Move over, Santa, there’s a new holiday hero. It seems a small group of pilots were feeling extra festive today, and tried to spread seasonal cheer to the rest of the world by way of airplane. While completing a flight path over Germany, a Hamburg-based pilot test team decided to get creative: The airplane drew a Christmas tree in the sky during a test flight, and it's an unparalleled display of holiday spirit.
The pilots were flying an Airbus A380 aircraft for Emirates on Dec. 13. The A380 airplane took off from Hamburg, a port city in Northern Germany, and landed back in Hamburg five hours and 22 minutes later, according to Flightradar24. However, instead of taking a typical testing route and flying a bunch of laps, the pilots of Flight AIB232E seemed to be in the Christmas spirit. While cruising at an altitude of over 41,000 feet, news outlets slowly watched the pilots draw a Christmas tree — complete with classic, round Christmas ornaments and a tree-topper that extended all the way to Denmark. They flew as south as Stuttgart, where they drew the trunk. Hamburg is the top point of the tree, but the pilots flew near German towns like Cologne and Brunswick as well. You can view the complete flight path and finished Christmas tree for Airbus A380 on Flightradar24, too.
At the tail end of the test flight, the test team made their way up towards Aalborg, Denmark, before looping back down to Hamburg to land. The tree topper raised comparisons to the Navy pilot who drew a phallic symbol in the sky out of airplane exhaust back in November, over the Okanogan Highlands in Washington State. However, Germany’s Tannenbaum (aka, Christmas tree) traditions include decorating the tree with electric or wax candles, so, given the location of the test flight, it seems more likely that the Christmas tree was decorated German-style with a candle on top. While decorating your Christmas tree with real candles may seem like a risky fire hazard, the 19th century European tradition can still be executed safely.
Emirates’ A380 aircraft is a pretty huge plane, but the pilots didn’t let that keep them from creating flight artwork midair. Airbus A380 is a double-decker plane, and has two different commercial cabins to provide enough room for 1,621 passengers. The plane is actually the biggest jumbo jet in the world, which means flying it is not an easy feat. But even though it may be the largest aircraft you can fly on, Emirates’ website says, “The A380 is one of the quietest large aircraft, and was designed to meet the strictest airport noise requirements.” Moreover, Emirates reports the A380 is overall less detrimental to the environment, and “uses a range of lightweight materials that account for 25 percent of its structure,” and the A380 has a 14 percent better fuel efficiency than the global average reported by The International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2013. Difficulty and size of the aircraft aside, the pilots still managed to make a neatly drawn and decorated Christmas tree after just a few hours of flying — probably better than what Santa and his sleigh could do, no?
Whether you celebrate Christmas, a different holiday, or none at all during the winter, it’s nice to slow down during the season, and appreciate the small acts of kindness and cheerfulness people try to spread. Instead of going about their day-to-day routine, the pilot team went out of their way to bring a little more joy to the world, and that’s what the holiday season should be all about.