Thanks to the FAA, there might be a little less hooting and hollering at Yellville, Arkansas's annual Turkey Trot celebrations on the long weekend. The FAA confirmed to The Associated Press that it was sending agents to the Ozark community of 1,300 to sanction any pilots who take part in the annual Turkey Drop. The event involves live wild turkeys being dropped from aircraft onto the town square and, contrary to the horror expressed by animal-rights groups, local officials insist the birds are perfectly capable of gliding to a safe landing on the square. The FAA is staying out of that aspect of the controversy and focusing on the FAR that prohibits dropping anything, winged or not, from an airplane that might harm something or someone below. Turkeys, gliding or not, apparently don't make the grade for that approval so the guys in the sunglasses and polo shirts on the town square are there to try to make sure no one is hurt. "Our concern is always with public safety," FAA spokesman Lynn Lunford told the AP. " We could be talking about turkeys or boxes of paper. It doesn't matter. If you throw something out of an aircraft it can cause damage to people or property on the ground." As for the turkeys, the greatest peril unquestionably awaits them after the drop.
In almost 70 years of Turkey Drops (before airplanes were available, the birds were launched from the roof of the town's courthouse) the object has been for those in the square to chase the turkeys down and make a meal out of them. It's not clear whether the absence of the drop part will make much difference to their final fate. Among other Turkey Trot festivities are a beauty pageant and a turkey-calling contest. The event was parodied in a WKRP in Cincinnati episode in which the radio station mistakenly dropped flightless domestic turkeys onto a mall parking lot as a promotion.