Group criticizes state
on Maui airport project
DOT officials admit work began
without the proper permits
A group of small air carriers that has criticized the state Department of Transportation accused the agency yesterday of breaking the law by hastily approving a Maui airport project that favors one carrier over others and raises a question of a conflict of interest.
Department officials denied any conflict exists and said it halted construction on the project once it realized needed permits were not obtained.
The project would establish a security station for federal personnel to screen Island Air passengers at Kahului's commuter terminal. Island Air had requested the screening system.
Rob McKinney, a spokesman for the carrier group and vice president of Pacific Wings, an Island Air competitor, said the state rushed the project to construction without obtaining a building permit and without getting the required approval for building in a federal wetlands area.
Airports operations officer Roy Sakata, a former Aloha Airlines pilot, pushed through the project for the state, McKinney said. Island Air was an affiliated company of Aloha Airlines until the parent company, Aloha Airgroup Inc., sold the commuter carrier in May.
At a news conference yesterday outside the Transportation Department's headquarters, McKinney spoke on behalf of Part 135 Regulated Operators Partnership, a recently formed group of carriers that has run television advertisements criticizing the department's airport operations. The organization also has raised questions about the agency through a Web site, airportscandal.com.
Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the state stopped construction on the Maui project once it realized the project would cost more than $125,000 and therefore needed a special federal permit.
He also acknowledged that in its haste to get the project started, the state failed to get a building permit before starting construction.
Work will not resume until both permits are obtained, Ishikawa said.
Several carriers initially raised objections to the project because they were concerned the federal screening would displace them from the terminal -- a carrier needs special certification to operate in a security-screened terminal -- or would result in delays for their passengers.
Small carriers at Kahului are not required to have their passengers screened.
Once the objections were raised, Ishikawa said that the department modified the Maui project so that only Island Air passengers would be screened.
But later yesterday, McKinney said his company got word from the department that the agency eventually plans to move Island Air to Kahului's main terminal, a move the carrier group had sought.