EXCLUSIVE: Skydive Hāna Meeting Expected to be Contentious

June 1, 2015, 2:19 PM HST · Updated June 3, 5:08 AM
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Hana aerial file photo by Wendy Osher.

Hana aerial file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

East Maui County Councilman Robert Carroll is hosting a community meeting on June 2, at 5 p.m. at the Hāna Community Center cafeteria to address community concerns regarding the proposed operation of Skydive Hawaiʻi out of the Hāna Airport.

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and state Department of Transportation will be in attendance.

A spokesperson with Councilmember Carroll’s office said Frank Henshaw, president of Skydive Hawaiʻi, was invited to the meeting but has indicated he will most likely not attend. He has directed any questions to the FAA.

Representatives from the state DOT Airports Division and the FAA are on hand to respond to community concerns about the proposed Skydive Hana operation in East Maui. Photo credit: Kapena Kalama.

Representatives from the state DOT Airports Division and the FAA are on hand to respond to community concerns about the proposed Skydive Hana operation in East Maui. (06.02.15) Photo credit: Kapena Kalama.

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Dawn Lono, a representative with Councilmember Carroll’s office said many concerns were brought forward when a similar community meeting was held in Hāna seven years ago.  She said the 2008 meeting was well attended by the Hāna community and that Henshaw was supposed to get back to the community.

According to Lono, a web page and Facebook page by “Skydive Hāna” brought the proposed operation to light again resulting in tomorrow’s community meeting.

The company’s website states, “Caution when jumping at Hāna Airport: Hāna is a remote location with limited emergency medical response ability.”

Once of the concerns raised during the 2008 meeting was the protection of historic and cultural sites in the area.  Concern was expressed for the historic sites in the area, including significant heiau sites, and the King’s Trail along the rugged coastline.  Opponents urged the requirement of a full Environmental Impact Statement saying, “safety and protection of these sites should supercede recreational activities.”

On the Facebook page, company representatives claim they are being discriminated against. In a social media entry, the company states, “Hāna Airport was not our first choice for a location on Maui, but it was the only airport option made available by the State.”

One entry reads:

“Public facilities, especially those funded by federal grants, are put in place to serve the public, even citizens from other states and places. Federal funds were obtained and assurances made for the management of Hāna Airport, but now the local community has been given the belief that they have some sort of control. Providing legitimate jobs at existing general aviation facility in Hāna is not illegal – neither is skydiving. If the folks living in the Hāna area don’t want to skydive, they don’t have to, but they shouldn’t be able to bar others from engaging in legal general aviation activities at public, general aviation facilities. The ugliness of discrimination, in any form, does not belong in or at our public facilities. Shame on the State of Hawaii for empowering discrimination. End the hate, open the gate.”

Another comment from the business stated, “Public facilities using federal funds should be open to all, not just locals.”

The comments and several others left by the page administrator sparked further dispute over whether the business should be allowed to operate in Hāna.

Those against the operation say a rant on Facebook won’t get the company closer to an agreement with the community.  Others in opposition say more tours mean more tourists and more foot traffic, trash, and noise in one of the still rural areas of Maui.  One opponent stated, “Stop the development and leave Hāna untouched.”

According to minutes from the 2008 meeting, it was noted that the company at the time was operating out of the Dillingham Air Force Base on the North Shore of O’ahu, and generating approximately $2.5 million in revenue, with 15,000 customers per year. According to the document, Henshaw indicated that he expects 3-5 jumps per day initially out of the Hāna Airport to be viable.

During the 2008 meeting, fire officials expressed several concerns including: (1) Access of area for emergency care should a landing occur off target – there is heavy forest throughout the proposed area and access would be extremely difficult; (2) Lack of ability to communicate with the existing hang gliding operation; (3) Safety of airport tenants and customers; and (4) Questionable location of the landing zone.

In an email communication to Maui Now, Lono said, “The Hāna community is looking forward to an update and information from the FAA and the State DOT to address the concerns and understand the full magnitude of Skydive Hāna.”

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