Flying Santa

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The Flying Santa is the name given to a tradition that dates to Christmas Day of 1929, when packages of gifts were dropped from a plane to lighthouse keepers and their families along the New England coast.

The organization was the brainchild of pilot William Wincapaw, who wished to give something to the keepers whose work he admired. So well received was his work that he expanded the program to cover more light stations and Coast Guard stations in future years. Wincapaw did not initially consider himself a Santa Claus; the title was bestowed upon him by residents of the stations that he visited. Soon he would be joined on the route by his son, Bill Jr., and by noted author Edward Rowe Snow. Snow participated in the program for over forty years before his retirement.

Wiggins Airways eventually began providing chartered aircraft for the Flying Santas, whose flights have continued uninterrupted, apart from the years of World War II, since 1929; helicopters are now used instead of planes. Chief Warrant Officer David Waldrip, USCG, and Chief Warrant Officer Tom Guthlein, USCG, are the current Santas. Today, the nonprofit Friends of Flying Santa continues the flights primarily as a way of expressing gratitude for the work performed by the Coast Guard.

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