It was a provocative piece of artwork that could have got the artists in a lot of trouble, but instead led to countless memes and jokes online.
How or why the EA-18G Growler jet crew decorated the clear blue skies of Washington state had, until now, not been publicly known.
The story of how two navy pilots drew a penis in the sky in 2017 has finally come to light thanks to Freedom of Information request obtained by Navy Times.
How and why did it happen?
The people behind the stunt were junior officers with the “Zappers” of Electronic Attack Squadron 130, who reportedly had free sky time.
The pair noticed that the white contrails their jet produced were particularly robust that afternoon, not realising that these would linger long enough in the sky for people on the ground to notice the phallus they drew.
How was it discovered?
The news first broke after KREM2, a local TV station, gained access to photos a woman took of the sky drawings on 16 November, near a training area for the squadron, based in western Washington.
“A mother who lives in Okanogan who took pictures of the drawings reached out to KREM2 to complain about the images, saying she was upset she might have to explain to her young children what the drawings were,” the station reported.
The story of the sky penis got bigger and bigger from then on, with an increasing number of jokes made about it online.
Not everyone found it funny however and a number of commanders filed urgent statements back to leadership in Washington DC, saying that the incident was only going to garner more attention.
Within hours of the sky penis drawing, the squadron sent an alert to seniors in an “official information dispatch” that reached the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
“Aircrew maneuvered an EA-18G aircraft in a pattern that resulted in contrails depicting an obscene symbol when viewed from the ground,” it reportedly warned. “Media attention is expected.”
What about the jet flyers?
According to the investigation, the lieutenants responsible for the drawing – flying as “Zapper 21″ – left from Whidbey with another jet at about noon that day.
The squadron’s commanding officer reportedly praised the pilot, as a shy introvert who was extremely efficient and effective in training.
His cockpit partner on that day, an electronic warfare officer (EWO), was “my best junior officer,” the CO said.
It is still unknown what repercussions the pair received after the incident, although the investigating officer recommended they receive “non-punitive letters of instruction.”
“While the sky writing conducted by (the lieutenants) was crude, immature, and unprofessional, it was not premeditated or planned and not in keeping with their character demonstrated prior to the incident,” the investigator wrote.
“Even so, it has caused the United States Navy severe embarrassment in the public arena and jeopardises the strategic narrative that underpins the justification of the flight hour program.”
Officials declined to provide disciplinary records citing privacy regulations, and Navy Times said that in the reports they obtained all names had been redacted.
Planning the penis
“My initial reaction was ‘no, bad,’” the pilot wrote in a statement after the incident, the report showed. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”
Their plan of attack when drawing the penis was captured on their cockpit video recording system, a transcript of which is included in the investigation.
“Draw a giant penis,” the EWO said. “That would be awesome.”
“What did you do on your flight?” the pilot joked. “Oh, we turned dinosaurs into sky penises.
”After beginning the drawing, the pair begin discussing its shape.
“Balls are going to be a little lopsided,” the pilot advised.
“Balls are complete,” he reported moments later. “I just gotta navigate a little bit over here for the shaft.”
“Which way is the shaft going?” the EWO asked.
“The shaft will go to the left,” the pilot answered.
“It’s gonna be a wide shaft,” the EWO noted.
When the Executive Officer asked the lieutenants if anything unusual had happened during their flight that day, the two immediately confessed and apologised, the report states.