A Rainbow Aerodynamic Contrail

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
via email from Ron Smith

image.jpg
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Interesting that again this show the difficulty of estimating how far away a contrail is from you. Ron (an experienced pilot and aviation expert) thought it was "about 1 mile south", when it was actually 4.5 miles at the closest point.
 

Efftup

Senior Member.
Yeah, I had a similar situation earlier. I saw a contrail ALMOST overhead (within 10 miles then :D) that just LOOKED Really low. Just something about it made me think it looked no more than 5-10,000ft, despite the fact that I had no other terms of reference.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Clarification: at 30k ft?
Yes, the comment is intended for roughly that altitude. 99% a good ballpark figure given that you can usually quite easily see contrails (and clouds) over 100 miles away. So the area of a 10 mile radius circle (100 square mile) is just 1% the area of a 100 mile radius circle (10,000 square miles).

The actual amount varies with exactly how you measure it. For example, you can actually see around 200 miles if you are looking at things at typical contrail altitude, so you could say that 99.9975% of the sky is over 10 miles away. However it's quite hard to see things over 100 miles. I commonly see planes leaving contrails off the coast of San Francisco, those are about 115 miles away.

Perhaps a better way of putting it would be "Over 99% of contrails that you see are over 10 miles away"
 
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