glen hartless toronto

Toronto tattoo artist inks pilot flying nearly 10,000 feet above ground

Getting a tattoo can already be a pretty gnarly experience, but a pilot made it even more extreme recently by enlisting a Toronto artist to give him some ink while 9,500 feet in the air.

Glen Hartless flew up in a Glasair plane just outside Montreal to give a tattoo to a pilot he had already worked on a lot, Jean-Francois Cloutier. The tattoo artist is known for working on celebrities like Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie, and NHL and NBA athletes.

"Everything is wireless now so it's gonna be pretty easy. There's gonna be sufficient lighting up there," Hartless says in the introduction to a video of the experience. "We get above turbulence, then things will be good."

Aside from some elements, the tattooing procedure was pretty much the same as it would have been in the studio from a technical standpoint.

"I met Jean first as a client, I believe we had some previous friends in common," Hartless tells blogTO.

"We came up with this crazy idea kind of on the spot right before a tattoo session. I thought he would reject the idea, but I think he was actually a lot more excited than I was. We had the thing planned and set up within a month."

The two people were seated side-by-side in the tiny plane for the tattoo.

"It was pretty tough tattooing on the plane," says Hartless. "We had to take into consideration health and safety, the environment, and work space. We spent a few hours going over the cockpit with a fine tooth comb and ensuring it was a completely clean and safe space to work." 

A video shows the time-lapse process of Hartless carefully tattooing the pilot, who's nonchalantly flying the plane essentially one-handed the entire time. Who knew you could multitask as a pilot?

"We had to figure out a way to have a work station that was secure enough not to spill if we were to hit some sudden turbulence. I used a baking tray, lined with cellophane," says Hartless. "I then bungeed the tray to my legs, so that I could control and balance the tray mid-flight." 

The end result is a badass black and white tattoo of a skull with horns.

"This tattoo was really fun to do. For the pilot, it wasn't that bad as the spot we chose to tattoo is not really sensitive in terms of pain," Cloutier tells blogTO.

"I first met Glen in 2015. I was looking for someone to tattoo over some scars I had on the right arm. Someone I know that also knows Glen suggested that I go see Glen for that. He is the only one tattooing me since that time."

Though Hartless says he's not sure he's seen anything like this done before (tattoos on planes, maybe, but never tattooing the pilot flying the plane), this is only the beginning.

"We are still ironing out the details. The plane is a high performance stunt plane. We are planning to complete a tattoo in under six minutes while the plane free falls," says Hartless.

"Jean came up with that concept. It sounds terrifying. I'm in."

Lead photo by

Jean-Francois Cloutier

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