Glenn Smith - Skywriter, Aerial Advertising, Maitland NSW

Glenn Smith
'Sometimes people have a bit of a brainwave – they have a horse running at Randwick, or a boat in the Sydney to Hobart or have fallen in love – and they go all out and get a skywriter for the occasion.'

Glenn, now 61, has long been passionate about flying and aerial advertising, and he owns one of only four skywriting businesses in Australia. About 25 per cent of skywriting requests are romantically inclined and, not surprisingly, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest events on the skywriting calendar.

His passion for skywriting is supplemented by his ‘day job’ as owner of an engineering company.


How did you get involved in skywriting?

I have been in skywriting for about 15 years, but long before that I had
an enthusiastic interest in general aerial advertising, such as banners, towing, skydiving and airshow displays. I’m a mad pilot and I liked the technicalities of skywriting, so it was a natural progression.

What flying skills do you need to become a skywriter?

The number one consideration is to be a proficient pilot who can fly with other aeroplanes and manoeuvre an aeroplane around. In terms of the actual skywriting, you need to be able to orientate the plane from the first piece of smoke put in the sky. If you were to draw a line, it would be like drawing a telegraph pole in the sky and from there you have to orientate yourself left and right, high and low and at right angles to that. It’s all about orientating and manoeuvring yourself around something that is sitting still in the sky.

How many skywriters are there in Australia?

There is a chap in Brisbane who does it, a chap in Melbourne, a chap in Perth and we are in Newcastle, which covers all of Sydney. We share the work around a bit but once you start getting a bit far from home the risks and costs become fairly great.

Is it a full-time job?

No, you would never make a living out of it. It’s very weather dependent for starters – it relies completely on having the best part of a blue sky. There are a lot of miles between jobs and enquiries, and varying costs depending on where you have to travel to in order to do a job. My primary income is from my engineering business – you wouldn’t be able to run an aeroplane, run a family and pay a mortgage out of skywriting. You do it because you have a passion for it.

What sort of jobs do you usually get?

You name it. Company releases, movie premieres and other advertising. It is the big events of the year that guarantee the work – the Melbourne Cup, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and Valentine’s Day. Sometimes people have a bit of a brainwave – they have a horse running at Randwick, or a boat in the Sydney to Hobart or have fallen in love – and they go all out and get a skywriter for the occasion.

What sort of requests do you get on Valentine’s Day?

Anything, anything at all! It does get interesting and we have a lot of enquiries – probably 25 per cent of requests year round are marriage proposals or ‘I love yous’. My advice to couples in love is to not get too carried away and try to write something like ‘I love you Betty Lou,’ but rather just put a big love heart in the sky – it looks absolutely magnificent.




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