When it comes to wedding proposals, the GEICO Skytypers have some words of advice to would-be grooms: go big or go home. And they should know. They’ve been popping the question on behalf of men for 35 years.
The team’s owner and lead pilot, Larry Arken, says Saint Valentine himself couldn’t dream up a more romantic way to propose to a woman than to type a giant message in the sky.
“It’s really magical,” says the team’s owner and lead pilot Larry Arken. “The woman looks up and the most romantic message in the world literally fills the sky as far as the eye can see.”
Each year the vintage WWII planes retrofitted with skytyping computers conduct three or four wedding proposal missions and Arken says they’ve never had a woman reject a skytyped will-you-marry-me. “We have a 100% yes rate, even for men who call us up on the spur of the moment.”
If anything, skytyping can be a little too successful. Veteran Skytyper pilot Jim Record remembers one proposal he flew with the team at a beach airshow two years ago. “It had all the best intentions, a guy with an ordinary name like John asking a woman named Mary to marry him. But it turns out more than two hundred thousand people were watching the airshow. That’s a lot of Johns and Marys. We found out later that five out of six Marys that day were pretty disappointed.”
To make sure the intended woman isn’t disappointed takes precision planning. The client has to locate a viewing spot for the planes to fly past at 10,000 feet in the sky and then coordinate the timing through a relay station on the ground or by texting messages directly to the lead pilot on the skytyping mission.
What makes skytyping even more popular than skywriting for wedding proposals is the size of the letters and how long the message stays in the sky. Because a squadron of five planes creates the message, each letter is typed in less than six seconds and is taller than the Empire State Building. And depending on wind conditions, it can be seen for 15 miles in every direction and hangs in the sky for as long as 15 minutes. Plenty of time for a bride to say yes and the groom to pop open a bottle of champagne.
“The last thing you’d want is wispy skywriting from a single plane flying in loops and the woman not quite sure if it’s her name in the question,” Arken says.
It turns out skytyping proposals are a very traditional tradition. Arken says he’s never been hired by a woman proposing to a man, or by any same sex couples. “You never know what 2015 will bring,” he says. “We’re the cupids of the sky.”
If Skytyped proposals are any indication, New York men get the prize for being the most romantic. “We’ve skytyped more wedding proposals over Central Park than any other location,” Arken says.
The most romantic message yet? Both Arken and Record say it’s a tough call but hard to beat the groom last year who took his beloved to the top of the Empire State Building and held her hand as the GEICO Skytypers flew by in close formation and filled the sky with the words: Will you be mine?