Saturday, November 27, 1999

Expanded air service
is a promising sign

Bullet The issue: United Airlines announced additional flights and bigger planes on mainland-Hawaii routes, plus a new call center.

Bullet Our view: These are encouraging developments for Hawaii's economy.

AIRLINES add or subtract flights for a reason: the market. The announcements by United Airlines, Hawaii's biggest provider of air service to the mainland, of additional flights and bigger planes are based on its assessment that the Hawaii market for air travel is growing -- encouraging news for Hawaii's economy.

Norm Reeder, United's managing director for Hawaii, said, "Mainland traffic is up substantially. This is a huge success story" -- surely a welcome change after years of stagnation. Reeder said United is also seeing an increase in business from Asia and the Pacific, a good sign for Hawaii tourism.

And United is only the latest airline to announce increased service to Hawaii.

Hawaii will see its first 352-seat Boeing 777 when United puts the new long-haul jet into service between San Francisco and Maui on Feb. 16. It will replace a 251-seat DC-10 on the route, adding 101 seats. The 777 was designed to fill a size gap between the 767 and the jumbo 747.

In addition, United is adding a flight to its Los Angeles-Honolulu service on Dec. 16, using a 188-seat Boeing 767. The change increases the airline's service on that route to five flights a day.

Moreover, United has announced plans for a $4.5 million reservations center in Honolulu, to be located at the airline's support facility at Honolulu International Airport. It will field sales calls from the North American and Hawaii regions and will create 200 jobs. United will move all 275 reservationists from its call center on Ala Moana Boulevard and add at least 200.

This is another expansion of Hawaii's role as a call center. Two other call centers are already operating here.

Governor Cayetano, who announced the call center plans with Reeder, said the state sees the centers as a niche industry that Hawaii can exploit, given its location, time zone, telecommunciations infrastructure and multilingual work force.

These steps are signs that the long-awaited recovery of Hawaii's economy is under way. Other positive signs were reflected in the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism's leading economic indicators, which reached a record high this month.

Sulfuric acid spill

Bullet The issue: Thirty tons of sulfuric acid spilled in Campbell Industrial Park.

Bullet Our view: Preventive measures are needed to avoid another incident.

The spill of 30 tons of sulfuric acid on Thanksgiving Day at Campbell Industrial Park could have resulted in a disaster.

The acid spilled into a containment area near a C. Brewer & Co. chemical plant, where it mixed with chlorine to form a highly toxic gas. Fortunately, the winds blew the fumes out to sea. No one was reported injured.

Fire Department and Navy hazardous materials teams applied soda ash to stop the spill and neutralize the mixture. No evacuation was ordered, but streets in the area were closed and people kept away from nearby beaches.

State officials were sent to the scene to determine whether the accident contaminated groundwater or caused harm to plants and birds.

Honolulu Fire Capt. Richard Soo said C. Brewer makes the sulfuric acid, an industrial cleaning agent, available to other chemical operations to clean tanks after the contents are removed.

The spill was reported by workers at a Chevron facility downwind who smelled the chemicals.

The incident should not be quickly dismissed because no one was hurt. Authorities must determine how the accident occurred and what should be done to prevent the same thing from happening again. And then preventive measures must be taken.

Otherwise, the next time this happens we may not be so fortunate.

Chernobyl reactor

Bullet The issue: One of four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine has been restarted, despite international objections.

Bullet Our view: It's hard to accept assurances that the reactor is safe.

SPEAKING of potential disasters, the last functioning nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine has been started up again despite strong international pressure to shut it down.

The Chernobyl plant originally had four reactors. Reactor No. 4 exploded in April 1986, spewing radiation over much of Europe in the worst-ever nuclear accident. The disaster has been blamed for 8,000 deaths. Consequently, Chernobyl has become a synonym for nuclear disaster.

Reactor No. 3 was restarted yesterday after almost five months of repairs. Officials at Chernobyl insist that it's safe and free of any potential Y2K bugs. But after that 1986 disaster it's hard to accept their assurances.

Ukraine depends on 14 nuclear plants to supply 40 percent of its power. The Ukrainian government says it is planning to shut down Chernobyl sometime next year. But the government says it needs $1.2 billion from the West to finish construction of two new reactors -- of a safer design -- to replace the power that will be lost by closing Chernobyl.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was supposed to make a decision on a loan in September, but has taken no action. Other potential lenders are waiting for the bank to make a decision. Evidently without a loan nothing can be done to complete construction.

In the meantime, the Ukrainians would rather accept the assurances that the Chernobyl reactor is safe than go without the power it provides. We hope they're making the right choice.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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