Mokulele Airlines is spreading its wings.
The small inter-island carrier is now flying in and out of a new airport on Oahu.
The airline hosted a grand opening celebration Tuesday at its newest service location, Kalaeloa Airport, located at John Rodgers Field on the former Barbers Point Naval Air Base.
The grand opening and inaugural flight took place 15 years to the day that the former base was closed and turned over to the state.
Tuesday marked the beginning of Mokulele’s daily nonstop service between Kahului, Maui and Kalaeloa, with six scheduled daily flights, three each way.
The inaugural flight from Maui to Oahu was a special one for the handful of people waiting, but it was also pretty neat for the second-in-charge of the plane, Evan Fujioka, who got to see his daughter, Elena.
While his family lives on Oahu, he’s based on Maui.
“I’m just excited today because my whole flying career just went full circle,” Fujioka said. “I did my first flight as a student pilot here, and then today with Mokulele.”
Fujioka was hired just a few months back as part of the expansion of Mokulele since new ownership came on board in late 2011.
“Since then we’ve pretty much tripled in size,” said the airline’s executive vice-president Dave Berry, “so we have about 120 flights a day. I think we’re up to 68 pilots, compared to four planes and maybe 15 pilots we had before.”
And there’s talk of expansion. “In August, we’ll announce a Molokai flight, and then probably either Lanai or Kapalua.”
“And there are a lot of Molokai folks who have family on the Waianae Coast and on the west side,” said Robert Stephenson of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, “and it will be a much easier connection. They won’t have to go through the traffic. There is no (security) on either side.”