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Mystery 'Missile' Identified As US Airways Flight 808

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-what-they-want-you-to-think dept.

The Military 335

sean.peters writes "The mystery missile discussed on Slashdot Tuesday? It was US Airways 808 from Honolulu to Phoenix. An amateur sleuth checked the time against airline schedules, then the following day, checked out a webcam that was trained in the appropriate direction. He found the exact same contrail at the time AWE808 was coming over. The author deals persuasively with a number of objections to his argument."

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I don't care. (4, Funny)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199676)

My explanation of "It's another water heater from Mythbusters" was far more entertaining.

--
BMO

Re:I don't care. (4, Funny)

snookerhog (1835110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199710)

I assumed it was from the same stealth sub that crippled the Carnival cruise liner.

Re:I don't care. (4, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199806)

Doug Richardson, the editor of Jane's Missiles and Rockets, examined the video for the Times of London and said he was left with little doubt. [cbsnews.com]

"It's a solid propellant missile," he told the Times. "You can tell from the efflux [smoke]."

Re:I don't care. (1, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200020)

Well, Mr Richardson needs to turn in his editor hat and take up fishing.

Egg, meet Face.

Re:I don't care. (4, Informative)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200028)

Experts are wrong sometimes. While the link in the article is slashdotted, her is a similar one that's pretty persuasive: http://uncinus.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/4/ [wordpress.com] Can your expert tell the difference between an actual aircraft contrail at sunset (taken on Dec 31st last year):

http://consci.s3.amazonaws.com//skitch/Preview-20100119-154110.jpg [amazonaws.com]

and what he thinks was a missile:

http://consci.s3.amazonaws.com//skitch/Mystery_Missile_Launch_Seen_off_Calif._Coast_-_CBS_News-20101109-073423.jpg [amazonaws.com]

Here is an actual missile launch: http://www.air-and-space.com/20061214%20Camino%20Cielo/_BEL7403%20Delta-II%20NRO%20launch%20l.jpg [air-and-space.com]

Re:I don't care. (2, Interesting)

ScientiaPotentiaEst (1635927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200040)

I've often seen sky trails that look like that - initially. Then, while continuing to watch, it becomes clear that they're just normal airliner contrails - with the planes often becoming visible as they pass by or overhead.

To me, it's clear that this trail is from over the horizon - spreading as it lingers. Without the advantage of stereo vision (no 3D at that distance), perspective can play interesting tricks.

Re:I don't care. (3, Interesting)

RetiredMidn (441788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200204)

TFA makes its case by comparing still images of contrails; and the static comparison is compelling. However, Mr. Richardson assessed the motion video of the event.

Watching the video, I was struck by two things: a light source, which could have been either the flame from a solid-fuel rocket or a reflection off the skin of an airliner, and the fact that there was no separation between the object and the contrail. When I watch airliner contrails (way too much free time on my hands), they usually form some distance behind the aircraft and expand over time; they are not so robust immediately behind the aircraft.

I dunno; just sayin'...

Re:I don't care. (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200246)

I've seen two, very slightly different, angles of the object and the orange light is only present in one of them. Seems to me that a rocket exhaust should be quite visible regardless of the angle, and that it's appearance/disappearance would make a reflection seem more likely. As for the contrail forming right on the object, if it is an airplane most of it's velocity is directly away from the camera. There could be a mile between the contrail and the plane and from that angle it would look like they were right next to each other.

Re:I don't care. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199834)

tee hee .....stealth sub..... snicker snicker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROKS_Cheonan_%28PCC-772%29

Re:I don't care. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199792)

More entertaining than the possibility that a foreign power had launched a secret missile test from 35 miles off the coast of California?

Re:I don't care. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199954)

No, they glued pop rocks to a cluster of mentos and put it into a keg of diet coke. I know because I started that myth specifically to see it tested on mythbusters and see if it could start some type of "99 red balloons" scenario.

No, no (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199696)

He's a part of the conspiracy. It's a cover-up, and I will argue it as such for decades to come. Because that's the only thing that makes sense.

Slashdotted? (1)

anakin876 (612770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199700)

Sheesh - already slashdotted?

Re:Slashdotted? (4, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199794)

No. They shut it down because they don't want us to know the truth - Google was ^%$_)&*(

NO CARRIER

Re:Slashdotted? (1)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200112)

maybe google was releasing a new product.. google missile

Re:Slashdotted? (0, Redundant)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200134)

Come on man, upgrade to cable for crying out lo^%$_)&*(

NO CARRIER

Re:Slashdotted? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199828)

from blog.bahneman.com:

[Update: CBS2 in New York has a story about a similar event over NYC November 10]

I wonder if I'm the first to call it, the reported unexplained missile launch off the coast of California, was US Airways 808.

I did a lot of extrapolation of what flights could be at the right position (off the coast) at the right altitude (for contrail formation) and came down to two possibilities: UPS flight 902 (UPS902) or US Airways flight 808 (AWE808).

As I was researching tonight (24 hours later), I realized that today's AWE808 current position (at around 4:50pm) was almost the same as it was the day of the incident. I quickly pulled up a Newport Beach webcam and found tha (apparently) AWE808 was making an identical contrail, 24 hours later!

Picture 6.png

Compare the above webcam image to the KCBS footage:

Picture 12.png

The comparison is quite clear. A remarkably similar, less-hyped, contrail created by the same flight almost exactly 24 hours later!

So, based on that, and the flight track of AWE808 24 hours earlier, I believe the mysterious missile off the coast of California on November 8, 2010, was in fact the contrail of US Airways flight 808, a flight originating in Honolulu , HI (PHNL) and ending in Phoenix (KPHX).

Picture 7.png

I'm about 80% certain this is the right flight, though UPS902 is still a contender.

For some additional explanation of this non-event, take a look at the Contrail Science blog.

Other theories I've seen that explain this:

        * Accidental missile launch
        * Target for Airborne Anti-missle Laser Test
        * Chinese-made Russian-designed ICBM
        * Russian/Korean/American/Chinese "Show of strength" during Obama's tour of Asia
        * Chemtrails
        * Submarine-launched missile
        * F-22

I respect that people will see what they want to see, particularly when it lines up with their interest. Military missile men will see a missile. Conspiracy fans will see a conspiracy. Military pilots will see an fighter jet. Myself? I'm an aviation photographer who also dabbles in weather and atmospheric phenomena. So I see a commercial airliner and its contrail, however, I also believe that this is an excellent example of Occam's Razor: "the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one."

There are a number of variables involved here:

        * Altitude, exact time of day, direction and magnification of the KCBS news helicopter footage
        * Direction and field of view of the Newport Beach webcam
        * Exact positions of AWE808 or UPS902 when the video was made

With those variables nailed down, in conjunction with the sun angle, an expert should be able to pinpoint exactly, the trajectory of the object. Meteor experts extrapolate this kind of information on almost a daily basis in their tracking of meteor or satellite debris entering our atmosphere.

Some commonly commented concepts

(My responses to these are my opinion. I'm not a meteorologist or aerospace engineer).

- The "base" of the contrail is too wide, it should be narrower, like a road as it leads to the distance

You would naturally make that assumption. However, a contrail, at 39,000 feet is often subject to high winds. Depending on the velocity and direction, it can spread out contrails in a matter of minutes. (These contrails often turn into feathery cirrus clouds.) The contrail created at the distance where it appears to meet the horizon has had sufficient time to spread out with the wind. Remember, the distance as viewed through a zoom lens appears to be shorter due to an optical affect called "foreshortening".

- The object clearly had a bright, solid rocket-like engine flare

I attribute this to the sun reflecting off the oblique angle of the wings or fuselage. Even though the sun was set from the viewpoint of the video camera, at 39,000 feet the contrail was clearly still illuminated by the sun. Others theorize it might be the afterburner flare of a military jet, but I'm not sure if would appear that bright at that distance, even with a powerful zoom lens like those on news helicopters. Update: Just this evening I stepped outside to see if I could capture a flare and, with the aid of Flightaware.com, I tracked a CRJ7 inbound to YVR, still at cruising altitude and took a photo (400mm lens) and captured its flare. The angle is much less oblique than the California Mystery Object (CMO?) but it illustrates the affect:

IMG_4203.jpg

- Why can't the FAA or Pentagon just identify the aircraft and settle this whole thing?

I would imagine that other than checking in with all of their departments for confirmation that it wasn't military activity, they probably don't feel that this common, everyday event is worth the resource expendature. I would imagine that is the same for the FAA. They have better things to do than worry about this non-event sensationalized by the news and internet.

- AWE808's flight on November 8 was a Boeing 757-200, with twin, wing-mounted engines, yet the video footage clearly shows a single contrail.

I believe the foreshortening of the contrail due to perspective is making them difficult to differentiate. I've seen twin engine contrails both converge and diverge, which I presume depends on atmospheric conditions. (Eventually they either disappear or blur together in the wind). Here is an example of convergence, which shows the contrails mixing within 3 plane lengths behind (in this case, a 777-200)

uu772contrail.jpg

110910_missile_397x224.jpg

Viewed nearly head-on, as AWE808 was to the camera, the brief separation would be nearly indiscernible, especially when you're talking tens of miles of separation. I'm not saying that the same atmospheric conditions prevailed on November 8; I believe that even if there was a longer distance to convergence of the twin contrails, their appearance would be mitigated by the angle of the flight path to the viewer.

I did not want to use this video as an example (A380 air-to-air flyby) because it is an extreme example of contrail formation, however, the video itself provides an excellent example of the foreshortening affect I am talking about:

Thick contrail, appears to be a single, massive condensation formation:

Picture 5.png

But as it passes, you can see that there is clear separation of the two (two groups of 2 contrails) contrails that were previously indiscernable mere moments before:

Picture 6.png

- How are you qualified to offer any sort of definitive solution to this mystery?

Like I said, I'm fairly familiar with the use of flight tracking software to track planes (in a personal effort to photograph them). Being in the hobby for a number of years, you pick up on such things as flight plans, flight paths and the like. Commercial aircraft often fly the same route between airports, with some variation due to weather and the like. I am also proposing this as a theory that I'm fairly confident in. My word is neither official nor definitive, they are my own conjectures as determined by the tools at my disposal and level of expertise.

Re:Slashdotted? (-1, Offtopic)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200064)

Next time, just post a link ok?

We all know things get slashdotted, no point in violating everyone's copyright for s strictly temporal problem.

Re:Slashdotted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200242)

Next time, just post a link ok?

We all know things get slashdotted, no point in violating everyone's copyright for s strictly temporal problem.

1) He mentioned the source.

2) Next time, just STFU ok?

3) Yes things get slashdotted.

4) Yes there is a point. We want to see the article so we can discuss it. Part of the problem here is so much discussion occurs with people failing to RTFA. So someone who was able to grab the article posting it is AOK from my POV.

TFA is already /.'ed (2, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199704)

Maybe the object was his web server lifting off into space?

Re:TFA is already /.'ed (1)

numb7rs (1689018) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199896)

That just raises a nasty cause/effect paradox.

Re:TFA is already /.'ed (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200320)

So obviously it was the contrail of a time machine.

Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (3, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199724)

Deny deny deny. Obfuscate and confuse the issue. Introduce an alternative theory. Have "independent" expert validate alternative theory. Never admit truth. Wait for public to forget incident.

It works all the time.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199774)

+1.

FAA still hasn't said, 'this flight was there'.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199776)

So I'm assuming you'll provide a decent, sane way to falsify your hypothesis? Or are you just going to reject every amount of data as possibly (sorry, I meant obviously) being tainted by THEM and part of your scary scary conspiracy?

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (0, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit162 (1934888) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199780)

accept accept accept. intelligence can no longer be a valid counter to counter intelligence.

you're an idiot.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199782)

Ha! Spoken like a typical spook plant. Your faux-conspiracy theory rant wont get me this time, G-Man!

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199822)

Except that you can verify. You can look up the what time this flight left. You can use a bit of deductive reasoning, a little bit of knowledge about flight paths, and the publicly available Standard Instrument Departures for the given airport to figure out an approximate location and altitude that the plane would be at a given time. You can even, apparently, if the summary is accurate, look back at random webcams that were pointing in the right direction at the right time to see if the plane is there and leaving a contrail.

So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (5, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199866)

So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

That's the bizarre thing - why did it take 36 hours to get an answer and why didn't the definitive answer come from a definitive source?

So it was flight 808. Either the DoD and FAA were unable to figure that out in short order or else they just don't care about giving the public answers to those kind of questions.

Neither one of those possibilities is particularly good.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199956)

More likely, the FAA and DoD just aren't organized for this kind of investigation. If you had gotten on the phone with the FAA or an AFB while the thing was in the air and said "What the heck is that? It's tracking heading 270, at somewhere between 20 and 30 thousand feet", you would could have gotten the answer instantly: "identifies as flight 808 out of LA". As it is, it seems like no one was really interested in this until it got put on the news that night, well after it would beyond radar range. So far as I know, the airports and Air Force bases don't keep recordings of their radar tracks, they have no way to look back at what was happening at that time.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (2, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200184)

So all webmasters all over the world are expected to keep logs of all tiny details and all files requests for months if not years to come from thousands if not millions of visitors per day.

And the FAA don't keep logs of what happens in radar range?

Yep, it's a crazy world alright.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (4, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200288)

So far as I know, the airports and Air Force bases don't keep recordings of their radar tracks, they have no way to look back at what was happening at that time.

Air traffic control certainly does keep "tapes" of radar signals. Whether it is really a tape or some other digital recording is irrelevant. These tapes are often used to help locate missing aircraft. After a plane is reported missing they can often "replay the tape" and identify the point of last radar contact, even for non-transpondered or VFR targets.

This, of course, takes resources and time.

As for the GP who talks about using "Standard Instrument Depatures" for an airport to locate a plane, ummmm.... A SID for Honolulu (departure airport) will have no relevance to the location of any aircraft by the time it hits the west coast. SIDs apply only close to the airport (<30nm in most cases), until a plane gets onto one of the Victor or Juliette (low level and "jet route" high level) airways.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199960)

Because the 24/7 news cycle on the cable "news" stations has convinced a lot of you that answers always come instantly, between commercial breaks. In the real world it actually takes time to confirm the facts on the ground...

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (2, Insightful)

ebuck (585470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200098)

Perhaps the DoD have had a bit too much experience with the public rushing off to some half-baked conclusion, so they ignore the public in events that don't raise their alarms.

I mean, it's not like the DoD hasn't had to put up with the hundreds of UFO sightings a year that get generated in the USA. If these UFO sightings were just "I couldn't identify it" then perhaps they wouldn't be so dismissive; but, when the sightings are more in line with "What do you mean it's not an INVASION from OUTER SPACE! You're already under control of the off-worlders, AREN'T YOU?!?!" it's a safe bet to ignore the whole lot.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200162)

Sorry that makes too much sense, and appears like you thought about it for more than two seconds.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200186)

Its called cover your ass. It slows down all business and government.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200214)

Or they didn't want to stick their heads out with a probable explanation until they were 100% sure, because they would be raked over the coals for being wrong.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

Copperhamster (1031604) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200224)

Simple, buearucrats would rather have no answer than give the wrong one, therefore any investigation undertaken by the government would take at least a month to get rolling well.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200312)

Simple, buearucrats would rather have no answer than give the wrong one

For decades the answer to this kind of question would be, "I can neither confirm nor deny that a missile was launched off the coast of California..."

Had the Pentagon said that the story would have gone away in short order. Everybody would have assumed it was some kind of secret US missile test and forgotten about it the next day.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200280)

Mozee Toby addressed that....

So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

This is the U.S. government we're talking about here. See hurricane Katrina.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (4, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200314)

It's not bizarre. It depends what you presume.

Presume the DoD *did* do it. Ok, then they should be able to get an answer out pretty quickly. You know, a cover story or whatever.

Assume they *didn't* do it. They obviously aren't paying much attention. Nobody on watch called the DoD and said "Hey, just want to let you know, a jet just left a contrail. Thought I'd notify you." So the DoD know they didn't do it, assume it is not a missile, and thus don't care. Why assign someone to look into it? They DID give a public answer, didn't they? Or at least, parts of the armed forces did: they denied it. That's an answer, isn't it? It's not necessarily up to them to investigate, quickly, every single jet contrail that someone says "ahhhh it's a missile launch!"

So if you presume the DoD didn't do it, then 36 hours isn't bad. Apparently, the media doesn't really care. Afterall, a "it was a jet flying a normal pathway" story isn't going to sell much. On the other hand, a "secret missile test [in broad daylight]" story is a good seller.

So maybe: the armed forces/DoD/Pentagon didn't do it. The news media don't care because they realize they didn't do it, and a story about a jet taking off isn't very interesting. So it only took 36 hours for a random guy to put all the pieces together and give a good answer.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200332)

Also: people still would not have believed the FAA/DoA if they said "Yeah, it was a jet." People aren't believing a non-government source, saying it's not from the government; people also aren't believing the government denying it, because it's from the government. Hm.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200022)

So yeah, if you believe that the government can create that good of a cover story with that much independent evidence in a 36 hour period, well, you have more faith in government agencies than I do.

Alternatively, you consider that the government is -so- incompetent that they scheduled a secret missile test right when there would be a plane scheduled to fly along that same trajectory. The missile actually failed to get off the ground, and it just took the government 36 hours to realize it never left and they too were actually looking at a plane.

After dealing with the DMV, I consider this the most likely explanation.

Re:Sounds like the standard counter intelligence (0, Redundant)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199836)

Karma goes up, karma goes down. Looks like this will be my last post before I get ban hammered for a while.

Oops (5, Insightful)

falldeaf (968657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199738)

I wonder if that UN Ambassador feels silly about his comment that it was probably a display of power aimed at asian nations... Why would the military perform a missile launch to beat their chest then deny that they did it? XD This news is going to be devastating to conspiracy theorists. No wait, denial and facts fuel that fire, nevermind.

Re:Oops (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199914)

Why would the military perform a missile launch to beat their chest then deny that they did it?

It was to be announced at the next Party Congress. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

Re:Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200060)

+1 Genius

Dag-nabbit. (4, Informative)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199756)

The picture fooled me, too.

And I ignored myself when I wondered why the plume wasn't all twisted up. Missile trails go through the different layers of atmosphere and pull in different directions. Like this:

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/09/17/article-1214076-06756E3E000005DC-858_306x438.jpg [dailymail.co.uk]

Re:Dag-nabbit. (4, Informative)

guru42101 (851700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199826)

Watching the news a few days ago they had a video of it. They're sitting they're talking about how they don't know what it is. I'm watching the video with red and green alternating lights wondering if idiocracy is already here.

Re:Dag-nabbit. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199946)

I'm watching the video with red and green alternating lights wondering if idiocracy is already here.

That was just sloppy editing.

Yup, shows how easy it is to fool people (1, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199862)

What however I usually find most intresting is the story behind the story.

Why did it take this long and an amateur to figure it all out? Why wasn't CBS called within minutes of the airing that this was nothing, that aircraft X flying from Y and landing at Z at XX:XX was it, that radar had it on track the whole time and that this flight passes over daily and does pretty much the same thing?

It shows a kink in the line of communication somewhere that this was cleared up almost immediately. And no, I am not saying the US military HAS to answer every question, but when a story breaks out like this and reaches around the globe, the military should have a better answer then "we don't what it is, we are fairly certain it wasn't our missle, but what it was, we don't know".

For everyone who thinks the Chinese would for instance NOT have dared to fire a missle this close as a show of power. The USA with Bomber Harris send US bomber aircraft capable of carrying nukes on flights over Russia. Do you think the US has a monopoly on mad men?

That it was nothing does not mean it will always be nothing and why does the military get so much of the US taxpayers money if they can't even tell us what was flying over California?

Re:Yup, shows how easy it is to fool people (2, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199992)

It shows a kink in the line of communication somewhere that this was cleared up almost immediately. And no, I am not saying the US military HAS to answer every question, but when a story breaks out like this and reaches around the globe, the military should have a better answer then "we don't what it is, we are fairly certain it wasn't our missle, but what it was, we don't know".

It took the Air Force 18 years to tell itself and its commanders that UFOs were just optical illusions and weather balloons. And they still haven't officially told the public-at-large anything.

If it's not a threat, and it has no potential as a military technology or other funding source, it's not interesting. It has other things to do, specifically those involving threats, operations, or funding sources. I mean advanced technology development.

I can't get my cats interested in The Discovery Channel or Slashdot, either. But they are very keenly interested in when I open a can of soup (or, as far as they know, possibly canned cat food). Pretty much the same phenomenon.

Re:Yup, shows how easy it is to fool people (1)

ebuck (585470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200154)

CBS is more interested in the commercials than the news. They probably were told quite quickly, but delayed in processing the information so they could get a few more people tuning in to either see what's going on or attempt to explain the obvious. This means more people, higher Nelson ratings, and more cash for the commercial slots.

Don't be too hard on CBS, all news agencies have devolved into the same. That's why Britney Spears is a news item, it's cheap to know where she is, and people tune in. Personally, no matter what she does (or did) she's not newsworthy. Entertainment channel news worthy perhaps, but what are we doing putting celebrities on the same channel we announce wars with?

Re:Yup, shows how easy it is to fool people (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200252)

It shows a kink in the line of communication somewhere that this was cleared up almost immediately. And no, I am not saying the US military HAS to answer every question, but when a story breaks out like this and reaches around the globe, the military should have a better answer then "we don't what it is, we are fairly certain it wasn't our missle, but what it was, we don't know".

Yeah, even "we're looking into it" would be a better response than, "we don't know what it is, we're fairly certain it wasn't ours, we don't want to believe it was a potential enemy's, and we aren't going to bother investigating it, either."

Re:Yup, shows how easy it is to fool people (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200276)

Possibly because radar track data is not all that accessible, and there is no one who's job it is to dig out that data and prepare it for the media sound byte.

Two web cams, one north, or south slightly would have provided a stereo view and made it plain that it was a plane in level flight, but who has web cams pointed to the sky off shore? And who is responsible to run thru their web cam recordings (if there are any) to look for contrails?

Too much tv watching leads people to the assumption that every square foot of the US is covered by multiple web cams/security cams.

It took this long because Horatio Cane was on the other coast at the time.

Re:Dag-nabbit. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199950)

Not always I can tell you that a shuttle launch looks a lot like that was shown. ICBM test flights and Probably SLBM test flights will often corkscrew early in flight to eat up some range.
What no one is getting is that this almost as worrisome as if it was a missile.
That plane was coming into the US from from the Pacific Ocean. It crossed into US airspace from outside US airspace. Yes I know that Hawaii is part of the US but our airspace doesn't extend the entire distance.
So why did it take the DOD and FAA so long to find out what it was. I mean really they knew what time the video was taken so why couldn't they just punch up it was FLTxxx at FLx?
That is what worries me. Does the US have air defense to speak of?

Re:Dag-nabbit. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200032)

Does the US have air defense to speak of?

No [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Dag-nabbit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200250)

So why did it take the DOD and FAA so long to find out what it was. I mean really they knew what time the video was taken so why couldn't they just punch up it was FLTxxx at FLx?

You're assuming the gov TLAs were reported about this as soon as it was filmed. Once a plane's off radar they've got to work back and find out what it was. And no, you can't just say 'look at flight plans' because those are just suggested routes.

What was the timeline between when it it was filmed and when it was aired and when it was reported?

Re:Dag-nabbit. (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200294)

Depends on what you mean by air defense. If you mean an automated system that can shoot down ballistic missiles then no. There has been work on that off and on, that's what the whole "Star Wars" project is/was. However nothing operational at this point, or at least nothing that is admitted to (and that is the kind of system where publicly admitting it is useful).

In terms of defense against air attacks? Yes, tons. The US has a bunch of air bases all around its borders. The Air Force and Air National Guard operated bases in most states with fighters (F-16s and F-22s mostly) to deal with threats. In terms of tracking incoming craft, that is done on a continuous basis by massive radar installations. The PAVE PAWS radar arrays provide complete coverage of the US borders out to very long distances (like 3000km). All inbound craft are tracked and known.

So what's the deal here? Well the deal is nothing happened, that's what. There was nothing out of the ordinary so nobody noticed anything. All commercial flights are well known. They file flight plans, keep ground controllers appraised of their progress, and show up on civilian radar. See the radar you get at airports actually isn't normal radar. It doesn't track any object in the sky, it is Secondary Surveillance Radar. Rather what it is doing is looking for transponders. All commercial and private planes have to have one that say who they are. So what happens, more or less, is the radar says "Hi who are you?" and the plane responds "This is my callsign." Works great and makes tracking much easier, you don't have to have someone analyze the radar signals to tell if they are real returns or not (radar can get returns off of birds, air currents, etc if the power is high enough) and you can keep easy track of what everything is.

A plane that has an active transponder and a known flight plan is nothing out of the ordinary. There are thousands a day. So nobody takes any notice, that is shit working how it should. So when the military was asked "Did you do this?" they truthfully answered "No we didn't." When the FAA was asked "Did you see anything weird?" they again truthfully said "No we didn't." Because neither had seen anything weird, no evidence of any problems, they didn't go digging. The military isn't going to go all crazy because there is a picture of a contrail. The PAVE PAWS in Beale didn't see anything problematic, who gives a shit?

I am guessing IUSS was also clear of any unknown subs and so on.

Nobody noticed anything because there was nothing to notice, except visually, and neither the DOD or FAA check that because it isn't useful. Everything in terms of monitoring was fine. They may have opened an inquiry in to what happened so they could give people an answer, but that can take time since it isn't high priority and you want to give a correct answer. Or they may have just not given a shit since it was clearly just someone who'd snapped a picture of a jet and didn't know what it was. They knew it was NOT a missile as that would have been tracked.

Chinese missile from a submarine. Period. (3, Funny)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199784)

Why? Simple. It's more fun that way. There is NO excitement in the version saying it's a damned routine flight. That version is a national security threat. Millions of people will die as a result. Of boredom.

Therefore, it was a missile. Chinese. Communist party. War tensions abound. Obama is negotiating terms with Hu Jintao at this very moment, supposedly over the econonomic issues. Saving millions, billions even! from certain death.

Re:Chinese missile from a submarine. Period. (1)

Myopic (18616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200198)

Thank you, President McKinley. We'll start war with Spain tomorrow.

or

Thank you, President Bush. We'll start war with Iraq tomorrow.

Re:Chinese missile from a submarine. Period. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200330)

pfft. the chinese theory was always stupid. They haven't, historically, been interested in in that kind of bravado and provocation as to operate a weapon, unannounced, off the coast of an alleged ally. Our only major dispute with them, even, is the existence of Taiwan as an independent state.

North Korea is a much better fit to the rogue missile theory: fewer decision makers to veto the plan, and a recent history of deliberate attacks and provocation.

Weather balloon (2, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199798)

It's gotta be a weather balloon that just happens to be shaped like a missile.

meanwhile (0)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199832)

Meanwhile, a staffer for Jane's Defense(who have a great deal of empirical knowledge in this arena) stated that the visual evidence clearly states that the object was a solid fuel rocket of some sort. I'll trust the people at Jane's, who have been doing this for decades and are among the most knowledgeable civilians on such matters in the world, over an amateur sleuth from the internet.

Realistically, if it wasn't the US launching one as a show of power while touring Asia, it was the Russians(not sure if the Chinese are ready for that yet) as a show of power indicating to get out of their back yard.

Re:meanwhile (1)

Arimus (198136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199902)

There is probably some missile tech at the USN range wondering where the missile he'd left while he went for lunch has gone... he did though hear a loud roar just after he put his lunch bag down on his console.

Re:meanwhile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199916)

Realistically, if it wasn't the US launching one as a show of power while touring Asia, it was the Russians(not sure if the Chinese are ready for that yet) as a show of power indicating to get out of their back yard.

I wouldn't be too sure...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-492804/The-uninvited-guest-Chinese-sub-pops-middle-U-S-Navy-exercise-leaving-military-chiefs-red-faced.html

Witnesses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199840)

Witness report hearing an awesome bass track as the plane took to the sky...

Airplane Contrail? (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199850)

Didn't this appear to rise from the Pacific? How would a plane, flying high over the Pacific and heading to Phoenix, produce a contrail that rises from the Pacific heading west?

Perspective (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199884)

It's called a horizon and Phoenix is "EAST" of Hawaii.

Re:Perspective (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200122)

Mod this up...

Re:Perspective (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200144)

Thats what "they" want you to think. Wake up!

Server down, contrail explanation? (1, Insightful)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199852)

I am very interested if he addresses the apparently single contrail, most airliners I see have distinct trails per engine or at least per wing.

Re:Server down, contrail explanation? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199904)

...most airliners I see have distinct trails per engine or at least per wing.

Clearly you've never flown on a discount airline. They can't even afford peanuts, so do you think they can afford engines?

Re:Server down, contrail explanation? (4, Informative)

swimin (828756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200084)

Sometimes, they merge very quickly into a single contrail, and his argument is that this is the case, and the angle at which the photo was shot at doesn't allow you to see them merge.

It is not a contrail. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199874)

This is the internet, people. You must refer to it as a CHEMTRAIL.

With all our technology... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199876)

We still can't identify a regular commercial airplane flight.

Re:With all our technology... (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199962)

I assume that by "we" you mean CBS news.

Re:With all our technology... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200050)

I don't think "handheld camera" qualifies as "all our technology."

Don't most airliners have two or more engines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199894)

Wouldn't their be two or or more trails if it was a plane?

I won't say I told you so... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199900)

...the hell I won't.

Well, obviously wasn't a missile (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199906)

Missiles move a lot faster than that. Looking at ICBM speeds [wikipedia.org] it appears that they typically move their first 150km to 400km at 7km/s and the last 100km at up to 4km/s. The longest phase (the intercontinental part) is claimed to be typically about 25 minutes, which is also obviously damn fast.

Now, you can give or take there but the guy who originally shot the video said that he looked at it for about 10 minutes. Using any of those speeds, 10 minutes would be 4200km, 2400km or about half of a flight from one continent to another. So he looked at something far, far slower. Pentagon or any other government agency didn't claim to know anything about it. There were no news about missiles hitting any part of the country... It is absurd that the "news" channels jumped on the missile -story.

Plane Finder (4, Interesting)

Fartypants (120104) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199912)

I was going to say this would been much easier if the Plane Finder AR iphone and android app wasn't labeled "an aid to terrorists" [techdirt.com] and removed from app stores, but it looks like you can still get it [pinkfroot.com] . There's a web version too at www.planefinder.net

What about the air force? (1)

assertation (1255714) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199918)

Isn't anyone else bothered that the military couldn't identify it?

Re:What about the air force? (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199948)

Or that a "contrail" looks nothing like this?

Re:What about the air force? (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200078)

You're an expert on "contrails"?

Daylight Savings Change (5, Interesting)

JoelWink (1846354) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199926)

I think one aspect of this story that hasn't been mentioned is the fact that daylight savings time kicked in the previous day. So, let's say this is a regular weekday flight that arrives in Phoenix in the early evening. After the November 7th "fall back" daylight savings time change, this flight, which may have passed over L.A. in bright daylight on Friday November 5th, is now illuminated on Monday November 8th with dramatic dusk lighting, resulting in a very different looking contrail.

No wonder the amateur got the story (5, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199936)

All those big name news outfits, CBS or FOX or what not, they are in the business of selling ad time. Digging and finding the truth costs money and produces uninteresting information. "Was there a mystery missile? Film at 11" collects eye-balls and sells ads. The amateur on the other hand does not have any incentive to hype the mystery and in fact has an incentive to debunk the myth. So he got it. Way to go.

Wish there are more such amateurs tracking the money and misinformation spread by everyone about politics.

ok, maybe it's part of this (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199938)

Why hasn't anyone brought up the possibility that it is part of this conspiracy?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chem_trail

Re:ok, maybe it's part of this (3, Insightful)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199984)

Because some people value their credibility, perhaps?

space shuttle (-1, Troll)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 3 years ago | (#34199968)

I don't care what who said it was a plane flight.

I've seen enough shuttle launches (in person) to realize that the contrail from the other day was a rocket taking off.

Re:space shuttle (4, Insightful)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200014)

"I don't care who said it was a plane flight"

The battle cry of the uninformed conspiracy theorist...

Re:space shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200270)

You don't think the first thing the pentagon would do is call up the FAA and ask if there were flights in that area at that time ?

Nobody bothered to check before the pentagon announced they don't know what it is, but are reasonably sure it isn't theirs ?

One of my buddies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34199974)

was flying in that section of airspace at the time. When it flew up past his plane, he reported it to traffic control as a missile. I highly doubt that this was a simple contrail.

Re:One of my buddies... (2, Funny)

Is0m0rph (819726) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200272)

So the conspiracy theories start. My cousin's husband's brother's friend was flying his homemade ultralight plane right by there and swears it was a missile and it almost hit him.

Daily Show (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200004)

Head over to Jon Stewart. His coverage is, as always, hilarious. The guy who saw it followed it for ten minutes. Do the math: 10 minutes x Mach 4 =...

Re:Daily Show (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200046)

Once again, leave it up to Comedy Central's fake news show to get the facts right, while all of the other cable "news" outlets ran with sensationalism.

Streetlight (1)

adenied (120700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200076)

It's a streetlight!

Oh wait, wrong website.

Photo of Flight 808 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200164)

US Airways Flight 808:

http://img703.imageshack.us/img703/8705/808.jpg

I don't buy it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34200266)

Planes fly from Hawaii to all over the US *every day*. Why is this the only time that one has gotten mistaken for a missile?

In addition, I personally have never seen a plane that leaves such a large/thick single contrail before. Compare the video to something like WikiPedia [wikipedia.org]

I remain unconvinced (1, Insightful)

nilbog (732352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34200278)

I've never seen an airplane contrail look like that before. While that's not evidence that that's not what it is, I've seen lots of missiles that look like that. The video really makes it look like a missile to me. You can also see an airplane nearby in the video, so which flight is that? If it was flight 808 wouldn't it have been low like the passenger plane in the video? Why was it so much higher? Why was it leaving an enormous unusual contrail while the other plane wasn't?

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