Colored lights from airplane flight deck

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
There's a problem with the cockpit lights idea. The autofocus is hunting for best focus and the lights go in and out of focus. However the distant aircraft lights and the "reflections" go in and out of best focus at the same time. Indicating that they are both in best focus at infinity... meaning the "reflections" are distant objects.

I have a different idea. The airplane which goes past in the video frame is passing below the airliner and the other lights are ground lights. The airliner is at 39,000 feet. How the hell high is a plane flying over it?

I suggest that it is the AA737 as noted in post 29: https://www.metabunk.org/threads/colored-lights-from-airplane-flight-deck.12231/#post-264406

How?

There's an adjustable sun visor in front of the pilot. Not opaque. Like mirrored sunglasses. A two way mirror.

Screenshot.
Reflection.png


360 degree YT video. Pan to the left to see the pilot.

Source: https://youtu.be/HEEIzZ7UjRg?t=183


What we see in the sun visor in this YT video is a reflection of the ground as seen through the side window to the left of pilot. The airplane in this video is flying low, so the ground "goes by" quickly. The reflection of the ground at 39,000 feet would "go by" slowly. Parallax effect.

What I suggest is that the UFO videographer was pointing his "new iphone 13 pro max" at the sun visor without knowing it and recording things below his plane out of his side window.

This would solve the focus problem and also solve the puzzling "isolated cockpit lights" problem. The lights pop up mysteriously because they are specular reflections in a two way mirror. The reflections in a two way mirror can be tricky. A slight change in the angle of incidence can change a two way mirror into a window or back into a mirror... if you see what I mean. A common example is reflections on water. The surface of water can act as a mirror at one angle and be see-through at a slightly different angle.

I anticipate some objections about the passing plane as a reflection. Wouldn't the "mirror image" of the plane below the airliner have the red wing light (left wing) on the "wrong side"? No. Get a hand mirror and do some experimenting.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
Stabilized version (starting 3 second in)

What I suggest is that the big lights are are store lights on the side of a county road, and the smaller sparkly white lights are car headlights, They sparkle because they are moving under roadside trees.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
There's a problem with the cockpit lights idea. The autofocus is hunting for best focus and the lights go in and out of focus. However the distant aircraft lights and the "reflections" go in and out of best focus at the same time. Indicating that they are both in best focus at infinity... meaning the "reflections" are distant objects.
Interesting, although I'm not entirely convinced by the focus argument. I have an iPhone 13 Pro, and at 3x optical zoom it can defocus on lights that are just 20 inches away, like these.


If the lights are a few feet away, then it's quite likely that both the lights and the distant plane will both be in focus, and then both defocus the same.
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
There's a problem with the cockpit lights idea. The autofocus is hunting for best focus and the lights go in and out of focus. However the distant aircraft lights and the "reflections" go in and out of best focus at the same time. Indicating that they are both in best focus at infinity... meaning the "reflections" are distant objects.
If the lights are a few feet away, then it's quite likely that both the lights and the distant plane will both be in focus, and then both defocus the same.
So for us dummies:
At points in the video the camera clearly tries to focus on the windshield (or sun visor) and then beyond, back and forth. Something anyone trying to film through a window would experience.

Mr. Wolf's argument is that, as shown in the screen grabs below (airliner circled) , the airliner is about as fuzzy as the up close "reflections" of the cockpit lights indicating an uncommonly large depth of field in a low light situation. Thus, all the lights are on the same plane and close to the camera.

Mick says it the depth of field doesn't matter all that much. We're dealing with lights that can go out of focus and in focus from a short distance.

What would have been nice, is if when the lights go way out of focus, as in third screen grab below, the airliner was still in the shot, to see how it would have looked.





1642558927538.png

1642559120242.png
1642559971926.png
 

johne1618

Active Member
Animated Gif from 3.5s to 6s at normal speed

ezgif.com-gif-maker.gif

The smaller white lights to the left of the three colored lights flicker in and out. I don’t think any instrument lights would behave like that unless they were defective.
 
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jarlrmai

Senior Member
Interesting, although I'm not entirely convinced by the focus argument. I have an iPhone 13 Pro, and at 3x optical zoom it can defocus on lights that are just 20 inches away, like these.


If the lights are a few feet away, then it's quite likely that both the lights and the distant plane will both be in focus, and then both defocus the same.
It's worth pointing out that to a camera/eye a reflection is as far away (focal distance) as the double the distance from the object to the reflective surface this is why in smaller opticians rooms the eye chart is on a wall behind the patient and the patient looks at mirror which reflects the eye chart this effectively double the distance from which the letters are being read. Because in a 3 meter room the distance is now 6 meters which is the required distance for eye chart tests.
 

johne1618

Active Member
flights.jpg

TS290 Montreal (YUL) to New Orleans (MSY)

Airbus A321 34,000 ft (Flight crew in original post said they were in an A320 at 39,000 ft)

LearJet 60 40,000 ft

TS290 landed at MSY at 02:39 UTC on Jan 3, 2022
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
The cockpit is definitely that of an Airbus though. Boeing's look quite different.
You have misunderstood. The distant plane is the 737. In this proposed scenario, the 737 is really below the Airbus, even though it looks as if were above.

Important to remember that I'm only speculating, not offering this as the solution.

Another speculative solution is that the UFO lights are the result of a reflection of a reflection. I'll explain later.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
there's something that seems to cover the window, like they were filming from quite far back
2022-01-17_07-51-45.jpg
Could this be the sun visor?
The camera operator could be the "3rd occupant" or "4th occupant".

SmartSelect_20220120-003802_Samsung Notes.jpg
This seems like a correlation...

1642515981884.png
These panels are radio managemeng and audio control.
I also notice a very small reflection of them on the side of the thrust lever housing that migjt be mote prominent from another angle?
SmartSelect_20220120-004155_Samsung Notes.jpgSmartSelect_20220120-004544_Samsung Notes.jpgSmartSelect_20220120-004602_Samsung Notes.jpg
Diagram source: https://www.smartcockpit.com/docs/A320_Flight_Deck_and_Systems_Briefing_For_Pilots.pdf
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Seems unlikely those would be the only lights showing. They don't seem that different to the lights around them. The color match is great though. Or course the other light might be obscured by a clipboards or manual, or somesuch.
If it's a sun visor reflection, the visor has an edge.
The smaller white lights to the left of the three colored lights flicker in and out. I don’t think any instrument lights would behave like that unless they were defective.
If they're on the edge of a vibrating visor, that could cause flickering.
I don't know whether the radio/audio panels have flickering lights on an Airbus, but it doesn't feel far-fetched to think they might.
I have a different idea. The airplane which goes past in the video frame is passing below the airliner and the other lights are ground lights. The airliner is at 39,000 feet. How the hell high is a plane flying over it?
Pilots should be acutely aware of the altitude of an oncoming plane, and it'd be indicated on the TCAS display.
Business jets can go quite high, e.g.
LearJet 60 40,000 ft
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
Thanks Mendel, I totally missed that as I was concentrating on the video after that.
The camera operator could be the "3rd occupant" or "4th occupant".
That would make some sense. Mick suspected that the person filming was further back. I have an old high school friend that works for an airline and has told me about riding in the jump seat of the cockpit multiple times, and he's not a piolet. So if it was maybe a non-piolet type on a ride along, filming and posting this wouldn't necessarily be a bad career move if someone like flarkey managed to track down the exact flight this was taken on.

I know I'm speculating a bit, but is it considered "non-professional" to be fooling around with your phone while at work flying an airliner? I don't know. And there is the problem of a piolet seeing a UAP pass between his plane and another plane and just reporting it to MUFON, but if it's someone in the jump seat...
i dont trust modern cameras at all. what's the deal with this guy... is he a ghost pilot?
We're going to get this one pretty soon: "Ghost of WW2 Veteran Piolets Jet to Safety " Actually, this would have been a good photo for the ghost on the football field thread.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
know I'm speculating a bit, but is it considered "non-professional" to be fooling around with your phone while at work flying an airliner? I don't know.
The FAA prescribes a "sterile cockpit" (no non-essential activities) during "all ground operations involving taxi, takeoff and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet, except cruise flight". Beyond that, it depends on airline policy. If you're not attending to your duties, you might be out of a job, like the two pilots of Northwest Airlines Flight 188, who overshot their destination by more than 100 miles because they were on their laptops "going over schedules".
I would expect there'd be no problem with most airlines with someone not piloting the aircraft using their phone in the cockpit during a non-sterile phase of the flight.
 

johne1618

Active Member
They do:


i think this also rules out @Z.W. Wolf 's "both below" idea because the "ground lights" don't get obscured.
Also if the airplane was below and overtaking the Airbus, apart from traveling unfeasibly fast, it would have a green right-hand wingtip light instead of the red one just visible in the video.
 
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Easy Muffin

Senior Member
Unless I'm misunderstanding another thing I really don't see how this could have been filmed from further back or how the sun visor would play a role in it. The only thing that makes sense to me here is the first officer filming from his seat and following this relatively simple path:

path.jpg

Most of the video is filmed with the arm (the right one possibly) stretched out over the glareshield held upwards to film the crossing plane and near the end the phone is moved along the red line to a point below the glareshield so as to get the displays in view - imagine the person in this image leisurely checking his messages, that kind of position. Note how in the above picture the primary flight display illuminates the underside of the glareshield just like in the video, that alone would rule out any other filming angle to me.

In the video you can also see how the primary flight display's speed tape and attitude indicator reflect in the tray light fixture. Again I don't know how this could have happened from any other spot.

vlcsnap.jpg

I think that flarkey's suggestion is the most likely so far, maybe the missing lights could be explained by the F/O's body blocking out some of the other lights on his side of the centre pedestal, be that involuntary or on purpose.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
This is a still photo. It's an interactive photo with a full spherical view of the cockpit.

Things to notice.
-The co-pilot's seat also has a mirrored sun shade, which at this moment is adjusted away from the windscreen and up to the ceiling.
- The camera seems to be behind and in-between the pilot and co-pilot seats.
- The reflection in the pilot's sun shade is of the air vents on the "dashboard" under the pilot-side windscreen and of the pilot's left hand.
-The woman in the back seat has a phone.

https://www.360cities.net/image/airbus-a320-cockpit-la-palma-canary-islands-spain

The refection in the pilot's sunshade is confused. First, there's a double image of his hand in two different positions. This is an artifact. I don't know enough about how this view is stitched together to speak confidently about how this happened, but I suspect that this is a form of double exposure. The pilot moved his hand between two different "exposures" and these were stitched together by the software.

Second, there is also a double image below. Again of the pilot's left hand - another image of the double exposure of the pilot's left hand. Puzzling. Is this a "natural artifact" - something you'd see with your own eyes - or another camera/software artifact?

This is not the co-pilot's outstretched left hand. Look carefully and you can see the left armrest near the pilot's control stick.
 
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johne1618

Active Member
TS290 Montreal (YUL) to New Orleans (MSY)

Airbus A321 34,000 ft (Flight crew in original post said they were in an A320 at 39,000 ft)

LearJet 60 40,000 ft

TS290 landed at MSY at 02:39 UTC on Jan 3, 2022

Assume that the artificial horizon display at the end of the video is 10 cm wide and that the camera is held 100 cm away from it. So the angle subtended at the camera is 10/100 = 0.1 radians.

At the end of the video in zoom mode, on my screen, I measure the horizon display to be 143 mm wide and the distance between the first and third colored lights is 40 mm.

At the start of the video, on my screen, I measure the distance between the 1st and 3rd colored lights to be 12 mm and the wingspan of the airplane to be 4 mm.

Thus the angle subtended by the plane = (10/100) * (40/143) * (4/12) = 0.01 radians.

If the plane is a LearJet 60 with a wingspan of 43.5 ft then it must be 43.5/0.01=4350 ft away.

The first officer claimed that the second aircraft was 40000-39000=1000 ft away which is much closer.

If the flight was indeed TS260, and the second plane was the Learjet 60, then the distance was 40000-34000=6000 ft which is a better fit. Maybe the first officer misstated the Airbus altitude in order that the flight couldn't be traced?
 
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Ravi

Senior Member.
@Easy Muffin I agree that the viewing angle of the dials as seen in your second pic means it must be the first officer's position and not someone in the middle between them (further back).
 

Ravi

Senior Member.
@Z.W. Wolf
If the visor was down and the reflection of the control panel is overlaying the outside plane's lights, then as soon as the plane lights would be behind the sun visor, should dim a lot (visor has NDx?). But this is not seen, the (plane) lights have the same brightness the whole time.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
the missing lights could be explained by the F/O's body blocking out some of the other lights on his side of the centre pedestal, be that involuntary or on purpose.
as Mick's real life flight video shows, only a few lights of the panel actually reflect in the windshield. which makes sense, if the full panel always reflected that would be a major distraction for the pilots.

not that i'm discounting the purposeful blocking of some of the panel... just not sure it is necessary.
1642689468016.png
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
if the full panel always reflected that would be a major distraction for the pilots.
A question occurs: are any of the lights in an airliner's cockpit instrumentation "hooded" or otherwise directional, do as to be visible to the pilots but not "from" the windshield? My attempts to google up an answer to that produce nothing, it may be that I dont know the right jargon to phrase the search properly.
 

Ravi

Senior Member.
A question occurs: are any of the lights in an airliner's cockpit instrumentation "hooded" or otherwise directional, do as to be visible to the pilots but not "from" the windshield? My attempts to google up an answer to that produce nothing, it may be that I dont know the right jargon to phrase the search properly.
Would be great if a pilot member of this forum can say something.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
A question occurs: are any of the lights in an airliner's cockpit instrumentation "hooded" or otherwise directional, do as to be visible to the pilots but not "from" the windshield? My attempts to google up an answer to that produce nothing, it may be that I dont know the right jargon to phrase the search properly.
maybe @TWCobra will come back around.

or you can ask on a pilot forum... there are many. i got many google hits but the first tow page are all simulated computer planes... it's annoying. :)
 

Easy Muffin

Senior Member
as Mick's real life flight video shows, only a few lights of the panel actually reflect in the windshield. which makes sense, if the full panel always reflected that would be a major distraction for the pilots.

not that i'm discounting the purposeful blocking of some of the panel... just not sure it is necessary.
That's certainly something to keep in mind. A problem with this might be that some of the lights, if they are what we suspect, are of similar brightness and situated closely together yet the window only reflects one of each type. Say for example that orange blotch really is the frequency display of the radio panel then there's a similar display and a bright green arrow symbol right next to it but neither reflect in the window.
 

FastIndy

New Member
A question occurs: are any of the lights in an airliner's cockpit instrumentation "hooded" or otherwise directional, do as to be visible to the pilots but not "from" the windshield? My attempts to google up an answer to that produce nothing, it may be that I dont know the right jargon to phrase the search properly.
I'm not a commercial pilot but do have some flight hours in GA aircraft, work in aviation, and am pretty familiar with flight deck layout. In most cases the instruments themselves are not hooded but the entire IP is covered with a glare shield. Anything on the front panel would not be directly reflected in the FWD windscreen, but the panel between the pilots certainly could be.

The priority is most definitely readability inside the cockpit. This has been a shift from flight decks designed with what we initially knew about human factors, where night cockpit lighting was typically all in a single color (red) and very low level. It's safe to say that the increased capabilities of digital avionics have well outweighed the downsides they present in terms of night visibility. This video from 2:35 on shows the level of control the pilots have over individual sections of lights:
I also think most people would be surprised by how high up in the field of view the instrument panel comes. Besides all of the fixed avionics, pilots also typically carry tablets and lots of other electronics now.

To me the video clearly shows an internal reflection. The end shows the camera moving from just behind and to the right of the right hand PFD, with the reflection of the PFD visible in the lens of the map light underneath where the FCU protrudes over the instrument panel. The below segment was just a hand scan through the end of the video, so the frame times are not correct.
 
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