A "cruise missile type of thing" spotted by AA2292

Brian Dunning

New Member
It's appropriate to exclude all discussion of actual missiles, cruise or ballistic. Those are never flown over land.

Classified operational UAS like the RQ-180 that come & go all the time, and would not appear on Flight Aware, only fly at night.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
they have WINGS?!! so basically what he saw looks pretty much like a plane? i'm so confused.
He said "a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing" I think that's pretty vague really, so I'd not read too much into the "cruise missile part".

Planes and cruise missiles both look like "long cylindrical object" when they are too far away to make out details - especially when the lighting is right.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
so I'd not read too much into the "cruise missile part".

yea the missile range said it wasn't a missile.
Article:
Scott Stearns, the chief of public affairs at White Sands Missile Range, said the range was not testing anything on Sunday and also noted the distance between the missile range and northeastern New Mexico, which is about 400 miles.

"We have no idea what it could have been or if anything similar has been sighted in that area before," Stearns said in a statement to Fox News.
 

NoParty

Senior Member.
Missiles have wings, but because those wings are for steering
(whereas a plane's larger wings provide essential lift, over a longer distance)
they are much smaller...often referred to as "fins."
 
Missiles have wings, but because those wings are for steering
(whereas a plane's larger wings provide essential lift, over a longer distance)
they are much smaller...often referred to as "fins."
Generating aerodynamic lift is pretty much the defining feature of cruise missiles, they're "flying bombs".
 

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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The closest they get is about 33,000 feet horizontally, with a 5,000 feet vertical difference. Closer than the Zion misidentification (42,000 feet away, 15,000 feet vertical)
Someone pointed out to me that they actually get closer than 33,000 feet horizontally. Stupid mistake on my part as, as I was just looking at the plane position in Google Earth which only has a resolution of 1 minute, and I just picked the minute where they were closest. They are actually closest about 15 seconds later, when the Lear is due south of AA, but still visible to the pilot on his left side.
2021-02-28_23-30-44.jpg
So around 11,000 feet, or about two miles away.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
A question asked is why wouldn't the pilot see it on TCAS? Well, he would if he looked. But it was 6,000 feet above him, and so there would have been no alert. There was also plenty of traffic around him on the TCAS display (assuming it was set to 2NM radius, like the one below)

Once he saw it at the closest point it would very quickly be behind him, off the TCAS display - which shows only the traffic in front.

Here's what TCAS looks like in an A320
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHXk0KsRHmg
 

MapperGuy

New Member
Let me begin by saying I am neither a pilot or an air traffic controller. I think the reason this story has captured so much attention is the language the pilot used, saying "right over the top of us". To me that sounds like he is reporting a near mid-air collision, and I think a lot of others also believed he was reporting a near disaster. The potential of a mid-air collision between an airliner and unmanned missile catches peoples attention and generates fears. The fact the controller did not instantly ask what the miss-distance was makes me think however that this is just routine pilot speak. These days communications like this are recorded and listened too, a bit more precision in the language used, like how much higher the object was, could have turned this into a non-event. As it was people could read in their worst fears as to what almost happened in the skies that day.
 

Alphadunk

New Member
I think it would be a mistake to infer too much about what the pilot meant without hearing from him/her directly. I would, however, expect quite a bit more chatter on the recordings if anything approaching a mid-air collision had taken place.

Regardless, has anyone heard anything else about this story? It kind of seems like we've gotten about as much as we're going to get and this isn't a case we'll ever be able to definitively solve.
 
I think it would be a mistake to infer too much about what the pilot meant without hearing from him/her directly. I would, however, expect quite a bit more chatter on the recordings if anything approaching a mid-air collision had taken place.

Regardless, has anyone heard anything else about this story? It kind of seems like we've gotten about as much as we're going to get and this isn't a case we'll ever be able to definitively solve.
Tyler Rogoway has lodged FOIA requests with the FAA, which are pending. Doesn't seem like there will be any news in the meantime.
 
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