How We All Feel About COVID


Greggor Hines took to the skies last week to express his feelings about the COVID-19 epidemic. Using his father’s Piper Cherokee, the 19-year-old plotted a course westbound from the Harford County Airport (0W3, about 35 miles northeast of Baltimore) used to spell out “F*** COVID 19.” Hines told the Washingtonian that “We’d just got a new compass in the airplane, and I just had to check it out somehow.” He said that while airborne, he noted the flight path on FlightAware and it occurred to him that he could make a statement. 

The high schooler, whose academic year was interrupted by the pandemic, just wanted to “express how I felt.” According to the FlightAware track based on the Cherokee’s ADS-B Out data link, the 194-mile flight took just under two hours at an average of 3,000 feet and 100 knots groundspeed. Kudos to Hines for both his navigation prowess and, ah, “penmanship.” 

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. Inappropriate and utterly juvenile. What ever happened to “discretion”, that admirable quality that was part of our past generations? What is allowing us to drop to lower standards to civic decency every day? Where does the desperate need for attention that kids like this one have come from?

    • Discretion of past generations? Oh my, we are wearing rose colored glasses aren’t we? For any past generation you want to name, we could go back and witness the parents of said generation shaking their heads and making the exact same statement that you just made about “the young whipper snappers” of that time. 🙂

  2. Inappropriate, yes! On the other hand stuff like this happens because it gets attention. You would think the FAA and FlightAware would have thought about things like this happening, and would have taken some effort to screen for this before allowing it to be released to public. After all the FCC would have fined any TV station for broadcasting this. And I can think of a lot more juvenile and destructive trouble a bored teenager could get into. A little surprised that this is even a subject on this web site considering the political connotations involved. Should be an interesting job to moderate this thread.

  3. Perhaps borderline appropriate. Personally, I would have chosen different language, but he’s probably just expressing what many of us are thinking.

  4. The teenager could easily have used an acceptable word for his frustration. Too lazy or illiterate, or doesn’t care. What is clever or impressive about offensive disrespect? Nothing.

  5. Oh my, you commenters sure have tender “ears”. I think most people have heard or seen this word before. The FCC is already a needless nanny for television. It’s just a word folks.

    I compliment the kid on the flying skill that is required to follow a complex flight path with such accuracy.

    • Me, too, David. Looks like a lot of people who hang out here live in glass houses and haven’t heard of the First Amendment ?

    • Agreed. And really, the past generations have done plenty of indiscretions themselves. At least this kid wasn’t doing hard drugs or rioting or draft-dodging. Actually, it shows patience and discipline to fly a precise enough flight path for 2 hours for it to be legible.

  6. Lighten up, Francis! Not like the kid was skywriting it (although he would have done an admirable job it appears…) and I applaud his creativity, flying prowess and patience to carve that out over two hours at a 100 knots!

    And who says today’s youth has no future? Look forward to him doing it in a scramjet over the entire U.S. twenty years from now!

    • I see what you did there…”An Army without leaders is like a foot without a big toe”…you sir, are our new big toe. Now all you need to do lead a bunch of reactionaries who seem to want to liken this event to broadcasting on the public airwaves. Good Luck, you’ll need it😊

  7. FCC rules are a throwback, and so are puritan sensibilities about language. What’s acceptable/not-acceptable is both contextual and ever changing. The FCC sets rules for broadcast content, and guess what? It’s contextual. Some things deemed unacceptable during times when children might be watching suddenly become acceptable at other times. That aside, what this young man did will not be broadcast; the only way you can be offended by it is if you go looking for it. Why would you go looking for things to offend you?

    Just a few decades ago the word “bloody” when used as an adverb in British English was considered incredibly offensive. Nowadays, no one bats an eye. Much the same thing is happening here in America when it comes to the “F” word. I suspect in a few short decades it will be just another adverb, used by schoolchildren everywhere.

    • Let’s see. By your account then every airmen (including women) will have free license to curse during tower and atc radio conversations. Think about what you presume is ok by your loose definitions of using the ‘F’ or “S’words via radio comms, advertising, planned flight recorded on Flightaware. There’s civility in conversations when flying using radio comms and then personal discussions anywhere that isn’t recorded. Your opinions may be uncensored but according to you uncensored radio comms is in the future. Hopefully you’re mistaken as I and I suspect many others in the flying community will not accept profanity during radio communications. Perhaps I’m wrong………

  8. I seem to recall, not too long ago, a lot of commentors saying ‘what’s the big deal?’ about a couple of fighter jocks drawing a big penis in the sky. Just had to look up to see it. It wasn’t hidden behind the practical obscurity of having enough knowledge to bring up FlightAware, know and enter the right N-number, and then pull up the correct flight from the list.

  9. The kid ‘looks’ as if he’s clean cut and half intelligent. Leave him alone!

    Keep giving up your liberties … won’t be long before you don’t have any !!

    I’m old enough to remember a time in the early 60’s when someone came onto Jack Paar’s nightly show (before Johnny Carson) and said the word “toilet paper.” Paar threw him off the show. SO … by that standard, this kid oughta get the “chair.”

  10. Muwahh! Back in muh day, we didn’t have fancy aeroplanes to go lolly gaggin round the sky. Only thing we had was a bedsheet, and we’d jump off the roof of the house. We’d jump off the roof and break our legs and the other kids would stand there and laugh at you while you withered in pain…that’s the way it was and we liked it!

  11. There are two ways to express one’s feelings. Some are appropriate, some are not. Since the “F” word is now part of the mainstream way of communicating just about anything…from feeling exceptionally good to feeling exceptionally bad, and is used pretty often in normal language exchanges describing one’s feelings regarding just about anything in between…as a society we seem to think the “F” word usage is now part of the new normal of expressive language.

    So, WTF, chill, don’t get your “F”ing underwear in a bunch because some “F”ing teen “F” head used common everyday “F”ing language to express his “F”ing outrage for Covid-19 shortening his “F”ing school year. If this comment does not get deleted…does this way of expressing myself seem appropriate? A lot of people do talk this way.

    Was it carefully chosen by the teen pilot because he has such a poor command of the English language? Is this how his parents and grandparents speak, therefore he knows no other way of expressing himself? That’s a distinct possibility. Let’s face it…the “F” word is mainstream expression today. But I don’t believe that’s the case. I think he knew exactly how to get on FB, YouTube, CNN, Fox News, and even Avweb…just like the fighter jocks did the penis skywriting spectacle.

    Today,while deep down inside we know of many things that are inappropriate, we know the inappropriate is the fast track to 15 minutes of viral fame…further immortalized for future reference as a meme for FB that has enormous possibility of being used and re-used over and over in the future. So, like this teenage pilot with obvious, stick and rudder skills, combined with great situational awareness abilities with his demonstrated use of onboard navigation devices, will be immortalized as the FlightAware “F” Covid-19 flyer. Instead of of learning an appropriate way of demonstrating his prowess…he knew that would not get much attention…he went the route of graphic, dumbed down language not to show his piloting skills but to get a massive amount of attention. He succeeded in spades.

    He knows the best way to get noticed is do something that is inappropriate, edgy, but mainstream enough to cause controversy but yet appeal to a large enough audience that will approve of this behavior. This way, he gets noticed, his flight goes viral, he is now famous because he specifically used the “F” word …and he will get a lot of support for his choice of words creating enough debate to keep him out of any sanctions or legal trouble. He knows he can hide behind the freedom of expression right…and go viral another over and over again as we debate that right to express ourselves any way we feel is appropriate.

    Our new normal is use of the “F” word is appropriate enough for online, display because it it edgy enough to be inappropriate in most normal face to face conversations. It demonstrates “keyboard courage” that is seen on so much texting and on-line communications of just about everything. So, inappropriate for face to face communication is the new appropriate for anything outside of that. I find that so inappropriate.

    • Try using profanity during radio comms to tower and ATC. Please get back to us………..

  12. You folks are clutching the wrong strand of pearls.

    In our new Bigger Brother airspace environment, I’m inclined to digitally skywrite “F— FlightAware & FAA” for making every trip, every diversion, and every stop visible to any moron with a modem. It was one thing when you had to have a ‘scope (and supposedly, bigger fish to fry) to monitor my noodling around. Now, any idiot with a cellphone can get my tail number any time I use ATC, and from the helpful FAA website get my name and address, and from FlightAware get a pretty good idea when I’ll be home.

    And you guys are worried about scatology?

  13. Oh, my. I must agonize extensively over this today.
    On second thought, I think I’ll go ahead and mow the lawn.

  14. It’s actually a thing, guys. F#@k Cancer is a movement/organization/Canadian charity that gets a lot of social media play to inform about early detection of cancers. Maybe he was playing off that group, I don’t know.

    I suppose it was more gratifying for him than sewing masks or some other boring thing in reaction to the crisis.

  15. There’s no doubt in my mind that this young man has exceptional flying skills to draw his thoughts in the sky knowing full well Flightaware recorded it. Perhaps he doesn’t know everything by displaying his articulation in skywriting without leaving smoke trails but definitely in recorded radar tracking. Does he have the discipline to refrain from using profanity in the future?

  16. Thinking about it some more, he shoulda written, “F China!”

    Just in the last two days, I’ve had major medical impact because of the virus so … that’d be MY Flight Aware bread crumb trail.

  17. I’ll bet that I can do an age demographics by reading the comments. For many older individuals, that is a very strong, profane word. However, in today’s society, it is practically commonplace, and used by both sexes (often more by the “fairer” sex!) in everyday speech. I worked in the construction industry for years, and if all words that were used were to be catalogued, this one would be in the top three!
    As some have mentioned, he appears to be a pretty clean-cut kid, possesses a reasonable level of both flight and data skills, and isn’t on the front page for drugs, gang crime, etc, so I agree with many – lighten up! And I’m going out a short distance on a limb by saying he is well intelligent enough to know to NOT use it in formal conversation (read:ATC)! Besides, I’m jealous……

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