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Dropping ping pong balls from an aircraft

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Adam Smith
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
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#1 Posted: 8/4/2010 18:22:05

I have been asked to help drop a bag of ping pong balls from an aircraft into an open field.  

Consulting the FARs, I don't see a problem with it:

Sec. 91.15 - Dropping objects.

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

I'm wondering if it might be difficult to actually get ping poing balls to depart the plane... any thoughts?



Mark Beattie
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#2 Posted: 8/4/2010 20:20:00 Modified: 8/8/2010 13:17:08

Adam, sounds like you shouldn't have any trouble logistically or legally.  As far as getting them out of the plane I would put them in a bag (pillow case ?) with a securly attached cord to the bottom of it.  Toss the bag out an open door or window and let it hang upside down.  The balls should shake out just fine.  Keep the cord short enough so the bag can't get tangled up in any control surfaces and then haul it back in when empty.

Something to think about - Is there anyway a ball could get trapped in a control surface gap. And if it did would it keep the surface from moving or would it be crushed by the control movement.

I've seen pumpkins, bowling balls, and an ice chest full of a delicious cold beverage dropped from an aircraft without a problem.  All done safely in open areas without damage or injury to anyone or thing on the ground.

 

Some of the comments have caused me to remember other details of drops I've seen:

All were done from a high wing aircraft with the door/window removed and engine up front.  The sack method was used to get the payload out of the aircraft so it wouldn't blow back in and 2 people were on board - 1 to fly and 1 to act as the bombardier.

 

 



Mark Beattie EAA Ch 494, Corona, Ca.
Ron Natalie
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#3 Posted: 8/5/2010 09:27:56

Make sure that nobody on the ground is going to take issue with it or you might have problems beyond the FAA.

(That means no dropping marshmallows or ping pong balls, etc... on the greens at golf courses).

-Ron

As god as my witness I thought turkeys could fly.

 



Charlie England
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#4 Posted: 8/5/2010 20:33:45
Ron Natalie wrote:

 

Make sure that nobody on the ground is going to take issue with it or you might have problems beyond the FAA.

(That means no dropping marshmallows or ping pong balls, etc... on the greens at golf courses).

-Ron

As god as my witness I thought turkeys could fly.

 

 

Without doubt, one of the funniest episodes in the history of TV. I wonder how many actually saw it. Still laughing after what, 25 years?

(Just Google; you'll find it.)

Charlie



Ed More
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#5 Posted: 8/5/2010 21:13:32

Try it with one ball first. The air currents in the cockpit with windows open are not predictable. I was witness to the dropping of cremation ashes from a PA-18 over the departed owner's runway and half of them ended up in the cockpit of the PA-18. The rest drifted over the expectant crowd beside the runway. We decided it was the deceased's last defiant act in the world.

EdM from NH

 



EdM from NH
John Eiswirth
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#6 Posted: 8/5/2010 22:44:18

What possible good could come from dropping anything from an airplane?  Is it worth any possible harm that could come from it?  I remember someone who was dropping flour bombs at a low altitude, became distracted and wrapped a wing around a tree top before wrapping the rest of the plane around assorted other trees on a bumpy path to the ground.

First, fly the airplane.



Matthew Hanneken
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#7 Posted: 8/6/2010 08:50:05

Saw your post and reminded me of my time in Alaska.  Up in Talkeetna, AK (at the base of Denali National Park) they have a Moose Dropping festival and as the name would imply...  they drop moose droppings from a plane onto a marked field with numbers.  If your number (purchased beforehand) gets the most droppings, you win the cash prize.  Now, I don't see how that connects with ping pong balls, but thought it an amusing story to share.

I think the gentleman with the pillow sack and rope idea was the best.  However, I wouldn't use a bungee cord and I certainly wouldn't use any rope or cord if you have a pusher engine, but that's just common sense.

-Matt 



Robert Dingley
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#8 Posted: 8/6/2010 10:36:37

Its assumed that you're using an airplane for the drop because there are more planes than helicopters in the world. Helicopters are prefered despite blowing the PP balls all over the zip code. If you should get close to an aerial fire fighting operation, get a look at the fire bird. A helicopter fitted with an apparatus that dispenses one at a time: (Wait for it PING PONG BALLS! The balls are filled with granulated XXXX and the rig jabs a needle that squirts anti freeze into the ball as its ejected. This causes a reaction like we've all seen in high school chem labs. The  ball then bursts into flame and sets back fires. The rig is electricaly controlled by the pilot. If you manualy set one off, it will burn a big ugly hole in your asphalt drive way and you can't put it out until its finished.

In the case of flying fowl. It is said that during the Southeast Asian War Games held some 40 years ago in VN, I heard of chicken drops being held on quiet weekends. A helicopter passes over at 500 ft and chickens were individualy released. Some did a creditable job of spiraling down using max power, usualy comming to a stop after a short roll out and a nose over. There were a few that gave up right away, folded their wings and augered in. The spectators were arrayed in lawn chairs at the edge of the drop zone. I understand that parimutual wagering took place along with suspected alcohol consumption. The day ended with fried chicken and more drinks. I only wish that I could have been there.

Bob



Robert Dingley
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#9 Posted: 8/6/2010 11:05:04
Ron Natalie wrote:

 

Make sure that nobody on the ground is going to take issue with it or you might have problems beyond the FAA.

(That means no dropping marshmallows or ping pong balls, etc... on the greens at golf courses).

-Ron

As god as my witness I thought turkeys could fly.

 

 

Golf courses! Ok, its off topic. I used to fly out of a Louisiana airport thats been in the news lately. Every morning, the airport manager would personaly make a crack of dawn inspection of all runways in his pickup. There is a golf driving range over 1/4 mile from the end of rw 12. On occasion, some crews would drop a handfull of golf balls on the numbers before take off. Mr H would find these and return them to the driving range with some sharp comments. The driving range staff then maintained a covert look out for the mysterious stud with the awsome drive. Went on for over a year.                Bob



Ralph King
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#10 Posted: 8/6/2010 16:14:04

Ok, where are the FAA regulations for Santa Claus?   Flying around with no nav lights, maybe one red light up front.  Not to mention the over flying in restricted airspace, etc.  Have to wonder if his 3rd class medical is current, if he has had a bi-annual checkout.  Maybe if one flys a sled, one can get by with anything.

I know,  somebody will post stating there is no Santa Claus.

 

Ralph



Ried Jacobsen
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#11 Posted: 8/13/2010 12:24:15

Ralph, this is completely off topic.  However, as I understand things, Santa Claus does not live in the USA, doubtful if he has US citezenship, and is therefore ordinarily outside of FAA juridiction.  Furthermore, his rumored flights normally take place when a large percentage of FAA employees are getting a holiday.

Since there have been no negative results or complaints of the alledged flights, the FAA probably will not take action.

 

I'm curious what the ping pong ball drop is for, and when it will take place.  Are there prizes involved?



Dorothy Klapp
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#12 Posted: 8/14/2010 13:23:31

 Adam,

Fred Potts covered this in his guide to bush flying - and while it is unfortunately out of print, large chunks of it are up on his old web site, including this section on flying low and dropping objects.You'll note that there's not much space spent on the actual dropping, and a whole lot on the considerations when flying near the earth in slow flight. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you get a second person to be your bombardier! The first and most important thing a pilot must focus on is flying the plane - take someone up with you (especially someone young, if you can find a willing passenger; kids love dropping flour bombs.)

http://fepco.com/BF.images.swing.low.html 

 

I have been told the best ways are the paper bag with slits / pillowcase and rope procedure mentioned above, or a long tube that will get away from the slipstream entering the cabin and suck the ping pong balls out. (This has been sucessfully used for ash dispersal, too.) I didn't say it was easy or not clumsy, and I again strongly caution that one person should be bombing while the pilot concentrates on flying the airplane. Cessnas are infamous for a slipstream that sucks any items that go out the window back into the cabin, around the back, and forward onto the instrument panel.

It is not as easy to predict where a light object will go as you'd expect; flour bombing, despite density, is a sport wherein the usual saying is "Yep, the safest place to stand on the field is still the target!" Try some practice runs. The smallest object I know sucessfully dropped near-ish the target were plastic eggs loaded with easter candy, and if I recall correctly, they were dumped one garbage bag at a time out the (removed) door, with some concern about the garbage bag getting loose and wrapping around the tail. Ping-pong balls are pretty light!

Also, no matter what the wind is doing, avoid flying directly over your crowd. Better to have them have to run to the ping-pong balls than to have them underneath if anything goes mechanically wrong. (Just like airshow routines).



Chris Aerts
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#13 Posted: 8/14/2010 22:08:06

Ok guys i have a future plane in the works. I have buddies asking about dropping beers out of the plane with chutes on .

Weather it be dropping beers for guys hunting or fishing or guys doing field work  farming). What rules apply. Can a guy have un opened beer aboard???



Nick Myers
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#14 Posted: 8/16/2010 09:20:48

This is a great thread...I wonder if there are appropriate precautions in place to make sure the cabin is/can be  cleared of the moose dropping smell afterwards!

As far as beer bottles go...don't the commercial guys up in Alaska (and other areas) deliver cases of alcohol as part of their routine deliveries to areas that don't have road access?  I don't see why a closed beer would be problematic as long as no one is/has sampled the product in question.



Robert Dingley
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#15 Posted: 8/16/2010 10:35:08

I have had way too much fun with this topic.

There may not be a need to actually do a drop.  Years ago missionary pilots in the Amazon area were loading small items in a 5 gallon bucket attached to about 200 - 300 feet of rope and circling. as the rope was fed out, the bucket became motionless over a point. The pilot then moved the bucket over a clearing and slowly descended until ground contact was made. Those on the ground then removed the items or put some in and the pilot departed the area.

This principle led to arming aircraft with side firing guns. It is very precise.

This could be adapted to the PP drop project, using a 1,000 (+) foot rope so that people, dogs, cars, etc are not overflown below 1,000 feet. (FAR 91:119) The participants on the ground could then be put in an orderly single file and one by one approach the bucket and remove a PP ball. This would eliminate the disorderly stampede and would prevent injury. It would also be fair  to small children. This would require another crew member aboard the plane to first launch the bucket and then guide the pilot to the touchdown spot. This is the same as a crewmember guiding a rescue helicopter with hoist to a survivor. 

Those on the ground should wait until the bucket contacts the ground so that any static electricity is discharged. Idealy, the rope should be attached to the plane with a glider release hook to cope with emergencies. As far as I know, this has not been done in the country and it would be a first.

Bob

P.S. This is adaptable to beer coolers also.



Robert Dingley
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#16 Posted: 8/16/2010 15:25:30

I must clarify my last post: Missionary pilots did NOT (to the best of my knowledge) arm their aircraft with side firing guns. However, the USAF DID.



John Eiswirth
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#17 Posted: 8/18/2010 05:59:54

That's a bit "SPOOKY", but was fun to watch from DaNang AB after the incoming rockets stopped.



Dennis Flamini
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#18 Posted: 8/19/2010 23:20:10

Flying near the edges of airspace is dangerous, most accidents occur there.



Frank Juedes
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#19 Posted: 8/21/2010 07:41:55

Hi Adam,

When I was a kid, ever summer they had a ping pong drop. We would all go to the baseball park, and a helicopter would fly over and drop ping pong ball.

Most of the balls had something inside like a free ice cream scoop,or worth cash at a local store....it was great!