LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A retiring naval officer and commercial flight instructor used a combination of jet fuel and creativity to spread holiday cheer across Florida just in time for Christmas.
Nathan Mitich set out from Lakeland Linder International Airport and flew on a special path. Instead of simply moving from point A to B, he painted a Christmas tree over the Sunshine State. Those following his tail number on FlightAware can see the drawing on its website.
Part of the fun in the Christmas tree design was what the flight path allowed him to do.
“When you’re drawing shapes, you can draw the throttle back,” Mitich said.
He said he got the idea to draw a Christmas tree during a previous flight when he drew a star, and figured it would be perfect at the top of a Christmas tree. Then he got to planning.
Mitich said he used three of four flights to plan the route and practice, then he programmed the locations in his plane and took off.
The flight was just over four hours on Dec. 18 and using his C172, Mitich drew the Christmas tree, some presents, and even a star tree-topper before flying back to LAL.
Mitich currently serves as a Lt. Commander and surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. He said he’s retiring from active service soon, and in the meantime he works as a flight instructor in Lakeland while “building time to go to the airlines.”
Speaking with WFLA.com, he said he wants to become a commercial airline pilot after he retires from the military.
To practice, he’s been flying more, and said he enjoys his time in Florida because he “can fly basically every day.”
Mitich wanted to become a pilot while he was in the military, but failed an eye exam, instead started working on aircraft carriers and with nuclear propulsion. Instead of disqualifying pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration requires them to have their sight corrected.
Mitich told WFLA.com that flying commercially, once he’s certified, would let him “live his childhood dream.”