Saturday, October 4, 2003

Federal decision lets
kiteboarders stay
off Kahului

WAILUKU -- Kiteboarders will be allowed to remain on Maui's north shore under a federal waiver but face new restrictions to prevent them from interfering with planes taking off and landing at Kahului's airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration won't rescind a waiver for the kiteboarders, but they will be expected to police themselves and be subject to new restrictions, including a large "no kite zone" at the end of the airport's Runway 2 and lower height limits, said spokesman Donn Walker.

Martin Kirk, Maui president of the Hawaii Kiteboarding Association, said he was "stoked."

"We're going to do whatever it takes," to comply with the FAA's terms, he said.

Federal law prohibits kites and balloons within five miles of commercial airports. But the FAA in March 2002 issued a waiver for kiteboarders along Maui's north shore.

In September, the agency announced it would rescind the waiver this month because too many kites had violated the half-mile "no-kite zone" at the end of the runway.

The violations meant air traffic controllers had to stop planes from taking off, Walker said.

"We hold traffic," he said. "If the plane is waiting to depart, and there's a kiteboarder in that zone, we hold the plane until the kiteboarder is gone."

Rescinding the waiver would have closed what is considered one of the premier sites in the world for the sport and the place where it got its start.

Walker said he doesn't know how much the "no-kite zone" would be expanded, but said the maximum altitude kiteboarders would be allowed to fly would be reduced from 200 to 125 feet above sea level.

"They've convinced us they're going to be much more aggressive about keeping people out of this no-fly zone," Walker said.

Kirk said his organization has been posting signs and increasing education efforts.

Kirk said one of the problems with enforcing the "no kite zone" is that visitors unfamiliar with the area don't know the rules. To help remedy that, Kirk has proposed working with baggage handlers at the airport to ask them to put informational stickers on arriving windsurfing or kiteboarding gear.


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