Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Times We Made the Sky Rain Candy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Times We Made the Sky Rain Candy

Article excerpt

It's nice to see community volunteers getting some good press lately. The people serving their neighbors in multitudes of ways aren't out for fame or fortune, of course, but an occasional acknowledgment of their contribution is still welcome. I know. I received one note of thanks that I'll never forget.

Some of my volunteerism did have ulterior motives. When I served with the Civil Air Patrol, it was largely for the free airplane rides and to hang out at the airport. The pilots were probably a little more altruistic. They did it to be helpful and because they loved to fly.

CAP's major function is to search for downed planes. Since I wasn't a pilot, my job was to sit in the back seat of the small plane and peer down at the ground looking for signs of a crash. I never spotted anyone who needed rescuing, but I learned to talk in radio code ("This is alpha, zulu, tango, two, zero, niner ..." ) and how to tell a Cessna 180 from a Piper Cherokee. I also learned the most critical factors for flying a rescue mission: (1) High-wing planes are better for searching, because you don't have a wing blocking your view downward. (2) Look out one side of the plane only. If you peer from side to side, back and forth, out both windows, you're likely to need an airsick bag. (3) Always go to the bathroom before you fly a search. There are no restrooms in the back of a Cessna 150. One of the real perks of the job came in the spring and summer. Each town in our area has its own local celebration - Peach Days, Strawberry Days, Art City Days. The town sets aside a weekend for a parade, a picnic in the park, a concert or two, and a small carnival. Everyone from neighboring towns comes to the events, so basically the cities take turns throwing one another a party. The more generous cities often sponsor a candy drop, where the Civil Air Patrol showers candy over the community picnic or parade. There are, I learned, tried and true methods of doing a candy drop. First consideration is the type of candy. Chocolate does not hold up well in the summer in warm airplanes. It doesn't cool much on its way to the ground, either, and hits the grass, or the people, with a pretty good splat. …

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