Aerial burial

One of these days, my mom’s and her husband’s ashes need to be scattered over Reno Airport. (They were fans of the air races.) I’d like to fly the plane.

In an aerial burial, how do you keep the ashes from blowing back in?

Anecdote: My mom worked at Gibbs Flight Service in San Diego for a long time. She was asked to jettison some ashes one time. When she did, the slipstream took off her brand new Ray Bans. She thought it was fitting that a pilot should be sent off with a new pair of aviator glasses.

In my dad’s case, you don’t.

Similarly, we once scattered the ashes of a veteran from our submarine at sea. The officer in charge of the burial probably should have scattered the ashes on the outbound leg instead of the return leg. That way, when the wind shifted and the ashes all blew onto and stuck onto the sail, they would have washed off when we submerged–instead, they were unceremoniously hosed off once we returned to port. :rolleyes:

Fly as slow as is safe and slightly cross controlled & it works good from a C-310 pilot window.

Use a heavy plastic bag, which was inside the box as my Dad’s were in so that was already done.

Use the aft edge of the window so no ashes can come back in the aircraft & you will find it easier if someone else does the actual flying while the other does the scattering.

Keep a good strong grip on the sack. I would think a C-150 through a C-182 would work quite well.

There will be a fine ash streak along the side which will need to wiped off if you can’t hold the bag away from the side of the aircraft.

Try not to dump them all at once so you get a better result if you are invested in the remains at all. Do not just dump them please.

Have permission if over an airport as there are lumps and things that will make it all the way to the ground.

The sack will be heavier than you expect.


My mom did have permission from the airport for her husband’s ashes, so I think I can get permission for the both of them. They just couldn’t be scattered over the runway; just the airport property.

I’m still not current, and I suspect my sister will be all emotional about ‘letting go’; so it will be a while.

A Piper Pawnee is well suited for scattering ashes. Have the pilot wag the wings after dropping the ashes. That always puts a lump in my throat…queue pipes.

I participated in a burial from a hot air balloon once. It was lovely and very moving. Not a dry eye in the basket, and I was only a crewman. I remember they had rose petals mixed in with the ashes, and it made for a lovely spectacle.

I’m planning on asking my family to scatter my ashes in interesting places, just so they get to go on a fun trip. But now I know to stipulate: NO rose petals!

On a helpful note, I wished we’d thought of a bag/can on a long stick that we could’ve held away from the body of the plane.

I thought this was going to be about the practice of “sky burial”. Leave the body out on a platform, and the birds will dispose of it.

It needs a lid that stays closed until time to empty it. A 100mph slipstream will suck the ashes out of a container gravity be damned.

I’ve done this from a Piper Warrior. The ashes were in a plastic bag with a fairly long neck. I pushed the neck out the storm window as far as I could and then squeezed out the ashes. It worked fine, none got back in the cabin, but I did have to wipe a cloth along the left fuselage afterward.

Maybe practice with a bag of flour and see how it goes?

I helped a fellow do it from a 182 once.

Place the ashes in a paper lunch sack and tie the neck closed with a piece of para cord about 4 feet long. In flight drop the sack out the window while holding the cord at the end. When the sack hits the end of the cord, give a sharp jerk and the bag will rip and release the pay load.

Worked fine.

The Dude and Walter could tell you how NOT to do it.

I’d hate to bet on it.