Dillingham Airfield Gets Six-month Reprieve

 - June 25, 2021, 11:20 AM

Dillingham Airfield on Oahu, Hawaii, which had been facing a June 30 closure date as a civil airport, will continue to operate at least through the end of the year as the Hawaii Department of Transportation Aviation Division (HDOTA) works through issues related to lease terms.

However, in a recent letter to tenants there, the HDOTA cautioned that “because it is not certain that DOTA will be able to negotiate acceptable terms for a new lease, it is important that you understand that DOTA is still working with the Federal Aviation Administration on the process for terminating the lease and closing the airport.”

HDOTA has managed the field under a series of leases with the U.S. Army since 1962, and the facility has become a popular site for glider and skydiving operations. The facility remains joint use, with the Army having first priority, HDOTA said.

While its latest lease wasn’t set to expire until 2024, HDOTA in recent years indicated it planned to exit the lease early and had been negotiating those terms. But ultimate closure has been pushed off from a number of factors, including the pandemic.

Facing the end of the lease, local airport advocates and businesses have banded together as the Save Dillingham Airport group and worked with organizations including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association to generate support for the facility.

The local advocacy group welcomed the decision to extend the termination date as “great news” but expressed disappointment that it had only been moved to the end of the year.  A hurdle involves obligations surrounding the outdated airport water system, but the Save Dillingham Airport Group expressed optimism that progress is being made. However, the group acknowledged it needs a “greater definition” of what progress is necessary to satisfy HDOTA.

Encouragingly, the Army is interested in extending a long-term lease, the organization said.

AOPA also called disappointing the fact that HDOTA set “another arbitrary eviction date” and noted that the state has been unwilling to rent empty hangars at the facility to a waiting list of potential tenants. But AOPA agrees that the situation has taken a positive turn with a number of “moving parts.”