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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America's bloodiest day
Airports not likely to operate normally for a while

By MIchele Kayal
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i's airports could reopen as early as today, but federal officials are warning that operations will not resume anywhere in the country until authorities are satisfied appropriate security measures are in place.

The check-in lobbies of Honolulu International Airport were silent yesterday as all flights out were canceled. Airport operations could resume today.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

The state's 17 airports were closed to the public early yesterday as the Federal Aviation Administration imposed the first total grounding of civilian aircraft in the nation's history.

FAA officials said the country's airways would remain closed until at least 6 a.m. Hawai'i time while authorities reviewed security measures and procedures.

Honolulu was the last airport in the country to receive incoming aircraft. A total of 21 planes touched down here, said local FAA representative Tweet Coleman, many diverted en route to other destinations.

Nearly 4,000 passengers came through Honolulu. Of the 21 flights that landed, eight had been headed elsewhere. Four of those were United Airlines flights from Asia.

The Honolulu International Airport building was open yesterday, with a full complement of state employees staffing the facility, said Dean Harvest, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation. But the public was not allowed through except to conduct official business with the state, airlines or other concessionaires, he said.

People were allowed to pick up passengers landing on incoming flights, but they were not allowed to park their cars. Honolulu police were helping with the lock-down, he said.

Officials did a security sweep in the morning, he said. Airport workers were required to wear their airport ID badges and drivers' licenses on the outside of their clothing, said Dustin Kim, Korean Air's assistant traffic manager.

The Department of Transportation will hold a 6 a.m. briefing at the airport to update the public on plans to reopen. Afterward the FAA will conduct an inspection, and the airport may reopen afterward, said DOT spokesperson Marilyn Kali.

Travelers are being advised that cars trying to park at the airport may be inspected.

Even if the airport is open and flights resume today, FAA officials warned it could be a while before flights operate normally.

"I would think it's going to be slow going to get the system back up to speed," said FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere in Washington. "Because of all the cancelled flights, it's going to take a while to come up to full operations. There are going to be delays from the day before."

Airlines are urging travelers to monitor news reports and consult airline reservation phone lines and Web sites for updates.

Hawaiian Airlines has at least a half-dozen of its 15 aircraft stranded in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas, said airline spokesman Keoni Wagner.

Hawaiian's chief executive officer Paul Casey was stranded in Los Angeles en route to Washington, D.C.

"He's waiting to find out with the rest of us what tomorrow holds," Wagner said yesterday.

Hawaiian did not have any flights turned back, but its flight from Pago Pago to Honolulu was en route when the flight ban went into effect, Wagner said. It landed without incident at 5:15 a.m. yesterday, he said.

The airline had eight flights scheduled to depart for the Mainland yesterday, and 152 interisland flights, all of which remained on the ground.

The incoming flights were to bring about 1,500 people to the Islands yesterday, Wagner said. The airline is not covering the cost for hotel rooms for any of the passengers.

Aloha Airlines already had sent out its first daily Las Vegas flight when the ban went into effect, and the plane was diverted to Oakland, Calif., said Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman.

The carrier has two planes stranded in Las Vegas, one in Santa Ana, Calif., one in Oakland and one in Majuro in the Marshall Islands, Glauberman said.

Aloha had four flights scheduled to depart for the Mainland yesterday, he said, and 160 interisland flights.

Korean Air Flight 51 from Seoul was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu at 9:40 a.m. yesterday, but was diverted to Narita Airport in Japan at around 6 a.m., an airline spokesman said.

"They said they can't come to the United States, so it (went) to Narita," said Dustin Kim, the airline's assistant traffic manager.

The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 150 passengers. The outbound flight back to South Korea's Incheon Airport was scheduled to leave at noon yesterday.

Advertiser Staff Writer Scott Ishikawa contributed to this report.