KAHULUI - Pacific Wings stopped flying Wednesday after an incident Tuesday morning at Kahului Airport, cutting off Kalaupapa from the rest of the state.
Greg Kahlstorf, chief executive officer of Pacific Air Holdings, issued a news release Tuesday night saying: "Pacific Wings cannot conduct flight operations while the safety of its employees or passengers is in question."
Pacific Wings provides the only air service to Kalaupapa State Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said: "It is very unfortunate he has chosen that kind of drastic action. I don't think he realizes who is he impacting. . . . I don't think he has thought of the people he is supposed to be serving."
Kahului Airport Fire Department photo
These steel tanks, called “bladders,” leaked an uncertain amount of fuel into three hangars at Kahului Airport on the night of June 14-15. The spill resulted in a citation to Pacific Wings, which suspended its flights Tuesday after a confrontation Tuesday with airport security personnel attempting to issue the citation to airline officials.
Kahlstorf said his customers "were understanding."
Between 11 a.m. and noon Tuesday, Securitas airport police attempted to deliver a citation to Gabe Kimbrell, president and chief operations officer of Pacific Wings. Kahlstorf said one of his employees was roughed up, even losing a piece of skin.
Morioka said Wednesday: "Our report from Securitas is that no one came close to touching anybody, and no one raised voices."
Kahlstorf calls that "a bald-faced lie." Internal reports from his employees say there was a confrontation, and that someone in plainclothes, but accompanying several Securitas officers, tried to force his way into a Pacific Wings operations office, bruising and cutting the woman.
Assistant Police Chief Wayne Ribao said Maui police officers were called but could "not substantiate any harassment, threats or assault by Securitas personnel." A report was taken as a civil matter. No one was arrested.
Kahlstorf provided photographs that he said showed bruises to Lisa Nowacky, the supervisor of customer services.
He was in Arizona but listened to parts of the confrontation via speakerphone.
Nowacky's report to her boss says, in part: "By the time I got the video camera, the door to the entrance opened and the man and two officers were trying to let themselves into the trailer.
"I stepped into the doorway and tried to get them to walk out to the front counter, but the man not in uniform refused. He tried to force his way past me about three or four times, but I kept pulling the door in so that I could shut it and lock them out.
"He finally put his foot down to stop me from closing the door and pushed me away from the door. He kept pushing me aside into the door frame, and I made him aware by telling him he was hurting me and that I simply wanted to just go to the front counter.
"He said, 'This is airport property we can talk about this right here.' I responded, 'This trailer is our private offices. Please, let's handle this at the front counter.'"
Nowacky's bruises did not require treatment, and she could not identify the man that she said was wearing an aloha shirt.
This was not the first confrontation between Pacific Wings and private airport police. Kahlstorf said he was reluctant to speak about the previous incident because he has been called as a witness in a federal prosecution of Robert "Butchie" Tam Ho, former Kahului Airport supervisor of Wackenhut, which then had the airport security contract. Kahlstorf alleges he and another employee were beaten and restrained in the airport manager's office.
That trial is scheduled for October.
The reason Securitas was at the Pacific Wings offices was to present three citations for a fuel spill and improper storage of fuel on June 15. The citations carry fines of about $400, Morioka said.
Kahlstorf acknowledges a spill, although he says it was smaller than what the airport fire department says. He denies storing fuel in his maintenance hangar.
He said that because of previous disputes, he does not allow his employees to accept service of Airports Division citations.
Morioka said Securitas is the agent of the division and delivers citations. "The normal operation is to issue it to the supervisor of the day," he said.
The Securitas police, eventually four or five of them in three cars, insisted on delivering it to Kimbrell, who refused to leave his office to accept it. Kahlstorf said he told the officers, by phone, that they could deliver it to him or his partner Frank Ford, or "my lawyer, Philip Lowenthal, will come down and pick it up."
Morioka said he "wanted to get it into the proper person's hands."
As of Wednesday night, Kahlstorf said he had not been given any citations.
Morioka also said that Pacific Wings was obliged to report any spill of more than 25 gallons to the Hawaii Emergency Response Office within 72 hours or to prepare a report on the spill within 30 days. The spill was 23 days ago.
Airport fire Capt. Eugene Perry estimated the spill was "at least 50 to 60 gallons," probably more. He said spills are not uncommon, and there have probably been five spills for more than 100 gallons at the airport this year.
The fuel ran under metal walls and into two other hangars. It was reported by the tenant of the third hanger, and fire Lt. Colby Hanley and his crew responded and cleaned it up with absorbent material. The spill did not reach the storm drains leading to the ocean.
And, there is yet another dispute about the aftermath of the spill. Hanley described how he interviewed the Pacific Wings mechanic, who explained how the spill occurred. Kahlstorf said his mechanics deny speaking to any firefighters about it, although he says he himself spoke to a fire department officer the next day. who told him "it was cleaned up."
Signs of the spill can still be seen - grains of absorbent material and stains on the concrete. The Airports Division arranged for a reporter to visit the spill and inspect the two "bladders" (stainless steel tanks holding 180 gallons) Wednesday afternoon.
Kahlstorf said the fire department should not have entered his hangar except in an emergency or for an inspection with notice, and should not have allowed a third party in at all. The reason, he says, is that the Federal Aviation Administration requires him to monitor every piece of equipment, and if unknown third parties are in the maintenance shop, Pacific Wings would have no way of knowing what went on.
Kahului Airport Manager Marvin Moniz said that as landlord, the state has the right to make inspections any time.
Kahlstorf and the Airports Division have been disagreeing about this for years. Kahlstorf maintains that the Airlines Deregulation Act forbids an airport operator from interfering in any way with schedules, operations or maintenance.
He agrees that the landlord can inspect, with prior notice, but he says the fire department is wrong to say he was storing fuel.
The fuel was drained for a tank inspection and was being held until it could be put back in, he said.
Perry said that operation should be handled by a certified fuel operators (at Kahului, that would be Bradley Pacific).
Kahlstorf said the FAA inspects Pacific Wings premises quarterly and would be the party to cite him for fuel storage, if it happened.
Both sides in the controversy have filed complaints with the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Kimbrell said he was unable to predict how long the airline's Hawaii operations would be at a standstill.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.