Tartus, SYRIA – The U.S. Air Force has denied that the penis-shaped flight path flown by an American pilot near a Russian airbase in Syria last week was not intentional.
The incident occurred on Nov. 2 when a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker was flying between Cyprus and the coastal city of Tartus in Syria, Military.com reported.
Twitter accounts that follow Flightradar24, a website that monitors air traffic, quickly noticed that the flight path’s unusual shape, consisting of two circles and one oval.
The Italian Newspaper La Republica reported that “the shape in fact is unequivocally that of a penis.”
“We’re aware of the incident and are talking with the KC-135 crew to determine the details,” a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force told Military.com in an email.
“At this time, we do not believe the crew acted inappropriately, flying a refueling orbit consistent with requirements that met the needs of receiver aircraft,” the spokesman added.
The Air Force also pointed out that the refueling aircraft remained in eastern Mediterranean and never crossed into Syrian airspace, Military.com reported.
A US military plane "painted a penis" in the sky near a Russian airbase, La Repubblica.
A KC-135 Stratotanker refueling plane remained for almost two hours east of Cyprus on Tuesday, in front of the Syrian base of Tartus, a stronghold of Moscow.
— MAKS 22🇺🇦 (@Maks_NAFO_FELLA) November 2, 2022
The military said the pilots acted appropriately and claimed the path was consistent with a path the giant tanker would take during regular refueling operations, Military.com reported.
The apparently accidental slight to Russia comes at a time when tensions are high due to its invasion of Ukraine.
If it was intentional, it wouldn’t be the first time that military pilots have gotten creative in the same manner.
In November of 2017, U.S. Navy officials took responsibility for obscene drawings in the sky that appeared over Okanogan County, Washington.
Officials at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island confirmed that one of their jets was involved in skywriting that some residents on the ground say resembled a penis, the Independent reported.
“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the Navy said in a statement from the naval station provided to local media.
Television stations and newspapers in the military base’s region began receiving phone calls and messages after the skywriting appeared, and reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Navy, WTSP said.
Citizens complained about the “obscene” skywriting and said they were concerned they’d have to explain it to their children.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that there’s not much it can do about any would-be skywriters with similar ideas in their heads, according to the Independent.
Unless the act poses a safety risk, there’s nothing they can do, the FAA said.
And obscene sky graffiti isn’t only a problem for the Air Force.
In July of 2018, three New York Police Department (NYPD) pilots were disciplined, and two more were kicked out of the department’s elite Aviation Unit, after they were busted for flying a spy plane in a penis pattern to make a point about their boss.
NYPD Inspector James Coan, the head of the Aviation Unit, found out about the pilots’ sky artwork when somebody showed him the penis drawing on the department’s flight-tracking software, police sources told the New York Post.
Then Insp. Coan showed the creative flight pattern to his superiors, and they were not amused by the pilots using a $4 million spy plane.
The problems began in July of 2017 when NYPD pilots were told to fly the department’s new high-tech, single-engine plane at low altitudes, 25 miles offshore, to scan for radiological weapons aboard ships, the New York Post reported.
Pilots objected to flying the single-engine Cessna aircraft so low over water, where they wouldn’t have enough altitude to save themselves should the plane’s only engine fail.
“If that prop [propeller plane] goes, it’s over. You’re going to crash into the ocean,” the pilots warned Insp. Coan, according to the New York Post’s source. “They wouldn’t have enough glide time to get back to land at that altitude. It was like a suicide mission.”
Flying so low over the water also put the planes out of radar and radio range, creating an even more dangerous situation.
The pilots complained again when Insp. Coan ordered them to make the low-altitude runs more often, a source told the New York Post.
Sources told the New York Post that a dozen of the 15 pilots qualified to fly the spy plane openly questioned how safe it was to fly a single-engine plane so far out over open water.
Eight of the 12 pilots who complained were stripped of their flight gear, including the five who were involved in the penis sky art incident.
Instead of flying the NYPD’s high-tech bird, the pilots were ordered to wash Insp. Coan’s department vehicle and clean the airplane hangars, the New York Post reported.
So, when they got back up in the air again, the NYPD pilots did the creative writing in the sky to make their point and the message was clearly delivered.