# How Big is a Tic-Tac? Scale Models of the Nimitz Incident

#### Mick West

Staff member

A Tic-Tac is 11mm long. I just measured one (and then ate it, I'm quickly running out.). The "Executive Report" on the Nimitz UFO incident says:

The altitude at which the shape was observed is unclear, but I'll go with the lowest, 10,000 feet. Now suppose we were to take a Tic-Tac, how far away to we have to hold it to get the same visual as looking at a 46 foot long object from 10,000 feet? Well 11mm is 0.0360892 feet, so we can just do simple ratios, 0.0360892 feet / 46 feet * 10,000 feet = 7.8 feet. Around 8 feet basically (and if you want a really rough but easy ballpark, around 1/1000th the distance)

So I took a Tic Tac and took a photo of it suspended about a water surface from 8 feet up (I just held my iPhone over my head). The photo above has that Tic Tac in (I just digitally remove the supports). Can you see it?

Here''s another, with feet for scale

And finally an extreme example

The point of these is that spotting something that's 46 feet long from 10,000 feet has the possibility of errors. I've been encouraging people to draw diagrams of what they actually saw, set in some context where scale can be judged. Like an F/A-18 cockpit. What would the Tic-Tac look like from the Pilot's point of view?

And then, if we want to eliminate non-advanced-technology, what do other things look like in that same context? Birds, balloons, small planes, white waves, and canopy reflections.

Last edited:
Last edited by a moderator:
But it was initially spotted from a high altitude.

Fravor says "half mile away, at the same altitude". What altitude was that? 50 feet? 5,000 feet?

So a "Tic Tac" at 2 feet should be reasonably well defined. Why has he never drawn a picture indicating its shape? Size relative to the cockpit? Was it actually tic-tac shaped, egg shaped, ellipsoid shaped, or capsule shaped?

How does he know how big it is and how far away it is if it's featureless and it's invisible to his radar?

is this the tic tac? it looks a lot bigger in your Jacuzzi than on your patio.

is this the tic tac?

No. It's about the same size in all three photos.

There's a variety of observations that might benefit from picture drawing

So 100 meters (328 feet) in diameter from 10,000 feet? Quite a bit bigger (7x) than the Tic-Tac. So if we scale that up it's about the size of the white patch just to the right of center of this image:

Here's how I held up the Tic-Tac. Rebar, magnet, and tweezers.

Another thing that it would have been good to draw a picture of is the shading. Was there direct sun? If so how much shade was underneath? What did it look like (how dark?).

But it was initially spotted from a high altitude.

Fravor says "half mile away, at the same altitude". What altitude was that? 50 feet? 5,000 feet?

So a "Tic Tac" at 2 feet should be reasonably well defined. Why has he never drawn a picture indicating its shape? Size relative to the cockpit? Was it actually tic-tac shaped, egg shaped, ellipsoid shaped, or capsule shaped?

How does he know how big it is and how far away it is if it's featureless and it's invisible to his radar?

Spotting anything that size at 10,000 feet would be difficult unless the ocean was calm, providing a uniform color for background, and unless the person looking was initially drawn to look in a specific area.

Here at 47 seconds he says it was clear day, blue waters, so it sounds like the first condition would be met. Each time he has recounted the story he makes clear they initially saw the larger disturbance in the water then saw the 'tic tac,' which was also moving rapidly. So it seems clear he was also drawn to look in very a specific place after which he (or they, since the WSO also supposedly saw it and they were talking to each other) noticed the object moving. If the object was moving only directly above the area of disturbed water it would seem really difficult to make out, but if it moved outside that area (from his viewpoint) and therefore against the blue water, I imagine it would be possible to spot. We would almost need a video showing a tic tac moving around near a disturbance on the water from 8 feet above (not sure how to rig that up).

If they were at the same altitude the difference between 50 feet above the water and 5,000 feet would change the background against which he saw the object, but otherwise shouldn't affect his ability to see detail (or lack thereof). What if the object was basically featureless? There wouldn't be much to draw.

According to his accounts the tic tac was moving back and forth, left and right, in a relatively small area which presumbly makes it easier to pick up on.

The altitude at which the shape was observed is unclear, but I'll go with the lowest, 10,000 feet

in this interview Fravor, describing the ping pong movement, at 20:50 specifically says
External Quote:
Linda: "and sir, at this point have you gone from 20,000 feet down to about 12,000 feet, to get a clearer view?"
Fravor: "No. Not yet. we're still at 20,000 feet"

What if the object was basically featureless? There wouldn't be much to draw.
He can draw the shape. We've got "Tic-Tac", "Elongated Egg", "oval". Let's get some precision here. Did it have straight sides like a capsule, or curved sides like a tic-tac?

He can draw the shading. Was it dark underneath?

Let's look at "Source"
External Quote:

Both F-18s assumed combat formation en route to the new location. Source and OK-Ts aircraft was approximately .3 NM behind OK-2 and OK-3's aircraft and both F-18s proceeded east at an altitude of approximately 10,000 to 20,000 feet towards San Clemente Island.
...
As both F-18s approached the target location, the female controller began to count down the anticipated intercept time, "Two minutes to merge plot," etc. Finally, the female controller indicated "merge plot" and announced, "You should have visual."
As Source looked down at the ocean from the cockpit, they noticed a small patch of water, approximately 60 feet wide by 80 feet in length that appeared choppy and turbulent amongst a calm sea.
...
Approximately two seconds after noticing the unusual water disturbance, Source described witnessing a small, unidentified aerial system (UAS) cross over the turbulent area of water. The unidentified object was elongated, approximately 30 to 40 feet in length, white in color, and described resembling a "tic-tac" candy mint. The object had no distinguishable control surfaces, was uniformly smooth, with no windows, doors, or lights visible. The object was opaque with a solid, definable edge. The object did not appear to emit any noticeable light or radiation from its surface nor did it have any noticeable exhaust trail. The object traveled from left to right over the disturbed water at an altitude of approximately 1000 to 3000 feet. The object appeared to travel at a speed of approximately 300 to 500 knots in a straight line.
300 knots is 500 feet per second. So roughly to match this the 45' tic-tac is moving around 10 to 15x its length in a second, something along these lines:
(click image to enlarge)

I'd suggest that the description above seems overly detailed for observation of such a small object from a large distance.

Last edited:
He can draw the shape. We've got "Tic-Tac", "Elongated Egg", "oval". Let's get some precision here. Did it have straight sides like a capsule, or curved sides like a tic-tac?

He can draw the shading. Was it dark underneath?

Let's look at "Source"
External Quote:

Both F-18s assumed combat formation en route to the new location. Source and OK-Ts aircraft was approximately .3 NM behind OK-2 and OK-3's aircraft and both F-18s proceeded east at an altitude of approximately 10,000 to 20,000 feet towards San Clemente Island.
...
As both F-18s approached the target location, the female controller began to count down the anticipated intercept time, "Two minutes to merge plot," etc. Finally, the female controller indicated "merge plot" and announced, "You should have visual."
As Source looked down at the ocean from the cockpit, they noticed a small patch of water, approximately 60 feet wide by 80 feet in length that appeared choppy and turbulent amongst a calm sea.
...
Approximately two seconds after noticing the unusual water disturbance, Source described witnessing a small, unidentified aerial system (UAS) cross over the turbulent area of water. The unidentified object was elongated, approximately 30 to 40 feet in length, white in color, and described resembling a "tic-tac" candy mint. The object had no distinguishable control surfaces, was uniformly smooth, with no windows, doors, or lights visible. The object was opaque with a solid, definable edge. The object did not appear to emit any noticeable light or radiation from its surface nor did it have any noticeable exhaust trail. The object traveled from left to right over the disturbed water at an altitude of approximately 1000 to 3000 feet. The object appeared to travel at a speed of approximately 300 to 500 knots in a straight line.
300 knots is 500 feet per second. So roughly to match this the 45' tic-tac is moving around 10 to 15x its length in a second, something along these lines:
(click image to enlarge)
View attachment 33644

I'd suggest that the description above seems overly detailed for observation of such a small object from a large distance.

I was about to suggest that moving objects are much easier to see, so the animation is helpful. You can even see the direction in which the tic-tac is elongated.
People who've seen a total solar eclipse say that photos don't do it justice. In photos it looks small and unimpressive.
You can do a size comparison with photos of airplanes in the sky or Google Earth images of boats from any given altitude and range.
Judging from several recent interviews with Fravor, the Nimitz pilot report is not that reliable, as it was written only last year. Fravor described the tic-tac as "ping-ponging North, South, East, and West" rather than traveling in a straight line.

Judging from several recent interviews with Fravor, the Nimitz pilot report is not that reliable, as it was written only last year.
When is the oldest account from Fravor?

When is the oldest account from Fravor?
in the latest interview I linked above, he confirms (44 mins) he did speak with "Paco" (the fighter sweep article) and gave him permission to blog it. He doesn't say anything in the article is wrong, per se... although he also doesn't comment specifically on how accurate it was. He just confirms Paco got the story directly from him.

I have always assumed that the description of the 'tic tac' is based on the entirety of Fravor's encounter and anyone else who has agreed to talk about it (so at least Slaight as well, though he was not as close). I don't think he is claiming he captured all of the (sparse) details at 20,000 ft. Besides that, it is also clear that Fravor was talking to the WSO during the actual encounter, who was also looking at it, and one assumes they talked about it several times before any communication that led to the non-official "official" report. So even if he believes he picked all the information at the first sighting, we still would assume his recollection of what he saw from 20,000 is 'contaminated' by what he saw later.

Based on the tic tac moving over the hot tub, it seems reasonable he could have spotted it, and maybe the orientation, but not much else from that high up.

According to his accounts the tic tac was moving back and forth, left and right, in a relatively small area which presumbly makes it easier to pick up on.
I have always assumed that the description of the 'tic tac' is based on the entirety of Fravor's encounter and anyone else who has agreed to talk about it (so at least Slaight as well, though he was not as close). I don't think he is claiming he captured all of the (sparse) details at 20,000 ft. Besides that, it is also clear that Fravor was talking to the WSO during the actual encounter, who was also looking at it, and one assumes they talked about it several times before any communication that led to the non-official "official" report. So even if he believes he picked all the information at the first sighting, we still would assume his recollection of what he saw from 20,000 is 'contaminated' by what he saw later.

Based on the tic tac moving over the hot tub, it seems reasonable he could have spotted it, and maybe the orientation, but not much else from that high up.
They've been guide onto it by the radar systems as well according to the account. So they know it's there and it's about the same size as a fighter jet so it's the type of target they're used to making contact with.

Just as a comparison with your estimates on the Go Fast video thread there you are saying that the object is less than 10 feet in length and flying at about 13k feet. The jet is flying at 25k feet and is 4.1 nm miles away from the object. The FLIR is not using zoom as far as I can see (Z 1.0 on the display?). The object looks fairly easy to spot (accepting any differences between a screen display and looking out through the cockpit canopy). So the Tic Tac is alleged to be 40ft in length (4x bigger than the Go Fast object) and they are at 10k feet.

The FLIR is not using zoom as far as I can see (Z 1.0 on the display?).
It's not using digital zoom, which is what the Z refers to. However it's still using a very high powered zoom, as indicated by NAR, meaning a narrow field of view of around 1.5° (sources vary).
The objects on the FLIR would be invisibly small to the naked eye.

Here's a tic-tac at 8 feet (as discussed above), no zoom:

Here's a tic-tac zoomed at about 1° FOV

And here it is zoomed to match the visual size (50mm equiv)

I was just revisiting this idea on Twitter. It's simplest to just use a 1000:1 scale. Here's a photo from 20 feet (20,000 feet simulated)

But really people should do it themselves in the real world, with an actual Tic-Tac, to get a sense of what Fravor might have seem. Hence I'm promoting the 1000:1 scale, as it makes it very easy to try various distances.

I was just revisiting this idea on Twitter. It's simplest to just use a 1000:1 scale. Here's a photo from 20 feet (20,000 feet simulated)

But really people should do it themselves in the real world, with an actual Tic-Tac, to get a sense of what Fravor might have seem. Hence I'm promoting the 1000:1 scale, as it makes it very easy to try various distances.

I assume it's the pixel on the sofa? The only caveat I'd add is that of focal range, which doesn't scale, and which might invite derailings such as "you can't focus at distance X and 2X". I wish I'd done the maths first so I could advise whether stopping down or opening up would be the sensible error-minimising default, it might depend on the camera format; alas I've not had my coffee yet this morning.

I assume it's the pixel on the sofa? The only caveat I'd add is that of focal range, which doesn't scale, and which might invite derailings such as "you can't focus at distance X and 2X". I wish I'd done the maths first so I could advise whether stopping down or opening up would be the sensible error-minimising default, it might depend on the camera format; alas I've not had my coffee yet this morning.
Fravor saw it with his eyes.

Fravor saw it with his eyes.
Ah, sorry, I'm being slow. Yup, if that's the claim being made, then no wonder he couldn't resolve any details, and the demonstration of the absurdity of the claim is almost perfect. However, maybe Mick could have attached 2mm-long wings and a tail fin so that we had even more to not see clearly at that distance!

The claim is little like me saying I was driving down the road the other day and saw an ant doing the macarena on the pavement.

Replies
0
Views
3K
Replies
93
Views
18K
Replies
26
Views
4K
Replies
103
Views
7K
Replies
20
Views
1K