Debunked: High Bypass TurboFans not making contrails, and other misconceptions


Senior Member.
Tanner has published another article that is almost entirely wrong about the properties of water vapor and Jet engines

For a detailed look at the science behind this, with references, see:

Water vapour is not visible at any time. It is a fundamental property of water vapour. Even when causing contrails it is not visible as evidenced by the gap behind the engines where the water vapour cools and condenses into a visible state, that being of ice.

Some more of Tanners "facts" debunked.

This is irrelevant. The water vapour produced is simply a function of the total fuel burnt. While the turbofans allow large engines to be built, the amount of water vapour created has also increased due to the large fuel flows of those engines.

Air traffic has been increasing at 5% a year since 1970. It increased 53% in the 10 years of 2001-2011. See:

Water injection, such as in the Rolls Royce Spey engines, is designed for use as a thrust augmentation system on takeoff. It is only used on takeoff, ironically for Tanner, due to the weight of the water required.

His claim that water injection is not used on high bypass turbofans is also false. Early versions of the Pratt and Whitney JT9D, the original engine fitted to the Boeing 747 used water injection. I have personally flown 747-200 series aircraft with this feature fitted.

Water injection is not used at any other stage of flight other than the first 90 seconds of takeoff. The water methanol tank size on the 747 was only 3000 lbs or 1360 kgs, giving a usage rate of almost 1000kgs a minute.

High bypass turbofans have been around since the late 60s and were fitted to military jets like the C5A.

Tanner manages to contradict two of his "facts" in consecutive sentences. "Skywatchers" did not possess the technology to accurate gauge the altitude of aircraft until the recent availability of ADSB feeds to the public. The claim of low flying jets spraying is unsupported, and bogus.

The claim that between 2005 and 2010 of jets going from low altitude to high altitude is also unsupported by any facts or observations by pilots.

[Admin: Edited for formatting and posting guidelines]
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Closed Account
Good god - how many "facts" can someone get wrong in a short bit of writing:

there is no such thing as "high vacuum" - perhaps he means "low pressure"? And of course that is wrong- contrails will form at sea level if the humidity and temperature are suitable - hence "ice fog" in Alaska!

Actually this is more-or-less correct - albeit in a pidgin-technical manner - denser air such as that compressed by a turbo fan wil hold more moisture. As long as it remains denser of course....which isn't very long once it leaves the engine!

lol - and that is why the contrails do not form at the output of the turbine, and why they form some distance behind - when the pressure is rapidly reducing - thus also rapidly reducing the temperature!

There is no lack of fuel "in this ratio" - all jet engines seek a "perfect" mixture, which IIRC is about 14:1 air to fuel - some get closer than others, but there is always fuel!!

Using less fuel does not render them "incapable" even by his own reasoning - it should render them less LIKELY by simplistic reasoning - however other considerations actually make it MORE likely- put simply the higher the efficiency of the engine, the higher the temperature at which contrails can form, and so the more likely they are to do so - the math is in the link if you want to examine it closely.

And as you started with highlighting this bit of gross nonsense it is a good place to sign off :)
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David Fraser

Senior Member.
I got booted from a site for suggesting a simple test to the water vapour claim. Simply hold an upturned jar over a paraffin burner, or even a candle, and watch what accumulates.

I find it fascinating that people blindly accept this guff. I have to be honest I have difficulties understanding engine mechanics but you can't just make up the principles of chemistry.

Jay Reynolds

Senior Member.
I think Russ Tanner has actually talked himself into believing this. Let me explain. In the big scope of things, he didn't have to do this at all. Less than 10% of his flock understand or even care to try understanding most of what he said. Most of them would have been perfectly fine not knowing anything about the mechanics of contrail formation at all. They haven't for fifteen years, why try to tell them now?

I think that Russ dug himself into a hole with his claim that very few people have ever seen a contrail in their lives. He has either had a crisis of conscience, been confronted about it, or someone in the movement has questioned him about it. In Russ's World, that required some sort of response.
He had to both rationalize the contradiction between his claim and reality, somehow. I believe this may have happened during a call-in when he felt inadequate.

In doing this, he had to contort the facts and use his grandiose imagination to suit the hypothesis, and in his closed mind he has done so, despite the major errors that you have pointed out above. This might actually stick, given that most in his circle of influence are ignorant, uncaring or too intimidated to challenge him.

In Russ's world this might seem to be the end of it. I'm absolutely sure that he has wrapped this up and owns it deeply enough that he probably cannot be said to be deliberately lying. By now, he has personally gone through it dozens of times and by now has talked himself into it. He truly believes it.

In the real world, however, he has just dug himself deeper into the hole and likely has dragged some along with him. There, it is another additional liability, a weakness, an error which easily shows he is bereft of knowledge, short on facts, and unwilling to admit error. Eventually, it will come back to haunt him and anyone who drinks his flavor of kool-aid.

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
I have repeatedly challenged one of Tanner's steadfast believers as to why they accept what he says about jet engines not producing contrails, but I could get no substantive response. They simply defer to Russ because they believe he is extremely knowledgeable and won't question any pronouncement he has made.

Any challenges made directly to Russ about such things have been ignored or deleted.
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