May 11, 2016

The precarious future of “Skytyping”


"TRUMP IS DISGUSTING," skytyped above Pasadena, California, during this year's Rose Parade. (Image via nanonews)

“TRUMP IS DISGUSTING,” skytyped above Pasadena, California, during this year’s Rose Parade. (Image via nanonews)

Sure, using a word processor is a thrill, but have you tried skytyping?

It’s the fancier version of skywriting (that thing when you see words like “PEPSI” or, in the case of this year’s Rose Parade, “TRUMP IS DISGUSTING,” written in the sky in smoke), and it requires five planes flying in formation, rather than just the one plane used for skywriting.

The method was patented by Andy Stinis in 1964 and has been protected so fiercely by the Stinis family—Andy’s son, Greg, and grandson, Stephen, run the business Skytypers Inc. now—that it might die along with Stinis’s heirs.

“It sounds selfish I guess, but when you have a unique business you like to keep it that way,” Greg Stinis told Chase Purdy at Quartz. And “once he’s gone,” Purdy reports, the business “will fall almost entirely to his son, who has no children of his own.”

But even before that, the Skytypers successor is shifting his attention away from “the subtleties of old-fashioned skywriting” and toward “brainstorming ways to produce custom logos in the sky, or glow-in-the-dark smoke.”

Everything is a metaphor.



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.