Legendary “Candy Bomber” Returns to Elizabeth City


Nov 18, 2009 – Last December, Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen had Elizabeth City children jumping for joy when he sailed chocolates aloft on tiny parachutes from the “Spirit of Freedom,” a restored 1945 Douglas C-54 aircraft. The beloved “Candy Bomber,” who piloted the famous 1948-49 Berlin Airlift, will return to Elizabeth City, N.C with more treats when the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Regional Airport presents its First in Flight Festival, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with support

from the Albemarle Economic Development Commission.

Featuring free airplane rides for children, remote control air shows, special hangar and aircraft tours and a re-enactment of the airlift that brought sweets to West German children, the free festival is an opportunity for children to learn of aviation history – and North Carolina’s future as a burgeoning aerospace state.

“Generating an aerospace culture in the Elizabeth City area is important so that students will be poised to take advantage of local training programs being initiated now,” said Scott Hinton, manager of the Elizabeth City Regional Airport. “We are presenting the festival to teach young people about aviation, while they have a little fun.”

The festival will take place on Airport grounds, within sight of the U.S. Coast Guard Base, home to the nation’s largest Coast Guard Air Station, and the future Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Aviation Research and Development Park. On completion, the park will feature a 15-acre campus for the Elizabeth City State University School of Aviation Science and a College of the Albemarle FAA-certified Air Frame and Power Plant Maintenance training facility.

A number of Elizabeth City aerospace businesses are participating in the festival. DRS Technologies, which operates an aircraft maintenance facility next to the airport, is the festival’s primary event sponsor. Attendees may take a guided tour of a DRS hangar, where they will see a C-130 aircraft overhaul in process. Telephonics Corporation, which will open a Technical Support Services Center in Elizabeth City next year, is sponsoring the festival’s Remote Control Air Show, presented by Radio Active Air Shows of Danville, Va.

Festival-goers may also enjoy free McDonald’s hamburgers for lunch (while supplies last), courtesy of Tandem, Inc. Through its “Young Eagle Program,” the Experimental Aircraft Association will offer free airplane rides for children ages 7-17 years old (must have a parent or guardian present). Southern Insurance Agency Inc. and the Elizabeth City Regional Airport are sponsoring the rides, and Eastern Aviation Fuel is donating gasoline for the Candy Bomber’s flights.

Operated by the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation, the “Spirit of Freedom,” which doubles as a museum, will be open to the public for tours. Other aircraft will be displayed for viewing.

How “Uncle Wiggly Wings” Got His Name

But perhaps the most anticipated event on the festival program will be Halvorsen’s re-enactment of the Berlin Airlift.

“It’s a chance for children to learn from the veterans that served during one of the great humanitarian efforts in history,” said Hinton.

When the Soviet Union blocked railroad, street and barge access to the western sectors of Berlin in 1948, Allied forces intervened by dropping tons of cargo including food, milk, flour and medicine to residents whose homes had been ravaged during World War II.

During a flight break, Halvorsen, an airlift pilot, noticed children gathered outside the Tempelhof Air Base. He gave the youngsters his last two sticks of chewing gum and promised to return with chocolates. As a sign, he said he would wiggle the wings of his plane, and he soon became known as “Uncle Wiggly Wings” and “The Chocolate Flier.”

The chocolate drop caught the attention of the news media and major candy companies, which soon began providing the sweets. With the help of other crews, airlift pilots dropped more than 23 tons of candy on Berlin by the end of the airlift.

For the First in Flight Festival, Halvorsen will co-pilot two drops, one for children up to 7 years old and a second for children ages 8-12. For each drop, 100 commemorate candy bars will sail down on tiny parachutes to the children below. Children 13 and older will be able to get a candy bar at the event, but will not be able to participate in the candy drops. Hand-crafted and donated by The Chocolate House, an Elizabeth City confectionary, the gourmet chocolates feature a wrapper with an image of Halvorsen’s airplane. Flowers Printing, also in Elizabeth City, provided the wrapper printing for the event.

“Elizabeth City has launched many news-making events, including hosting the Wright brothers before their historic first flight and the deployment of blimps during World War II,” said Wayne Harris, director of the Albemarle Economic Development Commission. “The opportunity to witness this historical re-enactment is one that should not be missed.”

Parking for the First in Flight festival is available in the DRS Technologies parking lot. For additional information, visit www.ecfirstinflight.com.

Headquartered in Elizabeth City, the Albemarle Economic Development Commission markets business opportunities in the City of Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County to prospective employers throughout the United States. For information, go to www.discoverEC.com or call at 1-888-338-1678 or (252) 338-0169.