Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 93: May-Jun 1994

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Just Plane Weird

T. Surendonk has written to New Scientist how he and a friend would stop on Sepulveda Boulevard, at the edge of the Los Angeles airport, to watch the big jets come in directly overhead for a landing.

"While the huge planes were impressive enough, our attention was captured by an event that sometimes occurred between twenty and thirty seconds after a plane had flown over: a thin tube of misty air would zap past us at apparently high speed accompanied by a rather loud flapping sound.

"Sometimes the "mist" would follow a straight path, but often it would follow a really contorted path that made the "mist" look like a snake engaged in a rather violent path -- rather captivating to watch. "We suspected that the effect was some sort of remnant of the vapour trails that sometimes came off the tips of the wings and tried to confirm this by direct observation, but we could never keep track of such a trail for more than 5 seconds. Also, we were never totally convinced that the two effects were correlated. Anyway, wouldn't such a trail dissipate within a few seconds?"

(Surendonk, Timothy; "Just Plane Weird," New Scientist, p. 58, March 5, 1994.)

Comment. If these "mists" are merely trailing vortices, the long time delay between passage of the plane and the tube of mist is puzzling.

From Science Frontiers #93, MAY-JUN 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987