More on the Mystery Missile – and a Poll!

Posted by: Phineas on November 11, 2010 at 3:14 pm

So, the mystery of the unidentified contrail see over Los Angeles three nights ago continues. Experts go back and forth over whether it was a missile (and its implications) or a jet mistaken for a missile due to the curvature of the Earth. At least one Southern Californian, however, thinks he’s not only determined it was a jet, but what commercial flight it was – and he’s seen it again:

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 that (apparently) AWE808 was making an identical contrail, 24 hours later!

Read the rest, and be sure to check out the web cam image taken from a corner in Newport Beach the day after “The Event.” He makes a good case. (Update: Also visit the link he provides to the very informative Contrail Science blog)

Meanwhile Ed at Hot Air reports on a poll of Angelenos taken by Survey USA for KABC:

One television station decided to poll Angelenos on whether they thought the government had told the truth about its origin, and the results show that LA doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the answer. The Survey USA poll shows only 20% of respondents who were “familiar” with the story think the government told the truth about the contrail, while 66% — two-thirds — say the government lied about it.

The crosstabs show a remarkable sense of unity. Young, middle-aged, old, white, black, Hispanic — the overwhelming majority in every demographic believes the government lied about it. The best the government does is with those 55 or older, where only 54% say it’s a lie, while 34% believe the explanation. Only 6% of younger voters buy the official conclusion, while 77% reject it.

Me, I still lean strongly toward “jet plus optical illusion.” I just have this feeling that, had it been, for example, an accidental missile launch, the news of such a boo-boo wouldn’t stay secret for very long. And the idea of a purposeful secret test off the coast with millions of people watching….? No. As for the theory that the “missile” was Chinese and that they were sending us a message, well, that would require China to be run by idiots and that’s one thing they’re not.

So, it’s time for our own poll. What do you think?

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3 Responses to “More on the Mystery Missile – and a Poll!”


  1. Matt McDole says:

    I grew up in that area, and am quite familiar with seeing missile launches in the evenings, it’s done from more than one place in that general area.

    I also lived near both Ontario (ONT) and Los Angeles (LAX) airports and am even more familiar with contrails and jet takeoffs as I’ve lived in the flight paths of BOTH airports.

    While I’m not screaming “ZOMG CHINESE!” I think it’s pretty sheepish to believe that this is a jet taking off. The trail looks very much like what I’ve seen during missile launches and nothing like any ascending airliner’s con-trail. Additionally, the “optical illusion of an aircraft flying TOWARD the camera” theory is all well and good until you look at a few of the photos and realize you can see the glow of an engine. Could be a jet engine burn as easily as a rocket engine burn, sure. But NOT if said jet is coming toward you as supposed by the jet theory.

    Lastly; who cares if it’s a missile? As stated before, it’s not a new thing in that area. You have an airbase, a naval base, and a coastline dotted with empty (supposedly) silos that housed Nike missiles. I think it’s absolute folly to expect transparency from the DoD, they don’t operate with too much oversight for VERY good reason. I’d only hope that if it WAS a foreign missile we’d know about it and the government wouldn’t hold out on us.

  2. Phineas says:


    Good points. About what looks like an engine burn, I thought the arguments at bahneman and Ccontrail Science were persuasive, even if not decisve: that the glow may have been the sun reflecting off the plane, which was at (IIRC) 39K feet. It had set from our perspective, but would still catch a object that high.

    I have a feeling this will be one of those great dinner arguments for years to come. :)

  3. Matt McDole says:

    Yea, the argument suggesting the “engine burn” is a reflection might work for the footage shot from the news chopper, I wouldn’t dispute that. I thought I’d seen photos of the object shot from the deck though (I’ll have to see if I can find them,) and a jet on takeoff on a trajectory toward the camera wouldn’t substantially reflect from the fuselage given its shape and wouldn’t reflect at all from the wings.

    I agree wholeheartedly on a great topic for dinner arguments. There is certainly too little evidence one way or the other to be sure. Unfortunately, Occam’s Razor doesn’t even apply here given that both scenarios are likely.