Group seeks DOT OK for private air service

WASHINGTON -- A group of vacation-property owners in Hawaii is seeking a green light from the Transportation Department to set up a private Mainland-Hawaii air service for its exclusive use.

The group plans to acquire a 757-200 aircraft, refurbish it in an executive configuration and lease it to an airline to fly it between Kona, on the Big Island, and San Francisco/Oakland.

The application seeking DOT approval was filed by Kona Associates, which described itself as a firm created by "the developers and residents of Kuklo and Hualalai," two exclusive communities on the Kona coast.

The air service, operating once or twice a week, would be available only to the residents of those communities and the nearby Mauna Lani development.

Kona Associates said it expects between 80 and 120 members to sign up, paying "a very substantial [six-figure] up-front initiation fee ... plus substantial annual dues."

To qualify the service as private and to avoid crossing the line into commercial service, the company said "flight privileges will be strictly limited to members, their families, household staff and invited guests. No sale, trade or any sort of compensation in exchange for transportation will be permitted."

Although the aircraft would be leased to a U.S. carrier, Kona Associates said the plane would not likely be used "for any other purpose."

The company said it has retained an aviation consulting firm to acquire the aircraft and negotiate with a U.S. air carrier.

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