Drop It

There are lots of things you can do in small airplanes, and some of them are legal. Surprisingly, perhaps, one of the things you are allowed to do—or perhaps more accurately, not legally prevented from doing—is drop things from them. According to the regulation, as long as you are not in danger of causing damage to anyone or any structure on the ground, you can drop anything you like from an airplane. If you’re really bored, it might be fun to think of creative things you can throw from an airplane. Maybe we can make a bored game out of it.

Here’s what immediately comes to mind: an old toilet bowl, water balloons (these would change in shape as a result of changes in air pressure as they descended), anti-fascism leaflets, magazines from many years ago that people will discover and think they were discarded a long time ago, unexploded ordnance if I could get my hands on them and they were assured not to explode, old cell phones, and rolls of biodegradable toilet paper, just to watch the beautiful streaming effect.

I hope you were perspicacious enough to notice that not once did I mention dropping, let’s say, an old severely neurotic girlfriend who ran off with my best friend, although it would be perfectly legal, well, maybe not perfectly, unless she was already dead, and then I am not sure why it wouldn’t be perfectly legal. I didn’t mention anything like that in my list because the thought never even crossed my mind.

There are people who make a living dropping things from airplanes. All around the country there are places where you can go, take a lesson, strap on a parachute and even drop yourself from an airplane. I haven’t done that yet, and I don’t plan to. It’s nowhere near my bucket list, and wouldn’t be even if I had one.

There are people who spread pesticides onto fields of vegetables that some of us dare to eat, and them there is pretty fun piloting if you can get over the guilt. And then there are the pilots who spread human remains when they finally get from ashes to ashes.

Now that’s an interesting way to spend your time. I can imagine the scene now. Most pilots, sadly, are men, so excuse me for the gender bias you are about to encounter. Joe Pilot is sitting at the table in his suburban kitchen, sun harshly glaring through the kitchen window, drinking his coffee and waiting for the toast to pop up. How he loves the sound of that pop. How he knows he puts way too much butter on the sourdough toast, but hell, you only live once.

“Busy day today honey. Damn, I’ve got four urns scheduled, and two of them want to be spread on the hillside, one of them on the lake, and one of them on the pasture by the house. It’s crazy, you know, getting the timing just right.”

Sally’s finger momentarily stills as she lifts it from her cell phone screen and looks up, a bit bleary-eyed. “What did you say honey?”

Joe smirks, “Never mind.”

Sally suddenly takes it in. “But you’ll be respectful of course. Of the ashes I mean. I know you always are.“

Because this is often done at low altitudes, and can be tedious if you don’t want the ashes spread around your cockpit, the ash dispersal business can be dangerous; there have been instances of pilots meeting their ends as a result of stall-spin accidents while spreading—ironically, other pilots’ ashes. Of all the ways to die in an airplane, doing so while dispensing a dead pilot’s ashes has a sweet symmetry to it.

But, truth be told, I don’t plan on dropping anything from any airplane for any reason whatsoever.  It’s just plainly a bad idea.

One thought on “Drop It

  1. We have a great story about dropping something onto the Colorado River from our airplane!

    Way back in 1976 we took a raft trip all the way from Lake Powell to Lake Mead down the full length of the Grand Canyon! It was marvelous and we celebrated the 4th of July, our nation’s bicentennial while on the water! Lava Falls was really tremendous and wild, and my heart leapt at the exciting and scary experience! Through every rapid, I sat on top of the luggage pile in the middle of our raft that held fourteen people. We had a fine geologist as our guide and raft pilot.

    When we got back to Las Vegas after about ten days, we were starved for news – national and world news! So two weeks later we decided to FLY over the Grand Canyon and try to find the next raft group on the river! We got the bright idea to drop the current LA Times to them, if we could locate them. We had a very good idea about where they would be. We did find them, and I opened the window of our Cessna 172. I pushed the well tied newspaper out of that window but the string caught on the latch and broke, causing that LA Times to scatter ALL OVER THE COLORADO RIVER AND THE SHORE! We were both horrified!

    The guide (our same guy from our earlier trip) was very comforting telling us via radio that his group would enjoy finding the pages, drying them and reading them! He made us feel a little better about the ecological disaster that we caused!

    Moral: a loose newspaper dropped from a plane can cause a real mess!

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