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Lately, there seems to be more and more jet fuel trails visible. Are we under the I-95 of the airline industry?


Q. Lately, there seems to be more and more jet fuel trails visible just off the coast. On sunny days 6-7 planes at a time are visible heading due east or west.  Are under the I-95 of the airline industry?

A. Air traffic over Wilmington is mostly a result of the city’s location in the larger travel grid, according to Jon Rosborough, airport director at ILM.

“Most of the commercial air traffic, a majority of it occurs along the East Coast, east of the Mississippi,” he said. “We have a lot of traffic going from north to south, so being a coastal state – just like Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia – we are following the most direct route. There’s a lot of planes up there.”

The area’s warm weather most likely contributes to the visibility of fuel trails in the sky, Rosborough said.

“The blue sky with high moisture and the height that they fly – it makes the trails more visible,” he said.


Where is the best place for “plane spotting” at ILM? Is there a park or road where locals watch landings and takeoffs?

Why was a very large airplane at ILM on Feb. 2, 2012?


User-contributed question by:
Steve Walters

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6 Responses to “ Lately, there seems to be more and more jet fuel trails visible. Are we under the I-95 of the airline industry?”

  1. On April 3, 2012 at 8:45 pm Richard wrote:

    Is what we’re seeing CONTRAILs (condensation trails), fuel dumping trails, or both?

  2. On April 4, 2012 at 5:19 am sherri wrote:

    jet contrails dissipate quickly. these don’t, and appear to turn an otherwise clear blue sky into a greasy smear. if you can’t tell the truth just say you don’t know and noaa ain’t sayin.

  3. On April 5, 2012 at 10:40 am John Mahoney wrote:

    Several east coast airways, called jet routes, converge over the Wilmington area. These jet routes are used for traffic between the Northeast and Orlando, West Palm Beach, Miami, and the Bahamas.

  4. On April 7, 2012 at 7:19 am Scott C. wrote:

    These are not “fuel trails”…..they are Condensation trails better known as “Contrails.”

    Contrails are artificial clouds that are the visible trails of condensed water vapour made by the exhaust of aircraft engines. As the hot exhaust gases cool in the surrounding air they may precipitate a cloud of microscopic water droplets or, if the air is cold enough, tiny ice crystals.

    Depending on atmospheric conditions, contrails may be visible for only a few seconds or minutes, or may persist for many hours, which may affect climate.

    Contrails tend to last longer if there is higher moisture in the atmosphere and associated higher level clouds such as cirrus, cirrostratus and cirrocumulus already present before the plane flies through.

    So, much like your car’s exhaust on a cold day…..there is no fuel coming out of your exhaust pipe….rather it is the warm exhaust cooling in the surrounding air that creates the trails.

  5. On April 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm Your Capt wrote:

    The contrails off shore are from north/south jet routes that include a navaid located roughly at Sneads Ferry. Like a previous poster says, these routes connect the northeast US with airports in south Florida, and are used by planes that have rafts/vests for overwater flights.

    These are most certainly contrails. Aircraft only dump fuel for an emergency that dictates an immediate landing after takeoff, this is usually wide body aircraft. They are the only ones that can be loaded with enough fuel to make the aircraft too heavy on takeoff to make a safe immediate landing. The fuel dump is to lower the landing weight.

  6. On April 9, 2012 at 11:25 am Logic wrote:

    Guys… chem trail stuff is complete garbage

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