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You Can Write Anything in the Sky, Apparently

Maybe I’m just rattled by the truly horrible state of the world at this point, including the vile attack in Nice this past night.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

But I’m not too old to learn something new and I figure you’re not either.

It turns out that in the US you can actually write anything you fucking like in the sky at any time. No one will stop you.

Case in point:

To the best information currently available, #RISE is a music promotion for something called a Krewella..whatever that is.

OK. Krewella is these two DJs

Though some people were a little perplexed, others more freaked out and some even expecting aliens, no harm done. Except.

I couldn’t help being reminded of Orson Wells’ famous radio show fiasco.

It too was harmless. Arguably, it was more entertaining. But it made people think twice about the messages sent out over airways which might lead to public confusion.

For all the regulations governing the skies though, there seems to be a skywriting loophole. 

I reached out to the FAA as #rise was first rising to ask which skywriting company might have filed flight plans for such a concerted multi-city marketing effort and whether there had been any consideration that a cryptic message like #RISE written over the skies in major cities without any previous warning, in today’s tense world, with everything happening in the U.S. and elsewhere, might best have been denied.

The answer I received from an FAA spokesperson was that 1) The FAA does not approve skywriting messages. That makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose. Otherwise they’d be approving Marry Me Lucy all day long. But my question was whether a bunch of skywriting planes taking off in major cities for a single campaign en masse shouldn’t have raised some security flag or other. The answer 2) Got me worried: there is no requirement for skywriting planes to file flight plans. 

Think about that for a minute. Drone operators have to get licenses, private pilots have to file flight plans, but skywriting planes can take off and land wherever at will.

I sanity-checked this reply with the question: “So they can fly at any time to write anything in the sky they want everywhere?”

I received a further answer that: “We might approve an operation from a safety standpoint but we do not censor messages.”

Again, the focus was on the message, when the question is more on the mass-operation here and the issue raised by the first reply about skywriters not filing flight plans, as private pilots do.

I was told that the FAA spokesperson that he would check on the approval issue and get back to me. I’ll let you know when I hear more.

In the mean time: maybe #rise isn’t that bad in the greater scheme of things.

But it sure got a rise out of me. But in the skies, security is thinking ahead.

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