Flight Passengers Capture What No One Was Supposed To See - Part 2

Let's investigate what flight passengers were never supposed to see!

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Socrates once said that man must rise above the earth to truly understand the world he lives in, and what better way to do that than from the comfy window seat of a Boeing-747? But once in a while, folks flying up high in airplanes spot a thing or two that mankind was never meant to lay eyes on! From sky-high shapeshifters to terrifying military interceptions, here are some of the craziest things flight passengers were never supposed to see.

Runway Near Misses

While you might think that the safest part of airplane travel is while you’re grounded on the runway, think again. Passengers on a grounded plane at Barcelona Airport experienced quite a close call when they saw another plane speeding right towards them while coming into land.

It turned out, due to a miscommunication, the flying plane had been cleared to land while the grounded plane had also been given clearance to cross the runway. While the quick thinking of the flying pilot is to be commended, pilots are specially trained to deal with such situations.

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If runway conditions aren’t satisfactory for a plane to make a safe landing, pilots need to perform a safety maneuver called a go-around, which was exactly the case in the clip above. Fortunately, this particular incident happened on a clear morning and the plane on the runway was seen in time, but if things had been a little foggier, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

A similar event took place in February 2023 when air traffic control double-booked a runway at Austin Texas International Airport. Have a look at the jaw-dropping flight path, shown on a digital radar tracker.

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The near miss happened at around 6:40 a.m. when a Southwest Airlines flight was cleared to depart just before a FedEx cargo plane was expected to land on the very same runway. Like the close call at Barcelona Airport, the FedEx pilot was able to perform a go-around and avoid any disasters.

While not caught on camera it looked equally scary to see just how close the two planes were from the flight data, though thankfully their altitude difference was plenty enough to keep passengers safe.

Close Encounter Take-off

While a near miss on the ground is scary enough, what about one at 35,000 feet? Gladly, there are airspace rules on how close flying aircraft can be. For commercial airliners flying below 29,000 feet, planes must maintain a distance of at least three miles horizontally, which extends to five miles if flying any higher.

These rules are strictly enforced, and considering these planes are typically around 150 feet long, it’s fair to assume it looks closer than it really is. Although some might argue that rules were made to be broken, the passenger who captured the next near miss may beg to differ. While flying above Orlando airport in Florida, a small Cessna 172 came within about 500 feet of a civilian-filled Delta flight during take off.

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Pilot Malik Clarke had been following instructions from air traffic control who’d told him to direct his Cessna east over the airport. But things quickly went from plain sailing to a plane nightmare when he and his passengers spotted a Boeing 757 heading straight across their path.

Thanks to Malik’s quick thinking, he quickly diverted as fast as he could, enacting an emergency maneuver to prevent a mid-air collision. The incident was put down to a mistake made by air traffic controllers who’d given the go-ahead for both planes to crossover the very same flight path.

Plane Intercepted By Hungarian Gripen Fighter

Usually, the worst thing you’ll run into while flying on an airplane is a bit of pesky turbulence. But for passengers on British Airways flight 108 from Dubai to London in April 2016, there was a different kind of air force on their tail. To the shock of passengers, they found themselves intercepted by a Gripen fighter jet while passing through Hungarian airspace.

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But how did that happen? And what happened next? Well, every second, there are more than 7,000 commercial flights in the air, and Air Traffic Control stations across the globe are monitoring their every move.

Aircraft are monitored using an onboard electronic communication device called a transponder, which sends real-time signals to air traffic control about the plane’s flight number, altitude, speed, and destination.

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If the transponder fails for any reason, air traffic controllers would see that as a major safety red flag. If all other attempts at communicating with the pilot also fail, they can get in touch with the military who will quickly send in fighters to communicate with the plane air to air.

In the case of British Airways Flight 108, the military intervention was prompted when the plane entered Hungarian airspace unannounced without contacting air traffic control. Thankfully, communication, which had seemingly dropped due to a technical error was quickly restored, and the flight landed safely at its destination.

Ohio Train Derailment

While taking in the view from an airplane window can feel like looking into Heaven’s light, our next flight passenger encounter was more like being faced with the abyss. This next image may look like a black hole that’s made its way into our skies from outer space, but this terrifying phenomenon is very much of this Earth.

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This apocalyptic-looking swirl was spotted by flight passengers flying over East Palestine, Ohio after a train transporting hazardous materials derailed in February 2023. The train included 20 carriages filled with highly toxic chemicals, which spilled into the environment.

While the initial derailment happened on February 3rd, the smoke monster is reported to have come from a controlled burn below a few days later on February 6th.

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The burn was intended to prevent explosions from the chemical contents of several of the carriages, though it was criticized for releasing noxious fumes into the surrounding air. While the sight of this dark plume is no doubt a terrifying view from the sky, it’s even scarier to know what’s going on just below.

Shapeshifting UFO

From scary sightings of Mother Nature at work to something a little more extraterrestrial. What would you do if you were just chilling in your airplane seat, glanced out the window, and saw something like the footage below?

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The mysterious footage above emerged in July 2021 and is reported to show a flying shapeshifter, shot from the window of a commercial flight by an anonymous passenger. The anonymous passenger claimed that the ominous shapeshifting object flew alongside the aircraft for a whole seven minutes.

If true, that would mean the UFO had to be flying at around 550 miles per hour to keep up with the plane’s cruising speed. It’s pretty weird, to say the least. Based on the incredibly shaky camerawork, it looks as though the UFO was shot zoomed in from a distance, but some online sleuths have offered theories that might bring things a little closer to home.

Some have pointed out that the creepy footage could potentially be a zoomed-in shot of a water droplet or a small crack on the outside of the window, which would explain its shapeshifting powers, changing appearance as the angle of the camera changes. Others have theorized the UFO could be a deflated high-altitude weather balloon, and there’s no denying that there’s a striking resemblance.

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Spy Balloons

While the question of whether alien shapeshifters are trying to spy on us isn’t one we have time to answer today, there are some very real cases of flying spies in the skies. In early 2023, a US pilot captured what he suspected to be a surveillance balloon carrying a satellite over the state of Montana.

The balloon was first spotted on January 28th after it had already flown over a number of sensitive military bases and was eventually shot down on February 4th off the coast of South Carolina. Spy balloons like that come kitted out with sensors and cameras that are used to monitor or gather intelligence with the ability to hover as high as 120,000 feet in the air.

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In the above-mentioned case, US officials believe the flying object to be a Chinese spy balloon which is reported to have transmitted real-time information to Beijing about US communication systems.

While it’s unlikely a passenger plane, which will typically cruise at around 35,000ft, would come face to face with high altitude balloons like that one, it’s definitely scary to consider that while flying in a plane may make you feel like you’re on top of the world, you really never know what intrusive technology could be floating higher above.

Glowing Red Clouds

If you’re a window seat lover, then you’ll know that the sky can offer a whole host of breathtaking and beautiful colors. But in July 2022, the folks aboard one plane found themselves faced with what appeared to be blazing portals of fire in the clouds.

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The eerie orbs might look like nightmarish portals to the upside down, but before we get any weird ideas, let’s consider some more likely explanations with the clues we’ve got. While the pilot who took the pictures has remained anonymous, we do know that they were shot somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

But that only creates more questions. What could possibly be emitting this kind of light from the middle of the ocean? The most likely explanation is that the lights are coming from a very large fishing vessel emitting bright red lights to attract a type of baitfish called saury.

Saury fish are highly attracted to bright red lights, and so the fishing vessels used to catch them are decked out with hundreds of massive LEDs that draw in the fish like moths to a flame.

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Similar phenomena have been spotted in the past, both by flight passengers and even the International Space Station, which snapped hundreds of fishing boats using green lights thought to help with catching squid.

While the lights appear to be more aquatic than alien, the red sky at night might be a fisherman’s delight, but the worst nightmare of a plane passenger with no clue of the explanation!

Parallel Landing

So far, we’ve found out that passengers have spotted some truly unexpected anomalies from the windows of their flights in the air, but our next window watchers found out that even landing can come with its surprises.

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The above footage was captured by a passenger coming into land at San Francisco International Airport in June 2016 when not one, but two civilian planes dropped in for landing at exactly the same time. While you might associate this kind of close flying stunt with the likes seen in daredevil air shows, the close encounter is very much of the safe kind.

At San Francisco International, runways 28 left and 28 right are separated by just 750 feet, which is right at the borderline of the minimum legal distance of 700ft. This means that landing sometimes has to be a highly coordinated process.

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When two planes approach the parallel runways at San Francisco Airport, they must both fly in at an angle to keep a safe distance from one another. As the planes get closer to the runways, the pilots must confirm to air traffic control that they each have a clear view of the other plane as they come into land safely.

Some airports, like Sydney, even have opposite parallel runways with one used for take-off and one for landing. This means that planes can crossover closely in the sky as one descends while the other rises, and from the right forced perspective, it’s hard to believe the maneuver could possibly be safe!

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Shattered Window

While we can all agree that airplane flight is one of the best and fastest ways to see the world, there’s still one debate flight passengers the world over can’t quite agree on. What’s better: the aisle or the window seat?

That question was quickly answered in the negative for one window seat passenger onboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Arizona to Las Vegas. Check out the clip below:

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While the mere idea of an airplane window breaking at 30,000 feet is beyond terrifying, it turns out that it’s not always as dangerous as it may appear. Since the air pressure outside an airplane at cruising altitude is much lower than the pressure inside, aircraft windows are under considerable stress.

To deal with this, most windows on modern airplanes are split into three separate layers, and while all three are most certainly important, it’s the outer and middle panes that do most of the heavy lifting.

The inner layer that you lean your head against or press your phone up to is called the scratch pane, and it’s actually not integral to the structure or safety of the window itself, it just prevents you from touching the parts that matter.

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While it's unclear how the scratch plane we just saw above got broken, it was ultimately a case of no real harm done. That said, the disturbed passenger did walk away with a $300 flight voucher.

Atlas V Rocket Launch Seen From Plane

For most of us, flying in an airplane is the closest we’ll ever get to outer space, but for one group of unsuspecting flight passengers flying from JFK, New York to Cancun, Mexico in May 2021, things were about to feel a whole lot closer.

On May 18th at exactly 1:37 pm, when passing over Cape Canaveral Space Station, one window seat Delta passenger caught the launch of one of the USA’s Atlas 5 rockets. The rocket in question was launching a missile warning satellite, a device that can spot the launch of a ballistic missile and immediately relay that information to the ground.

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While no doubt a once-in-a-lifetime kind of sight for the average flight passenger, you might be wondering how exactly it’s safe for a civilian plane to fly this close to a launching rocket. Usually, when a launch takes place, air traffic control will put restrictions on the airspace around the rocket’s intended flight path.

Not only that but spaceports are quite often located close to the ocean so that rockets can launch over the water instead of civilian heavy areas. In the case of the Atlas 5 launch, the no-fly restrictions around Cape Canaveral would have extended around 30 miles out to sea, the direction in which the rocket was heading, meaning that these Delta passengers were quite safe in their front-row seats flying above the land.

Airplane Falling Apart

While en route from Guadalajara, Mexico to Los Angeles in August 2022, passengers onboard a Viva Aerobus flight were horrified to spot flames and sparks emitting from one of the plane’s whirring engines. The fire was spotted after a loud boom startled passengers 10 minutes into the flight, just after the plane reached 13,000 feet.

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Undoubtedly one of the scariest sights any passenger can see while on a plane, the pilot was luckily able to land the plane after turning the engine off. This may sound crazy, but most aircraft are designed to be able to depend on the plane’s other engines to get them safely to land if one fails. Thankfully, all those onboard the Viva Aerobus flight were unharmed, though the flight was postponed for nearly 12 hours with a new plane, of course.

Airplane engine fires aren’t the only mechanical failure that can strike fear into passengers’ hearts. It’s estimated that around 40% of the general population fears some aspect of flying in an airplane, but certainly 100% of the population would fear finding themselves on a plane that seems to be falling apart.

While taking in views over the Greek island of Crete, passengers aboard an Air Serbia flight in August 2009, were shocked to find loose screws in their midst. Just above one of the aircraft’s engines, passengers spotted a panel with at least five loose and even missing screws, leading them to believe things were about to head south.

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As crazy as it seems, Air Serbia assured passengers that this was no real cause for alarm as the panel was mainly for aesthetics and was not integral to the safety of the aircraft. Even so, missing something like this during pre-flight checks is probably not going to bag the aircraft safety workers behind this mistake any employee of the year awards.

Also, in August 2016, a Southwest Airlines flight on its way from New Orleans to Orlando was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its engines began to tear apart mid-air. A loud boom and the smell of smoke was the first sign that something was wrong. But when passengers began spotting parts of the plane’s right engine flapping in the wind outside their windows, emergency procedures began.

Flying shrapnel even sliced into the tail of the jet and fuselage which caused the cabin to depressurize. As oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling in the passenger cabin, their quick-thinking pilot hastily diverted the flight to the closest airport in Pensacola, Florida.

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Later investigations revealed that the cause of the incident was down to metal fatigue around the plane’s engines alongside general wear and tear. While it’s comforting to know nobody was harmed, the fact that something like this can happen despite regular airplane quality checks makes you think it may just be best to never look out of a plane window, in case you see something like that!

Mysterious Fog Fills Airplane Cabin

When Frontier Airlines flight 2314 took off from Charlotte North Carolina, towards Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 2022, everything seemed to have taken off without a hitch.

But just after take-off, something happened that put a bit of a cloud over proceedings literally. While scenes of smoke in an airplane cabin may make your stomach drop in fear, the passengers are actually experiencing an unusual treat. Have a look at the footage below:

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What we’re looking at here isn’t smoke at all, it’s mist. Planes taking off from hot and humid climates often experience this unique indoor weather phenomenon when the hot and humid air outside the cabin is rapidly cooled and condensed by the onboard air conditioning unit. This creates waves of water vapor that have the eerie appearance of smoke flowing into the passenger cabin.

Most planes have a special device called a water separator to prevent this from happening too often, but it’s possible the one onboard this Frontier aircraft wasn’t working so well on this particular day. So, if you so happen to spot a bit of odorless smoke on board your next flight, and the cabin crew and pilots are conducting business as usual, it’s all cool, literally.

Seattle Space Needle

UFO sightings seem to be getting more common every year, but how about we take a look at one that can actually be explained? When one flight passenger captured an eerie saucer suspended above the clouds from their airplane window, they weren’t sure what to make of it at first.

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However, that particular plane was actually passing over Seattle, Washington, which offers a big clue as to what we saw in the above footage. This is actually the top of Seattle’s famous Space Needle observation tower. The Space Needle is topped with a saucer-shaped observation deck that offers 360-degree views of the city, but it seems that this particular day may not have offered the clearest views.

Known as one of the US’s cloudiest cities, Seattle typically sees more than 220 days of heavy cloud per year. Not only that but the city can be the setting of fog waves as high as 500 to 750 feet, which could explain how the 605-foot space needle was able to rise up above the smog.

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Wildfires Spotted From Planes

Arguably the best part of any flight is staring out at the cloudy dreamland floating by. But while traveling from Las Vegas to Sacramento, California on August 17th, 2021, passengers on one Spirit Airlines flight came across some beautiful clouds hiding a sinister secret.

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The colossal plume might look like a cloudy mountain range in the sky but it’s actually the result of one of nature’s harshest disasters. Passengers later found out that the smoke had come from the Caldor Fire, a large wildfire burning in eastern California’s Eldorado National Forest between August 14 and October 21, 2021.

The Caldor Fire burned over 200,000 acres of forest before being contained and the plume spotted by flight passengers was strangely peaceful compared to what was going on below.

Sadly, wildfires can affect the skies as well as the ground below, but our next group of flight passengers saw something stranger than just smoke. Passengers on that flight had an apocalyptic experience when lifting off from San Francisco Airport during the state’s unprecedented fire season in August and September 2020.

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But how did this happen? White sunlight is a combination of all the colors of the rainbow, but when smoke from active wildfires is in the air, sometimes the particles can filter out blue light before it reaches our eyes.

With only the longer red and yellow frequencies of light able to pass through, an eerie, orange-tinted sky can ensue. Stunning and frightening to behold, the blazing orange sky looks more like the world of Bladerunner 2049.

Alligator On The Runway

One of the best parts of arriving home after a flight can be the moment you’re reunited with family and friends waiting at the gate for your return. But there’s one airport out there where you might find a slightly snappier welcoming committee.

When a Spirit Airlines flight touched down in Orlando International in June 2018, passengers found the final leg of their journey held up by an alligator out for a stroll across the runway.

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Florida has an immense 1.3 million alligators, and that population can be spotted all over the state, even at airports. Orlando International Airport sits amongst over 12,000 acres of Florida wetlands, meaning they’ve had to employ an onsite biologist as well as a wildlife team of staff on hand to help with any potential encounters.

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

While the idea of a plane landing on top of another sounds utterly catastrophic, passengers in LAX departure lounges were shocked to see what looked to be exactly that in September 2012. In fact, it was even more extreme than that, they saw what looked to be a rocket landing atop a plane!

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Though certainly nerve-wracking to behold, the double airmobile is actually completely safe. It is one of NASA’s space shuttle carriers, one of two modified Boeing-747s that have been kitted out to transport space shuttles between different space stations.

Introduced in 1981, NASA’s space shuttle program saw humanity’s first reusable spacecraft in action, but by 2011, the program was deemed too expensive to continue. This particular landing as shown in the above footage, was special for more than just its appearance though.

As it was space shuttle Endeavor’s final flight before being put up for permanent display at the California Science Center. It really makes you think, while we often associate airports with stress and rushing for flights, if you stop to look around, sometimes you’ll see history in the making.

If you were amazed at these strange things spotted by airplane passengers, you might want to read part 1. Thanks for reading!

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