Kalaupapa Airport Gets Upgrades

Concrete airlifted by helicopter.

By Catherine Cluett

Flying a helicopter takes skill. But flying a helicopter with a 3, 000 pound bucket of cement swaying beneath it on a 100 foot cable is nothing short of an art, says a member of Pacific Helicopters’ ground crew.

The company has been contracted to transport cement into Kalaupapa for construction on the runway there. The helicopter has been making the flight over the cliff to the remote peninsula every six minutes for the past two weeks. Goodfellows, Inc., under a State contract, is pouring 300 square yards of cement to replace cement blocks in the airport loading area with solid material.

In addition to pouring cement, Goodfellows has widened runway shoulders by five feet on each side, and also replaced runway lights, says Goodfellows region manager Dale Moore.

The biggest challenge of the project, he says, is transportation of equipment, such as backhoes, excavators, and trucks, to the site. They were delivered by barge earlier in the summer, and now that construction is complete, they must be barged out again. This time, the process is complicated by weather dependency, and timing is crucial. If the barge cannot dock at Kalaupapa, the equipment will have to remain on the peninsula until better conditions allow a second try.

The airport construction was minor, but it is the beginning of preparations for an expected increase in traffic due to Father Damien’s sainthood, says Moore.

Pacific Helicopters will continue operating in the area for another week until the concrete pouring is complete. Moore says that is the last step of the current construction project.

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