GA community spreads holiday cheer

December 21, 2011

Santa Claus, who bears a striking resemblance to longtime volunteer Jim Schultz, delivered presents, including racing sets, toy cars, and kits, to about 30 children on Tangier Island during the traditional Holly Run this month.

Santa Claus presents a stuffed toy to a young girl on Tangier Island during the Holly Run, a local GA tradition that stretches back more than 40 years.

About 30 children on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay got an early visit from Santa Claus, who arrived in style aboard the AOPA Cessna Caravan to continue a GA tradition.

A teddy bear decorates a 1950 Mooney M-18C on the ramp at Oceano Airport during December's "Toys for Tots" rally.

A Christmas Moose prepares for cheer-off in the cockpit at Oceano Airport during a "Toys for Tots" rally in December.

Cuesta Crankers Model A Club supplied 11 vintage automobiles for the "Toys for Tots" event at Oceano Airport.

Photos by Jolie Lucas and Samantha Duggan

Children craned their necks skyward as a flight of four RVs passed overhead in formation, but the main attraction at Tangier Island Airport on Dec. 3 was certainly Santa.

Arriving in style aboard AOPA’s Cessna Caravan (call sign “Rudolph One”), the jolly old elf brought toys to more than 30 children, continuing a Holly Run tradition stretching back 40 years. A fleet of 44 airplanes also delivered a fresh supply of holly to the watermen and their families who tough out long, cold winters on the windswept island off the Virginia coast in the Chesapeake Bay.

GA pilots in California teamed up with Friends of Oceano Airport and the U.S. Marine Corps for another December tradition. A fleet of 60 aircraft rallied from across California for a “Toys for Tots” event at Oceano Airport that drew 175 people and 11 vintage automobiles supplied by Cuesta Crankers Model A Club. Volunteers collected hundreds of toys and nearly $1,000 in donations for area children.

On Dec. 22, a Boeing 767 was scheduled to lift off from Miami International Airport, bound for Haiti with more than 500 pounds of Christmas cheer on board. Stuffed animals and soccer balls (toys that do not require electricity) comprised the load of toys headed to children on the island nation devastated by the 2010 earthquake.

Rick Sante of Airlift Flyers Aviation Corp. said the earthquake inspired a group of pilots and aviation professionals to join forces in an effort to open a low-cost air bridge to the recovery effort. Flights are donated by corporate and other private owners, and Sante works with various nonprofit groups to coordinate logistics. Sante said an informal network of flight crews, flight departments and aircraft operators has stepped up to meet many needs.

“There’s so much we can do in aviation to help out those who really need it, just providing air transportation,” Sante said. “It’s just a very humbling, but very rewarding, experience.”