Spreckelsville residents prep for little sleep

PAIA – Spreckelsville residents may be in for a series of sleepless nights over the next few months because overnight cargo flights will likely be taking off directly over their homes while repair work is done on Kahului Airport’s main runway.

The $3.9 million construction project, which began today, involves 3 inches of pavement resurfacing for the airport’s 7,000-foot runway, state Department of Transportation officials told residents at a meeting Friday night at the Kaunoa Senior Center.

Work is scheduled from midnight until 7 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays. The runway will reopen every morning during the construction period and be able to accommodate flights as scheduled, officials said.

During construction, though, overnight cargo flights that come to Kahului Airport between midnight and 7 a.m. will use runway 5-23, now used by commuter airlines.

But nearby Paia residents said having large cargo planes land and take off from the auxiliary runway would be too noisy, especially during nighttime hours when they are trying to sleep. The east end of runway 5-23 has aircraft take off over Spreckelsville.

“I think we’ve all heard some of these 737 (cargo flights) take off. It’s pretty much a shattering experience,” Paia resident Jim Bendon said Friday. “I think we need to be prepared for some sleep interruption here.”

Six Spreckelsville residents filed a complaint last year about the potential noise impacts, which was settled in mediation last month.

Transportation officials have tried to mitigate those impacts on Paia residents, Bendon said, such as reducing the number of overnight cargo flights from three to two, and agreeing to use quieter aircraft.

“They’re meeting us halfway on this,” Bendon said.

Aloha Air Cargo normally operates three overnight flights – at 1:30, 3 and 5:15 a.m. But it has agreed to cancel its 3 a.m. flights for the duration of the construction period. The airline also will use hush kits – essentially a muffler – on its loud 737-200 jets.

Transportation officials said the runway repavement project is necessary to keep the airport safe. Portions of the runway have become cracked and deteriorated, and if one of the loose asphalt pieces is sucked in by an engine as it is preparing to take off, the aircraft can be severely damaged.

“If we don’t do this . . . and it becomes unsafe, the airport’s going to shut down the runway with very minimal notification and airplanes won’t come in until it gets fixed,” DOT construction engineer Gene Matsushige said. “We can never have our airports unsafe.”

He added that the last repaving of the main runway at Kahului Airport was nearly 12 years ago.

This resurfacing project is not a permanent solution, but “is kind of like a Band-Aid,” Matsushige said. It will “buy” the department about five years of runway use before it needs to be fixed again. Officials are already working on a more permanent solution, possibly replacing the pavement with concrete.

“It’s at a point now where it’s not (yet) unsafe, but we gotta make the corrections now,” Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz said.

Moniz said he was “pretty confident” that five years is enough time for the state to develop and implement a permanent solution. Most other large airports in the country have concrete runways, which have an expected 30-year life span. Pavement runways typically last 20 years, Moniz said.

The resurfacing project will require 33 working days, with an additional 21 working days for grooving and striping of the new runway. No work will be done on days when there are strong Kona winds or when it is raining, officials said. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

Even Paia residents who may lose sleep over the project agreed that it was needed since everyone uses the airport.

“We don’t want to stop repairs on the runway that are needed for safety . . . but the noise impacts are going to be very substantial during this project,” Bendon said.

To report a noise complaint during the construction period, Maui residents may call 872-3889. The hotline will be active beginning at 6 a.m. Monday.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at echao@mauinews.com.