Please help me learn how to track this event in more detail


An interesting event occurred between Albuquerque and Santa Fe today with several jets in the sky at the same time circling the same area. I was not a member here at the time and was using Here are screenshots of the flights:

Each of these planes was in the sky at about 10:20 AM Mountain Time. All but the first screenshot have the time in UTC. Each of these planes landed at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport, and I believe it was one right after the other.

I want to know what explains these aircraft having all been in the sky at the same time flying a similar circular path in the same vicinity and for what purpose. Any guidance would be appreciated.


What was the weather at KSAF at the time?


The area between Albuquerque and Santa Fe was (and still is at the moment) filled with dense clouds – a mixture of high altitude stratus overcast mixed with cumulus (rain clouds) at lower elevations.


These weather reports are from earlier in the morning…not the times the aircraft were circling. (Sorry, I didn’t read the original post carefully enough! There were some low clouds at the time of the event, but not below minimums, it seems. Might have been an issue with the airport: runway blocked, ILS out, something like that.

Fog and low ceilings at ABQ this AM…Santa Fe had 1/4 mile visibility for a short time, but mostly stayed around 1/2 to 1 mile with fog and ceilings from 300 to 500 ft…after the 1252z report ABQ improved.

SPECI KABQ 191119Z COR 24004KT 1/4SM FG VV001 07/06 A2999 RMK AO2 MTNS OBSC NE-SE T00670061

METAR KABQ 191152Z 24003KT 1/4SM FG VV001 07/06 A2999 RMK AO2 SLP125 MTNS OBSC NE-SE

SPECI KABQ 191232Z 13003KT 1/2SM FG VV001 06/06 A3000 RMK AO2 MTNS OBSC NE-SE T00560056

SPECI KABQ 191239Z 13004KT 1/4SM FG VV001 06/05 A3001 RMK AO2 MTNS OBSC NE-SE T00560050

METAR KABQ 191252Z 13005KT 1/4SM FG VV001 06/06 A3001 RMK AO2 SLP134 MTNS OBSC NE-SE T00560056


And that should answer the question…


No. There were and still are dense clouds in the ABQ/ Santa Fe area. I am there. It did not “improve.” In fact, the Sandia Mountains are completely engulfed by clouds.

And my question was this: “I want to know what explains these aircraft having all been in the sky at the same time flying a similar circular path in the same vicinity and for what purpose.”

Am I supposed to believe 4 smaller jets (none of which are listed with commercial airlines) in the sky at an airport like Santa Fe circling in the same vicinity is just a coincidence? Those suggestions of an issue with the airport: “runway blocked, ILS out” – how do I verify something like this?


It may be cloudy and “dense” as you call it, but nothing in either airport’s weather for the last three hours would preclude landings.

And 4 jets in the sky around Santa Fe isn’t that unusual.

Call the airports involved and see if they can answer the questions. Lots of things happen every day: power failures, radio out…etc.


And looking at SAF weather this morning, the visibility was less than 1 mile from about 8am until 10. The minimums for the ILS is 3/4’s of a mile. As soon as the weather improved to (close to 10AM) all these aircraft landed. This is simple stuff.

And look at the SAF airport page: there are plenty of arrivals and departures in the morning. Back them up due to lousy weather, and 4 in holding isn’t a big deal.


“Simple” is quite relative here. I’m asking for help because I have no aviation experience.

–So then if nothing about the weather was bad enough to prevent landing, isn’t it more odd that the planes would be flying a circular pattern together before landing?
This table is for arrivals at Santa Fe this morning. In the red box are the four flights in question, and I said above they each landed at Santa Fe. Are you saying the weather was responsible for the closely spaced landings? And what does this have to do with the planes flying a similar circular pattern at the same time and in the same location if nothing about the weather would preclude landing?


Because they had to hold in the air and wait for the weather to improve.


I smell conspiracy… either that or the dog just farted…


What you have is not one event in the form of some sort of conspiracy but four flights that happened to arrive at their destination when the weather happened to be below the minimum set for landing. The circular patterns you mention are called holding patterns, these are used by air traffic control for various reasons but this is likely the biggest use out there. The first airplane can be seen going around the pattern quite a few more times than the last one. ATC holds these aircraft at different altitudes, the lower airplane being the first one to arrive and the first one to land when the weather improves. At your house or job it may not look like the weather changed but over at the airport they are measuring the cloud heights to the nearest one hundred feet and the visibility to the nearest sixteenth of a mile when it is really bad. In the case of Santa Fe the minimum visibility to land is 3/4 of a mile and the crew may not descend below 200 feet without seeing the runway. It looks to me like 4 airplanes arrived within about 20 minutes of each other when the visibility was as low as 1/4 of a mile. ATC issued holding instructions and everybody waited for 3/4 of a mile visibility. It came along and all the flights got their turn to land.
This is something that happens several times a day somewhere in the world.


Who said anything about “conspiracy” ? Can someone ask a question and get a straight answer here, or is this another one of those ridiculous “debunking” websites? Really. I asked WHY would the event occur because I’ve never seen planes on the radar do this in my area. But now, I’ve got somebody telling me the weather was NOT an issue for landing, but yet the weather WAS the reason for the planes held up in the air. Does one have to be a “conspiracy theorist” in order to be confused by that answer?


Thank you for the detailed explanation. Like I said, I’m not talking about any kind of conspiracy, that is…unless I start seeing this regularly. :laughing:


Thank Mr. Porterjet for putting this in a cogent manner.