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Boeing 787-8 Draws an America-Sized Self-Portrait In Test Flight

Every day, about 100,000 airplanes take off into the wide blue expanse. Most make smooth, curvilinear lines from origin to destination, the kind of boring, rational paths designed to go from A to B as quickly and safely as possible. But every so often, a pilot decides to go off the beaten contrail and have some fun.

Thursday morning, a new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner put on a particularly impressive show. The crew, embarking on an 18-hour, government-mandated endurance test flight, didn’t feel like flying in circles. Instead they had the plane carve out a self-portrait spanning 22 states, with its nose pointed at Washington state’s Puget Sound (home to Boeing), its wings spanning from Michigan to southern Texas, and its tail in Huntsville, Alabama.

Except for the rare person who spotted the jet making unusually tight turns at cruising altitude, this performance was invisible to all but the aviation geeks who spend their downtime ogling air traffic through online tracking services—and it was meant mostly for them. And then, the folks monitoring FlightAware, FlightRadar24, and other sites took the gigantic, countrywide plane drawing to the masses.

Boeing may have perfected this art form, but it’s not the only artist in the skies. Private flyers have swooped out images rude and sweet. A Gulfstream V spelled out—ya guessed it—GV.

Some more sky paintings, for all the #AvGeeks out there:

Another self-portrait, this one courtesy of a private German flyer.

An earlier Boeing masterpiece, a test flight that wrote out “787” plus an old-timey company logo.

Another German pilot shares the love.

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