Kona International Airport

(Redirected from Onizuka Space Center)

Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole (IATA: KOA, ICAO: PHKO, FAA LID: KOA) is the primary airport on the Island of Hawaiʻi, located in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, United States.[3] The airport serves leeward (western) Hawaiʻi island, including the resorts in North Kona and South Kohala. It is one of two international airports serving Hawaiʻi island, the other being Hilo International Airport on the windward (eastern) side.

Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole

Kahua Mokulele Kauʻāina o Kona
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorHawaii Department of Transportation
ServesIsland of Hawaii
LocationKalaoa, Hawaii
Hub forMokulele Airlines
Elevation AMSL47 ft / 14 m
Coordinates19°44′20″N 156°02′44″W / 19.73889°N 156.04556°W / 19.73889; -156.04556 (Kona International Airport)
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17/35 11,000 3,353 Asphalt
Statistics (2023)
Aircraft operations65,758
Based aircraft56
Total Passengers4,972,70
Total Cargo (tons)33,526
Source: Federal Aviation Administration,[1] Department of Transportation Hawaii[2]

It is included in the Federal Aviation Administration's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2021–2025, in which it is categorized as a small-hub primary commercial service facility.[4]





Much of the runway is built on a relatively recent lava flow: the 1801 Huʻehuʻe flow from Hualālai. This flow extended the shoreline out an estimated 1 mi (1.6 km), adding some 4 km2 (1.5 sq mi) of land to the island[5] and creating Keāhole Point. The airport opened on July 1, 1970, with a single 6,500-foot (2.0 km) runway; the previous smaller airstrip was converted into the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area.

Construction crews from Bechtel Corporation used three million pounds of dynamite to flatten the lava tube riddled lava flow within 13 months.

In its first full year, 515,378 passengers passed through the new open-air tropical-style terminals.



The airport has had several names over its lifetime.

At the time of its opening in 1970, it was named the Ke-āhole Airport, after its geographical location, Keāhole Point, itself named after the ʻāhole fish found in the area.[6][7]

In 1993, the airport was renamed Keāhole-Kona International Airport, after the nearby resort town of Kona.[8] In 1997, the Kona name was further emphasized when the airport was renamed the Kona International Airport at Keāhole.

On January 8, 2017, the airport was renamed Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole to honor astronaut Ellison Onizuka who was born and raised in Kona and died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.[9]



Prior to the construction of the new airport in 1970, tourism was centered on the town of Hilo on the eastern side of the Big Island. Tourists to Kona and the western side of the island typically flew into the Hilo Airport and had to make nearly two hour drive across the island. The lack of a major airport became especially problematic as large resorts started opening in Kona around 1968.[10][11]

When the airport opened, it helped accelerate a shift of tourism from East Hawaii to West Hawaii. Tourism in Hilo had already taken a hit when a tsunami destroyed all seaside hotels in 1960.[12]

The full extent of the airport's impact and shift in tourism can be seen in Hawaii Island Strategic Plan for 2006 to 2015. By 2005 the percentage of accommodations on the west side of the island increased to 86% of the total. In 2005, just four modest hotels continued to serve the east side of the Big Island, with three of them dating back to the 1960s.[13]

Tourism has helped fuel Hawaii County's overall population growth. Between 1990 and 2010, the population increased 48%.[14]



Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines were the primary air carriers during the early and mid-1970s for inter-island flights from Honolulu on Oahu, Kahului on Maui and Lihue on Kauai with Aloha operating Boeing 737-200 jets and Hawaiian operating McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jets at this time.[15][16][17] In the late 1970s, Hawaiian operated larger McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 jets on its inter-island flights.[18]

By early 1985, United Airlines was operating nonstop service into the airport from both Los Angeles and San Francisco with Douglas DC-8-71 and wide-body McDonnell Douglas DC-10 jetliners.[19]

In 1991, a small museum, the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center opened at the airport. The displays included a sample of lunar soil, a spacesuit from Apollo 13, and personal items from Onizuka.[20][21]

In 1994, the airport's runway was extended to 11,000 feet (3,400 m), the second-longest in the Hawaiian Islands after Honolulu. The longer runways enabled much larger aircraft to use the airport, enabling nonstop flights between Kona and Tokyo or destinations in the United States beyond the West Coast hubs.

Japan Airlines (JAL) started a Kona-Tokyo flight in 1996. The route was suspended between 2010 and September 2017 leaving the island with only one scheduled international flight (to Vancouver) for a time.[22] Hawaiian Airlines filed an application with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) for nonstop flights from Kona to Tokyo's Haneda Airport, to restore the link between the two cities after JAL ended flights to Narita Airport in 2010.[23] The USDOT rejected the airline's application in favor of Delta's Seattle to Haneda flights despite support from residents of west Hawaii.[24] On October 23, 2013, Hawaiian Airlines announced that they would re-apply to the USDOT for nonstop Kona-Haneda flights a year after their application to fly that route was rejected.[25] On July 8, 2016, Hawaiian Airlines announced that nonstop Kona-Haneda flights would begin on December 20, 2016, after the USDOT awarded them the route in May.[26] JAL's resumption of daily Tokyo service in 2017 generated 900 jobs and $8.58 million in tax revenue for the Big Island during its first year, according to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority.[27] Tokyo service on both Hawaiian and JAL was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time a new international arrivals facility was built at Kona; JAL resumed its Narita-Kona route in August 2022.[28]

A modernization project started in March 2017 to combine the airport's two separate terminals into one terminal area. The program allowed the airport to have one, central security screening area and also allowed passengers to use the shopping and dining areas in either terminal. To enable the expansion, the Onizuka Space Center was closed in March 2016, and the airport was renamed after Onizuka in January 2017.

Facilities and aircraft

The airport's former control tower (demolished in 2014)
Passengers boarding a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 717

Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole covers 2,700 acres (1,100 ha) at an elevation of 47 feet (14 m) above mean sea level. It has one asphalt runway, 17/35, 11,000 by 150 feet (3,353 x 46 m).[1][29]

In the year ending November 30, 2021, the airport had 87,770 aircraft operations, an average of 240 per day: 51% general aviation, 30% scheduled commercial, 12% air taxi and 7% military. In March 2022, there were 56 aircraft based at this airport; 26 single-engine, 8 multi-engine, 18 helicopters and 4 ultralights.[1]

Passenger terminal


The state government of Hawaiʻi facility operates a runway and a terminal complex of single-story buildings along the eastern edge of the airfield for passengers, air cargo and mail, airport support, and general aviation. Airport operations fall under the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation.

The commercial passenger facility is a set of rambling, open-air, tropical-style structures, divided into three terminals: Terminal 1 includes gates 1 through 5, Terminal 2 includes gates 6 through 10, and Terminal 3 hosts smaller commuter flights. Kona International is the only remaining major airport in the Hawaiian Islands where passengers board using mobile stairs or ramps, instead of more modern jet bridges. Despite the less modern facilities, Kona is used by large airliners including the Airbus A321 and A330[30] along with the Boeing 717, 737, 757, 767, and 777.

Airlines and destinations



Air Canada Seasonal: Vancouver
Alaska Airlines Portland (OR), San Diego, San Jose (CA), Seattle/Tacoma
Seasonal: Anchorage
American Airlines Los Angeles, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Seasonal: Dallas/Fort Worth (resumes December 19, 2024)[31]
Delta Air Lines Los Angeles, Seattle/Tacoma
Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu, Kahului, Lihue, Los Angeles, Sacramento[32]
Mokulele Airlines Kahului
Southwest Airlines Honolulu, Kahului, Las Vegas, Oakland
Seasonal: Los Angeles
United Airlines Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare
WestJet Seasonal: Calgary, Vancouver


Aloha Air Cargo Hilo, Honolulu, Kahului
Amazon Air Riverside/March Air Base[33]
Atlas Air[34] Kahului, Ontario
Kalitta Air Los Angeles
UPS Airlines Honolulu, Kahului, Ontario



Passenger numbers

Annual passenger traffic at KOA airport. See Wikidata query.

Airline market share

Busiest airlines serving KOA
(September 2022 – August 2023)
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 Hawaiian Airlines 1,563,000 38.45%
2 Southwest Airlines 805,000 19.79%
3 United Airlines 604,000 14.85%
4 Alaska Airlines 573,000 14.09%
5 American Airlines 258,000 6.34%
6 Other 263,000 6.48%

Top destinations

Busiest domestic routes from KOA (January 2023 – December 2023)[36]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Honolulu, Hawaii 735,000 Hawaiian, Southwest
2 Los Angeles, California 275,000 American, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, United
3 Seattle/Tacoma, Washington 220,000 Alaska, Delta
4 Kahului, Hawaii 170,000 Hawaiian, Mokulele, Southwest
5 San Francisco, California 157,000 United
6 San Jose, California 84,000 Alaska, Southwest
7 Denver, Colorado 69,000 United
8 Phoenix, Arizona 66,000 American
9 Las Vegas, Nevada 59,000 Southwest
10 Oakland, California 56,000 Southwest

Accidents and incidents

  • On August 25, 1977, an Air Cargo Hawaii twin-turboprop Short SC.7 Skyvan crashed and burned while attempting to land at Keahole Airport. The pilot and passenger were killed. The crash occurred about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) short of the runway.[37]
  • On September 10, 1989, the pilot of an Aero Commander 680 was making an emergency landing on runway 17 due to loss of power in the right engine. He crashed about 0.25 mi (0.4 km) southwest of the runway, resulting in one fatality and one serious injury.[38]
  • On June 21, 2022, a Rockwell Commander 114 suffered a landing gear failure while landing at the airport. As a result the runway was blocked for 3 hours, and some inbound flights were diverted. The lone pilot was not injured.[39][40]
  • On January 16, 2024, cracks found in the runway forced the airport to temporarily close.[41][42] The airport reopened the following morning after repairs were completed overnight.[43]

See also



  1. ^ a b c FAA Airport Form 5010 for KOA PDF. Federal Aviation Administration. effective March 24, 2022.
  2. ^ "Annual Air Traffic Statistics". Archived from the original on April 19, 2021. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  3. ^ "2010 CENSUS – CENSUS BLOCK MAP (INDEX): Kalaoa CDP, HI" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved October 14, 2020. - The airport is on page 3
    2000 map: "CENSUS 2000 BLOCK MAP: KALAOA CDP" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved October 14, 2020. Pages 1 and 2.
  4. ^ "List of NPIAS Airports" (PDF). FAA.gov. Federal Aviation Administration. October 21, 2016. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  5. ^ Fishponds versus lava flows, USGS, 1997
  6. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui; Samuel Hoyt Elbert; Esther T. Mookini (2004). "lookup of keahole". in Place Names of Hawai'i. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  7. ^ John R. K. Clark (2004). "lookup of keahole". in Hawai'i Place Names: Shores, Beaches, and Surf Sites. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  8. ^ Kona Airport timeline official web site
  9. ^ "Kona International Airport takes on new name for the new year". Pacific Business News. January 3, 2017. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  10. ^ Kona Village Resort Archived March 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine on Fodor web site
  11. ^ Royal Kona Resort History on Destination 360 web site
  12. ^ The Great Hilo Tsunami on UC Davis web site
  13. ^ Hawaii Island Strategic Plan for 2006 to 2015 County of Hawaii web site
  14. ^ Hawaii Population Growth Kailua Kona US Census web site
  15. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, January 1, 1971, Aloha Airlines timetable
  16. ^ http://www.timetableimages.com, June 15, 1971, Hawaiian Airlines timetable
  17. ^ April 15, 1975, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Kona flight schedules
  18. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, November 15, 1979, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Kona flight schedules
  19. ^ http://www.departedflights.com, February 15, 1985, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Kona flight schedules
  20. ^ Onizuka Space Center official web site
  21. ^ "Celebrating science: Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center observes anniversary". West Hawaii Today. July 20, 2015. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  22. ^ Multiple sources
  23. ^ "Hawaiian Finishes Application". Yahoo Finance.
  24. ^ "DOT Rejects Hawaiian Airlines Request for Kona-Haneda Service". West Hawaii Today. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  25. ^ "Hawaiian Airlines applying for flights to Haneda". West Hawaii Today. October 23, 2013. Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  26. ^ "The Japan News".
  27. ^ Murar, Katie (September 17, 2018). "Japan Airlines generated $8.6M in Hawaii tax revenues in its first year". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  28. ^ "New Kona international arrivals facility welcomes back Japanese visitors". Hawai'i Public Radio. August 3, 2022. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  29. ^ "KOA airport data at skyvector.com". skyvector.com. Retrieved September 2, 2022.
  30. ^ Airlines, Hawaiian. "Hawaiian Airlines to Offer Daily Summer Service to Kaua'i from Los Angeles and Oakland". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  31. ^ "Bound for Brisbane: American Airlines to fly Down Under next winter". American Airlines Newsroom. February 1, 2024. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  32. ^ "Hawaiian Airlines to add new nonstop flights to Lihue and Kona from Sacramento". KCRA. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  33. ^ "Amazon Air Expands operations to Kona International Airport". Tribune Herald. August 7, 2020. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  34. ^ "Atlas Air Schedule". Atlas Air. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  35. ^ "RITA | BTS | Transtats". Transtats.bts.gov. Retrieved November 15, 2023.
  36. ^ "RITA – BTS – Transtats". transtats.bts.gov. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  37. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Shorts SC.7 Skyvan 3-200 N4917 Kona-Keahole Airport, HI (KOA)".
  38. ^ "NTSB Identification: LAX89FA307". National Traffic Safety Board. Archived from the original on June 24, 2002. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  39. ^ Nuttle, Matthew (June 21, 2022). "Small plane makes crash landing at Kona International Airport". KITV. Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  40. ^ "Dentist survives crash landing at Kona airport after wheel malfunction". Hawaii News Now. June 21, 2022. Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  41. ^ "Hundreds stranded, flights diverted and delayed after runway safety concerns close Kona airport". Hawaii News Now. January 15, 2024. Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  42. ^ Hurley, Timothy (January 16, 2024). "Kona airport to reopen today after cracks fixed on runway". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  43. ^ Blair, Chad (January 16, 2024). "Hawaii Officials Blame Age And Weather For Cracks On Kona Runway". Honolulu Civil Beat. Retrieved January 18, 2024.

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