Published November 10, 2010
A blogger reckons he may have solved the mystery over the vapor trail spotted off the southern coast of California on Monday.
On his blog "Time to Think," Liem Bahneman on Wednesday pinpointed America West Flight 808 as the likely cause -- backing up an explanation offered by a senior military official to Fox News Channel that the contrail caught on video by a news helicopter “was more likely caused by an airplane than anything else."
Bahneman wonders if he is the first to call it: "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 America West Flight 808 (AWE808)."
He concluded: "As I was researching tonight (24 hours later), I realized that today's (Tuesday's) AWE808 current position (at around 4:50 p.m.) was almost the same as it was the day of the incident. I quickly pulled up a Newport Beach webcam and found that (apparently) AWE808 was making an identical contrail, 24 hours later!"
Bahneman cited another blog, ContrailScience.com, which lists a wealth of other details about jet airplane contrails. The blogger behind that site agreed with Bahneman, telling FoxNews.com that "the plane is flying directly TOWARD you, so it starts below the horizon. The contrail at the horizon is far away, maybe 50-100 miles behind the plane, and has been spread out by the wind, creating the illusion that it's closer."
The Department of Defense said Wednesday that it was satisfied the event was likely caused by an airplane.
"With all the information that we have gathered over the last day and a half about this condensation trail off the coast of southern California on Monday night, both within the DoD and other U.S. government agencies, we have no information to suggest this was anything other than a contrail caused by an aircraft," said Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.
"As stated yesterday, NORAD and USNORTHCOM determined that there was no threat to the U.S. homeland."
Lapan said that in the mind of the DoD this case is closed.
Lapan said the government looked at lots of data sources other than the CBS news tape. He would not get into the details of what those data sources were, but said that evidence helped determine this was most likely an aircraft. But most importantly, it was the response from all other government agencies saying they did not launch anything that convinced them this was likely an aircraft.
"The Department of Defense, after gathering info over the last 36 hours from within the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, is satisfied the contrail was likely caused by an aircraft."
But which flight? Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways, could not confirm that Flight 808 was responsible for the vapor trail, though he did confirm details of the flight.
"Flight 808 did depart Honolulu at 9:53 a.m. yesterday morning local Honolulu time and arrived at Phoenix at 7:04 p.m.," Lehmacher told FoxNews.com, and the plane did travel along the planned route between those two destinations, he said. But that isn't conclusive evidence, Lehmacher stated.
"I can confirm that our aircraft traversed that route yesterday, but you'd need to talk to someone who's more versed in atmospheric conditions," Lehmacher said. Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, agreed with Lehmacher's diagnosis.
"We can't determine the exact source of the contrail because we don't know its location, trajectory or altitude," he told FoxNews.com. "Remember, we did a radar replay of an area based on MEDIA REPORTS of the location of the contrail, not on any precise location of the contrail."
These are just a handful of the blogs that have been weighing in on the matter, however. From space fanatics to conspiracy theorists to unrelated mommy blogs, the blogosphere has been working overtime in its hive efforts to solve the issue.
UniverseToday supports the plane theory, noting that "the Boeing Co. every so often will deploy aircraft from San Nicolas Island. These flights are part of an anti-missile laser testing program. However, the company has announced that it had nothing in the air on Monday."
Bloggers at New York Magazine weighed in with a whopping eight theories of their own on what might have caused the mystery, straying from the realm of the possible ("the military is just covering up its own missile launch") to the wacky ("a dejected Meg Whitman decided to leave Earth behind after spending $141 million of her fortune on a losing gubernatorial run").
Chat forums were ablaze with the mystery streak, too, from Body Building forums to conspiracy theorists. But despite all the buzz, until the FAA determines conclusively what caused the streak, the mystery may remain.
NewsCore contributed to this report.