First leg of
the letter H
Seen from above,
the message appears
to be reversed.
View from the pilot’s perspective
View from the ground
NOTE: For illustration purposes only. Check FARs and TFRs for limitations.
you wish your totally finished message to be concentrated.
You’ll also want to line up on section lines, a freeway, a river,
or something before you begin to write. This will help to keep
you from becoming disoriented through all the turns you are
about to make.
At 10,000 feet above the ground your writing can be seen for
about 10 miles in all directions but not necessarily read very well.
Remember that it will only look perfect to someone directly under
it. That is why you must position yourself accurately over a certain
spot on the ground. You will be drifting with the wind while writing. No need to correct for this while writing your letters, but
remember to begin slightly upwind so your completed message is
over the spot on the ground where you want it to be read.
When you are skywriting in a plane with a non-super-
charged engine it is best to run at full power at these high
altitudes. You will be making some sharp turns, and your
engine will likely not be developing full power at this altitude.
HAVE AN ASSISTANT ON THE GROUND
It is essential to have someone on the ground in communica-
tion with you, at least on your first few practice attempts. It
is much easier for them to spot your errors from the ground
and tell you about them as you make them or perhaps even
guide you through some letters by telling you when to turn,
roll out, turn smoke on, turn smoke off, etc. Without a
ground observer you will spend many hours in frustration
and wasted practice.
For a general rule of thumb, approximately 10 seconds of smoke
is long enough for the longest part of a letter. The 10-second
burst of smoke will leave a trail plenty long enough to be read for
miles around on the ground. Counting is a good way to time all
your straight lines instead of trying to monitor a stopwatch.
The same can be said for headings. Do not try to watch your compass or directional gyroscope to tell you what headings to fly to cross
your “H” or put the legs on a “K;” you are turning too fast and steep
for them to keep up. Skywriting is really “seat of the pants” flying.
Just use section lines or whatever ground reference you have for
headings. And, of course, always keep an eye out for other traffic.
When you are required to cross a previous trail of smoke, do it
at a slightly lower altitude. For example, when making an “H,”