(BIVN) – The sudden closure of the Kona International Airport on Monday evening due to a damaged runway – and how it was repaired in time to reopen the airport the next morning – was discussed at a news conference with state officials on Tuesday.
“I was bracing myself,” Governor Josh Green told media during the livestreamed event. “I had already received calls from our Congressional delegation about how long a delay might be, and how we would explain it to the world. I was particularly pleased that we were able to tell people that we can fix something overnight.”
26 flights were affected by the closure: 9 trans-Pacific flights, and 17 inter-island flights. 160 people were put up in hotels.
The crack in the runway was first identified at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, officials explained. By 2:30 p.m., the degradation of the crack had accelerated into a three foot hole. After an inspection, the decision was made to close the runway and carry out the repairs immediately.
Contractors Grace Pacific flew over to Hawaiʻi island to do the work, landing in Hilo and driving over to Kona. The job was done by 4:30 a.m. and the airport was reopened by the morning.
“Its an older facility. It needs support,” said Governor Green, who is intimately familiar with Kona Airport, having used it so often during his days as a State Senator from West Hawaiʻi.
Governor Green suggested recent heavy rains may have taken a toll on the runway.
“As we have deluges from time to time, we’re seeing some infrastructure fail,” Green said. “When you get rain in Kona – you don’t get a lot of rain; like 13 inches a year – but sometimes when it comes, it comes like 2 or 3 inches slamming in. No way for it to drain off. We in Kona, over the years, we’re always waiting for that annual superstorm. And when those things happen, we worry about this. And there is a lot of that on the Big Island in a lot of different areas. But this was our first runway issue.”
“Our commitment to infrastructure is enormous,” Green said. “We have inherited, over the years, some significant projects that need to be upgraded. Without a doubt, this is one of them. So, $120 million dollars is going to go into Kona Airport to make sure we have the facility for the future that is totally safe.”
“We are going to be reconstructing that whole 11,000 ft runway, and starting up by August/September of this year,” said Ed Sniffen, the director of the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation. “So, the timing is unfortunate, but we’re happy that we made the decision to fix it, rather than push it to potential safety issues for our airlines.”