Reef runway repairs may rattle residents


The reef runway at Honolulu International Airport will be closed for morning repairs for up to four days beginning Monday, a move that will require airplanes to use another runway further inland and may mean more noise than usual for area residents.

The runway, designated 8R, will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. from Monday, April 7 through Thursday, April 10 for grading work along the shoulder area of the runway, according to the state Department of Transportation. As a result, runway 8L — which runs parallel to the reef runway a few hundred yards mauka — will be used for takeoffs.

“Residents in the Sand Island and Honolulu Harbor area are advised to expect additional aircraft noise,” read a state advisory released today.

Usually, because of federal noise restrictions, large jets (also called “wide bodies” or “heavies”) and four-engine turboprops are prevented from using the inland 8L runway for takeoffs, or for night landings. The runway is 12,357 feet long and 150 feet wide, longer but narrower than the reef runway.

The reef runway, completed in October 1977 at a cost of about $80 million, was the world’s first runway built entirely offshore. Former state and city politician Rudy Pacarro, who died last February, pushed for it to be built to keep aircraft from flying directly over residential neighborhoods.

Aircraft noise made headlines in January when a China Airlines jet flew unusually low and over land during its final approach toward the reef runway. Airport officials subsequently issued instructions advising pilots to keep south of the island, over water, until they’re within two miles of the airport.

It is unclear how next week’s closure will affect landings in Kona winds, in which airplanes approach from the east (as they did in the China Airlines incident).

In 1999, Honolulu International Airport was ranked the 22nd busiest airport in the country and the 36th busiest in the world by the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA).

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