How does skywriting work?
September 13, 2004 4:48 AM   Subscribe

how is skywriting achieved ?, is there some sort of GPS or computer assistance .. or just pilots with a sixth sense ?.
posted by mrben to Grab Bag (2 answers total)
Well, skywriting long predates GPS and computers.....

"....You think it's easy getting paid to write five letters? Try doing it while going 150 miles per hour at 10,000 feet when the temperature is below zero and both windows are open. And remember: You must do it backward. That's what pilot Wayne Mansfield does for a living. He's a skywriter, one of only about half-a-dozen in the country.

Mr. Mansfield comes from a family of pilots. He soloed at 13, and sky-wrote his first word ("fly") seven years later. He's constantly on the move, towing large banners during the day and "starboards" (illuminated signs) at night with his small plane. Banners are his main business. Skywriting is a small part of it.

"It's difficult to make a living on a medium that requires clear days," Mansfield says. Clouds can quickly cover his canvas. A brief shower will erase his hard work. If there's snow on the ground, it feels as though he's writing with an invisible marker. He can't see the letters against the white background.

Skywriting originated in England around World War I. Maj. John C. Savage of the Royal Air Force used smoke from airplanes to send military signals over long distances.

Skywriting was first used for advertising when Capt. Cyril Turner wrote "Daily Mail" over England in May of 1922. In October of that year he wrote "Hello USA" above New York.

Skywriting's heyday was from the 1930s to the early 1950s when Pepsi Cola used skywriting as its main way of advertising, Mansfield says. TV led to skywriting's decline. With television, advertisers could target their messages at specific audiences...."

posted by troutfishing at 6:19 AM on September 13, 2004

Skytyping is a new variant of skywriting that uses computers to control the smoke coming from a group of planes flying side by side. It's much more practical, but not nearly as impressive.
posted by Zonker at 6:37 AM on September 13, 2004

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