KingGeo3
Topic Author
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Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Tue Oct 28, 2003 2:17 pm

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
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SurfSlade
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:10 am

You can't. But you can know the number of engine.
 
fritzi
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:27 am

You can without a doubt identify one aircraft by its contrail: An225 = 6 contrails.
 
F9Widebody
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:52 am

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
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timz
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:55 am

"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?

 
jhooper
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 5:16 am

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.
 
EMBQA
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 7:11 am

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"
 
nudelhirsch
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 7:18 am

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.
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electraBob
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 7:32 am

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.....
 
F9Widebody
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 7:58 am

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
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micstatic
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 8:09 am

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
 
goboeing
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 8:19 am

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
 
Ant72LBA
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 9:19 am

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.
 
EMBQA
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 9:29 am

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"
 
Spacepope
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 9:56 am

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.
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Bruce
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:02 am

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
 
Ant72LBA
Posts: 374
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:06 am

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........
 
F9Widebody
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:18 am

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
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F9Widebody
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:21 am

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!!!
 
Ant72LBA
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:36 am

Looks like a good candidate F9Widebody, unless anyone has any other suggestions!
 
KingGeo3
Topic Author
Posts: 162
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:40 am

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
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laddb
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:55 am

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.

 
timz
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RE: 4-eng Over Denver

Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:07 am

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.
 
POSITIVE RATE
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:17 am

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).
 
timz
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:32 am

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.
 
F9Widebody
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:33 pm

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 be a UPS 747 from DFW - ANC? I think that would be a pretty likely candidate. Here are some pictures of 747s I found at DFW that could be candidates.


View Large View Medium

Photo © Jayson Romeo
View Large View Medium

Photo © Joe Statz




View Large View Medium

Photo © Joe Statz
View Large View Medium

Photo © Joe Statz



I also think that I have ruled out Atlas Air, because as is seen below, the blue wraps around to the underside, which is not visible in my photos.


View Large View Medium

Photo © Matt McDowell



And Polar Air Cargo has blue engines, which the plane in my picture does not.

I think the most promising is the Singapore Airlines 744. My first thought was that it was a Lufthansa or Singapore bird, neither of which seemed to make much sense, but now it does. Does anyone know what city Singapore Airlines Cargo serves from DFW, or even what city the stop over is currently in on flights between Singapore and the west coast?

If you look at these pictures, although they are in much better focus, I think they look very similar to the way mine does.


View Large View Medium

Photo © T Silgrim




View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Bernd Karlik - VAP



Regards,
F9W

[Edited 2003-10-29 05:37:29]

[Edited 2003-10-29 05:43:08]

[Edited 2003-10-29 05:45:44]
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User avatar
Bruce
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:44 pm

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 "Atlas".

Speaking of contrails, today I saw an amazing one. The sky was clear over part of it, and I saw this very thick white contrail directly above, and it stretched from horizon to horizon. I could see the plane was a twin, but it was too far away to photograph by the time I saw it. The contrail kept its shape and did not dissipate for 10 minutes or more. northeast to southwest across huntsville. wow. but there were no others...

F9W, since you said it was going northwest I'm almost certain it was to SEA or YVR or going to Asia. Drawing a line across the map (in MS Streets) in that direction and south, it could have been an Atlas flight out of DFW. In fact, there IS an Atlas Flight with a 747-200 headed to DFW from ANC right now, so it could possibly be the return flight of that trip.

bruce
Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
 
j_hallgren
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Wed Oct 29, 2003 4:30 pm

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 contrails and 2-3 planes leaving more...never saw that many in one spot...is there an "intersection" somewheres there that would cause so many?
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F9Widebody
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Thu Oct 30, 2003 1:32 am

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?

Regards,
F9W
YES URLS in signature!!!
 
User avatar
Bruce
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RE: Aircraft Type ID By Contrails

Thu Oct 30, 2003 1:39 am

Not all Atlas jets have blue that wraps around under. some only have a blue tail. I have seen it here at HSV.


bruce
Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens

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