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Did you know that every Hawaiian Airlines aircraft bears a name of cultural significance? Before carrying our guests to, from and within Hawaiʻi, each plane entering our fleet is adorned with a unique name that embodies the islands’ deep connection to the natural realm. Our short-range Boeing 717s are named after local birds; our long-haul Airbus A330s bear the names of stars or constellations used by Polynesian voyagers for celestial navigation, and our mid-range, fuel-efficient Airbus A321neos are named after plants endemic to the islands.

In paying homage to these aircraft names, our Team Kōkua employee volunteer group joined forces with the Koʻolau Mountain Watershed Partnership, an alliance of public and private landowners committed to protecting native forests on Oʻahu’s Koʻolau Mountains, to kickstart a new restoration project called “Plant the Planes.”

A section of Oʻahu’s Koʻolau Mountains


“We started working with the Koʻolau Mountain Watershed Partnership last year to support their efforts of repopulating native forests in Oʻahu’s Koʻolau Mountain Range,” said Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, director of community and cultural development at Hawaiian Airlines. “The work they do every day is humbling, and we are grateful for their willingness to support our efforts and help us transform our ‘Plant the Planes’ idea into a reality. This project is a testament to our shared dedication to mālama ʻāina (care for the land) and restoring native habitats threatened by invasive species and climate change.”

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Team Kōkua pictured at the worksite with the Koʻolau Mountain Watershed Partnership


“Plant the Planes” kicked off on Hawaiʻi’s 'Ōhi'a Lehua Day (April 25) with seven Team Kōkua volunteers trekking up and hunkering down on East Honolulu's Wiliwilinui Ridge. The group cleared stubborn invasives such as strawberry guava and ironwood trees before transferring potted saplings into the ground. At the end of the event, volunteers planted the beginnings of a small forest, including 12 ʻōhi'a lehua trees, 2 maile vines and 2 aʻaliʻi shrubs, and dispersed thousands of seeds for koa tree and carex grass.

A Team Kōkua volunteer preparing to transfer a native sapling into the ground


Nakanelua-Richards expects the restoration initiative to continue through 2023 with the help of the Koʻolau Mountain Watershed Partnership and our Team Kōkua volunteers, with each project phase involving a new plant species featured in our 18-aircraft A321neo fleet. 

She added, “It is always meaningful when we come together to huli ka lima I lalo (turn our hands down) to do what’s pono (right). As Hawaiʻi’s hometown carrier, we know our kuleana (responsibility) to protect our islands – including incredibly remote places that most of us may never see or even know about – is monumental. We take great pride in our role in perpetuating what is unique to Hawaiʻi, from Hawaiian culture to flora and fauna that have called these islands home long before us, for generations to come.”

Miyasato holding an ʻōhi'a lehua sapling


“I've always been amazed by how much care and intention is invested in naming each plane to ensure our fleet embodies Hawaiʻi’s culture,” said Jeri Miyasato, social media specialist at Hawaiian Airlines. “It was a proud moment for me to join my colleagues and the Koʻolau Mountain Watershed Partnership to kick off the 'Plant the Planes' project and ensure that native plants continue to survive and thrive across our Islands for generations to come.”

Have a trip coming up on Hawaiian Airlines? Learn the name of your aircraft by reading the engraved informational placards near the main boarding door next time you fly with us. 

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