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“Operation Turkey Drop” Turns Prank into Charity Success Story

In 2020, during the challenges of the pandemic, a playful prank among air traffic controllers at Harrisburg International ATCT (MDT) evolved into a heartwarming charity success. The story began with a humorous nod to the 1978 “WKRP in Cincinnati” Turkey Drop episode, as a group of controllers at MDT playfully convinced a colleague into believing in the fictional “Operation Turkey Drop” – a supposed tradition of dropping live and frozen turkeys from a C-130 aircraft for local families during Thanksgiving. What started as a week-long jest took an unexpected turn when a C-130 aircraft requested to fly low over Harrisburg the week of Thanksgiving 2020, while their coworker was on duty in the tower. 

In 2021, the joke turned into a creative fundraising initiative. The team designed “Operation Turkey Drop” t-shirts, raising over $600 for the Central PA Food Bank. Since the start of the tradition, MDT controllers have raised $2,543.51 for the food bank.

This year t-shirt sales and turkey stress ball raffle purchases continued to raise money for the food bank. With the help of Mission Destiny Helicopter, on Nov. 16 turkey stress balls were dropped on the facility parking lot, with the closest “turkey” to the target winning $100 and lifelong bragging rights.

“MDT NATCA is happy to be a part of Operation Turkey Drop. It is a way for us, as a Union, to come together and help families in our community,” MDT FacRep Philip Gesumaria said.

“It was truly a team effort but I’d like to highlight MDT members Ian Hillier and Chris Falcone for their efforts, Mike Vispisiano for the drop video, Jake Horn for dropping the turkeys, and Teresa Stieber who donated and won the drop,” said MDT member Ben Kaufman, who led the fundraising activities.

Watch the video of the “Turkey Drop” here.

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