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Aircraft Type ID By Contrails  
User currently offlineKingGeo3 From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 164 posts, RR: 0
Posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 5296 times:

I have heard that one can ID and aircraft type on the ground by the contrails that an airplane leaves. If this is true, are there any websites or books that could help me do this?

Thanks,

KingGeo3


Nobody respects me . . . :(
29 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineSurfSlade From Guinea, joined Oct 2003, 124 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 5225 times:

You can't. But you can know the number of engine.

User currently offlineFritzi From United Arab Emirates, joined Jun 2001, 2762 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 5196 times:

You can without a doubt identify one aircraft by its contrail: An225 = 6 contrails.

User currently offlineF9Widebody From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 1604 posts, RR: 10
Reply 3, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 5168 times:

I simply use binoculars, and I can get a very good idea of what plane it is. Sometimes, I even stick my camera up to the lense of the binoculars, and I have been somewhat successful at getting contrail shots. I saw what was either an A340 or a 747 flying over my house on what appeared to be a Caribbean - Vancouver/Seattle routing. Still trying to figure out what plane or even airline that was.

Regards,
F9W



YES URLS in signature!!!
User currently offlineTimz From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 6836 posts, RR: 7
Reply 4, posted (10 years 11 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 5118 times:

"on what appeared to be a Caribbean - Vancouver/Seattle routing. Still trying to figure out what plane or even airline that was."

We assume there's no nonstop 4-eng jets scheduled from the Caribbean to SEA/YVR. Where are you?



User currently offlineJhooper From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 6204 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 5034 times:

I saw what looked like doughnuts on a contrail the other day. Isn't that the signature of a scram jet?


Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
User currently offlineEMBQA From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Reply 6, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 4962 times:

YES YOU CAN......... but it takes a keen eye and is getting a little harder with the new aircraft type coming out. In the days before the Airbus 330/340 Boeing 777, if it had just 2 contrails....767..!! if it had 4.......747...!! It got a little harder with the DC-10, L-1011...but with the L-1011 the trails tended to blend into one contrail as the exhaust was mounted much lower then the DC-10 and would mix in with the wings. Tail mounted engines.......?? just 2 trails.......DC-9/MD-80...if it had 3......727...!!


"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
User currently offlineNudelhirsch From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 1438 posts, RR: 19
Reply 7, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 4937 times:

It's possible, but requires practicing...most times You also see a bit of the shape of the bird, and so can tell, seeing 4 contrails, if it's a 340 with the lean wings, or a 747...
Generally You can say quite something when seing shape and wings.
The trijets are not easy...
The real big ones, like C17, C5...You can at least classify by the very fat contrails.
Normally You can also tell, by seeing, if contrails are very narrow or not...
Of course, the contrails vary by the weather...
EMBQA is right - tailmounted engines, like 717 or most times rather the MD80...if it's a very very small bird, it's probably Embraer or a CRJ, if invisible small, it's a Lear...
requires practice. But You find some contrail-shots here on a.net, study these (there is no classification for these, so it's work to find them), but You'll see, what I just meant.



Putana da Seatbeltz!
User currently offlineElectraBob From United States of America, joined exactly 11 years ago today! , 931 posts, RR: 3
Reply 8, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 4912 times:

One thing I notice more and more is the amount of aircraft flying over my location (just north of DTW) that only appear to have 1 contrail. Looking through binoculars I can see that it is a twin engine jet. You know what that means: CRJ, ERJ, FRJ or private jet.


Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.....
User currently offlineF9Widebody From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 1604 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 4882 times:

I am in Denver, CO. The flight was going North-Northwest, and I am pretty sure it was an A340, although I guess it could have been a 747, but I doubt it. My first thought was Air Canada, but I checked their website and they don't have any service that would place it in the area.

Here are some photos I snapped, not very good quality:

http://home.comcast.net/~avsrock90/102803_003.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~avsrock90/102803_004.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~avsrock90/102803_005.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~avsrock90/102803_006.jpg
http://home.comcast.net/~avsrock90/102803_007.jpg

Regards,
F9W



YES URLS in signature!!!
User currently offlineMicstatic From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 780 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 4848 times:

Hard to tell, but I say a 747 of some sort


S340,DH8,AT7,CR2/7,E135/45/170/190,319,320,717,732,733,734,735,737,738,744,752,762,763,764,772,M80,M90
User currently offlineGoboeing From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 2698 posts, RR: 15
Reply 11, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 4830 times:

F9Widebody,

It's a 747. You can tell by the way the contrails bow out before going back in. Plus, the fuselage of the plane is a 747 and not an airbus.

Nick


User currently offlineAnt72LBA From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 414 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 4777 times:

I'm very interested in this as I get to see a lot of high level traffic (east to west), as well as the procession of ERJs and 737s into LBA. I can usually spot the difference between a 747 and A340 with a pair of binoculars but 757s/767s/777s/A330s just look identical from the ground. I'd love to know what these flights are, I'd guess most of them are Central Europe to New York area flights. By the way I live in Leeds, England, and I know there is a designated flight path over here - thanks to a BBC documentary. Had some fantastic sights last week in the setting sun, particularly an A340 "chasing" an 747 in a parallel flight path.

I did id two RAF VC10s by their contrails recently: flying north-south their four contrails were extremely close together and I can think of no other aircraft that would fit this pattern that could have been in the area at the time.


User currently offlineEMBQA From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 9364 posts, RR: 11
Reply 13, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 4762 times:

I agree.......747. Also, if you closely at pic 6 it appears to have a light blue upper fuselage..so my guess KLM or Korean Air. I grew up under the Atlantic jetway in Maine, so everyday at noon till 6pm it was a non stop trail of jets headed down the east coast to EWR/JFK and beyond....then around 6pm they started heading the other way back over the pond....My current wallpaper on my computer is a great shot I got off Airliners.net of the coast of Maine from fl350 that JUST misses my parents house.


"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
User currently offlineSpacepope From Vatican City, joined Dec 1999, 2930 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4725 times:

Definately a 747-400, you cans ee the winglets very well in pics 6 and 7. Can't tell if it is an -F or not. All white body (the light blue color is most likely due to photo quality and atmospheric distortion) and a dark tail. Could be Atlas, or Air Canada, or a paint scheme along those lines.

T.J.



The last of the famous international playboys
User currently offlineBruce From United States of America, joined May 1999, 5057 posts, RR: 15
Reply 15, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4714 times:

I put up a page about contrails on my website. I'm pretty good it seems at figuring them out. But at BNA I did see one that was a small plane and ONE single contrail coming from the middle of the back of it. No engines on the wings and the wings weren't swept-back too much. I cant think of what type of bizjet has one single turbofan engine in the rear?????

F9W, I am most sure yours is a 747. My guess would be Atlas - white fuselage & blue tail is Atlas' color scheme.


bruce



Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
User currently offlineAnt72LBA From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 414 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4699 times:

Quick suggestion: cargo flight if it doesn't fit any known airline/routing?

Heading NW from Denver, would that put it anywhere near Seattle, hence Boeing? Just a suggestion if anyone has any thoughts........


User currently offlineF9Widebody From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 1604 posts, RR: 10
Reply 17, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4672 times:

Wow, thank you all! The flight came over on 10/16 at 2:40 pm Mountain time if that helps. I am going to do some investigating when I get home. Most of the contrails I see over my house are on a regular schedule, from instance, Continental flight 007 from IAH - NRT comes over between 11:38 and 11:50, but I have only seen this flight once, which leads me to think it may not be scheduled. If any of you have suggestions, thanks a lot!

Regards,
F9W



YES URLS in signature!!!
User currently offlineF9Widebody From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 1604 posts, RR: 10
Reply 18, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 4667 times:

I am also thinking it could have been Polar Air Cargo.


View Large View Medium

Photo © Jay Selman



[Nevermind, blue engines  Nuts ]

Regards,
F9W

[Edited 2003-10-29 02:22:20]


YES URLS in signature!!!
User currently offlineAnt72LBA From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 414 posts, RR: 1
Reply 19, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4645 times:

Looks like a good candidate F9Widebody, unless anyone has any other suggestions!

User currently offlineKingGeo3 From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 164 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4632 times:

Wow, a bit bigger response than I figured! Thank you everyone for your input. Bruce, your homepage is great. My first car (and the car on which I learned to drive) was my dad's '82 Citation! What a great car that was, best snow car in the world.  Smile

Sorry, back on topic. A related question, where is a website or other resource that lists flyways (correct term) over certain areas? I live in Pittsburgh and there seems to be quite a bit of high level traffic here. I have always looked up in the sky and wondered "where are they going and where are they coming from?".

Thanks!

KingGeo3



Nobody respects me . . . :(
User currently offlineLaddb From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 220 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4603 times:

Your question has been answered, so I'll just throw in a little story.

I once ID'd a 707 by the contrails one day out in the yard. It was late 90s, so I was surprised any were still flying. I keep a pair of binoculars handy so ran inside and got a good look. It was an AWACS and the dome was turning. Really cool to see.

Was just up in Tennessee last week and I counted over 8 contrails in the sky. At any given moment, there were 3-4 planes visible.



User currently offlineTimz From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 6836 posts, RR: 7
Reply 22, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4583 times:

Japan Air flight 11 is a 747 from MEX to YVR-- but it operates on Tue and Fri, so not on 16 October. I think you're going to have a hard time finding any other 4-eng passenger flights from anywhere SE of Denver to anywhere NW. A freighter from DFW to ANC would be the first guess.

User currently offlinePositive rate From Australia, joined Sep 2001, 2143 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4559 times:

747's are really easy to ID even if they aren't leaving behind any contrails. If the sky is clear blue i can easily make out the 747 shape with the naked eye from 35,000+ feet up. And when a 747 flies over even at that altitude you can hear it. It makes a dull roar like distant thunder which persists for a couple of mins if the area is very quiet(i can even hear it from my bed when a 747 overflies during the night).

User currently offlineTimz From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 6836 posts, RR: 7
Reply 24, posted (10 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4533 times:

May be obvious, but: if you're wondering about the contrails overhead, first thing to do is find someone to loan you a scanner. Sooner or later you can figure out the frequency for high-altitude traffic in your area. If the sky is clear horizon to horizon, so you can see the contrail for a couple hundred miles, you'll likely hear the pilots read back one or two frequency changes, which tend to happen at about the same place. Seems to me when I was in Denver the east to west flights changed to 132.85 (?) about the time they passed me. Now in Oakland the flights from ORD/DEN/EWR/SLC to Hawaii all change to 134.15 a few minutes before they get here. Once you learn the pattern you can identify flights with some confidence.

25 Post contains links and images F9Widebody : Yeah, I know the sound you are referring to Positive Rate, cant really put your finger on it, just a sound that is .... big. I was thinking, could it
26 Bruce : Polar and Atlas are the same company, hence both have identical color schemes. The above photo says Polar on the side but the one at my airport reads
27 J_hallgren : Somewhat related to topic...while driving thru South Carolina (I believe) last fall, on a nice clear cold day, I saw about 10+ criss-crossing contrail
28 F9Widebody : Now that I look at it, I believe the Singapore Cargo flights go between DFW-ANC. I think that is probably the plane I saw. Any of you guys have input?
29 Bruce : Not all Atlas jets have blue that wraps around under. some only have a blue tail. I have seen it here at HSV. bruce
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