November 28, 2010

First skywriting in U.S. skies – 1922

Ten thousand feet up, over Times Square in New York City, giant letters appeared in the sky. Made of white smoke, the letters spelled out, “Hello USA. Call Vanderbilt 7200.”

Within three hours, the Vanderbilt Hotel received 47,000 calls!

And a new advertising form was born.

Actually, pilot Captain Cyril Turner of Britain's Royal Air Force had earlier demonstrated sky writing in England, in May 1922. That time, he was advertising a newspaper, the Daily Mail.

Skywriting is formed when engine heat is used to turn a certain kind of oil into white smoke. This smoke is released under pressure. Of course, it is the plane's maneuvers, along with the starting and stopping of the smoke release, that makes the smoke form letters.

Skywriting is often done in summer. It requires cloudless skies (or at least nearly cloudless skies) and little wind. In this video you can see how slowly skywriting appears, and why strong winds would destroy the beginning of the message before the end has appeared. This video also features a cloud threatening to cover part of the message. 

Do It With Dots!

With five airplanes, skywriting can appear more quickly. Each letter is created with five rows of dots rather than with continuous lines “drawn” on the sky by just a single plane. Here is a video in which a personal sentiment rather than an ad appears in the sky. 

If You Could Write Anything on the Sky...

...what would it be? Where would you write it? Who would read it?

I wonder who paid for this message... 
...and who it was meant for.


Perhaps the most famous skywriting in motion picture history wasn't made by a plane....
It was made by a witch! "Surrender Dorothy" appeared in the skies over the Emerald City, in The Wizard of Oz.

Here is a skywriting coloring page. 

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