Kitesurfers Face Grounding

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An airspace dispute of a different sort is brewing off the windy coast of Maui as the FAA prepares to clamp down on what it claims is a hazard to operations at Kahului Airport on the Hawaiian island. The agency is planning to cancel a waiver that allows kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, within five miles of the airport. Local officials are afraid the ban will chase away tourists and eliminate up to 100 jobs now dependent on the dramatic sport. By tacking into the stiff marine breeze on what looks like a small surfboard, a rider can jump off a wave and then pivot the sail so it becomes a wing. Some of the best kitesurfers can turn that initial jump into a soaring flight more than 100 feet above the waves and, according to the FAA, it's somewhere they shouldn't be without a landing clearance. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa is stepping in and asking state officials to help him fight the decision. We've seen how those things go, but the agency types are not entirely without sympathy in this case. They're planning to rescind the waiver on Oct. 15, three days after a major competition in the affected area is scheduled to end.