cur­rent stan­dards of the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act, in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing the lanai and walk­way along the west side of the build­ing to pro­vide a per­ma­nent stor­age lo­ca­tion for wheel­chair lift equip­ment. Re­lo­cat­ing the wheel­chair lift would pro­vide bet­ter ac­cess to the tar­mac, and the west side walk­way would also be widened for wheel­chair ac­cess.

Mean­while, run­way and taxi­way lights will be up­graded to LED lights, a more vis­i­ble and cost-sav­ing op­tion. The air­port’s PAPI sys­tem, a visual aid for pi­lots ap­proach­ing the run­way, “is ap­proach­ing the end of its use­ful life” and is also due for an up­grade.

A new 988-square-foot air­craft res­cue fire­fight­ing stor­age garage is also in the plans. The fire­fight­ing truck is lo­cated in Kalau­papa town, and re­sponse time to the air­port is about 15 to 30 min­utes. The new sta­tion at the air­port will pro­vide space for one truck and im­prove safety for trav­el­ers.

An­other fea­ture lack­ing at the air­port is an au­to­mated weather ob­serv­ing sys­tem. Cur­rently, the only weather in­di­ca­tor for pi­lots is a wind­sock sta­tioned along the run­way. The new weather sys­tem would con­sist of five to six de­vices rou­tinely de­tect­ing and re­port­ing cloud cover and height, vis­i­bil­ity, pre­cip­i­ta­tion, wind speed and di­rec­tion, tem­per­a­ture and other rel­e­vant data.

The depart­ment plans to start con­struc­tion once all per­mits have been ap­proved, pos­si­bly some­time this year. The project is ex­pected to take five years and end around 2023. The depart­ment’s Air­ports Di­vi­sion would foot the es­ti­mated $5 mil­lion bill.

Kalau­papa Air­port is part of the fed­eral Es­sen­tial Air Ser­vice Pro­gram, which sub­si­dizes air ser­vice for hard-to-reach com­mu­ni­ties. In March, the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion ac­cepted Mokulele Air­lines’ pro­posal to ser­vice Kalau­papa with­out a sub­sidy. How­ever, that con­cerned res­i­dents and work­ers who re­called ticket prices sky-

rock­et­ing the last time an air­line op­er­ated with­out a sub­sidy. (Now-de­funct air­line Pa­cific Wings charged $500 per round trip be­tween Kalau­papa and Honolulu.)

Mokulele Pres­i­dent Rob McKin­ney as­sured res­i­dents in March that flights would stay af­ford­able. The air­line started op­er­at­ing in Kalau­papa af­ter Makani Kai Air’s Es­sen­tial Air Ser­vice con­tract ex­pired on May 31. On Mokulele’s web­site, flights are go­ing for $71 from Kalau­papa to Honolulu and $61 from Honolulu to Kalau­papa. Flights be­tween

Kalau­papa to top­side Molokai were rang­ing from $50 to $85 one way.

Jan­ice Okubo, spokes­woman for the state Depart­ment of Health, said Thurs­day that so far, “Mokulele has kept their prices rea­son­able, but the com­mu­nity has had chal­lenges with chang­ing flight sched­ules and flights be­ing ad­versely af­fected by weather con­di­tions.”

A mea­sure re­cently passed in the U.S. Se­nate could of­fer some re­as­sur­ance to the Kalau­papa com­mu­nity. The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion Reau­tho­riza­tion Act of 2018, which passed the Se­nate 93-6 on Wed­nes­day, en­sures fund­ing for the Es­sen­tial Air Ser­vice

pro­gram through 2022 and over­sight for Kalau­papa’s air ser­vice.

A pro­vi­sion au­thored by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii would re­quire the depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral “to re­view the agency’s over­sight over un­sub­si­dized car­ri­ers to en­sure air ser­vice qual­ity and com­mu­nity sat­is­fac­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Hirono’s of­fice.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral would have to com­plete a one-time re­view of all Es­sen­tial Air Ser­vice or­ders or con­tracts from 2005 through 2018. The re­view would look into un­sub­si­dized car­ri­ers who re­ceived Es­sen­tial Air Ser­vice con­tracts

to de­ter­mine whether they had pro­vided ba­sic es­sen­tial air ser­vice, and whether the depart­ment pro­vided suf­fi­cient over­sight to en­sure air ser­vice qual­ity and com­mu­nity sat­is­fac­tion. The in­spec­tor gen­eral also would re­view whether the depart­ment prop­erly com­mu­ni­cated air ser­vice changes to the com­mu­nity and how it mon­i­tored the qual­ity of air ser­vice pro­vided by the un­sub­si­dized car­rier.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral would then have to sub­mit a re­port to Congress no later than 30 days af­ter com­plet­ing the re­view.

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