Wild Blue Doodle Contest Tests Pilot Thinking

Pilots competing in Lightspeed Aviation’s Wild Blue Doodle contest have shown some serious creativity and aviation skills. CloudAhoy

Today is the final day to enter a contest designed to stimulate pilots to create awesome artwork in the sky. Not skywriting, but rather Lightspeed Aviation’s Wild Blue Doodle competition that calls for flying precise enough to create a piece of art aloft when tracked with Cloud Ahoy. So, why mention a contest that closes today? Because the process necessary to create these new works of art demanded serious out-of-the-box thinking, at least to a guy like me who learned to fly with a VOR and an NDB.

Today is, however, the first opportunity for the public to help choose the contest winners, according to the company’s marketing communications manager Ed Hansen. He also revealed last week that the contest was really designed as just another way to get people out flying while also testing their piloting skills.

The rules for creating a doodle were pretty simple: fly to create your artwork in the sky and import the graphic to enter the contest. That was it. They offered no additional help. Already having received a few dozen entries when Flying spoke to Hansen last week, he admitted, "We didn't assume the artistry on the entries would be so intricate." No kidding. A glance at Lightspeed's contest website showed one entry that perfectly outlined a better Diamond DA-40 than what you might find on a Diamond brochure, while another cleverly captured Snoopy perched atop his doghouse. Then there was the howling wolf.

Five minutes of looking at these drawings and I realized the contest would have left me in the dust even if I had entered. How in the world did pilots figure out when to turn where and for how long to create these works of art, I wondered. You can’t exactly choose a Garmin 430 function that draws Snoopy.

Yes, that is Snoopy. CloudAhoy

Brian Danza came to my rescue last week. After a moment on the phone, I realized he'd created the Diamond DA40 entry (above) last month by flying, of all things, a DA40 from his home base at Leesburg Virginia. Danza understands technology too since his day job is running the Daily Caller website.

He detailed the process of creating high art in an airplane to this artistically challenged Flying editor. "I began with a photo of a DA40 and tried to figure out how I'd create a silhouette and decided to use the pen tool in Photoshop to create the shape. Then I took that shape and redrew it over a Google earth map. That gave me all the lat/longs (latitude & longitude coordinates) I'd need to recreate the shape." Made sense once I heard it, but it also became pretty clear I'd never have come up with that plan in a hundred years.

"Once I had all the lat/longs for the flight," he said, "I wrote a script in programming language that created a navigation file I uploaded to the Diamond's G1000 and flew it like a regular instrument flight, except in VFR conditions."

Danza’s only criticism of the flight itself was thinking some of the corners of his Diamond in the sky looked a bit blown out, probably because he tried to squeeze the design into an 80-mile across shape. “I think a 150-mile design would have looked much sharper,” the private and instrument rated pilot said. After hearing how Danza created the process to design the art, I realized why I never entered the contest.

If you haven't yet looked through the entries yet, spend a few minutes and choose your favorite. Hansen says the public will actually choose the winner before voting ends next Monday.

A first, second and third place winner will be announced October 11th. Me, I think I’ll stick with dropping flour bags out the door on a ground target from a hundred feet in the air.

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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