For nearly two years, little was reported on the infamous “sky penis” — crudely scrawled across Washington state airspace using exhaust from a naval jet.
Admired by some and declared childish by others, the illustration over the Okanogan Highlands prompted a full investigation into the unit involved. Thanks to the Navy Times, we finally have a direct look into the minds of the artists responsible.
The publication filed a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained an abundance of details regarding the phallic affair, which apparently was spurred by boredom and culminated in regret.
Two junior officers, both of Electronic Attack Squadron 130, reportedly found themselves with time to spare after a training session on Nov. 16, 2017 — and their EA-18G Growler jet was producing particularly strong contrails.
What came next is best explained by the lieutenants themselves; their occasionally not-safe-for-work dialogue was picked up by the cockpit’s video recording system and published by the Navy Times.
“Draw a giant penis; that would be awesome,” the electronic warfare officer sitting in the back seat said to the pilot. “You should totally try to draw a penis.”
“I could definitely draw one; that would be easy,” the pilot responded. “I could basically draw a figure eight and turn around and come back. I’m gonna go down, grab some speed and hopefully get out of the contrail layer so they’re not connected to each other.”
The pilot continued: “Dude, that would be so funny. Airliner’s coming back on their way into Seattle, just this big, [expletive] giant penis. We could almost draw a vein in the middle of it, too.”
They appeared to work out the logistics of their drawing in real time, exhibiting a skillful display of aerial artistry despite acknowledging some of the penis’s features were “going to be a little lopsided.”
When their masterpiece was completed, the lieutenants flew some distance away, laughing to themselves while capturing photos of their work, according to the Navy Times.
“Oh yes, that was [expletive] amazing,” said the pilot. “This is so obvious.”
His cockpit partner agreed, stating, “That’s a [expletive]. . . . Dude, I’m amazed that this stayed.”
But the gleeful lieutenants suddenly realized they had a problem: Their artwork was lingering much longer than anticipated. The pilot would later write about his failed attempt to “scribble it out” with more contrails. The squadron’s executive officer soon learned of the remorseful lieutenants’ endeavor — his disappointment was matched by their commanding officer’s, who was “immediately furious,” the Navy Times reported.
“He asked both [lieutenants] if they had any idea what the ramifications of their actions were going to be,” the executive officer wrote. The squadron quickly issued an alert that reached the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, warning of an aircraft flown in a pattern “that resulted in contrails depicting an obscene symbol when viewed from the ground.”
The alert concluded with a bit of foreshadowing: “Media attention is expected.”
As photos of the penis taken from the ground went viral, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker vowed to look into the matter.
“Naval aviation continually strives to foster an environment of dignity and respect,” Shoemaker wrote in a statement at the time. “Sophomoric and immature antics of a sexual nature have no place in Naval aviation today.”
The lieutenants responsible were not identified in the report, and it was not immediately clear what discipline they faced. A message to the squadron’s public information officer was not returned Tuesday afternoon. An inquiry submitted to the Navy’s public affairs division was also not returned.
An investigator wrote in the report that the lieutenants’ actions, while not in line with their prior behavior, was “crude, immature and unprofessional.” But the investigation determined the incident was isolated and not indicative of larger behavioral problems in the squadron.
The drawing was not the first of its kind. The Washington Post has previously detailed a string of previous sky drawings, including a Royal Air Force jet that appeared to draw a penis over Scotland in 2014. That same year, the Blue Angels — the U.S. Navy’s main flight demonstration squadron — reportedly painted on the roof of a training facility a penis that was so large, it could be viewed via satellite imagery on Google Maps.
But neither incident resonated more with people than the mythical 2017 “sky penis,” whose artists, as one person put it, showed “real attention to detail.”