Strange Row of Lights Under a Plane?

8x10

New Member
Hi. Just found your forum, while looking up airplane lights. I saw something last night, that I have never seen before. Maybe someone here can help. We like to sit in our backyard in the evening. About 9:30 last night, I heard a jet going over. Nothing unusual about that, but I casually looked up. The lights on it were very strange. There were no wingtip lights, and there was a row of lights along the belly, from nose to tail. Probably 6 to 8 of them. One close to the center was blinking. Can anyone explain what I saw? New light configuration? Military plane? Thanks.
 

8x10

New Member
Could you possible draw a diagram of what you saw?
Other than the row of lights, there is really nothing to draw. I could not see anything. It was quite dark. Could not see the outline of a plane. I only heard the normal sound of a jet, and saw this sting of lights. They looked just like normal airplane lights. Except in a straight line down, I assume, the belly. I'm slightly colorblind, so I can't tell you what color they were, and my wife didn't see it until they were moving off. I don't know. Maybe a jet with no lights was trailing a string of lights?
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
If you held something in your hand at arms length, what object would be just big enough to completely cover the thing you saw in the sky

-BB
-aspirin tablet
-penny
-golf ball
-apple

Imagine pointing to the object. When you first saw it would you be pointing
-straight up
-straight ahead
-halfway between straight up and straight ahead
-Somewhere in between the three

Same thing for when you lost sight of it. Where would you be pointing?


How many seconds went by from when you first saw it and then lost sight of it?
 

8x10

New Member
At arm's length, I would say it was golf ball size when I first saw it. Was just past straight up, saw it for probably 1 minute. It was flying northwest, lost sight of it when it went below our roof line. Probably 2/3 the way to the horizon. Also, the jet sound went along with it. I was not hearing a different plane.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
It seems it was moving quite slowly. A single jet aircraft would have to be fairly close to be golf ball sized, yet it took a minute to cross a relatively small part of the sky.
 

8x10

New Member
It seems it was moving quite slowly. A single jet aircraft would have to be fairly close to be golf ball sized, yet it took a minute to cross a relatively small part of the sky.
I may be guessing a bit long. We see lots of jets flying over here. It seemed to be going about the right speed. So I have no doubt about it being a large jet. Just an odd light pattern.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
Yes, I've thought of that. But there are problems. The object was reported to be moving northwest. Which is not possible for the Starlinks - (and pretty much any satellite). This satellite train was initially reported to be 5 to 8 degrees in apparent length and they were magnitude +4 to +5; but have been maneuvering and are now more spread out and dimmer. Pretty dim now. Might have been just a segment of the line.

No reported fireballs meet the bill. There was a pretty good display of re-entering space junk over Florida, but wrong time and wrong direction.

Been ruminating about blimps and long bodied helicopters... nah.

So far I'm stuck on wondering if the object was actually a line of aircraft flying much higher than perceived.

Or... and this will probably stick in the craw... a line of birds.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
I may be guessing a bit long. We see lots of jets flying over here. It seemed to be going about the right speed. So I have no doubt about it being a large jet. Just an odd light pattern.
I should respond directly to you. Sorry, the best I can do is to guess you saw not a single aircraft but more than one aircraft. They were flying in a row and were higher than you thought. A kind of optical illusion. Connect the dots. The high altitude would explain the relatively slow progress across the sky. This is a common optical illusion in a dark, featureless sky.

Maybe military aircraft.
 

Leifer

Senior Member
String of lights... do you live near an airport ?
Could it have been passenger cabin window lights ? ...along with the blinking white "anti-collision" lights ?
Could it have been a smaller private corperate jet ?

Could it be you heard a jet, but saw a helicopter ?


...or ariel advertisements ?....

 
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Trailspotter

Senior Member
String of lights... do you live near an airport ?
Could it have been passenger cabin window lights ? ...along with the blinking white "anti-collision" lights ?
Could it have been a smaller private corperate jet ?
For passenger cabin window lights being seen, the aircraft has to be flying low and banking toward the observer. A small number of windows would suggests a small aircraft, like a bizjet. This hypothesis is testable, and, if I got the date right, there was a good candidate: Cessna 525A N586FD landed at Springfield Airport on July 1, 2019 at 21:34 local time
N586FD by MARK OLLIER, on Flickr
Screenshot 2019-07-04 at 09.20.21.png

The aircraft track KML file from FlightAware is attached.
 

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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
It would have to be very close to match the reported angular size. Which means the apparent speed would be much faster than reported, which is rather slow.

I'm leaning toward in-flight refueling of another large aircraft. The reported angular size was golf ball at arms length, which would be consistent with two large aircraft at high altitude. The high altitude is more consistent with the slow apparent speed.


KC-46 refueling B-52



There are numerous lights on the bottom of this KC-46



There would also be lights on the other plane. Giving the impression of a single long line of lights.


This B-2 has lights on the top which are illuminating the bottom of this KC-135



 
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Trailspotter

Senior Member
I'm leaning toward in-flight refueling of another large aircraft.
I looked at air traffic over that area on Flightradar24 and Planefinder.net, using their playback as well. Springfield MO is at the crossing of several busy routes and therefore is an unlikely location for air-to-air refuelling.
 
For passenger cabin window lights being seen, the aircraft has to be flying low and banking toward the observer.
I'm somewhat skeptical of that being possible. I've seen a lot of planes landing at KDCA while sitting in traffic on 395. If you're on 395 just west of the bridges, you're right in line to have a square look into the cabin windows when they make the last turn to line up with Runway 19 at barely 500 feet and less than a mile from your car. I can't recall having ever seen a row of cabin lights.
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member
I'm somewhat skeptical of that being possible. I've seen a lot of planes landing at KDCA while sitting in traffic on 395. If you're on 395 just west of the bridges, you're right in line to have a square look into the cabin windows when they make the last turn to line up with Runway 19 at barely 500 feet and less than a mile from your car. I can't recall having ever seen a row of cabin lights.
It is not surprising, as aviation regulations require cabin lights on passenger flights being switched off before landing. I do not know if this applies to private jets. I've seen a row of cabin lights on empty planes ferried to our airport (EGSC) for service, from outside they look dim compared to the external lights.
Screenshot 2019-07-05 at 08.12.43.png
Source: https://youtu.be/v_vxTDOevAA

Again, on a small private jet they may look differently
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
Update:

Pilot Director Lights

http://cormusa.org/wp-content/uploa...ts__Improvement_for_Pilot_s_Visual_Acuity.pdf

On a KC-135


I think this matches the OP's description pretty well.

Nothing unusual about that, but I casually looked up. The lights on it were very strange. ...there was a row of lights along the belly, from nose to tail. Probably 6 to 8 of them. One close to the center was blinking.
The white lights are steady and the colored lights blink on and off in a pattern to give the pilot "positional and trend information."

The array is not all the way from nose to tail, but I think this is within typical eyewitness memory of brief events.

I'm not really satisfied with this, but I think we're at the end of the road here.
 
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D

Deleted member 14123

Guest
Hello. I stumbled across this forum trying to find answers of what i just seen. I live in Ontario Canada. I witnessed something similar to what the original poster described. 930 pm. Sat outside having a smoke. I look up to notice something ive never seen before. Ive seen airplanes and their lights. This was NOTHING like ive ever seen. It was a straight craft. I did not see anything on the sides (wings) and it had 3 really BRIGHT and i mean ridiculously bright flashing in a pattern 1,2,3 pattern if that makes sence. I am so confused as to what that is. Like i said i never seen anything like it. and where i live i seen helicopters and military planes often and this was not one of them
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
I'm going to ask the same questions I asked the OP.

If you held something in your hand at arms length, what object would be just big enough to completely cover the thing you saw in the sky?
-BB
-aspirin tablet
-penny
-golf ball
-apple

Imagine pointing to the object. When you first saw it would you be pointing
-straight up
-straight ahead
-halfway between straight up and straight ahead
-Somewhere in between the three

Same thing for when you lost sight of it. Where would you be pointing?


How many seconds went by from when you first saw it and then lost sight of it?

... it had 3 really BRIGHT and i mean ridiculously bright flashing in a pattern 1,2,3 pattern if that makes sence.
What color were these these three lights? Did they flash in the pattern 1,2,3 and repeat 1,2,3... or the pattern 1,2,3,2,1 and repeat 1,2,3,2,1?





An array of very bright lights on the belly of aerial refueling tankers is nothing new. An old prop job, the KC-97, had five very bright red lights on the belly that flashed in the sequence 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1. A KC-97 may have been involved in the famous 1965 Exeter UFO Case.
https://skepticalinquirer.org/2011/...ved_a_classic_ufo_case_forty_five_years_cold/


The KC-97 is long gone but I'm intrigued by the similarity of your description.
 
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BillPete

New Member
Could you possible draw a diagram of what you saw?
Hi Mike I have never used a forum or posted before but I too saw a large plane fly overhead going west to east between Toronto and Montreal. It first appeared as a large white ball coming towards me that kept getting larger as it got closer. As it passed directly overhead it appeared that the wings were located at the very tail of the plane. In front of these wings (on the undercarriage) were 2 rows of white led lights. Each row had maybe 4 very large panels with white lights (looked like LED) which vertually light up the whole undercarridge. It did not make the typical loud noise of jet engines. Do you have any idea what type of plane this was.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
As it passed directly overhead it appeared that the wings were located at the very tail of the plane. In front of these wings (on the undercarriage) were 2 rows of white led lights. Each row had maybe 4 very large panels with white lights (looked like LED) which vertually light up the whole undercarridge.
Can you draw a couple of diagrams:
1 - What it looked like from where you were standing
2 - What you imagine it looked like from the side.

Did you take any photos? Even if they did not come out, they can help with narrowing down the time.
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
Hi Mike I have never used a forum or posted before but I too saw a large plane fly overhead going west to east between Toronto and Montreal. It first appeared as a large white ball coming towards me that kept getting larger as it got closer. As it passed directly overhead it appeared that the wings were located at the very tail of the plane. In front of these wings (on the undercarriage) were 2 rows of white led lights. Each row had maybe 4 very large panels with white lights (looked like LED) which vertually light up the whole undercarridge. It did not make the typical loud noise of jet engines. Do you have any idea what type of plane this was.
Did you see the photo here? (post above #23) https://www.metabunk.org/threads/strange-row-of-lights-under-a-plane.10801/post-232363

The wings at the back of the plane may have actually been the wings of a second plane. The plane that was being refueled. These wings may have been more visible because they were illuminated by the spotlight on the tanker.




Another photo

http://cormusa.org/wp-content/uploa...ts__Improvement_for_Pilot_s_Visual_Acuity.pdf
 
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deirdre

Senior Member
The wings at the back of the plane may have actually been the wings of a second plane
the lights don't match, but im throwing this out there because I looked up a super bizarre plane i saw that i described as "a ball in the middle and the wings way in the back". (turns out the 'ball' was these weird side engines i was just seeing at a strange angle i guess.) Anyway it was a Dessault Falcon business jet. mine was pure white though and it flew towards me so the wings looked further back than this pic.

th.jpg
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member
Hi Mike I have never used a forum or posted before but I too saw a large plane fly overhead going west to east between Toronto and Montreal. It first appeared as a large white ball coming towards me that kept getting larger as it got closer. As it passed directly overhead it appeared that the wings were located at the very tail of the plane. In front of these wings (on the undercarriage) were 2 rows of white led lights. Each row had maybe 4 very large panels with white lights (looked like LED) which vertually light up the whole undercarridge. It did not make the typical loud noise of jet engines. Do you have any idea what type of plane this was.
I guess it could be a Bombardier CRJ-1000, the most recent incarnation of Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ). It has a long stretched body, tapered behind the wing, and, when passing overhead, may appear on approach as having the wing at the very tail:

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAUQTfUKfQg


This aircraft is manufactured in Montreal. Perhaps the unusual lights that you saw were used for testing a new plane or specially modified one.
 

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BillPete

New Member
I want to thank everyone who provided thoughts on this. The plane was near Montreal so the Bombardier CRJ1000 is the most likely suspect.
Best to all.
 

Maxymum

New Member
Hi Mike I have never used a forum or posted before but I too saw a large plane fly overhead going west to east between Toronto and Montreal. It first appeared as a large white ball coming towards me that kept getting larger as it got closer. As it passed directly overhead it appeared that the wings were located at the very tail of the plane. In front of these wings (on the undercarriage) were 2 rows of white led lights. Each row had maybe 4 very large panels with white lights (looked like LED) which vertually light up the whole undercarridge. It did not make the typical loud noise of jet engines. Do you have any idea what type of plane this was.
I just saw this same thing tonight, i thought I heard a semi loud plane coming. As I was looking up it passed over. Same description, tail "wings" but the underside of it was completley lit up. I caught it once I stopped staring but only enough to see the lights really. 20200424_214529.jpg20200424_214553.jpg
 

Maxymum

New Member
It was going almost slow motion. The whole undercarriage was lit up with rows of lights. The picture is terrible but i was taken aback....do they usually fly that low also?
 

Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
The streaks have the same wavy shape, which shows the camera was moving sideways.

.kc-46 kropped copy.jpgkc 46.jpg






There is less camera motion in this photo. The tradeoff is that it's more overexposed (the lights are not spread over the larger area). What motion there is, of both the camera and the aircraft, is along the direction of travel of the aircraft. In other words the lights are smeared out in this photo also, but in a different direction, and not as much.

I suggest the separate dot is a smaller aircraft chasing the aerial refueling aircraft, setting up for refueling.
refuel.png
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
It was going almost slow motion. The whole undercarriage was lit up with rows of lights. The picture is terrible but i was taken aback....do they usually fly that low also?
Where are you?



The OP sighted his aircraft here, in Springfield, Missouri.
Springfield MO, and the plane was headed northwest.
22d Air Refueling Wing - McConnell Air Force Base
yz.png



Two additional posters reported from Canada
Hello. I stumbled across this forum trying to find answers of what i just seen. I live in Ontario Canada. I witnessed something similar to what the original poster described. 930 pm. Sat outside having a smoke. I look up to notice something ive never seen before. Ive seen airplanes and their lights. This was NOTHING like ive ever seen. It was a straight craft. I did not see anything on the sides (wings) and it had 3 really BRIGHT and i mean ridiculously bright flashing in a pattern 1,2,3 pattern if that makes sence. I am so confused as to what that is. Like i said i never seen anything like it. and where i live i seen helicopters and military planes often and this was not one of them
This location is just Ontario, but the poster talks about seeing military aircraft often so we can assume she lives near a base.


Hi Mike I have never used a forum or posted before but I too saw a large plane fly overhead going west to east between Toronto and Montreal. It first appeared as a large white ball coming towards me that kept getting larger as it got closer. As it passed directly overhead it appeared that the wings were located at the very tail of the plane. In front of these wings (on the undercarriage) were 2 rows of white led lights. Each row had maybe 4 very large panels with white lights (looked like LED) which vertually light up the whole undercarridge. It did not make the typical loud noise of jet engines. Do you have any idea what type of plane this was.
BillPete sighted his aircraft here, near Montreal.
157th Air Refueling Wing (157 ARW) - Pease Air National Guard Base
pease.jpg


There's also a base in Canada, which might be a better fit for these Canadian Posters.
437 Transport Squadron at CFB Trenton, Ontario
xyz.png
The last report I can find stated that the KC-46 was to replace the CC-150 Polaris tanker in Canada by the end of 2017. I don't know if that happened. Update: My best information is that the KC-46 has not yet replaced the CC-150 Polaris in Canada.



I'd like to know where this newest report is coming from.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member
How close are you to Seymour Johnson AFB?
916th Air Refueling Wing
zxc.png

To answer a previous question...
There are low level refueling operations.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zo...refuelers-and-their-modified-kc-135rt-tankers

This 22nd Air Refueling Wing is based at McConnell Air Force base, but that doesn't mean they never operate anywhere else. During exercises and deployments they may operate all over the world. Also, I don't think this is the only unit that does low level refueling. All turboprops and helicopters are going to want a low and slow refueling aircraft.

Btw, the OP spotted his aircraft near McConnell.

To be clear, I suspect that what you saw was either a KC-46 or KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft. These planes have very bright lights on the underside. These lights are turned on at night as a guide to the aircraft that need to be refueled. When those aircraft get to within a certain distance, the lights on the refueling aircraft are dimmed.

Now that I've got photos that I can show, the next step might be to start emailing public affairs divisions.

We are getting some common details. Jet aircraft, but uncommonly low and slow moving for jets. Bright lights, including rows of lights. Relatively quiet for a jet, which is consistent with throttled back engines.

The plane in your photo might be a KC-135 rather than a KC-46. This might explain the lack of an illuminated tail. It might also explain the detail both BillPete and you reported: "wings located at the very tail of the plane." The back end of the plane is not visible due to the glare of the bright lights on and around the wings. Jessica1111 reported seeing no wings at all, which were lost to view in the glare of the "ridiculously bright" lights.
 
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