The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Monday that it has opened a special investigation after the “Phantom Pilot” bombed a small Arkansas town with live turkeys.
You’re reading that correctly, and no it isn’t just a synopsis of that classic WKRP in Cincinnati episode.
Apparently “turkey-bombing” isn’t new for the town of Yellville, Arkansas. For more than four decades pilots have been dropping live turkeys from small single prop planes during the town’s annual Turkey Trot. According to the Associated Press, the turkey drop is “a way to call attention to the region’s abundant wild turkeys.”
The FAA was contacted by an outraged local animal rights activist. Rose Hilliard accuses the pilot of “terrorizing” the birds in an act of blatant “animal cruelty” and “animal abandonment.”
The identity of the pilot is still unknown but the 1966 Piper PA-28-140 belongs to local resident Aldino Raimondi according to FAA records. Dana Woods, a Mountain View alderman and pharmacist, has played the role of “Phantom Pilot” for the last 15 years, but he told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his feet were on the ground in 2017.
Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman with the FAA in Fort Worth, says there’s nothing illegal about dropping objects from airplanes as long as they do not cause any damage to people or property. “FAA regulations don’t specifically deal with dropping live animals out of airplanes, so we have no authority to prohibit the practice,” he said in an email to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “This does not mean we endorse it.”
“Why don’t you jump yourselves with no parachute. … Think you’ll like it?” wrote one angry person to the Yellville Chamber of Commerce.
“The turkey drop is a throwback to a sorry time when human beings were bone-ignorant of animals’ feelings,” says animal cruelty caseworker Gemma Vaughan. “Anywhere else, the participants would be in jail, and officials’ failure to prosecute those responsible makes Yellville synonymous with cruelty to animals.”
The chamber has tried to distance itself from the festival’s odd tradition, but many citizens are in full support of the turkey drop. Festival goers could purchase t-shirts declaring “I’m With The Phatom” in the town square while others took photos with their faces poking through a phantom pilot cut-out.
The FAA investigation will determine if any federal aviation rules were broken by the strange ceremony.
The tradition is rumored to have been inspired by the 1970s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati . See a clip from the infamous episode below.
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