Sky Writing

December 1st Celebrates Sky Writing

Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate how on December 1st 1922 Captain Cyril Turner, flew in the sky and was the first sky writer to write “Hello USA.”

Royal Air Force Major John C. Savage invented skywriting during World War I, using airplanes to transmit military signals with smoke.

In May 1922, he demonstrated the technique’s usefulness in advertising by hiring Captain Cyril Turner, an ace pilot with the Royal Air Force, to write “Daily Mail,” the name of a newspaper, over Epsom Downs in England.

In October 1922, Savage tried to sell the idea to the head of the American Tobacco Company, George Washington Hill for an advertising campaign for the Vanderbilt Hotel.

In response, 47,000 people dialed the number, reaching the Vanderbilt Hotel. This time, Hill decided to launch a million-dollar skywriting campaign to advertise Lucky Strike cigarettes.

On December 1st 1922, Captain Cyril Turner, wrote “Hello USA” in the sky above Times Square in Manhattan to see start off the holiday season.
Today’s YouTube video presented by user name, (Archive of Awesome) is a 1922 clip on how sky writing works. There’s short commercial in the beginning of this presentation but well worth the wait.

In 1946 the Skywriting Corporation found themselves with a fleet of surplus World War II planes and developed “dot matrix skywriting”, or sky typing.

Sky typing is the process of using five planes in formation to choreograph puffs of smoke being released from each plane. The messages, written at 10,000 foot altitude, can be up to 1250 feet tall and over five miles long. Traditional skywriting letters are 3,000 feet high and take longer to write.

Skywriting is not only a time-honored advertising tradition, but one of the most exciting and influential forms of advertisement. Though it is rarely used today, skywriting becomes very impressive and effective when performed. The Pepsi-Cola company has used the skywriting advertising technique since 1932, and it is perhaps the only company that still employs skywriting today.

Suzanne Asbury-Oliver has been skywriting messages across the skies above the United States and Canada for Pepsi since 1980. From the open cockpit of the famous 1929 Travel Air biplane, the Pepsi Skywriter from the plane Suzanne remarks, “I fell in love with the open cockpit flying. Most pilots stare out at the sky through two layers of dirty Plexiglas, but in the open cockpit plane, there is just the sky, the wind, the cold, the ground, and me.” Touring North America from coast to coast, Oliver, now flying a modified De Havilland Chipmunk, skywrites over 500 messages in more than 150 locations each year. She remains the only professional female skywriter in the world.

As we remember this nostalgic time in history, we look to the open sky and marvel at the incredible it takes to write messages in the sky.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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