End of the line


The U.S. Air Force has shelved plans to build a 3,500-foot-long auxiliary training runway at Kona International Airport.

However, touch-and-go training operations conducted at the Keahole Point airport will continue, said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Hammond with Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Oahu.

What would have been the Keahole Point airport’s second runway, the Kona Auxiliary Training Runway has been deemed cost prohibitive by the Air Force, Hammond said. The Air Force estimated the 90-foot-wide short runway would have cost $46 million.

“Pacific Air Forces will continue to use existing auxiliary runways based in the continental United States to meet training requirement until a more cost-effective capability is identified,” Hammond said. Pacific Air Forces “continues to explore options to provide a local auxiliary training requirement.”

However, he added, the Air Force is not currently considering funding any new auxiliary training runways in Hawaii. Crews currently train at the Kona airport, as well as at military airfields around the state.

The auxiliary training runway is still part of the long-range plan outlined in the Kona International Airport Master Plan, which was completed in October 2010 and provides guidelines for the airport’s development, maintenance and operations for the next 20 years.

Despite the project being shelved, it was listed in a final environmental assessment released late Friday by the Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports Division.

The state, in the assessment, said the Air Force was in the early design phase and that the DOT would petition increasing the runway dimensions to Federal Aviation Administration criteria of 5,000 feet long by 100 feet wide. A separate environmental assessment would have been prepared if the Air Force decided to proceed.

However, when asked whether the federal government would build a runway with specifications outside auxiliary training requirements, Hammond said the runway must be 3,500-by-90 to receive federal funding. He said building the runway to FAA criteria would cost approximately $82 million.

“The Air Force was made aware that a larger runway at KOA, designed and constructed to FAA specifications, would be more commercially feasible and usable. However, that proposal does not meet the Air Force training requirement,” Hammond said. “Since the widening and extension of the runway is in excess of the stated training need, (Pacific Air Forces) would not pursue funding that requirement.”

Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Caroline Sluyter, called on Thursday, did not respond with a comment on the conflicting reports. Friday was a state holiday.

Present airfield facilities at Kona include a single 11,000-foot-by-150-foot asphalt runway with shoulders and blast pads, and eight taxiways, according to the assessment. In addition, the airport houses a passenger terminal with a looped roadway; aircraft parking; a general aviation area with two hangars and 43 tie-downs; a firefighting station and training area, and various fuel and water storage areas, maintenance buildings and offices.

The state will begin a $229 million project to modernize the airport beginning with relocating the Onizuka Space Center later this year. Following that, in December 2014 or January 2015, the state plans to begin terminal modernization, which is anticipated to cost between $60 million and $70 million.