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Honolulu Airport Renamed Daniel K. Inouye International Airport

Images of Sen. Daniel Inouye formed the backdrop during the dedication ceremony at the former Honolulu International Airport, which now bears his name. (KITV)

HONOLULU — The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation on May 30 hosted a dedication and blessing ceremony for the official naming of the Honolulu International Airport to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Daniel Ken Inouye was born in Honolulu on Sept. 7, 1924 and graduated from William McKinley High School, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and George Washington University. He served as Hawaiʻi’s first representative in Congress in 1959.

In 1962 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. making him the first Japanese American to serve in both the House and Senate, ultimately representing Hawaiʻi for a combined 53 years. He was the second-longest-serving senator in history and rose to the rank of president pro tempore, which is third on the presidential succession, making him the highest-ranking Asian American public official in U.S. history.

During his tenure he continuously secured much-needed federal funding for Hawaii which benefited projects on all islands.

Inouye is also a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, for his heroic and courageous actions while serving in the decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Despite being shot in the stomach and having lost his right arm to a rifle grenade, Inouye continued fighting and leading his men in combat, eventually destroying multiple German bunkers in the battle.

After his death in 2012, Inouye was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making him the first senator to receive both the Medal of Freedom and the Medal of Honor.

The State Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 88 Senate Draft 2 in the 2016 session, calling on the airport to be renamed after Inouye. The resolution passed unanimously.

“Dan spent more than 50 years flying between Honolulu and Washington, D.C. representing the people of Hawaiʻi. The iconic tower upon which his name is now affixed is a beacon and beckoning symbol to visitors and residents alike. I know he is pleased and smiling down on us,” said his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye. “Thank you for this honor for Dan and the Inouye family.”

“Sen. Inouye made a lasting and positive impact on our state, nation and world,” said Gov. David Ige. “His life reflects who we are today as a people, place and culture. His work as a public servant tells a modern-day story that will benefit future generations. It is fitting that our international airport will be named after the senator so that we may honor and remember him and others of his generation for the legacy they left behind.

“I hope those who work at and travel through our international airports will be reminded of Sen. Inouye’s life and the values he lived by.”

Other participants in the ceremony included Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Sen. Inouye’s son Ken and granddaughter Maggie, State Senate President Ronald Kouchi, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Ige’s Chief of Staff Mike McCartney, and Kahu Kordell Kekoa.

The HDOT Airports Division has replaced the iconic “Honolulu International Airport” lettering above the district office building with new signage stating, “Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.” The lettering is black during the day and illuminated white at night. New signage over the roadway signs above the entrances to the airport from the H-1 Freeway are also in place.

The general contractor for the project is Global Specialty Contractors, Inc. The total cost of the new signage, parts, materials, labor, removal of old signs and repairs to the structures for new signs was nearly $1 million.

Because HDOT is self-sustaining, no general funds were used, meaning no tax money was spent on the project. Instead HDOT generates its own revenue through user fees. In the Airport Division’s case, project costs, operating expenses and salaries primarily come from concessions and airline revenue. Primary sources of funding include landing fees, terminal rentals, parking revenue and passenger facility charges.

With more than 20 million annual passengers, 23,000 employees, more than 300,000 aircraft operations a year, and encompassing an area larger than Waikiki, the former Honolulu International Airport is the biggest and most active airport in the state. The 24/7 facility is visited by residents and visitors from around the world. Twenty-five airlines serve the airport, offering direct flights to and from the neighbor islands and dozens of national and international destinations.

HDOT will officially reference the facility as the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport; however, the Federal Aviation Administration will continue to use the HNL acronym.

An exhibit showcases the life and career of the late senator through photographs and memorabilia. The exhibit is located in the Overseas Terminal near Gate 24, which is one of the busiest sections of the airport, educating thousands of people a day about his contributions and legacy.

In addition, there is an exhibit celebrating the Nisei veterans of World War II, many of whom fought with the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the most decorated unit in U.S. history based on size and length of service), Military Intelligence Service and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.

The exhibit was produced to preserve and perpetuate the acts of heroism and the achievements of the Japanese American soldiers in World War II. It is located in the makai end of the Interisland Terminal near Gate 56.

This is the fourth name change in the airport’s long history. It originally opened in 1927 as the John Rodgers Airport. After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, the airport was renamed Honolulu Airport in 1947. The International designation was included in 1951.

The airport utilizes six runways, including two sealanes. A unique airport feature is the Reef Runway, which was the first major runway in the world to be built offshore. There are three cultural gardens featuring Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese heritage, which offer travelers a relaxing break where they can learn about native Asian and Hawaiian plants and architecture.

Signage at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport reflects the name change.

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