A serious question, here: There's gotta be a pilot out there somewhere who has done a memorial request to spray someone's ashes over a city street. I'm gonna do it out of spite for a lousy little mill town in Central Pa. There seems to be no laws against it on the books. 500' fly-overs are okay, spreading ashes falls under no FAA rule that I can find. When I go (soon, I'm an AO affected Vietnam Vet), I plan to have a contract with a crop-duster or acrobatic pilot for a decent show. Aside from (moral) advice, can someone comment, please? I wish to know of any known regulations governing this, especially any against.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.se this site is not really a forum but a QA site you can take a tour here. You have presented a discussion topic which is out of scope here but there are some real hard questions here. You may wish to reword to avoid this being closed out. Are you asking if its legal? Possible? Who to contact? $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Feb 21, 2019 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ In many countries handling human remains is tightly restricted by law. This is more a legal question than an aviation one. $\endgroup$
    – bogl
    Feb 21, 2019 at 9:42
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    $\begingroup$ I have done it. I hope it's legal!!! $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Feb 21, 2019 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ For those who are working hard to close this question, on the basis this is not aviation related: If you close it, then the proper answer (which is FAA doesn't prohibit this, under certain conditions) will also disappear from the radar. It would be better to edit the question, to be more concise (the title says all). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Feb 21, 2019 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ All of your comments have been wonderful and very helpful. I am so glad some of you are able to appreciate the humor in my question; it was an FAA Regulation question--for the record. I served in the military, and worked with some absolutely top-notch pilots in Thailand during the rice wars. I would absolutely Love to connect with one who would do this for me. It will be carried out over Central Pa. Thanks men, God Bless you all. jim $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2019 at 15:19

1 Answer 1


AOPA has an entire article on it that's worth reading and while it's generally fine with the FAA (assuming the pilot isn't being careless or reckless), there may be other regulations or laws that apply. The article mentions:

  • Permission needed for scattering over federal land
  • Permission needed for scattering over water (federal and local regulations)
  • State burial requirements

But there are two specific aviation regulations that might apply to the flight. First, 14 CFR 91.15:

§91.15 Dropping objects.

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

Second, you said that you plan to have a "contract" with someone to scatter the ashes, which implies that you're going to pay the pilot. If that's the case, then the pilot may not use an experimental aircraft for the flight. That's because the FAA considers carrying human ashes to be carrying property (Harris interpretation, 2009) and 91.319(a) doesn't allow carrying property for compensation in experimental aircraft:

(a) No person may operate an aircraft that has an experimental certificate—

(1) For other than the purpose for which the certificate was issued; or

(2) Carrying persons or property for compensation or hire.

Finally, note that accidents can and do happen and in at least one case two people died while spreading ashes (although to be fair, the toxicology data was fairly 'interesting' in that one).

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, that statute raises some interesting examples. Over some municipal areas of regulation, it's not legal, and especially over a town... it's a little shady probably in the legal area. For example, Faye Rich (Ben Rich of the Skunk Works' wife) wanted her ashes spread over their ranch, but it was illegal. Considering they owned the ranch, and you want to drop ashes over a town, you might want to hit up the local ATC or FAA officials. jic you know? $\endgroup$
    – Jihyun
    Feb 21, 2019 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Jihyun Thanks for the feedback, I expanded my answer with more information. This is one of those areas where the FAA doesn't care much but other regulators might. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Feb 21, 2019 at 5:40

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