Last month, the United States Marine Corps became the latest branch of the United States Armed Forces to make headlines for a pilot drawing what appeared to be a penis in the sky during routine operations. While previous entries into the apparent branch-wide measuring contest were drawn in the skies by Air Force and Navy pilots using the contrails produced by their aircraft, the Marine Corps aviators took a more nuanced approach; drawing a penis over Southern California’s Salton Sea using their flight path, as recorded by third-party trackers.
The unusual flight path of the Marine Corps T-34C single-prop training aircraft was first spotted by Aircraft Spots, a Twitter account devoted to tracking military aircraft, but soon became an internet sensation.
Somebody needs to have a word with the crew of US Navy T-34C 160937 SHUTR91 out of MCAS Miramar 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/WgrgkKzRln
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) October 23, 2018
The Marine Corps, however, wasn’t quite so amused. They promptly announced that an investigation into the incident had been launched and that the branch, as well as the command of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 the flight hailed from, maintain the highest standards of “professionalism, dignity, and respect.” Their response was not unlike previous statements made by sister branches following similar incidents over Washington state and Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. In each of those instances, the pilots were not publicly identified but were ultimately met with administrative slaps on the wrist. The Navy pilot responsible for the penis in the skies over Washington actually went on to become a pilot instructor at his next duty station.
The Marine Corps has also chosen not to identify the pilots involved in this latest incident, but they did notify the public on Tuesday that both aviators involved have been grounded for the time being.
“The T-34C crew that are being investigated for flying a pattern resembling an obscene image are currently not flying pending the results of an ongoing investigation. Although not flying for the time-being, the two Marine Corps aviators are still providing vital squadron ground support functions,” 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing spokesman Maj. Josef Patterson told the media.
It seems unlikely that the Marines involves in this incident will see a more significant punishment than their fellow artists from other branches, but the Marine Corps has opted not to divulge what, if any, potential punishment may be waiting in the wings for the un-named pilots thus far.