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Monday, February 24, 2020
Before the Crash: Dillingham Aviator's Last Letter to Airports Division
By News Release @ 2:40 AM :: 3297 Views :: Honolulu County, Hawaii State Government, Small Business, Tourism

Editor’s Note: Experienced aviators Rick Rogers and Bill Enoka have been identified as the two killed at Dillingham Airfield Saturday, February 22, 2020, when their Cessna crashed on takeoff. 

Captain Rogers forwarded this letter to media outlets Wednesday, February 19, 2020.  We are reprinting it in its entirety.

  *   *   *   *   *

Aloha Hawaii Department of Transportation, Airports Division,  

February 19, 2020

After receiving notice from your office announcing the early cancelation of your lease agreement with the United States Army, effective July 1, 2020, for Kawaihapai Airport, known to many as Dillingham Airfield and designated PHDH, I, as well as many others, find myself in something of a quandary.

If I must remove my recently re-built glider from the hangar I lease from you, where am I to move it to? What airport on the island of Oahu has glider hangars? This is but one of many questions we tenets of PHDH would appreciate answers to.

We must wonder if you and your staff have a grasp on the extent to which General Aviation contributes to our community. Are you factoring in the tremendous amount of taxable income operators of small aircraft generate? Do you not wonder where the Airline Pilots and Mechanics, you and your families depend on, got their initial flight training? Did you know that there was 37,356 recorded movements between 0900 and 1700 at Dillingham Airport last year? Civilian operations occur from sunrise to sunset. As you can imagine, the loss of this facility will burden the already busy controllers at both Honolulu International and Kalaeloa Airports.

We understand that the D.O.T. Airports has been unable to make a profit at Dillingham for some time, thus requiring us tenets to pay a substantially higher hangar rent that our Mainland counterparts. We have accepted the reality that things run by the State of Hawaii do cost more than otherwise. Indeed, you could actually fill the available hangars at Dillingham if your staff was able to respond to requests in a more timely manner. It might be instructive to ask your staff how many of the said hangars have been empty for the last year and how many aircraft owners have begun the application process for those hangars. I suspect the answer you will get will be different than what we are witnessing.

We also understand that a substantial cost for the operation of PHDH is the Kawaihapai water system, which has been maintained by your office for many years at no cost at all to the users of the system. It seems to me that this issue need not be tied to the decision to close a vital transportation training link, but should rather be dealt with by a change in water management, Contacting the Board of Water Supply might be a place to start.

Due to the fact that DOT Airports has received millions of dollars for airport improvements in recent years, I would suspect that the FAA and other funding agencies would expect a refund if those improvements were to go unused by the community they were designated to serve.

If, as has been explained to us, the United States Army would require the State of Hawaii to return the facility to the condition it was in prior to it being designated a reliever airport back in 1984, you would be required to demolish all of the infrastructure and improvements that have been made to the airport. Demolishing the 20 cement T hangars and fifteen glider hangars, the Unicom tower, public restrooms and the full size maintenance hangar as well as removing both of the aviation refueling facilities would not only cost many millions of dollars, but make for interesting news items on an international scale. The bad press from the law-suits that are already in preparation and the news that you will be shutting down two youth organizations that are training the youngest members of the next generation of pilots will make interesting reading.

There will be a North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting next week, Tuesday, February 25 at 7:00 PM at the Waialua Elementary School. It would be greatly appreciated if you could send your representatives to explain to the North Shore Community how you can justify closing the most popular sky-diving Drop Zone in the world, 50-year old commercial glider operations and putting over 100 people out of employment.

Captain Richard W. Rogers (H.A. Retired)

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