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Rainbow Helicopters ferries baby supplies to Maui after wildfires

By Oliver Johnson | August 15, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 43 seconds.

Some of the Rainbow Helicopters team stands alongside supplies before they’re delivered to Maui. Rainbow Helicopters Photo

Honolulu, Hawaii-based Rainbow Helicopters is helping keep babies fed and cared for in west Maui following the devastating wildfires that destroyed much of the historic settlement of Lahaina last week.

Nicole Battjes, CEO and director of operations at Rainbow (and Helicopter Association International Board Chair), said the call for essential supplies for babies and moms struck a chord as the parent of a newborn — and two-year-old — herself.

“A really close friend I have in Maui called and said they needed baby formula, diapers and wipes, and I just said, ‘Of course!’ My heart sank for them,” she said.

Battjes dispatched her assistant and father-in-law to Costco to stock up on these supplies and began organizing flights to transfer them to Maui.

“We’ve been able to get a list of moms — specific people that need what we’re bringing — and that has felt really impactful,” she said.

Rainbow has focused on providing supplies for babies and moms in Maui. Rainbow Helicopters Photo

Rainbow Helicopters’ base in Oahu quickly became a drop-off spot for supplies and donations for Maui relief, and Battjes also set up a GoFundMe page to help fundraise for further supplies. By Aug. 15, it had topped $50,000.

“Our first run was all baby supplies, and now we’ve continued to do that. continued to provide heavily focused on women, babies, and moms, but then we’ve also taken other supplies from our network in the community that’s been dropping them off at our base,” said Battjes.

The flight to Maui from Oahu takes about an hour, with Rainbow using both types in its fleet — Robinson R44s and Airbus H125 AStars.

The aircraft have been landing at either Kahului in central Maui (home of the island’s main airport), or Kapalua (a settlement about six miles north of Lahaina).

Battjes said Kapalua was an “interesting scene of hope and inspiration,” manned by volunteers and relief workers coming together to get supplies directly into the hands of whoever needed them.

Kahului airport, traditionally the point of arrival for those travelling to Maui for a luxury getaway, now has an industrial feel, she said. It’s serving as the main logistical hub for supplies and is helping tourists to heed the calls to leave the island.

Relief workers offload supplies in Maui from a Rainbow Helicopters Airbus H125. Rainbow Helicopters Photo

Rainbow will continue its support work in Maui “as long as we’re useful,” said Battjes.

“I think we’ll be involved in for the foreseeable future, but with the money that we’re getting from the GoFundMe page, what we want to do is continue to provide efforts that only a helicopter could do,” she said.

“In the beginning, it was all hands on deck — we were just taking stuff over and getting it to people. But I think as the days go by, what I’m going to be doing is trying to coordinate with the bigger [relief] organizations and saying, ‘OK, what do you need from my helicopter?’ ”

In providing this much-needed service to the people of west Maui, Battjes was quick to praise the work of her staff.

“They’ve been amazing,” she said. “Everybody’s rotating around, either running the operation or coming in to volunteer on their days off.”

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Hillsboro Aviation Airbus H145 Fire/Utility Helicopter Walkaround

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