SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Plans are underway in dozens of cities across the country to close down local airports.
While the reasons to close them vary, it often boils down to neighbors who see airports as a nuisance rather than an asset.
There’s a battle in paradise over the future of a 9,000-foot-long runway on Oahu’s North Shore.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation which operates Dillingham wants to close the airport this June.
“Essentially there’s 130 plus jobs represented by the airfield. Most of those people are the sole breadwinners for their households. So we’re talking somewhere around 450 people that are tied to the airfield,” Ben Devine with Paradise Air Hawaii said.
The DOT has said one of the main reasons it wants to shut it down is because it says it costs a million dollars a year.
Supporters say closing the airport will actually cost far more.
“It’s going to have a really big negative effect on the North Shore economy because, you know, the airport generates more than $12 million a year in revenue pretty easily,” Devine said.
Ben Devine says he was told by he’ll have to move his popular skydiving business to Honolulu International.
“You can’t do skydiving and glider rides at Honolulu International airport. Commercial aircraft coming here, and a parachute right next to you. It doesn’t work,” Devine said.
It’s not just Hawaii.
General aviation airports in Santa Monica and San Jose’s Reid Hillview Airport in California are also facing calls to close.
In fact, there are about 30 such airports from coast to coast targeted right now by local governments.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the largest pilot organization in the country, says many people don’t understand the benefits of smaller general aviation airports.
“In an event of an emergency you know, such as we’ve seen with earthquakes in California again, GA airports are used for staging, and sometimes they might be the only in and out to the community,” Melissa McCaffrey with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said.
That includes COVID vaccines and other supplies. Plus small airports help reduce congestion at large commercial airports.
Hawaii’s Dillingham field is technically owned by the U.S. Army, which has said it wants to work with a local government agency to keep the field open.
Legislation is currently underway in Hawaii to make that happen.
That may be the last hope. If it doesn’t work, come June 30th it may be time to say aloha to this flying lifestyle.
“You’re essentially asking people to choose between their lifelong careers and love of aviation or Hawaii, which is not a fair ask,” Devine said.