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Home > Articles & Guides > Scattering Ashes by Air

Scattering Ashes by Air

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Scattering the ashes of a loved one by air is an affordable option many choose as the demand for cremation rises. Aerial scattering offers a means of closure to families who are ready to take the final step in the grieving process. For some, the release of ashes into the sky by an airplane is symbolic of man’s desire to be as free as the unbridled winds. There are a handful of companies offering the service of aerial ash scattering to those who want a meaningful way to remember their loved one’s life.

A Meaningful Way to Remember

Golden Gate BridgeAerial ash scattering is a meaningful part of the grieving process to the families who choose this option. When the ashes are scattered over a special place, the observing family can have a visual image permanently ingrained in their memory. This is especially true if the event is photographed or video taped.

Because of the uniqueness of aerial ash scattering, families may request certain things to be incorporated into the scattering as a way of personalizing the service. Most pilots are able to accommodate requests that are within reason.

Some families choose to include special hand written notes, rose pedals or other mementos to accompany the scattering of the ashes. Others select to incorporate the actual scattering into a memorial service simultaneously taking place on the ground.

Many families who choose this type of service will elect to keep a small portion of the cremated ashes and incorporate into a small memorial such as a keepsake urn or cremation jewelry piece.

Earl Haskins of Air Legacy provides a digital photograph of the location including a time stamp. He adds that it never fails to amaze him the satisfaction and experience the clients relate to him.

A Specialized Service

The scattering of ashes by airplane is not as simple as it seems.

First, it is difficult if not impossible to simply open a window and release the ashes without them blowing back into the cabin. Gary Trovinger of Scatterings tells us of stories he’s heard when, “99.9% of the time, the aircraft would come back after the flight with the majority of the ashes covering the occupants and the inside of the aircraft, having blown back in as the family tried to hold the urn out the window to scatter them.”

This has lead to specialized release systems mostly custom designed by the pilots themselves and tailored to their individual aircrafts to help facilitate the release of the cremated ashes.

Second, not just any pilot can perform the specialized service. It takes a pilot with a commercial license to legally carry out the service and charge for it. Additionally, California pilots must carry an special license allowing them to scatter the ashes from the air or by sea for that matter.

The Last Journey

A typical mission starts with a family filling out a contract with the company performing the aerial ash scattering service. The customer will also provide specific instructions for the service such as to where the ashes are to be scattered, sometimes even providing actual coordinates.

If the customer is from out of town they will have to mail the ashes by US Postal service to the scattering company.

Once the pilot has the customer’s consent and specific directions, a flight is scheduled with all of the necessary preparations being made. Pilots will meticulously go over each detail to ensure the right set of ashes is scattered in the right location. This is a very important step since the final result is irreversible.

The day the scattering is to take place the pilot will go through his normal pre take-off ritual ensuring all systems are go. Once in the air the pilot will navigate to the designated area selected by the customer for scattering and commence to fulfill their wishes.

Since many families are unable to attend the scattering in the cockpit, some will observe from the ground (providing the scattering location permits this). Some pilots are able to take a photograph capturing the scenery where the scattering occurred, although this is highly dependent on ideal conditions. Safely flying the plane is the pilot’s first priority.

The end result has enabled families to come to terms with their loved one’s departure. They have moved on toward acceptance and the idea that their loved one is in a better place. As Gary Trovinger so eloquently puts it, “When the remains of your loved one are scattered by air, each sunset becomes an ongoing memorial, no matter where you are when that sunset is observed.”

Save a portion of the ashes in a cremation jewelry pendant

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Aerial Scattering Services

Take Wing Air – New England area
Air Legacy – Most of Colorado - parts of Kansas, Nebraska & Wyoming

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Ph: 800.293.3778