On Tuesday around 4 PM, a Piper Cherokee took off from Harford County Airport near Churchville, Maryland. Over the next two hours, the pilot flew a complex path that took him as far west as Prettyboy Reservoir and back east as far as Perryville. When viewed end to end, his flight path, about 28 nautical miles end to end and about 191 nautical miles total, delivered a middle finger to the pandemic that continues to ravage the US and disrupt our lives: “FUCK COVID 19,” it read.
The pilot was a 19-year-old Towson University student named Greggor Hines. (The plane belongs to his dad.) Reached by phone, Hines tells Washingtonian he hadn’t planned to execute such a flight when he set out on his first flight in a while. “We’d just got a new compass in the airplane, and I just had to check it out somehow,” he says. While aloft, he realized via the flight-planning app ForeFlight that he could use his outing to “express how I felt.”
So with one eye on the app, Hines carefully spelled out his message as he flew, keeping the letters fairly uniform in size. He’s been flying since he was 9 years old and first soloed when he was 16. He got his private pilot’s license last year and hopes to go into some field that involves flying when he’s out of school. Although he didn’t tell anyone about his eff-you-covid flight, the aviation world caught on quickly–messages like “that’s brilliant, that’s awesome, that’s so funny” arrived after the flight plan became visible, he says.
The pandemic has, of course, disrupted Hines’s academic year, and a friend got the virus. (She survived.) “It is just extremely frustrating,” he says about life right now. He’s exasperated by not being able to do simple things, and also not knowing who might get the virus. Since he got home, he says, he’s been “just studying, trying to find new things, trying to get outside when I can.”
So does that mean future messages in the sky? “Maybe,” he says. “I’ve thought about it. I have to think about something else.”