Light Hearted

Light Hearted ep 152 – The Flying Santa of the Lighthouses

The Flying Santa is a tradition that dates back to 1929, serving to express gratitude to lighthouse keepers, Coast Guard personnel, and their families through Yuletide visits by plane or helicopter. The tradition was started by Captain William Wincapaw, a pioneering Maine aviator. To show his appreciation for the people at the lighthouses in Midcoast Maine, he loaded up his seaplane with packages containing newspapers, magazines, and other gifts, and he dropped them at the lighthouses on Christmas Day.

The Flying Santa plane over Graves Lighthouse in Massachusetts in 1937. Bickford’s restaurants was an early sponsor of the flights.
Captain Bill Wincapaw in 1936. Alton H. Blackington Collection (PH 061). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

The flights got such a positive reaction that Wincapaw expanded them to more of the Maine coast and the other New England states.

The popular maritime historian Edward Rowe Snow became involved in 1936, and he kept the tradition going through 1980. From 1981 to 1997, the flights were carried out by the Hull Lifesaving Museum in Massachusetts. A new nonprofit organization, Friends of Flying Santa, was created in 1997.

Today, Santa travels by helicopter in the weeks leading up to Christmas to stops from northern Maine to Long Island, New York, bringing holiday cheer to more than 1000 children of Coast Guard families.

Edward Rowe Snow with his wife Anna-Myrle and daughter Dolly in the 1950s. (Friends of Flying Santa)

This episode of Light Hearted, hosted by Jeremy D’Entremont and Cindy Johnson, looks back at 92 years of the Flying Santa using audio clips of Edward Rowe Snow and his wife and daughter, Brian Tague of Friends of Flying Santa, lighthouse keepers and family members, and more.

The Flying Santa helicopter at Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine. (Friends of Flying Santa)

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