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Airport History


Molokai Terminal 1950s



On December 15, 1927 the Territorial Governor signed an Executive Order setting aside an area of 204.8 acres of Territorial land for an airport at Hoolehua, Molokai. Inter-Island Airways started scheduled operations to Molokai on November 11, 1929. Between the years of 1927 and 1942, the WPA aided the Territory with funds to gradually enlarge and improve the field which was originally a dirt strip


The U.S. Army established a radio station on the airport in 1935.  This station was moved to a new location in 1938.  During 1938 the Territory exchanged with the Hawaiian Homes Commission 27.23 acres of unused land on the west side of the field for 20.78 acres at the southwest corner of the field for an extension to the runway.  During 1940 14,695 acres were set aside for the use of the Navy


Immediately after December 7, 1941 the armed forces assumed control and operation of all Territorial airports.  During this period the U.S. Army made extensive improvements.  Some of the improvements were beneficial to the increased civilian use to come, but others were unnecessary and in some cases even undesirable from a civil aviation standpoint


Beneficial items consisted of paved runways, taxiways, plane parking areas and lighting of the runway 5-23.  However, extensive repairs were needed to the paved surfaces and to replace the inadequate and obsolete runway lighting system. Undesirable features included earth revetments and air raid shelters, some of which had to be removed because they were hazards to aviation


The sewer, water and power systems were hurriedly constructed and were excessive to commercial needs.  Plans were made to construct a modern joint passenger and freight building to meet the needs of the public on Molokai


By agreement with the U.S. Army, the Territory assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the airport early in 1947.  However, most of the permanent improvements were delayed because title to the property did not revert to the Territory until April 15, 1952.  Some items, critical from a safety standpoint, could not be delayed but expenditures were held to a minimum


Repairs were made to the existing runway lights, installation of a revolving beacon, obstruction lights, and three flashing hazard beacons on prominent hills in the vicinity of the field


Location of this field was such that in the past during heavy rains excess mud and water flowed onto the operating area, sometimes necessitating closing the field until an emergency crew was able to clean up.  A system of drainage ditches was designed and completed in September 1953 to alleviate this condition


Runway resurfacing was performed in 1952 and additionally in 1954


In 1955, the airport consisted of 288 acres of land, with two paved runways, 5-23, which was 200-feet wide and 4,500-feet long, and runway 17-35, which was 200-feet wide and 3,100 feet long.


Hawaiian Airlines, Ltd. and Trans-Pacific Airlines, Ltd., provided scheduled service to Molokai, and Andrew Fying Service flew on a non-scheduled basis


Aeronautical services included paved runways and warm up aprons, paved taxiway and aprons, wind socks, runway lights, lighted wind tee, obstruction lights, flashing hazard beacons, revolving beacon, weather observation station (TPA) and crash and fire protection.



A comprehensive program of improvements was undertaken at this field.  Removal of dirt revetments adjacent to the runways improved ground visibility and landing conditions on the prevailing wind runway.  Hills in the vicinity of the airport were marked with flashing hazard lights enabling night operations to be carried out.  New time clocks and an auxiliary generator set for night lighting were installed as were additional obstruction lights on the field.


Commercial aviation activity increased considerably during the past fiscal year.  Approximately 280,000 pounds of freight consisting large of pineapple seeds were originated in September 1950 and carried by Trans-Air Hawaii; and with 170,000 pounds of incoming freight totaled about 450,000 pounds of air freight handled on this field in one month for an all time high record.  Passenger traffic showed a steady increase and resulted in additional scheduled flights by Hawaiian Airlines and Trans-Pacific Airlines.


June 30, 1953

Molokai Airport was the principal airport on Molokai and was served regularly by the scheduled and nonscheduled carriers.  Automatically controlled beacon, runway and obstruction lights permitted night operations.  A new terminal building for this airport, figured to cost $125,000, was planned.


September 23, 1953

Molokai Airport drainage system project was completed.  Cost: $29,460.


September 13, 1954

The rehabilitation of the runway and taxiway at Molokai Airport was completed.  Cost: $22,833.


June 30, 1954

Construction projects during FY 1954: resurfacing of Runway 5-23 and taxiway and parking aprons were underway at a cost of $22,000.  Projects in the planning stage were medium intensity lighting system for Runway 5-23, $88,000 and a passenger terminal building, $80,000.   


November 11, 1954

The runway and taxiways were resurfaced. Cost: $22,833.


June 30, 1955

Projects in the planning stage included a new passenger and freight terminal building, $90,000; medium intensity runway light, $72,000; and new parking apron, roadways and auto parking area, $85,000.


June 14, 1956

A project to install medium intensity runway lighting system was completed.  Cost: $44,500.


FY 1957

Projects in the planning stage were a new passenger and freight terminal building, $110,000; and aircraft apron, drainage and auto park, $90,000.


June 7, 1957

Construction of a new passenger-freight terminal was completed and put into operation in June 1957. The terminal was officially dedicated in July 1957. Cost: $221,550.


Also completed was an aircraft apron and auto park project.  Cost: $90,000.


November 21, 1957

Pavement rehabilitation was completed.  Cost: $30,036.


March 17, 1969

A contract was awarded for improvements to the terminal building. Cost: $58,800.


July 1, 1969

The resurfacing of Runway 5-23 was completed.  Cost: $145,490.


August 1969

Work on the terminal expansion at Molokai Airport was completed in August 1969.  This project resulted in additional space for the new snack bar concession and provided covered loading on the curbside of the terminal building.  Additional terminal improvements planned for this airport include enlarged lobby space and baggage claims areas. Cost: $61,740.


June 30, 1970

Molokai Airport faced topographical limitations which posed a problem in long-range planning.  It became necessary to relocate or realign existing runways to accommodate the all-jet operations planned by interisland carriers.



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.


June 23, 1972

A quick-response rescue vehicle was ordered for Molokai Airport.  The vehicle can transport the fire chief, break-in tools and fire suppressant chemicals to a crash within three to four minutes, while slower equipment is still on the way.  The vehicle carries 500 gallons of water, 55 gallons of foam concentrate and 500 pounds of dry chemical.


March 9, 1972

Drainage and other improvements were completed. Cost: $210,070.


July 3, 1972

Additional terminal improvements were completed. Cost: $57,808.



Consideration was being given to relocating Molokai Airport.


December 19, 1974

Perimeter and security fencing was installed and improvements to the crash/fire rescue facility were completed. Cost: $108,120.


June 1975

Molokai Airport is 6.75 miles northwest of Kaunakakai and had a combined passenger and freight terminal at the northwest side of Runway 5-23.  There was no control tower.  The fire vehicles were staffed by station complement augmented by volunteers.  Security was contractual.


FY 1976

Preliminary planning for moving the site of Molokai Airport continued with the preparation for selection of consultants for the project.


FY 1977

Construction of new hotel facilities on Molokai accounted for the increase in passengers served at Molokai Airport.  While a modest increase is expected to continue, the shortage of water will deter any great gain in population and airport passenger activity until new sources are developed.


The engineering analysis that will assist in the site selection for a new airport for Molokai continued.


FY 1978

The site study for a new Molokai Airport was completed with a recommendation that 500 to 600 acres of land be set aside in the northwest corner of the island.  The report recommended against immediate construction at the new site in view of the high cost for a new airport compared to the relatively low air traffic to Molokai.  The estimated cost was $25.8 million in 1978.  The report recommended continued improvements to the existing airport at Hoolehua until such time that traffic warranted the construction of the new airport.


September 11, 1978

A contract was awarded for resurfacing Runway 5-21. Cost: $525,070.


July 15, 1979

The FAA dedicated a new air traffic control tower for Molokai Airport. The tower cab was a mobile unit mounted on the roof of the airport crash-fire building and was operated from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Increases in general aviation traffic made it feasible to provide air traffic control and the FAA was planning the construction of a permanent facility after the revised master plan for the airport is completed.


November 1980

A public information meeting was held to present findings of the Molokai Airport Master Plan Study concerning the airport’s status, runway and terminal possibilities.


FY 1984

Future projects call for the grooving of the runway for safer take offs and landings, painting of new lines and relocation of existing threshold lights.  The project is estimated to cost $141,000.


December 1991

A project to upgrade the water system to the ARFF and hydrants was completed. Cost: $458,000.


June 1992

A new baseyard facility was dedicated.  The 2,800 square foot building included two service bays, three parking bays, a conference room, office space, lockers and showers and storage areas.  Cost: $1.7 million.


October 19, 1994

The renovated passenger terminal and support facilities were dedicated.  The 24,000 square foot terminal had an upgraded passenger waiting area, ticket lobby, air cargo handling facilities and tenant lease area. Cost: $2.8 million.


FY 1997

A Master Plan update was in progress.


July 2001

The access road realignment and parking upgrade was completed. Cost: $1.3 million.


November 19, 2001

Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which established the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  TSA now oversees all transportation security including airport security checkpoint screening, previously managed by the airlines.


As with many airports, heightened passenger security screening requirement created long lines and extended delays for passengers.  The airport worked with TSA and other agencies to minimize inconvenience to the travelling public.


June 2005

Architectural barrier removal was completed.  Cost: $160,000.










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