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Beanbags for Ukraine

Flight school airdrop raises more than $17,000

Virginia flight school Aviation Adventures raised more than $17,000 for Ukraine by hosting an event where pilots could drop bean bags on ground targets.

From left, Mike Stenzler flew an airplane while Gordon Landale and his daughters Amelia and Caroline tossed out a bean bag. Photo courtesy Aviation Adventures.

The airdrop, held April 10 at the Warrenton/Fauquier Airport offered pilots a chance to test their skills against others' by flying 50 feet over the ground in the pattern while their passengers aimed a beanbag at targets on the ground. The flight school sold beanbags at $100 a throw, and also provided airplanes and flight instructors for anyone who wanted to go aloft and pitch a bag. Aviation Adventures owner Bob Hepp said the community was enthusiastic about the idea, especially during the planning stages.

“We started with $770 in donations before we sold the first bean bag,” Hepp said. He said local businesses and individuals wanted to know how they could donate as soon as they heard about the event. All donations went directly to World Central Kitchen created by Chef José Andrés, which has been providing meals to those affected by natural disasters, human-made crises, and humanitarian emergencies around the world since 2010.

Aviation Adventures, which has locations in Leesburg, Manassas, Stafford, Warrenton, and Winchester, has used its airplanes to fly medical supplies and other forms of relief to the Bahamas and Haiti. “It’s a little bit of a trip, but….We’re helping people who are our southern neighbors,” said Hepp. Since a single-engine piston can’t be loaded up and flown to Ukraine in the same way, Hepp said, “The only thing to do is send money.” He said the great reputation of the World Central Kitchen helped the cause; a weblink included on posters and other forms of advertisement allowed people who couldn’t attend in person to donate on behalf of Aviation Adventures. This system enabled Hepp to coordinate the event without the flight school having to handle any funds, he said, and stressed that this was a highly efficient approach.

Hepp said he involved the FAA Flight Standards District Office from the beginning stages of planning the event. As a Part 141 school, he said, Aviation Adventures has good communication with its FSDO, and he wanted the FSDO to have input on the event. A week before, he remembered that FAR 91.146 requires a letter to be submitted to the FSDO notifying them that the event is happening, and specifying the type of information that needs to be provided. Participants also had to provide proof that they had a current flight review and 90-day landing currency with passengers. Hepp created a form for participants to complete and supplied those to the FSDO as they came in.

Good weather prevailed on April 10 and Aviation Adventures provided seven of its airplanes to toss bags at targets made from inexpensive children’s plastic wading pools. Other pilots joined the fun: A skydiving operation based at Warrenton sent some competitors in a Cessna 182. Hepp flew with a 12-year-old passenger who came very close to scoring a direct hit and winning the top prize of $1,000. As it turned out, nobody won that prize, but that money was donated to World Central Kitchen. The runner-up—whose beanbag bounced off the lip of the pool and fell beside it—won a $250 gift card.

Hepp said he’s happy to share planning information with any organization that would like to sponsor this type of event, and he even has Ukrainian flags—10 big ones and 100 small ones—and beanbags that he can donate.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.
Topics: Public Benefit Flying

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