Rainbow Helicopters wins humanitarian award for Hawaii relief flights


Nicole Battjes and her team at Rainbow Helicopters have won a humanitarian award for their relief flights during the Hawaii wild fire emergency last year.

Hawaiian helicopter tour company Rainbow Helicopters has received the 2024 Salute to Excellence Humanitarian Service Award, for its life-saving missions during the Maui’s wildfire crisis in August 2023. The award made by the Helicopter Association International (HAI) is sponsored by Sikorsky.

Recognising an individual or group, the award celebrates the value of rotorcraft to the communities in which they operate by providing aid to those in need. Responding to the homelessness crisis driven by the fires, the Oahu–based Rainbow Helicopters, ferried essential baby supplies by helicopter to displaced mothers and their infants.

Nicole Battjes, the company’s owner and director, who gave birth six weeks before the emergency, led the purchase and distribution of $4,000 worth formula, diapers, baby wipes, and other supplies for distrubtion by the firm’s Airbus AS350 helicopter.

The Rainbow team established a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise $1,000 to purchase supplies for the Lahaina-area residents. But the account ultimately raised more than $76,000, all of which was used to buy items for families affected by the fire.

“It took on a life of its own, and I was overwhelmed with pride in our team, our community, and those making donations,” said Battjes. “At one point, through our partnerships, we were receiving photographs of specific supplies individual families needed, and our team members were volunteering their time to run to stores to get them and put them on the next flight. It took extra effort to drive around Oahu to find everything. It was really incredible to see people making this effort, and it was a feeling of hope during such a tragic time.”

During the early weeks of the crisis, Rainbow flew 13 missions to Maui carrying more than 5,500lbs of supplies, including 275 containers of formula, 175 cartons of diapers, 175 boxes of baby wipes, and more than 19 gallons of breast milk. Castle & Cooke Aviation donated all the jet fuel and Rainbow covered the avgas and aircraft for all the flights, which were flown in both R44 and AS350 helicopters.

The award will be presented on February 26th, 2024 at HAI Heli-Expo 2024 in Anaheim, California.