FAA Challenges Hawaii’s Plan to Vacate Dillingham


Honolulu’s KHON2 reported this week that the U.S. Army, which maintains operations at Dillingham, got a letter from the state DOT warning that it intends to vacate the lease as early as June of 2020. But the FAA told the state it’s obligated to keep the airport open and operating for civil use until at least until 2025 to amortize taxiway extensions grants given in 2003 and 2005.

“I think there’s no question that under every circumstance this airfield must remain open. it’s too important to the community,” Sen. Gil Riviere, who represents the area, told KHON2. “It’s too important to the people that work there. It’s too important a segment of our tourism industry.”

Dillingham is on the north shore of Oʻahu and has gliding and skydiving operations. The military also uses it for training operations. P-40 fighters famously took off from Dillingham, then known as Mokulēʻia Airfield, during the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

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    • That’s actually the correct way to write O’ahu. When writing Hawaiian language words, the apostrophe is called an okina, and indicates a guttural stop when speaking. So the proper pronunciation of a word like O’ahu is aided by the presence of the okina (apostrophe.)

      As a former Hawai’i resident (yes, there’s supposed to be a guttural stop in that word, too) I do appreciate AvWeb respecting the language and the local culture and trying to get it right, despite the snarky comments to the contrary.

      • …and I got it wrong too; it’s actually an ‘okina (which starts with a glottal stop.) And it’s glottal stop, not guttural, I misremembered the term. Nobody’s perfect.

      • When I wrote the story, I decided to use the okina because of the Mokulēʻia reference. It seemed to be more consistent that way. Originally, the story has an apostrophe instead of the okina. Fixed it later. Took awhile to find the character map.

  1. The headline refers to a plan to vacate by the State of Hawaii. The story refers to a plan by the US Army. Which is it?

  2. Paul, thanks for the article (and for getting the names right!). I lived on O’ahu for about 13 years, and got all my ratings there through CFII (long extinct). I did many an inept bounce and recover at Dillingham, but the best memory there was getting my commercial (!) glider certificate and flying over those gorgeous mountains and coastline. Whenever the trade winds blew there was always ridge lift, and when they were strong we could catch mountain wave up to at least 10,000 feet. The strip gets relatively little use by a rather small number of people, but I sure hope they don’t rip it out.

  3. Folks should read the HDOTA statement to gain perspective (see https://hidot.hawaii.gov/airports/hdota-to-transfer-dillingham-airfield-back-to-the-u-s-army/). Dillingham is a US Army-owned airfield and Army operations have absolute priority, which I understand, though these operations may not have a significant adverse impact on GA, glider, and skydiving activities. The HDOTA has been operating under a 5-year lease agreements since 2014 that make major investments in hangars and other infrastructure impractical. While HDOTA has tried to negotiate a 20+ year lease term that would make investment and loans more attractive and available, for unknown reasons the Army has declined. The upshot is the state is spending $1M per year under unfavorable lease terms and wants better lease terms from the Army to continue, which seems reasonable to me. (I wonder how much the US Army is spending each year on maintaining Dillingham infrastructure. Zero?)