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DOT News Release: HDOT Revokes intent to terminate lease for Dillingham Airfield

Posted on Sep 23, 2021 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

HONOLULU — The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT) has withdrawn its request to terminate the lease for Dillingham Airfield (also known as Kawaihapai) as discussions with the U.S. Army and airfield tenants progresses.

“As a result of the combined efforts of our staff, area legislators, the Army, and the tenants operating at Dillingham, HDOT is confident that the concerns prompting the transfer of the airfield back to the U.S. Army can be resolved,” said Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay. “We appreciate the collaborative spirit demonstrated by the stakeholders at Dillingham that has brought us to this point.”

Members from the HDOT, U.S. Army, Congress, Executive Office, Legislature, Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA), tenants and community members have been meeting every few weeks for the past nine months as a collaborative effort to help save the airfield.

“I am so grateful for the effort of the stakeholders that came together to keep the airfield open for general aviation here in Waialua. Even when several members of our stakeholder group had opposing views, we all continued to work together to find solutions for incredibly complex problems surrounding the airfield. This is a testament of what can be accomplished when everyone is willing to collaborate and I look forward to all we will accomplish going forward.” said Representative Lauren Matsumoto.

Senator Gil Riviere commented, “It is going to take some time to repair the water system and create a new water users cooperative. This decision to keep the airfield open is significant because it provides certainty for the aviation community and allows the time needed to resolve various challenges we have been working so hard on.”

In addition to local legislators, the community has also been involved in this process. “I am happy that during this process they were able to acknowledge our host Hawaiian culture associated with the airfield as well as my ohana’s iwi kupuna. I appreciate the collaborative effort giving each of us a seat at the table.” said Thomas Shirai, a long-standing North Shore Neighborhood Board Member and direct lineal descendant of Kawaihapai.

Ben Devine, founder and Director of Save Dillingham Airfield, shared that, “The removal of the lease termination allows the tenants to plan for the future by signing leases, investing in Hawaii, and enrolling their kids in school.” Ben, who is also a Master Parachute Rigger on the airfield, goes on to say, “Everyone at the airfield is committed to improving this shining gem of aviation, now and for all future generations.”

Melissa McCaffrey of the AOPA said “This reprieve from early termination of the lease at Kawaihapai 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 general aviation community for years to come.”

The end of the current short-term lease between the U.S. Army and HDOT is set for July 5, 2024. Coordination continues on the possibility of a long-term lease for operation of Dillingham Airfield.

In a statement from the Army, Col. Dan Misigoy, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii said, “The Army appreciates the collaborative efforts that have been made to bring various stakeholders together to discuss Dillingham Army Airfield. We will continue to work with the State in this process and look forward to the continued dialogue.”