An emergency landing strip was established on Lanai in 1919.
In its 1928 Annual Report, the Territorial Aeronautical Commission reported the excellent cooperation of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, in making a suitable field available for emergency airplane landings on the Island of Lanai. The field was at Leinukalahua, Kaa.
Inter-Island Airways, now Hawaiian Airlines, began operations to Lanai in 1930 with Sikorsky S-38, eight-passenger amphibious planes. The landing field was sod and owned by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. The barrels surrounding the airport were removed by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in March 1930 after they were deemed a hazard.
In July 1930, the Territorial Aeronautics Commission wrote to Hawaiian Pineapple Company asking if they wished to apply for a license for their field. There was no response.
During 1935, Inter-Island Airways started to replace the S-38s with 16-passenger Sikorsky S-43s and in 1941 this equipment was being replaced by 24-passenger Douglas DC-3s. The field was not big enough accommodate this type of equipment and once the last of the S-38s were put out of service shortly after the start of World War II, air service to Lanai came to a halt.
In 1944, the Post War Planning Division of the Territorial Department of Public Works issued a report proposing to construct a Class IV airport four miles southwest of Lanai City. They proposed construction of a 5,000-foot by 500-foot graded flight strip, with 5,000-foot and 150-foot runways paved with two and three inches of plant mix asphaltic concrete; installation of boundary lights, contact lights, range lights, rotating and code beacons, and control panel; fencing of the entire field and an access road.
“The existing airport is too small for two-engine planes, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration has advised that it is willing to consider an application for a major airport,” the report stated. “The Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Ltd. has under consideration the donation of all necessary land in the amount of approximately 220 acres.” Estimated cost of construction was $690,000, with the CAA expected to provide all of the funds.
The 1945 Legislature appropriated $150,000 for an airport but the wording of the Act was found to be faulty. The Governor, however, allocated $50,000 from his contingency fund for the grading of an airstrip on land made available by Hawaiian Pineapple Co. Ltd. The island population of 3,720 (1940) was completely dependent on air transportation.
“The dependence of the population upon air service justifies the proposed project,” reported the DPW. “The part of the Lanai pineapple plantation in the Territory’s economy is very great. The present airport, although in operation, is unpaved and is in great need of adequate paving to prevent erosion from severe winds and relatively high rainfall.”
The initial grading of the airstrip was completed by the Department of Public Works at a cost of $48,556. The Hawaiian Pineapple Company donated the land and agreed to keep the runway grassed until a surface could be placed. Funds for this work were approved by the Governor by Executive Order dated February 26, 1946.
A new airport site for Lanai was chosen and on September 18, 1946, Hawaiian Airlines resumed service there using Douglas DC-3s. The field was an unpaved sod strip and as a result was practically unusable in wet weather and almost untenable due to dust and dirt in dry weather. In view of these conditions, air service was not reliable and it was therefore decided to pave the runway and taxiway.
The Territorial Department of Public Works created a Master Plan in October 1946 which showed a single runway of 4,200 feet by 600 feet. The Territorial Superintendent of Public Works indicated his intention to recommend to the 1947 Legislature the appropriating of $100,000 for the paving of the airport. The Territory also planned to construct an administration and terminal building to make the airport readily available to all inter-island operators. Hawaiian Airlines Ltd. had constructed its own headquarters at the airport.
The CAA Region IX approved the proposed improvements to Lanai Airport as part of the 1947 National Airport Plan as presented on February 26, 1947.
Act 23 of the 1947 Session of the Territorial Legislature, appropriated $105,000 for this development. This amount was matched by Civil Aeronautics Administration funds, making a total of $210,000. But due largely to the increase in labor and material costs, the amount of funds was not sufficient and it was necessary to increase the Territory’s share by $13,336 from the Aviation Gas Tax Fund and the CAA’s share by $13,335, making a total of $236,671 to cover construction, engineering, administration, etc.
On July 1, 1947 Act 32 of the 1947 Legislature placed Lanai Airport under the management of the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission.
On January 10, 1948 the HAC passed a resolution adopting and approving the execution of the Sponsor’s Assurance Agreement to be submitted to the Administrator of Civil Aeronautics, U.S. Department of Commerce, to obtain federal aid in the development of Lanai Airport.
Governor’s Executive Order No. 1248, dated March 19, 1948, set aside 57.851 acres of land for Lanai Airport which had been conveyed by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. An additional .932 acres was conveyed to the Territory by Hawaiian Pineapple Company through EO No. 1279 on November 19, 1948.
On April 12, 1948 work was completed on the reconstruction of Lanai Airport, the first Territorial airport to be completed under the Federal Airport Act of 1946. The airport was officially dedicated on July 12, 1948 by the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission and the Civil Aeronautics Administration and had cost $231,858. The airport consisted of one paved runway 80 feet in width by 3,700 feet long, with necessary taxiways and parking aprons. The graded area was 400 feet in width and 3,900 feet in length. This was the first field constructed by the Hawaiian Aeronautics Commission with the assistance of federal funds appropriated under the Federal Airport Act.
Act 368, SLH 1949, appropriated $13,200 for airport improvements.
By 1950 the airport was served regularly by Hawaiian Airlines with twice daily passenger service in two directions and twice weekly freight service. Air mail service was supplied. Trans-Air Hawaii also provided twice weekly air freight service. Additional cargo and non-scheduled flights were made into Lanai by charter air services. Koele Flying Club owned and operated a small personal plane for the use of about 10 members. There was also one other plane based at the field. Maintenance work was performed by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company upon request.
The HAC approved the hiring of a full-time maintenance person for Lanai Airport on July 24, 1950. He provided grass cutting, drainage ditch clearance, etc.
Subsequently it was found that erosion caused by high winds and plane propeller blast was damaging the field, so the HAC awarded a contract for construction of paved areas to Western Builders Ltd, on January 22, 1951. The project was completed on April 23, 1951 and consisted of paving, widening taxiways and constructing a warm up and turn around apron. Cost: $25,856.
On October 22, 1951 the HAC approved $1,408 to clear and enlarge a drainage ditch at Lanai Airport to prevent flooding by heavy rains.
At a meeting on March 13, 1952 the Commission discussed purchasing a sufficient portion of land owned by the pineapple company, as well as the land on which the HAL terminal was situated, in order to insure having both passenger and freight terminals. Both parcels would be purchased at the same time and would be included in a survey of Lanai. The Director was instructed to have the DPW do this. The projected cost of acquisition of land and terminal would be between $300,000 and $400,000.
In 1952 a freight building was constructed at a cost of $13,909. A new water line was completed at a cost of: $1,827. Resurfacing of the runway and other paved areas was completed in October 1955. Cost: $11,964.
By 1955, the airport consisted of 59 acres of land, and had one paved runway, 3-21, which was 80-feet wide and 3,700-feet long. Scheduled service was provided by Hawaiian Airlines, Ltd., and Trans-Pacific Airlines, Ltd. Andrew Flying Service provided unscheduled service. The airport included Hawaiian Airlines' passenger terminal building, a freight terminal building, a paved runway and warm up areas, paved taxiway and apron, wind socks, field maintenance, and crash and fire protection.
In 1956 the HAC appropriated $1,500 to provide a glass enclosure for the northeast lanai of the Lihue Airport Terminal to relieve congestion and an addition to the Freight Building was underway. Cost: $1,800. The HAC awarded a contract for pavement rehabilitation to Hawaiian Bitumuls & Paving Company. Pavement rehabilitation was completed on October 25, 1957. Cost: $16,118.
Act 1, 2nd Special Session 1959, placed Lanai Airport under the ownership and administrative control of the Airports Division, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation.
In 1960 the Maui County Board of Supervisors (Resolution 101) requested both the State and Hawaiian Airlines to use larger more modern aircraft to provide passenger air service to Lanai. Hawaiian changed its fleet from DC-3s to Convairs.
Highlights of the 1960s:
- Act 195, SLH 1961, appropriated $35,000 for Lanai Airport CIP.
- The Department of Transportation commissioned the preparation of a Master Plan for Lanai Airport in December 1961.
- Act 30, SLH 1962, appropriated $100,000 for land acquisition and construction of a runway extension.
- Act 201, SLH 1963, appropriated $25,000 for extension of the existing runway.
- Act 52, SLH 1964, appropriated $601,000 for the extension of Runway 3-21 to 5,000 feet by 150 feet.
- A Master Plan for Lanai Airport was completed in August 1964 calling for widening and lengthening the runway, a new taxiway and paved aircraft parking apron.
- Work started on July 14, 1965 to lengthen and widen the runway and to build a new aircraft parking apron and passenger terminal building. The runway was enlarged from a pavement 3,700 feet long by 80 feet wide to 5,000 feet long by 50 feet wide. A new parking apron and terminal building were also being built to meet runway clearance criteria for the larger, faster type aircraft to be put into service between the islands.
- Governor’s Executive Order No. 2211 dated July 1, 1965 set aside 32.506 acres of land in five parcels for an addition to Lanai Airport.
Lanai Airport’s newly extended runway and terminal building project was completed and dedicated in a special ceremony on October 16, 1966. The project also included construction of a taxiway and apron and a new terminal building as well as the relocation of the existing freight terminal building. Cost: $817,080.
- Act 217, SLH 1967, appropriated $91,000 for construction of taxiway turnarounds and runway lights and an airport beacon.
- Act 40, SLH 1968, appropriated $10,000 for improvements to terminal buildings, baggage claim areas and other improvements.
- Act 187, SLH 1970, appropriated $117,000 for construction of a terminal extension for a baggage claim area and covered walkway; seal coating of the runway; taxiway and apron pavement and misc. improvements; and $270,000 for plans to construct a 2,000-foot minimum extension to the existing runway, strengthen the existing runway, expand an reconstruct the apron.
- Additions to the terminal building were completed in January 1971. Cost: $43,565.
- Act 197, SLH 1971, appropriated $48,000 for extension of parking facilities and painting of the terminal and cargo building.
In 1971 The FAA began to implement the Airport and Airways Development Act of 1970 under a plan entitled the Airport Certification Program. Under this program, every airport serving air carriers certified by the Civil Aeronautics Board must maintain certificates from the FAA to remain in operation. This program imposed an entirely new system of inspections, record-keeping and reporting on airports and required additional funds and personnel to meet its stringent requirements.
The FAA also published a “Notice of Proposed Rule-Making on Aviation Security” and began to implement an airport security system. This new program meant new obligations for the Airports Division and required equipment expenditures and personnel increases.
Under the requirements of the Airport Certification Program, an Airports Division Procedures Manual was produced in draft form and manuals were also drafted for each airport serving CAB-certified carriers.
After a lapse of several years, the FAA revived a system of inspections under its Compliance Program, and inspected all airports within the State. Hawaii’s airports passed inspection in every important respect, and corrective measures were initiated to correct some minor instances of non-compliance, such as lack of adequate clear zones.
Highlights of the 1970s:
- A contract for installation of runway and taxiway lights was completed November 16, 1972. Cost: $83,538.
- Improvements to the terminal were completed on March 28, 1972. Cost: $45,808.
- The terminal building was air conditioned on March 16, 1973. Cost: $16,352.
- Sealing a portion of Runway 3-21 was completed June 7, 1974. Cost: $11,525.
- Act 195, SLH 1975, appropriated $620,000 for an extension of Runway 3-21 to 7,000 feet.
- By 1975 Lanai Airport had a single runway and a terminal for passengers and a freight building. There was no control tower. Two attendants provided maintenance support. The attendants were supplemented by volunteer firemen who operated the crash fire vehicle. Security was contractual.
- A contract was awarded for airport slurry and sealing. Completed February 1977, $132,710.
- Act 214, SLH 1979, appropriated $250,000 for airport landscaping.
- Act 3090, SLH 1980, appropriated $250,000 for airport landscaping.
On October 1, 1979 the Civil Aeronautics Board Order 79-10-3, the Bureau of Domestic Aviation, defined essential air service for Lanai as follows: “Lanai: A minimum of two daily round trip flights to Honolulu and Kahului providing a total of at least 80 seats in each direction per day.”
Throughout the 1980s, there were minor upgrades to the airport. When the Douglas DC-3 was ultimately replaced by larger aircraft, the airport once again became obsolete and the 1988 Legislature (Act 390, SLH 1988), appropriated $1 million for design and construction of improvements; and $150,000 for a Master Plan to expand the airport. In 1990, Act 299, SLH 1990, appropriated $21.2 million for design and construction of airport improvements.
The state awarded a $7.5 million contract for construction of the new airport terminal building, access road and parking area once the rezoning approval was granted. A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new 4,000 square foot $450,000 Lanai Airport Terminal Building on November 17, 1992.
Construction on the new terminal began in January 1993. The single story 15,000 square foot terminal was five times larger than the existing terminal and included space for a gift shop and food and beverage concessions and counter space for six airlines. The terminal was expected to be completed in early 1994 along with infrastructure improvements to the airport access road, parking and utilities. Cost: $6.5 million.
- A project to increase the apron size and add additional parking was completed in February 1992.
- Construction of additional taxiway and hardstand areas was completed in 1992. Cost $5.1 million.
- To accommodate increasing cargo operations at Lanai, construction was completed in February 1993 on a 4,000 square foot, metal frame, cargo building. It includes 2,400 square feet of cargo space, a maintenance ship, maintenance office and an emergency generator room. Cost: $635,438.
- The Lanai Airport access road, parking and utilities were upgraded in January 1994.
The spacious new 15,000 square foot terminal, built to accommodate the growth in tourism to Lanai, was dedicated on April 19, 1994. It was five times larger than the structure it replaced. A new parking area, roadway and landscaping were included. Cost: $6.5 million. An upgrade to the airport access road and utilities were also completed. Cost: $5.2 million.
- Act 287, SLH 1996, appropriated $200,000 for design of an instrument landing system; and $350,000 for an Airport Master Plan and Noise Compatibility Program Update.
- Act 328, SLH 1997, appropriated $600,000 for design and construction of a perimeter security fence.
- Design work was in progress in 1997 for a Precision Approach Path Indicator to provide safer landings.
- A Master Plan update was in progress in 1997.
- The runway pavement was resurfaced and regrooved in 1998.
- Act 116, SLH 1998, appropriated $660,000 for design and construction of a perimeter fence; and $350,000 for an Airport Master Plan and Noise Compatibility Program Update.
The Lanai Airport Master Plan Update was published in June 1999. Phase I of the proposed improvements (2000-2010) called for $16.3 million in improvements to the airfield, $378,800 to the terminal complex; and $3.3 million for design, planning, project management and contingency costs, for a total of $19,986,828.
Proposed Phase II improvements (2010-2020) included $2.3 million for partial parallel taxiway, and MITL taxiway lights; expansion of the terminal building, $447,760; parking lot, $37,545 and landscaping, $490,305.
Proposed Phase III improvements (Beyond 2020) were not detailed.
- Pacific Wings began two daily flights between Kahului and Lanai City on March 1, 2000.
- Island Air suspended its two daily flights between Lanai and Maui due to a shortage of pilots on March 2, 2000.
- Act 259, SLH 2001, appropriated $4.6 million for design and construction of a runway and taxiway extension; and $650,000 for design and construction of a new water tank.
- A project to resurface the aircraft parking apron was completed in January 2004. Cost: $535,000.
- Act 41, SLH 2004, appropriated $150,000 for design of ARFF Station improvements.
- Act 160, SLH 2006, appropriated $1.1 million for construction of ARFF Station improvements.
- Act 213, SLH 2007, appropriated $3.5 million for construction of a general aviation apron.
- Act 158, SLH 2008, appropriated $3.5 million for construction of a general aviation apron.
- New airfield lights and signs were installed in May 2010. Cost: $1.9 million.