A former RAF pilot has taken to the skies to spread some cheer during lockdown by creating giant smiley faces with his plane.
Rich Goodwin, 59, is used to entertaining crowds at airshows across the country performing stunts in his Union flag-coloured biplane.
But unable to do so during the current pandemic, he thought he would brighten up people’s Bank Holiday Monday with an acrobatic display of his own.
The retired RAF Tornado pilot flew across Gloucestershire and Worcestershire in his Pitts Special S2S using smoke to create the smiley faces across a clear blue sky.
Spectacular video footage shows Rich accurately marking out the uplifting images, which also included a heart, 18,000ft up in the air.
Married dad-of-five Mr Goodwin, of Malvern, Worcs., said: “I did it to cheer people up because we have been stuck inside for a quite a long time.
“It was a Bank Holiday Monday and we should have all been out barbecuing with our friends and I suspect many people were on their own or with their families.
“I’ve had a lot of really nice feedback. I think it put a smile on people’s faces.
“Recreational flying is now allowed on your own or with a member of the same household. I’ve been flying on my own to maintain competency.
“You fly in big circles accurately and it is hard to see through the smoke until you are finished. You are at about 18,000 feet which is one and a half miles high.
“Once you have drawn the big circles you change the radius of your turn and turn the smoke off and on again.
“You draw a smaller half circle for the mouth and lines for the eyes.
“It is hard to work out when you are up there and involves a bit of guesswork – practice makes perfect.
“Ideally you have bright blue skies and still conditions. Monday was quite turbulent but the smoke stayed up long enough for people to see.
“I drew a smile over Malvern, which is where I’m from, and one above Gloucester in support of Fly2Help, which is an aviation charity based there.
“The charity organises Air Smiles Days for young people who have had a bereavement or trouble in the past. They have a day out at an airfield and go up in the planes.
“Unfortunately due to lockdown the Air Smiles Day had to be cancelled because you can’t do them with social distancing.
“So I drew some smiles in the sky instead.”
Tarquin Shaw-Young, 49, head of global casting at Stagecoach talent agency, captured remarkable video of a smiley face appearing in the sky from his back garden.
The dad-of-two, of Malvern, said: “It was very impressive, I must say. There is one video of the heart and one of the smiley face.
“I was really impressed how he did it by painting blind but getting it that precise. It certainly did bring a smile to my face.
“It’s so unusual to hear a plane at the moment, especially of that vintage nature with no air shows going on.
“It was very dramatic to see him doing loop the loop and coming up and out of it in such a clear sky.
“It was fantastic to see it right above us.”
Hundreds of residents also flocked to social media after being delighted with the cheerful images that appeared above their homes.
Bek Mayner wrote on Facebook: “Thank you, you made my parents day, they are in isolation. My father was a pilot and he was so happy to see this today.”
Clare Wood said: “This made me so happy today, myself and my 3 sisters and my mum all saw your pictures from different parts of Malvern and were messaging each other as you flew, sending each other pictures from our houses.
“What a great way to bring us together even though we are apart. Running round the garden to see where you were next was exciting too. Massive thank you.”
Michael Gale wrote: “Loved it you really made Worcester and surrounding areas smile today well done and thank you.”