Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Problems are plaguing
airport elevators

Question: I've worked at Honolulu Airport for the past 10 years and carry 15 pounds of work-related material from the parking lot to a set of elevators outside of U.S. Customs. I take the elevator to the second level. But these elevators -- T-1 and T-2 -- are often out of order, breaking down at least once each week. When they do work, it often takes 20-45 seconds before the doors close. As these doors close, a shrill high-pitched noise is generated, which hurts the ears. One night, I was trapped in T-1 for seven minutes. I understand there are other elevators around the airport that also are regularly out of order. Why are these elevators allowed to be so poorly maintained?

Answer: We passed on the whole of your lengthy complaint to state airports officials for a response.

The answer boiled down to officials recognizing there are problems, working to see where improvements can be made, but also realizing that wholesale changes would be too costly to undertake.

Honolulu Airport has a three-year, $700,000-a-year contract with KONE Inc. for elevator maintenance, according to airport facilities engineer Jacob Hee.

He checked KONE's service records, as well as state maintenance and operations records, between Jan. 1 and April 15 and found the two elevators you cited generated a total of nine trouble calls: two failures "clearly due to abuse," two probably caused by smokers, two possibly caused by pranksters and three caused by a malfunctioning component.

The shrill noise, Hee said, was caused by a misalignment in the elevator door, which was repaired.

A "trouble call" is when someone inside an elevator calls a telephone operator, who notifies a supervisor.

A state technician then investigates the call. KONE is called if the elevator is stopped between floors and/or if someone is in the elevator.

Although records do not indicate breakdowns as often as you indicated, airport officials don't deny there are problems. For one, all those passengers lugging suitcases and using baggage carts are a major source of wear and tear on elevators, especially on the doors, Hee said.

"Most of our problems are user problems," he said. "We do have some mechanical problems," but "upgrades" have been made.

The elevator contract calls for inspections and maintenance at least twice monthly on all elevators and escalators. It also requires two teams -- an elevator mechanic and helper and an escalator mechanic and helper -- to each spend 40 hours per week inspecting and responding to calls, Hee said.

He's looking now to see whether the hours of the teams should be staggered for better coverage of Honolulu Airport's 27 hydraulic and 47 electric elevators, 70 escalators and two sets of moving sidewalks.

Officials did consider enlarging the elevators.

"But what we found was that your elevator shafts are your prime structural support," Hee said.

Demolishing the shaft to make it larger would be "a pretty good trick" as well as "very expensive."

It would cost about $50,000 to replace an elevator cab and an additional $200,000 to replace the controls, Hee said. Many people want the elevators to go faster, he said, but a consultant hired a year and a half ago pointed out that it didn't make sense to have high speed when most people are only traveling two floors.

In the meantime, other airports are being queried to see "what their frequency of problems are -- to see if we meet industry standards," Hee said.


To the person who stole my son's baby stroller from our garage. May God bless you and guide you better. -- A very disappointed mother

Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered.
Email to

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin