Top Considerations for PHKO – Part 1: Airport Ops
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operations to Hawaii.
Kona Int.’l (PHKO) is a popular airport for business aircraft operators as both a final destination and a tech stop. While this location is straightforward in terms of ease of operations and parking/services availability, you may encounter limited availability of hotel accommodations and rental vehicles, depending on time of year.
Below is an overview of what you should know when planning a trip to Kona:
1. PHKO is a 24-hour airport
Although the tower operates 0600-2200 local daily, PHKO is available for 24-hour arrivals/departures, with fuel and service availability 24/7. After air traffic control closes, operators have the option to activate runway lights via VHF 120.3 or have Honolulu center assist in arrival coordination. Occasionally, PHKO experiences runway closures for maintenance – as announced via notice to airmen. The most recent runway project took place May 2013 when the airport was closed at night for runway maintenance.
2. Aircraft parking is seldom an issue
General Aviation (GA) parking is plentiful at PHKO. There are parking stands in front of the Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs), and a large, inactive taxiway is available for overflow parking. Aircraft may power in/out of FBO parking spots, but usually need to be towed into position at the overflow parking area. Local FBOs carry towbars for most common business aircraft types.
3. There are no airport slot or PPR requirements for PHKO
PHKO is a straightforward operating environment, without any requirement for airport slots or Prior Permission Required (PPR). Currently, there are no noise restrictions in place at this location. Peak period of scheduled commercial operations is 1000-1400 local. This, however, is not an impediment to GA operations, and the commercial side of the field is well separated from the GA ramp.
4. High traffic volumes may be an issue during holiday periods
While GA aircraft parking rarely runs out at PHKO, there may be occasions when you may need to reposition to Hilo (PHTO) or Honolulu (PHNL). Note that PHKO has no hangar availability, so, if this is an issue, you’ll need to reposition. High-season periods include Christmas and New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, U.S. spring break and Thanksgiving.
5. Hotels and rental cars sell out from time to time
During busy periods – particularly Christmas and New Year’s – hotel accommodations and rental cars in the Kona area may be sold out. Best practice is to reserve accommodations and local transport at least two to three weeks in advance. Some operators book hotel rooms and rental vehicles a year in advance to ensure availability. The average crew rate for a 4-star accommodation in the Kona area is about 200 USD, but this goes up to 400 USD plus during high season. Many hotels at this location honor crew rates even during high season, but it’s best to confirm this in advance with your 3rd-party provider or FBO.
6. Aviation fuel services are reliable and timely at PHKO
GA fuel trucks are available and plentiful at PHKO. There’s a fuel farm on the airfield, and trucks can be refueled, when necessary, within 15 minutes. It’s recommended that the desired fuel volume be included in any fuel uplift request. This allows the FBO to ensure that sufficient fuel is ready and standing by.
7. Local weather challenges are rare
While weather conditions on the island of Hawaii are pleasant and benign year round, there are occasional volcanic haze issues to be mindful of. Kilauea volcano, on the big island of Hawaii, has been erupting continuously since 1983 and emits an estimated 2,000-4,000 tons of sulfur dioxide daily.
"Vog" is a form of air pollution when sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight. During Vog events, leading edges of the aircraft may need to be detailed, and ash conditions can be a concern to passengers with respiratory issues. Vog conditions are not normally problematic when the winds are blowing.
8. PHKO is a popular and efficient tech stop
Fast tech stop services are available 24/7 at PHKO, and there’s less traffic and airport congestion to contend with compared to PHNL. Plan on about 30 minutes from the time you turn off your engines for domestic tech stops and 60 minutes for international quick turns. During international tech stops, aircraft can be fueled on the customs ramp while crew members and passengers clear Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ).
9. There’s plenty for crew members to do while in Kona
While the big island of Hawaii is often considered a somewhat quiet destination, there’s plenty for crew members to do while on layovers. Consider a visit to or helicopter tour of the Volcano National Park. There’s also deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, zip lining, and great beaches to consider. Another option is to rent a convertible and drive up and down the coast. The local seafood is some of the freshest and best in the world – just waiting to be enjoyed by visiting flight crews.
Particularly during busy seasons, it’s important to confirm parking, hotel, and ground transport arrangements as far in advance as possible so that crew and passengers can take advantage of preferred options. Outside of high-season periods, parking, accommodations, and local transport options are normally plentiful.
Later, we’ll discuss CIQ for PHKO.
If you have any questions about this article, contact Christine Vamvakas at firstname.lastname@example.org.