Pilot leaves messages in the skies
High above New Orleans, a small plane rolled in tight barrels. Behind it trailed smoke. The aircraft was creating inspirational messages in the sky. They included smiley faces, peace signs and hearts. There were also words like "jazz" and "amen."
Then, in a true testament of flying ability, the airplane even spelled out "transform."
Over seven days of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the skywriter inscribed the smoky messages. They captivated the hundreds of thousands gathered below. All before the smoke gradually faded away.
New Orleans entrepreneur Frank Scurlock conceived the idea. He hired skywriter Nathan Hammond. It was Hammond's job to pen the fanciful, fleeting art.
Scurlock's family runs a bounce castle manufacturing and rental company. He said the messages were simply his way of reminding people that goodness can still flourish in the world. Too often, he believes, the world is increasingly marred by violence.
"This is just a simple way for people to just look up in the sky and say 'Wow, what a great world that we live in,'" he said. "And a chance to believe. And have faith in not only today but in the future."
Hammond flew his plane down from Kentucky for Jazz Fest. The event ran for seven days. It was over the course of two weekends.
"We're out here just kind of spreading the love, over the top of New Orleans," Hammond said. He said he generally does commercial work for a company or an event. Occasionally, he receives a request to write a marriage proposal in the sky. But Scurlock's request was different. The entrepreneur hired him for 10 days. Hammond made three flights a day.
Hammond has to keep his wits about him when he's flying. That's because his plane is traveling in tight loops or barrels. He estimates the letters to be about a mile tall. Some can stretch up to 10 miles. It all depends on the message. And he has to be able to spell correctly, of course.
On the ground, festival-goers were transfixed.
"I've seen him all week. I've taken pictures of him every single day and enjoyed him and wondered who did it. Every time they would start a word, we'd try to figure it out before they finished what it is," Mary Mouton of New Orleans said.
Critical thinking challenge: Why is Nathan Hammonds work referred to as fleeting art?