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Private aircraft will have wings clipped by APEC

By Rob Shikina

LAST UPDATED: 7:16 p.m. HST, Oct 20, 2011

Some businesses on the North Shore are unhappy with a plan to ground all general aviation on Oahu for two days during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month.

"It's a little overkill to make the entire island no-fly when nobody's on the North Shore," said Bill Star, owner of the Honolulu Soaring Club at Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia.

Federal authorities told flight operators at a meeting Friday that general aviation above Oahu will be prohibited during APEC on Nov. 12 and 13, according to a source who attended the meeting at Honolulu Airport.

Air restrictions have come to be expected whenever President Barack Obama is on Oahu, which typically prompts a no-fly zone that is a 10-mile radius from wherever the president is located. But the islandwide, general aviation no-fly zone will be the first since aircraft over Oahu were grounded after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A spokesman for the Secret Service, which is tasked with ensuring the safety of dignitaries from 21 world economies who will be on Oahu, said there will be a temporary flight restriction, but would not disclose further details, citing security reasons and the plans still being subject to change.

Grounded activities under a general aviation ban would include operation of remote-controlled planes, hang-gliding, parachuting, training flights, gliders and air tours. Commercial flights, rescue operations and charter flights would not be affected, the source said.

An FAA spokesman said flight restrictions would be published a week or two before the summit begins.

Some businesses were eagerly awaiting information, while other businesses praised federal authorities for their collaboration with the local aviation community on limiting disruptions to flying.

Star said knowing the restrictions earlier will allow the Honolulu Soaring Club to stop booking flights those days. He hopes authorities will ease restrictions on remote air operations closer to the date.

Like other aviation operators, he planned to use the two no-fly days to do maintenance.

Mark Jones, owner of the flying school Moore Air, wasn't certain about the flight restrictions on Thursday, but said there would be little choice but to accept it.

"I think the general (perception) among many of the general aviation folks is we can do our duty for two days," he said. "For two days, nobody wants to give up any income in a crummy economy, but there are some things you've got to do because of the realities of 2011."

Max Milien, Secret Service spokesman, said he could not disclose details on travel restrictions because they were still being worked out, but he urged residents to expect restrictions on the road, on the water and in the air during the APEC summit.

Authorities want to ensure the plans are accurate before they are released to avoid confusion, he said.

"Things do change," he said. "We don't want to have to put it out multiple times."

He said authorities are trying to balance the highest level of security with the least amount of inconvenience to the public.

He said people should plan for extra travel time during the APEC summit. Road closures will be focused around areas where the major events will take place, such as a dinner at the Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki on Nov. 12 and the summit finale in Ko Olina on Nov. 13. Milien said the Secret Service will release a notice of restrictions weeks in advance to give the public time to make travel plans.

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