Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

King High student has a lofty approach to prom invite

An airplane recently pulled a banner through the skies over Tampa Bay with an unusual message: COME TO PROM WITH ME, KAYLA?

Aerial proposals and love notes aren't unusual.

But for a date to the prom?

Alex Chichkov is 17. He and Kayla Bennett are seniors in the International Baccalaureate program at King High School.

"I wanted to do something big and unique," he said this week.

He timed it just right. The pilot had left Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Thirty minutes later, he sent Alex a text to say the plane was near King High.

There, the young couple were walking at the school's Relay for Life event with more than 600 of their peers, raising money to fight cancer.

At nearly 5 p.m. the plane swooped low above the crowd.

Most of their friends already knew it was coming. Alex feared that one of them would slip and tell Kayla.

But no one did. She was completely surprised.

• • •

While business clients have slowed in recent years, personal ads like Alex's have grown, said Remy Colin, owner of Aerial Messages, which operates nationally and internationally. His clients usually aren't teens, though — Alex was just his second. (About two weeks ago, Colin flew a similar prom invite.)

His planes make five passes, Colin said. The first is the "Wow!" That's where they say, "You're amazing. I can't believe you did this," Colin said.

On the second pass, people on the ground grab cameras, catching a blurry picture by the third trip. The fourth pass photo is the keeper.

By the fifth pass, the people on the ground are doing jumping jacks for the pilot, Colin said.

Pilots typically pull banners for wedding proposals, congratulations and anniversaries — and occasionally offer an apology.

But the "I'm sorry" banners never work, Colin said.

"Those guys, or even girls, have really messed up," he said. "Like cheating. I take their money knowing it's not going to change anything."

But love messages are always a hit.

• • •

Alex works at Pardini USA, a shooting range on Dale Mabry. His dad owns the company and is training Alex to shoot in the 2016 Olympics.

He used his own money to pay for the banner, he said.

How much? Well, he didn't want to say — a true gentleman doesn't reveal the cost of a gift.

But the Times checked on the Aerial Messages website, and let's just say it's a bit costly for a high school student — more than the average prom night limo ride and dinner. He also ponied up for a dozen roses.

He and Kayla, who both live in Temple Terrace, have been a couple for two years. They've also both been admitted to the University of South Florida this fall. They plan to major in premed.

When Kayla, 18, realized what was happening, she said "yes."

Actually, she had assumed they were going together and already bought her dress for the April 21 prom.

They kissed.

Said Alex: "It was well worth it."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

King High student has a lofty approach to prom invite 03/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.