Skydiving, glider and other aviation businesses at Dillingham Airfield that have long been a favorite of tourists on the North Shore are worried that the state will terminate its lease this summer and cause all operations to cease at the Army-owned airfield.
U.S. Army Hawaii said it found out Jan. 23 that the state intended to end the lease early and vacate Dillingham Airfield by June 30.
Dillingham Airfield has been leased by the U.S. military to the state Department of Transportation since 1972, the Army said.
In 2019, the Army and state agreed to a five-year lease extension that expires in 2024 to allow time to negotiate the terms of a longer term lease as requested by the state, the Army said.
“The U.S. Army has been working with the state on such a lease for the past year; however, the U.S. Army recently received a letter from the Hawaii Department of Transportation announcing the state’s intent to exercise its right to terminate the lease early,” the service said in an email.
The Army said it is now “analyzing the possible impacts” to determine the way forward.
The uncertainty of the situation is being felt up and down the 5,000-foot runway, which has three glider operations, two skydiving centers, hangars for privately-owned aircraft and other aviation businesses.
“I don’t know if it’s all speculation or what’s going on,” said Jeni Pfister, a flight instructor with Paradise Air, which has three powered hang gliders. The company has been in business at Dillingham for 18 years.
“Everyone is so confused and we’re trying not to freak out,” she said. Pfister added that “we have hundreds and hundreds of tourists every day come to our airport.”
Tim Sakahara, a state DOT spokesman, said in a briefly-worded statement that “HDOT does not own Dillingham Airfield and does not have the authority to close the facility in its entirety. If additional details become available regarding any potential changes at the facility we will be sure to share them with the public when they are finalized.”