The infamous sky penis of November 17, 2017, hovering over the clouds of Washington, was a total mystery.
On that fateful day, the puzzling dong appeared near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, around 30 miles north of Seattle. And although the base accepted full responsibility for the phallic drawing in the sky, the public had no understanding of what had actually happened. How’d that big ol’ boner get up there anyway?
Now, two years later, a military report has shed light on the long-awaited details.
A copy of the military’s sky penis investigation was obtained by Navy Times. On that November day, local news station KREM began reporting on a clearly man-made shape in the sky that resembled a penis and testicles. The formation had upset a local parent and began making the rounds on Twitter. The Navy soon confirmed that one of its pilots had formed the phallus and issued an apology.
“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the base said in a statement at the time.
“Zero training value”? ZERO? Ace dispenses handily with that notion.
A point that should be kept in mind is that someone who is playing while actually doing their job — here, flying, executing what I’m going to guess are somewhat precise turns — is practicing that job at a high level. That is, if you’re doing something that might be unnecessary but is still part of your job and is still training your skill, you are likely learning more in those moments than most moments spent in serious study.
The “gamification” of skill-learning is powerful, I think. People like challenges. Every challenge someone makes up for himself is a little game. He understands the success and failure states. He understands that, even in this play, there is victory and their is defeat.
What I’m saying is that it’s a good thing for people to have fun in doing their jobs. Even if they burn up some extra jet-fuel doing so. A pro golfer isn’t directly helping his golf game when he starts playing around with bouncing the ball up and down from his putter-head like it’s a hacky-sack, but he is learning dexterity and comfort with the putter, stuff about balance and head-attitude he wouldn’t learn from just some more putting practice.
Maybe that won’t be helpful. But maybe it will be. It doesn’t hurt to try something different, seemingly unrelated to the core of the skill, to improve the core of the skill by an alternate angle of attack.
So maybe give these guys a (halfhearted) warning because, whatever, people are scandalized to know that Navy pilots (almost all young men) can be fans of puerile, naughty jokes.
But also bear in mind that one of the highest states of skill-acquisition is having fun with the skill and just showing it off. Doing something that seems to have no practical purpose, if it’s difficult and requires off-the-cuff improvisation and quick learning and adjustment (as the dick-drawing stunt did), does stretch and hone one’s skill.
They did have to plot out a path in three dimensional space and imagine what that path would look like as a two dimensional plane.
That’s not nothing.
The Navy probably handled this innocuous mischief perfectly: PR statements expressing OUTRAGE!, disgust, and contrition, while dealing out a finger wagged in disapprobation and a good talking-to. The officer tasked with the actual the dressing-down problem bit nearly through his lip trying not to bust out in wicked snickering. The transcript of the radio chatter from whence this inspired prank sprang—uhh, sprung?—is hilarious:
In the air that day were two lieutenants, a pilot and an electronics warfare officer, known as an EWO. They were soon edging each other on.
“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.”
“You should totally try to draw a penis,” the EWO advised.
The lieutenants began breaking down the concept of drawing a penis in the sky.
“I could definitely draw one, that would be easy,” the pilot said. “I could basically draw a figure eight and turn around and come back. I’m gonna go down, grab some speed and hopefully get out of the contrail layer so they’re not connected to each other.”
You telling me this WASN’T at least somewhat useful training, a honing of relevant skills? Not even a little bit?
To quote the immortal Sgt Hulka: Aww, lighten up, Francis.
Read the rest for sure, it gets even more hilarious from there. Naturally, the libmedia reportage I’ve seen dangles the inevitable “sexual harrassment” angle, although even they can only manage a half-hearted, flaccid stab at it. Yes, I’m sure some humorless bluenoses both in and out of the Navy were utterly mortified by this Crime Against Humanity. But not me. Far as I’m concerned, this stunt is one of the reasons bold, audacious young men become fighter pilots in the first place. Carry on, fellas, and good on ya.