Aviation Community Sending Aid to Maui

Alaska Airlines sends supplies, evacuates residents

Lahaina town, Maui [Civil Air Patrol]

The aviation community is stepping up to assist the residents of Maui who have been affected by the devastating wildfire that destroyed the town of Lahaina and is still out of control. Maui County fire officials note there are several fires burning and their resources to fight them are limited.

The death toll stands at least 55 people and is feared to go higher as the burned-out remains of buildings are searched. The fire moved so fast people were overtaken as they tried to escape.

Photographs of the area show a town reduced to gray ash and rubble with burned-out cars melted to the streets.

Aviation Relief Is on the Way

The U.S. Army National Guard deployed helicopters and personnel to assist in the efforts, and President Joe Biden has activated a military response sending helicopters carrying large water-drop equipment to Maui, along with specialized search teams. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Hawaii National Guard troops have been deployed to fight the fires on the island of Maui.

In the meantime, several aviation businesses are pitching in to get relief supplies to the survivors.

Planet 9, a private aviation company based in Van Nuys, California, has organized a transport effort that allowed supplies to be purchased from an Amazon wishlist. Planet 9 is directing these supplies to a Maui evacuation center. According to Planet 9 vice president of public relations Sara Gorgon, the Castle & Cooke Honolulu FBO facility is also donating sustainable jet fuel for the trip. Castle & Cooke is a well-known fuel supplier on the west coast.

"Our hearts are with Maui and those impacted by the devastating wildfires in Lahaina," said Matt Walter, co-founder of Planet 9. "We know the community there is strong, but currently in need with a long road to recovery ahead. While arranging to assist with evacuating people off the island, we looked to see how we could also bring aid to those living there. We urge anyone who can to support Maui.”

Alaska Airlines Sends Relief and Rescue

Alaska Airlines launched a relief and rescue flight from their cargo facility at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (KSEA).

According to a statement from the company, "The flight was filled with relief supplies including water, non-perishable food, pillows, blankets, towels, wipes, baby formula, and diapers. The aircraft will bring guests back to Seattle."

At this time Alaska has eight scheduled departures from Maui per day but does not normally operate flights between the Hawaiian islands. The airline plans for additional rescue flights to help people leave the island, stating there will be "flights between Maui and Honolulu to move guests off of Maui and bring critical supplies in."

It was noted that at this time the state of Hawaii is under an emergency order and nonessential travel is being discouraged.

"Alaska Airlines is discouraging all non-essential travel to Maui and have a flexible travel policy in place that allows guests to change travel plans to a different island or cancel completely—with the option of a refund to the original form of payment or a future travel credit allowing passengers to change their travel plans or get a refund."

Alaska Airlines is donating 5 million miles to Kanu Hawai‘i, one of the airline's existing nonprofit partners, which provides opportunities for people to connect with one another and take action to build more compassionate and resilient communities across the state.

"In partnership with Maui Rapid Response, a local collective disaster response organization, the donated miles will be used by Kanu Hawai‘i to provide travel for Maui residents displaced by the fire so that they can relocate while they work to rebuild what they have lost."

The Alaska Airlines Foundation is also donating $25,000 to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), which is a member-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to enhance the cultural, economic, political, and community development of Native Hawaiians.

The CNHA has pledged to match the airline's donation of up to $250,000 in support of Maui wildfire relief efforts.

The fire downed powerlines so electricity and cell phone services were not available.

According to CNBC survivors said they did not get any warning as to how rapidly the fire was moving until they saw the smoke and heard explosions nearby as the flames reached cars and propane tanks.

Although Hawaii has more than 400 outdoor sirens to warn the populace of impending dangers such as tsunamis, survivors said the sirens did not activate to warn them about the approaching firestorm.

State officials have said they don't know why the warning sirens did not sound the alarm.

Beware of Scams

Emergency officials are warning people to be careful about donations made to help Maui, as emergency responses like this often breed fake websites and GoFundMe pages.

Verified support groups for relief include the Red Cross, Maui Food Bank, Maui Humane Society, and Maui Strong Fund.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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