Aerospace jobs bill fails to launch

HILO — A bill to create a Hawaii Aerospace Development Corporation appears grounded for this legislative session.

Senate Bill 999 says the purpose of the organization would be to grow aerospace jobs in the state.

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It would have replaced the state Office of Aerospace Development and Hilo-based Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.

The bill was scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Committee of Energy, Economic Development and Tourism, chaired by Sen. Glenn Wakai. However, it was deleted from the hearing and hasn’t been rescheduled.

The bill will be dead if it doesn’t get out of the committee by Friday.

Wakai, who introduced the measure, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

According to the bill, the public corporation would be placed under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and overseen by a board of directors.

The concept could be similar to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which runs a spaceport on Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

Alaska Aerospace, created by the state of Alaska, is currently seeking to build a spaceport for equatorial launches of small satellites in East Hawaii. It’s Kodiak spaceport accommodates polar launches.

Supporters say it could spur growth of aerospace jobs beyond the spaceport itself, which could employ eight people.

The proposed 12.5-acre site is located on W.H. Shipman land 4.5 miles from Keaau, 3.3 miles from the Panaewa agriculture lots, and 1.7 miles from Haena beach, also known as Shipman beach.

Opponents say they are concerned about noise and air pollution, in addition to safety.

Depending on distance from site, noise levels could range from being comparable to thunder to a garbage disposal or less, according to Alaska Aerospace. At a distance of at least 9,000 feet from the launch pad, noise levels from launches are anticipated to be less than 98 decibels.

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Those issues are being looked at as part of an environmental assessment. A draft could be complete in three to six months.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.