“Hawaii-based general aviation pilots organized an airlift that provided survivors with some of the first supplies of food, water, and medicine to Lahaina, the fire-ravaged community on Maui, Hawaii, at the epicenter of one of the deadliest wildfire disasters in U.S. history.
Communicating through text messages and social media, pilots also had to enlist the support of the management of Kapalua Airport, a private airfield on the west side of the island long off-limits to GA, a single 3,000-foot paved runway that offered access to the disaster area. Approval was received within 24 hours to operate relief flights. On August 12, the operation’s second day, the group made 57 airlifts, delivering thousands of pounds of critical supplies. A GoFundMe page was established for donations to help cover fuel expenses and was collecting fuel receipts from participating pilots for reimbursement from the fund. Donors had pledged nearly $32,000 toward the $50,000 goal by August 14.
“This is the message that if Santa Monica can hear, and all these other airports around the country, the communities and municipalities there that want to shut down airports: GA, we’re out there, we’re willing to help,” Laurence Balter, owner of Maui Flight Academy, said. “Cutting us off and closing down airports? Bad idea.” Reprinted from the Long Beach Flying Club, Long Beach Airport Newsletter.