Imagine sitting at the beach, pool or an outdoor event and watching a plane writing in the sky. It is captivating as it leaves you trying to guess what the words are going to say while waiting for the plane to be finished. This was the case at Orlando Florida when the words Trust Jesus. God Forgives. Ask was written in the sky by Two Pilots from a local church in Florida who resoluted to take the gospel to the sky as a form of outreach. This Sky-writings was done with a crop duster plane which carries specialized smoke-emitting systems and stores smoke-producing fluid which moves into the exhaust.
The fluid sits in a reservoir near the engine, and a plane can typically carry about 30 gallons (114 liters), enough to write up to 12 letters. When the pilot decides it’s time, he or she flips a switch in the cockpit, and the reservoir injects a stream of paraffin oil into the plane’s exhaust system. As the fluid hits the exhaust pipes, it vaporizes, pouring from the exhaust outlets at the front and back of the plane. To vaporize the paraffin oil, the engine has to reach 1500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 C) . That’s part of why skywriting planes need a lot of horsepower: In the cold of 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) up, producing that much heat takes a lot of power
The smoke begins as a paraffin-based mineral oil, sometimes called paraffin oil or liquid paraffin. The fluid is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
As a lady, the first thing that came to mind when I saw the sky writings was how exciting it would be to get proposed to with the words “will you marry me?” in the sky.
Pilots Jerry Stevens and Keith Poeschl deliver their messages from a bright-yellow crop duster popularly called “Holy Smoke” with the sky as their pulpit. The messages, written at 10,000 feet, can be seen 35 miles away on a clear day.
Stevens, a retired aviator who initiated the skywriting ministry about 12 years ago when he lived in Boca Raton expressed that the messages are God’s love letters to his children. He also stated that God is the one strategically putting those messages there and that he and his co-pilot prefer to stay out of the limelight.
Steven, a retired corporate pilot revealed that the idea for God’s messages in the sky came to him after a deep prayer for God to use him.
Stevens relocated permanently to Central Florida so he could spend more time there skywriting.
For several years, Stevens was the only one scribbling God’s messages with the cropduster. But after moving to Orlando two years ago, he called an aviation school in Georgia, which put him in touch with Poeschl, a recent graduate. The two men spoke over the phone and immediately connected. They shared a love of piety and planes.
Poeschl had attended Bible school for three semesters before deciding to enroll in aviation school.
Poeschl lives in Fort Lauderdale, where he is working on fine-tuning his skywriting skills, usually spending more than an hour in the sky, two or three times a week.
It’s not an easy task maneuvering the Holy Smoke to make the letters that are three-quarters of a mile long. Each twist and turn at 120 mph must be timed precisely but both pilots believe that nothing is too difficult with God.
This skywriting project gets majority of its funding from Don Campion, president of Banyan Air Service, who allows the Holy Smoke (Crop Duster) to stay parked at the company’s hangar at Fort Lauderdale Executive air port. The company also assists with the fuel cost which can get pricey with an average trip requiring 51 gallons of fuel.
Campion, who has a company chaplain on hand for his employees and sponsors projects like the construction of ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) Hospital Egbe in Kogi State, Nigeria said he has experienced how the messages have changed the lives of others.
He met a couple who had been on the verge of divorcing, they took a break at their attorney’s office, stepped outside and looked up.
There in the sky they saw the words ‘Jesus Forgives,’ they took it as a literal sign, and they both decided to forgive each other.
“God put that message strategically there,” Stevens said. “That had nothing to do with me or Keith. Do you think that we knew that at 2 p.m. on such and such date, over this location, this couple was going to be at their attorney’s office getting a divorce? What if they would have never stepped out for a break? Those are the things we have no control over.
Both pilots insist that the focus should be on the message and not on them.
There are now two cities in Florida where the holy smoke messages are displayed. One is stationed in Fort Lauderdale and the other is in Boca Raton.
A 20-year Old guy was diagnosed with cancer, when he and his family first got the news, they were devastated. The very next day, his father was outside and looked up to the sky and saw ‘Jesus Loves You.’ he broke down crying. For that moment he felt some comfort.
Stevens and Poeschl haven’t only received positive feedback, there are also negative response from viewers. Stevens has received complaints from people who argue that he is trying to force his religious views upon people.
More Facts about Sky Writing
- Most sources attribute the development of skywriting (1922) to John C. Savage, an Englishman. In that year, Captain Cyril Turner wrote “Daily Mail” over England and “Hello USA” over New York. The American Tobacco Co. then picked up the technique for their Lucky Strike cigarettes.
- The first skywriting for advertising was in 1922.
- April 8, 1924, Savage received a patent for “Method of producing advertising signs of smoke in the air” (US Patent 1,489,717).
- A letter can be as high as one mile and take 60-90 seconds to create.
- A message can stretch up to fifteen miles.
- The best conditions of course are few clouds (clear sky), little or no wind, and cooler temperatures. Then the letters may be seen for 30 miles in any direction and can last 20 minutes.
- Writing occurs usually at altitudes from 7,000-17,000 ft.
- The paraffin oil vaporizes at 1500° in the heat of the plane’s exhaust and is environmentally safe.
- The skywriting that appeared in the movie, “Wizard of Oz,” was done by special effects in a tank with an oil and water mixture.
- One company in New York “writes” more than 50 marriage proposals a year in the sky.