March 22, 2013

AFTER URGING FAA TO SPARE KALAELOA AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOWER FROM SEQUESTRATION CUTS, SENATOR HIRONO APPLAUDS AGENCY’S DECISION TO KEEP TOWER OPEN

In A Letter Sent Earlier This Month, Hirono Urged Agency To Keep Tower Open After It Was Put On The Preliminary Closure List

Washington, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono applauded the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision today to spare Kalaeloa Airport Air Traffic Control Tower on Oahu from the chopping block. After the FAA identified the tower as one that would be closed due to sequestration, Senator Hirono sent the agency a letter urging them to keep the tower open because of the vital role it plays to Coast Guard operations and air safety.

“This is great news for Hawaii. Earlier this month, I made the case to the FAA that closing the tower at Kalaeloa would hurt the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct vital air rescue missions and eliminate crucial support to Honolulu International Airport in case of emergency. I’m glad that the FAA came to the same conclusion. Closing the tower would have also cost Hawaii air traffic controllers jobs and hurt local general aviation companies. This was the right move.”

The FAA originally identified 189 towers for closure last month. Of those, only 24 were spared from cuts. The FAA looked strictly at the closures’ impact on national security, points which Hirono strongly made in the letter.

“Given the support a fully operational Kalaeloa Airport provides to the U.S. Coast Guard, Hawaii Air National Guard, and commercial air travel I believe that ensuring Kalaeloa remains operational is clearly in the national interest,” Hirono wrote in the March 13th letter.

You can read the letter Senator Hirono sent below:

March 13, 2013

The Honorable Michael P. Huerta
Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta:

I write today to express my strong support for maintaining air traffic control operations at Kalaeloa Airport (John Rodgers Field) in Kapolei, Hawaii. I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the importance of this asset to the national interest.

It is my understanding that as a result of sequestration the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken the difficult step of notifying 189 FAA Contract Tower program participants that their facility may be subject to closure. Your agency has indicated that only towers whose closure would have an adverse effect on the national interest will be considered for continued funding.

The State of Hawaii is one of our nation’s key gateways to the Asia-Pacific region. As our nation’s only island state, Hawaii provides a unique base of operations for public safety and military operations throughout the region. Hawaii is also a key hub for international and multi-state travel and commerce from the U.S. mainland to Asia and elsewhere in the Pacific.

Kalaeloa Airport supports each of these important national interests and missions.

For example, the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) 14th District, based in Honolulu, is commissioned to protect 14.2 million square miles of open ocean, atolls, and island areas. In a typical year the USCG flies 1,200 hours of search and rescue missions. It saves 50 lives, assists 700 others, and preserves an average of $5 million in property. The USCG uses Kalaeloa as its primary base of operations to launch search and rescue missions—Missions that occur at the drop of a hat, 365 days per year. In fact, the services provided by USCG are the only air rescue operations for the State of Hawaii and throughout District 14’s massive area of operations. Ensuring smooth, ongoing operations out of Kalaeloa is vital to commerce and public safety in Hawaii as well as across the Pacific. These services could be negatively impacted should the tower be closed.

Hawaii’s Air National Guard (ANG) also uses Kalaeloa Airport for training and as a possible base for operations in the case of emergency. Hawaii ANG has the ability and responsibility to respond to both human and natural disasters should they arise, and supports the efforts of the U.S. military in these and other circumstances. Given the remoteness of Hawaii’s location, the ability of the state and federal authorities to work together is critical to emergency response in Hawaii and across the Pacific.

Finally, as a general aviation airport, Kalaeloa provides critical relief support to Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii’s primary commercial airport. In the event of complex emergencies, flights can be immediately diverted from Honolulu to Kalaeloa, including emergency runway closure which would affect international flights. Given the fact that controllers at Honolulu are likely to face furloughs, ensuring the ongoing availability of a functional reliever airport is important to public safety and commercial operations in Hawaii and across the region. Kalaeloa’s facilities include emergency power systems and full firefighting capabilities that help to serve Hawaii and the nation’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

Given the support a fully operational Kalaeloa Airport provides to the U.S. Coast Guard, Hawaii Air National Guard, and commercial air travel I believe that ensuring Kalaeloa remains operational is clearly in the national interest.

I appreciate the opportunity to provide my comments on this important issue, and hope that you will give Kalaeloa Airport due consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact my staff at (202) 224-6361 if you have any questions or if we can provide any additional information.

Sincerely,
Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator