Coronavirus: Pilot creates ‘hearts in the sky’ NHS lockdown tribute
An aerobatics pilot hopes his “hearts in the sky” inspire children to develop a love for aviation at a time when the industry is suffering.
Mark Jefferies, 61, whose family runs Little Gransden airfield in Cambridgeshire, regularly creates vapour trail images.
He has also drawn “smiley faces” in the sky to mark the NHS Clap for Carers – and the knighthood of Capt Tom Moore.
“If it sparks an interest in flying, I’ve done my job,” he said.
Mr Jefferies said aviation was “in his blood” as his family had run the airfield since the 1920s. The former air cadet gained his pilot’s licence at the age of 21.
Until lockdown, his team had taken part in airshows across the world.
He admitted he hadn’t planned to write Capt Tom’s name until the last minute.
“He did an astounding job and I popped up to do a smiley face for him,” he said.
“But it held so well that I decided to add a capital T, but I should’ve gone to the other side and added an M – I kicked myself when I got home.”
Mr Jefferies draws the images at an altitude of two miles (three km) using “two gallons of cosmetic baby oil” to create vapour trails from his Extra 330SC light aircraft.
Each heart can be a kilometre (3,300ft) wide and must be “above the inversion layer” of the atmosphere, where the air is still.
Lockdown restrictions have been eased to allow light aircraft to return to the skies.
Mr Jefferies said Covid-19 had caused a “hugely damaging cascade effect” through the aviation industry.
“An aircraft taking off is only the pinnacle – from cleaners to security, air traffic control, fuel suppliers – every aspect you can think of has diminished,” he said.
“We need to be back in the air.”