01 September 2005

Kids Love My Balls

Oh my! Sorry about the title, but you ARE interested, aren't you?

The Fair is in town.
10 days of carnival, horse racing, car racing, cattle showing, and judges trying to figure out if Aunt Violette's persimmon pudding is the best of the batch!

Our little town of 7000 gets invaded by the mob with all the "Dead Presidents" to spread around. It's a wonderful time!

A couple weeks ago I received a call from the public relations director of a company that owns 6 radio stations in the midwest. "Can we hire you to come to the Fair and drop Ping-Pong balls?"

It's a job I've never done, but how much skill can be involved here?
Fly over an open field while adults hold hordes of kids back..........dump out 200-or-so ping-pong balls at the proper altitude and location, right?

And that's pretty much it. The radio people had bought the balls in four colors......white, orange, pink, and lime green. Then they had added their own symbols with a magic marker. Kids were to wait until we flew over, and my new passenger/assistant, the lovely Kristin, dumped the balls. When given the okay, they could scramble to pick up the balls to redeem for prizes available at stalls corresponding to color/symbol at the opposite side of the field.

They divided the kids up into age groups: 4-7, 8-10, and 11-12. Prizes were pretty much what kids would be interested in.........toys for the really young ones, and more substantial stuff for the older kids. Not suprisingly, this radio group gave away some really nice radios to the older kids!

We turned and watched the scramble after we had made the drop. On my first pass, our altitude was too low and the balls ended up in a pretty tight area....the 4-7 year olds were on top of one another searching for the treasure!

The next two drops were better.......from 50 or so feet higher, and with the help of a 5 knot wind, the load got spread out over an area large enough that the kids weren't scrapping for the same ball.

Les Nessman and WKRP would have been proud!

All in all, a fun job, and a great promotion for the radio stations!

Helicopter flying.........something different every day!


Aviatrix said...

I read about aerial ping pong ball dispersion years ago and never knew the purpose. Thank you for explaining what the heck this guy was doing.

At the time I firstread the report I thought it said that he was attempting inflight troubleshooting when the dispenser malfunctioned, but the accident report doesn't say that now. Perhaps someone was just speculating.

Greybeard said...

I remember seeing a video of this accident.......a typical yellow Piper Cub, as I recall.

The impact was one of those that made you mentally say "oof!".....
Hard enough that you knew the pilot was gonna be injured, but not so hard that there was no question he was dead.

I was sorry to hear he had been killed, doing something that probably caused the kids considerable joy and excitement, ending in traumatizing everyone involved. It could have been worse......as I recall, the wreckage came to rest not too far from the gaggle of kids!

Flying low exposes you to all sorts of nasty things.
It also means you have less time to react to emergencies.

The lesson here: Bend the rules at your own peril!

denicave said...