In December 1920, a ramp was built by the Hawaiian Contracting Company in Radio Bay in Hilo to haul visiting seaplanes from the bay onto land. On February 25, 1925, Speaker of the House Norman K Lyman of Hilo introduced a resolution requesting the governor to set aside land at Waiākea for a landing field. Work on Hilo Airport began July 17, 1925.
Using tools donated by the County, the 46-prisoners began on September 8, 1925. Use of prison labor had its problems; in 1926, several escaped (and later caught.) The escapes and captures continued. Most of the site was cleared by the end of the year.
A second and third runways were added and the airport was renovated (the renovation dedication ceremony was held May 2, 1941.) The military used it during WWII. It was later named to honor Brigadier General Albert Kualiʻi Brickwood Lyman (the first native Hawaiian (he was also part-Chinese) to attain the rank of general or admiral in the US Armed Forces.)
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