Civil and military helicopters bring disaster relief to Hawaii


Civil and military helicopters are bringing disaster relief to the Hawaiian island of Maui, after devastating wildfires claimed at least 110 lives with 1,000 people still estimated to be missing.

The US National Guard dispatched two Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters last week to support wildfire response and search-and-recovery efforts after the fires, fanned by hurricane force winds, ravaged the island.

Other service helicopters contributing to the relief effort include, initially, a US Coast Guard Dolphin MH-65 helicopter, Blackhawk UH-60 aircraft and US Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. The coast guard commander Kyra Dykeman said: “The US Coast Guard Coast Guard is always postured for search and rescue operations, we are also focused on minimising maritime environmental impacts as a result of the Maui fires.”

Helicopter tour operators on the island are also contributing to the relief effort. Rainbow Helicopters has mobilised its helicopter tour company to provide vital supplies to the Maui fire victims. It has deployed its Airbus Astar (Airbus AS350 B2) and Robinson R44 aircraft with a specific emphasis on aid for mothers and babies.

The operator has initiated coordinated missions to airlift essential goods directly to the devastated seaside resort of Lahaina, with a focus on providing baby formula, nappies (diapers), wipes, and other necessities to the women and children “who were left with nothing”, said the company.

Nicole Battjes, CEO and founder, Rainbow Helicopters, posted on the operator’s website: “I have an eight-week-old and a two-year-old, and this hit me really hard to see mom’s in need of essential items.” By August 16th the operator had transported more than 200 containers of formula, 75 boxes of nappies and 75 boxes of wipes, said Battjes.

“We have stuff that they need, and I have the vehicles to get them to those people, and that feels good,” said Battjes, who is the current chair of Helicopter Association International (HAI). Rainbow has raised more than $50,000 through a GoFundMe campaign.

James A. Viola, president & CEO, HAI said in a statement last week: “Helicopter Association International extends its deepest gratitude to the outstanding helicopter crews protecting lives and property by battling raging wildlife fires in Hawaii. Whether your work supports fighting the fires, rescuing trapped residents and tourists, conducting relief missions, or offering reconnaissance flights, each of you works long hours under arduous conditions. Your impact is significant, particularly for those you’re helping.

“If you fix, fly or support helicopter operations for this effort, you make us proud to be part of the vertical flight industry. We salute your service to your community.”

A wide range or other rotary and fixed wing private aviation businesses are contributing to the disaster relief programme. (Battjes acknowledged the contribution of Castle and Cooke Aviation among other businesses). The island’s airports in Kahului and Kapalua have remained open during the emergency.

Above:  Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters helped to fight the wildfires on the island of Maui,

Top: Rainbow Helicopters has transported  over 200 containers of formula, 150 boxes of nappies and wipes.