My comments and opinion of the transfer of the old fire house to a flight kitchen in 2016.
As president of Oke`e Aviation Servcies, LLC, I was contracted to assist a client in the acquisition and refurbishing of the old fire house as a commuter terminal.
Old Fire House - KOA
Airport Rescue Fire-Fighting Facility - Kona International Airport
As tourism continued to grow in Hawaii, so did its airports. The Kona International Airport (today the Ellison Onisuka Kona International Airport) continued to see additional flights not only from the mainland but from international destinations. In order to serve the increase in traffic, it was necessary to meet regulations and increase the airport rescue fire-fighting facility (ARFF). A new facility was constructed not only to meet Kona's needs but developed as a training facility for all state ARFF staff as well as other Pacific Island partners. It was completed and became operational in 2014.
Over the years, master plans for the airport have been developed and redeveloped. Some facilities have been completed in accordance with those plans and many have not. A temporary commuter terminal (trailer) was erected in August 1992 and twenty years later operators were still waiting for something better. When the old firehouse became vacant it was the logical choice for it to be utilized as an additional commuter terminal. There was much interest. Problem was that the DOT-A budget wouldn't allow funding to make the proper renovations to accommodate the users.
Mokulele Airlines, Big Island Air and Kaiser Air were all negotiating with the DOT-A for space.
In early 2015, after many discussions with the DOT-A, Kaiser Air would take the lead and take on the lease of the "old fire house" and it would fund the renovation, where the DOT-A couldn't. After additional discussions it would be Big Island Air and Kaiser Air utilizing the facility.
As Kaiser Air's representative, I worked for months to complete the requirements to obtain a DOT-A lease and discussed County of Hawaii approvals to develop a permitted air terminal. This was not my first rodeo. I had held revocable permits and land leases at KOA for over twenty years and back in 1988, I sat on the Technical Advisory Committee for the development of the master plans for Hawaii airports. I knew its never a done deal until it is truly done but I did have better expectations.
Over the years, I have been to many Department of Land & Natural Resource bi-monthly meetings. Most Land Board meetings were an approval of what the DOT-A already approved.
I was looking for this meeting to be of that flavor.
The meeting of December 11, 2015 was different than I attended in the past. It was clear that some board members had issue with DOT-A leases and wanted to ensure that fair competition was available to the public. They wanted the lease to go to public auction to ensure that fairness. My testimony indicated that I understood their concerns but as an operator at the airport, we recognized those already in need and were working with those operators for the best opportunity for all. The March 2013 Final Environmental Assessment indicated that the state was moving to renovate the facility as a commuter air terminal but did not have funds to do so.
I objected to the introduction of a public auction at this point in our process. If land is subject to an auction it should be presented at the beginning of our request, which was eight months earlier.
Public auction was mandated.
I provided testimony at this meeting. I gave a business card with my name but the transcript had me as Tom Menushawitz and the minutes are less than accurate. So much for an accurate account of the meeting.
The DOT-A Property Management regrouped to submit a a new request to the Land Board. The DLNR meeting on January 22, 2016 included item M-15
The DLNR /Land Board approved to lease by public auction
The DOT-A Property Management proceeded to prepare documents and notification of lease by public auction and were informed it could take a month or so and we would be advised. Even though we were disappointed in not getting the direct lease, we were prepared to participate in the auction.
While we were waiting, we became aware that the winds of change were blowing in.
Over a year and a half, tens of thousands of dollars and get nothing for our efforts. There was never any official DOT-A response. They were not legally obligated to say anything because we never reached an agreement on a lease. A property manager did say sorry but I could tell no one in their office wanted to talk about it.
The DOT-A submittal above speaks to May 2016 and the FAA authorizing Hawaiian Airlines to operate flight between Japan and Kona, as well as other potential carriers and the need for a flight kitchen. They make it sounds as if no aircraft has had in-flight meals until now.
Since 1988, numerous master plans and environmental assessments have incorporated locations for a flight kitchen. Many discussions, no takers. The need was there and in-flight meals were prepared and delivered to each air carrier for over twenty years before this particular request. United Airlines contracted with the Mauna Kea Hotel for years. What is also interesting is the strictest rules for in-flight meals are
between Kona and the U.S. mainland.
Arriving and departing aircraft in Hawaii work closely with the Department of Agriculture, both state and federal. The State of Hawaii Ag is required to meet inbound flights from the mainland. The U.S. Agriculture is required to meet inbound international flights to ensure the quarantine and disposal of foreign garbage. U.S. Ag is also very diligent on all food products going on aircraft destined to the mainland. All kitchens preparing food for these flights must meet strict guidelines and are inspected often. There were a number of kitchens off Kona Airport that met that requirement and serviced aircraft.
That was partly why no one was looking to finance a new airport flight kitchen,
Both state and federal ag had no requirements for departing international aircraft.
Certainly, during the previous ten years, daily aircraft would consist of Boeing 747 , 757's and 767's which collectively not only had a thousand passengers but that the meals were meals.
I do not disagree with the old fire house being converted to a flight kitchen but Hawaiian Airlines was working on Japan flights to Kona for a long time and it wasn't until FAA approval that they thought of in-flight meals.
But when the mother ship, Hawaiian Airlines speaks... well what can I say.