FlightAware Discussions

Vapors(contrail) coming out of the LEFT wingtip on takeoff.

Fact: From the ground located at 7km out of the runway, I saw a plane (probably a Embraer ERJ-135) taking off from YQB, I noticed a vapor trail coming out of the LEFT wingtip. I phoned 911 (emergency) to tell them what I saw. They took my statement, hung up, probably talk to the tower then phone me back to tell me that it was probably an overflow of kerosene, and that the tower didn’t see anything particular but that if something would come up an emergency would be declare. They specificaly told me that no communication took place with the plane.

My question is: I feel, that with that kind of information, the pilot should have been told and only them could take a decision on what to do and not the tower, but then I am not an airline pilot. Would an airline pilot want to know this kind of information?

Why do you assume that the crew didn’t know about the issue? I’m sure somebody onboard the aircraft would have noticed the fuel venting as well and said something. Plus the crew would receive a cockpit indication if there was a critical fuel imbalance or abnormal loss of fuel if the venting continued during the flight.

I agree with your statement. There is no way for me to know that, on the other hand, from my conversation with 911, the crew didn’t learn that fact from the tower.

It was probably just moisture vapor. The fuel tank does not extend clear out to the tip and there isn’t a fuel dump system on that aircraft type.

Regardless of what type of aircraft it was it would have a fuel vent system. I’m pretty sure the ERJs have surge tanks as well, and the contents would be vented once there is sufficient aerodynamic pressure to do so (ie on climb out).

You are correct, but the vent is well inboard of the tip, by several feet. Surge tanks are built to let actual liquid fuel drain back into the tank, all that escapes is fumes, unless there is extreme overflow of the tanks, and in that case, it would not come out at the tip.

It is quite common for vapor trails to form at wingtips and on the top of wings during certain weather conditions. Two facts that we all remember: the pressure is lower on the top of the wing than on the bottom, and low pressure causes a temperature drop. Two, warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. So, when the temperature drops because of the low pressure, if there is too much moisture for the cold air to hold, it will condense and become visible vapor. This can be seen on the top of the wing, and at the wing tips where air will try to go from the high pressure underneath the wing to the top of the wing, drop in temperature while doing so, and thus produce visible vapor trails.
I can pretty much guarantee that it was not fuel. I have been flying airline jets for 35 years and have never dumped fuel or had it come out of the wing while taking off or landing. But vapor trails, yes, quite common. :smiley:

From your description, it sounds like wingtip vortices. Quite common in certain weather conditions. Also, will happen off of a propeller too.

It’s not an emergency, doesn’t warrant a call to 911.

As an Airline Pilot myself; no. I don’t want to know this information. It’s not useful information and it’s not important.

I honestly can’t think of many situations a spectator on the ground would be able to assist crew via telephone. More than most likely if you know about it, we do too.

Ok, funny story. I was working TOA ATCT back in the 90’s, still a trainee. Had a Twin ( a Duchess maybe? I don’t remember…) doing touch and goes. The aircraft is on about a half mile final, we were just minding our own business working planes, and the phone rang. The supervisor answered, and just suddenly screamed 'SEND THE TWIN AROUND!". Seems the pilot was doing a test ride on the aircraft with intent to buy, and his son( also a pilot) was hanging around in the small terminal building watching the proceedings. He had spotted the nose wheel fall off after the preceding touch and go. ( We didn’t see it.) The plane went around, the airport guys found the nosewheel on the runway. After circling the field a for a while he landed safely, making a nice groove in the runway.

The wheel on the ground went bounce, bounce, bounce… (with apologies to the children’s bus song)
I guess the moral would be “Don’t email 911”