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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, October 28, 2002

Waimea Airport needed for mail service, group says

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

WAIMEA, Hawai'i — The Waimea Community Association is gathering comments from the community about the effect of a possible shutdown of Waimea Airport on mail and freight service.

Although the number of passengers flying into Waimea has become minimal in recent years, the small airport is still a mail service hub for burgeoning North and South Kohala, as well as Hamakua, according to John Ray, a former councilman who is president of the community group.

Gov. Ben Cayetano recently said declining revenues prompted an evaluation of whether the state should close or privatize five state-run airports: Kapalua on Maui, Port Allen on Kaua'i, 'Upolu and Waimea on the Big Island and Dillingham on O'ahu.

The 'Upolu Airport in North Kohala discontinued passenger service when the Kohala Sugar plantation closed down in the 1970s. Planes still land there and pay fees on an honor system. It has not been staffed in recent years.

Ray said he believes there is private interest in taking over the Waimea Airport, but there are unanswered questions about how the facility's runways and lighting would be maintained.

The airport is at the 2,700-foot elevation on the Waimea plateau between the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea. It is fenced off from Parker Ranch pastures and accepts two commuter flights a day.