By ALEC SMART
A skywriter who wrote a message of support for Donald Trump over the skies of central Sydney, a week after president-elect Joe Biden was declared the victor in the US election, has been widely mocked across social media.
The message, ‘Trump 2020’, sprayed from a small plane above Sydney Harbour around midday yesterday (Sunday, 15 November), was visible from Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and as far south as Bundeena, as well as the Inner West.
The angle of writing favoured those in the north, so that viewers in central and southern Sydney saw it upside-down.
Among the responses on social media were mobile phone photos of the aerial writing with digitally-altered letters; variants included ‘Trump 2020 – Loser’ and ‘Trumpwit’.
Others posed below with arms extended ‘flipping the bird’ – an obscene gesture showing the back of a hand with only the middle finger extended.
The letters in skywriting are formed by high-viscosity oil injected into an exhaust manifold that heats it up and expels it as a vapor, which appears as a dense white smoke. The words formed are most visible against a blue sky background.
Although it takes adroit aeronautical manoeuvring and up to several minutes to spell the individual letters, the end result seldom lasts beyond 20 minutes, depending on cross winds
The skywritten message coincided with a ‘Million MAGA March’, in the US capital Washington DC, by several thousand Trump supporters who paraded near the White House and marched to the Supreme Court.
The rally, also attended by scores of Proud Boys neo-fascist street fighters, was addressed and led by newly-elected Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for her devout support of the debunked Q-Anon conspiracy and espousing of racist views.
The protestors reiterated Donald Trump’s insistence that the 3 November national election was ‘rigged’ in favour of the winning Democrat Party. However, election observers and a broad coalition of US Govt officials have asserted Joe Biden won fairly by a final tally of 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232.
Right wing flying
It’s not the first time US political messages have been projected over Sydney’s streets by a skywriter – and it’s believed this latest example was undertaken by the firm behind the last few controversial messages: Skywriting Australia, run by the politically conservative Rob Vance (reputedly part of the far-right Australian Christian Lobby).
Skywriting Australia has a reputation for spraying messages endorsing conservative campaigns.
According to their website, Skywriting Australia is a “family based business commenced in the 1980s by Rob & Liz Vance. Rob who started flying in 1966 was always interested in Aerial Advertising and Sky-writing in particular”.
“Skywriting Australia caters for mainly business advertising, however we also are available for private messages and have sky-written many marrage [sic] proposals, also sky-written for birthdays, funerals, and weddings etc.”
As to whom paid for the Trump 2020 message over Sydney, speculation points to the anonymous group that financed the letters ‘T R U M P’ above the city on 21 January 2017, marking Donald Trump’s inauguration as USA President.
From 12.30pm, pilot Rob Vance marked out the new President’s name twice with his Cessna plane, 4.5km high, although the 500 metres long lettering lasted less than 15 minutes before prevailing winds carried them away.
Insisting that his clients wished to remain anonymous, apparently because they ‘feared a backlash’, Vance told The Sydney Morning Herald, “they were Trump supporters, I can tell you that,” adding that those who commissioned the stunt paid $3,990.
It’s probably not a coincidence that the latest Trump 2020 message over Sydney was sprayed on the third anniversary of the announcement of the results of Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.
On 15 November 2017, the Quality and Integrity Report on the outcome of the national vote, undertaken between September and November 2017, was released to the public.
Statistics revealed the results of the plebiscite returned a 61.6 per cent ‘Yes’ vote in favour of marriage equality, 38.4 per cent against, from a tally of 12,727,920 votes.
Prior to the outcome, Skywriting Australia had sprayed a message over central Sydney on 17 September 2017 that said ‘Vote NO’.
The stunt was organised through a GoFundMe page linked to Kat Klayton, a Canberra woman who at the time ran the Facebook page Safe Schools, Australian Law and Our Kids.
In response to the Vote No message, Sydney actor Joshua Anderson launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay the skywriter to scrawl ‘VOTE YAAASS’ above Sydney. On 20 September, the campaign reached its goal and approached Vance to undertake the mission.
However, Anderson revealed, “The company we were in contact with were open to the idea, but told us the pilot refused and ‘wouldn’t do it for 50 grand’ – let alone $4,200,” the approximate cost of the operation.
On 20 Aug 2019, when NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a decision to delay until September a vote in parliament on a bill that would decriminalise abortion, a large ‘choose life’ sign was written in the sky over Sydney (although it was written as Life #Choose). Below, a large crowd of pro-choice protesters demonstrated outside the NSW Parliament on Macquarie Street.
Like the US elections and the marriage equality plebiscite, the result of the NSW abortion rights’ vote also went against the conservatives, suggesting Bob Vance and Skywriting Australia consistently back the wrong horses.
On 26 Sept 2019, the NSW Decriminalise Abortion Bill passed 59 to 31 (with 19 Liberal MPs voting against it). NSW was the last state in Australia to enact legislation to decriminalise abortion.
Rob Vance and Skywriting Australia were contacted for this article.