What's It like to fly above the world at mach?
June 17, 2007 8:33 PM   Subscribe

Military/FictionFilter: I look at my western skyline at dusk and see lines of contrails everywhere. I've been in planes flying all over the world and seen all sorts of sights at dusk, but what's it like to see that from a military jet sending out those trails at whatever speed? Personal details would be nice, but suggestions from established fiction would be fine. Details aren't necessary - I dont want to plagarize anything, I just want an impression for a short piece of fiction.
posted by elendil71 to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can't see it happening. I haven't been in a military jet, but I've been in commercial jets which were flying at altitude and in conditions such as to leave contrails. It takes a while (a couple of seconds) for the contrail to form after the jet passes, and by the time it does the jet is long gone. People in the jet cannot see it because it's directly behind them and a mile back.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:41 PM on June 17, 2007

I'm pretty sure the view and the altitude are what you notice. Speed doesn't really look like anything..

Just imagine the view you get looking out of this!
posted by Chuckles at 9:43 PM on June 17, 2007

i have to agree with Beste, you won't notice them unless you have a camera to look backwards or some type of observer position for the rear of the aircraft (think fuel boom operator on a tanker)
posted by aggienfo at 10:53 PM on June 17, 2007

I've seen something pretty much like this when seated toward the back of a commercial jet. It just looks like wispy clouds even close up.

I'm pretty sure that even if you were to be flying close up, and you wouldn't because of the jet's turbulence, you wouldn't see much. It's only at a distance that it looks like a solid mass.
posted by dhartung at 10:58 PM on June 17, 2007

People in the jet cannot see it because it's directly behind them and a mile back.

Unlike passenger aircraft, modern fighters usually have bubble canopies and have rear-view mirrors mounted inside the canopy. Unlike commercial aircraft passengers, fighter pilots are trained to be aware of what's going on around them, including behind them. Fighters can also bank around at whatever g-load they're comfortable with to get a better view behind them, which might unnerve a commercial passenger. Behind you is where death lives, which is a powerful incentive to check six frequently and with great gusto.

I'll admit that the only military aircraft I have flown in were, IIRC, C-130s, so I'm also talking out my ass. But, damn.

There was one or another airplane show on The Hitler Channel that featured SR-71 pilots talking about the experience of flying them. IIRC, mostly they described it as serene, no weather up there and no real sensation of speed, but with lots of management stuff to keep you real busy in the cockpit.

If you want people talking about a sensation of speed, talk to low-altitude strike/bomber crews. High subsonic at a couple hundred feet at the mercy of the terrain-following radar must be... interesting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:09 PM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

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