Friday, January 12, 2007

Donuts on a Rope

An update to the "Exotic Propulsion Aircraft" page on the Federation of American Scientists web site that was recently brought to my attention provides a new photograph of a "donuts on a rope" contrail, shot on November 10, 2006. These contrails are interpreted by many people as evidence of secret, high-speed aircraft utilizing Pulse Detonation Wave Engines (PDWE). The "donuts" in the contrails are thought to correspond to the individual detonations that propel the craft.

Donuts on a rope contrail. ©2006 Chris W. Johnson
Donuts on a rope contrail closeup. ©2006 Chris W. Johnson
Donuts on a rope contrail. ©2006 Chris W. Johnson
Donuts on a rope contrail closeup. ©2006 Chris W. Johnson
Origin of contrail. ©2006 Chris W. Johnson

I would dearly love to believe that the origin of these contrails is a secret aircraft, because I'm fascinated by such things, because I've been waiting to see such a contrail ever since I first read about them in the May 11, 1992, issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine ("New Evidence Bolsters Reports of Secret, High-Speed Aircraft", page 62), and, most particularly, because I observed and photographed two "donuts on a rope" contrails on June 26, 2006.

The photos shown here are of the second contrail, which was the more clearly defined of the two. They were shot from windows on the 25th floor of The University of Texas at Austin Tower using a Canon Digital Rebel camera set at ISO 200 and equipped with a Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 image-stabilized lens. The contrails proceeded from east to west. These photos were taken between 8:01 and 8:03 PM CDT.

The final photo, taken at 8:03 PM, shows the origin of the contrail as it neared the western horizon. In order to maximize contrast, the photo's dynamic range has been expanded to its useful limits, a yellow filter applied, and it has been converted from color to monochrome. Unfortunately, there isn't enough detail to identify the aircraft. However, given the specificity of the time and place, FAA flight logs should make an identification possible. (If someone does make that identification, I hope they'll leave a comment with the details.)

For myself, I do not believe PDWE-powered aircraft were responsible for either of the contrails I observed. First, it seems unlikely to me that a secret aircraft would be flown over a large city in broad daylight, especially twice in one afternoon. Second, I heard no remarkable sounds before, or during, my observation of these contrails. Third, and most significantly, the photograph of the origin of the contrail shows that the contrail begins as two separate trails, each one presumably from the jet engines on either side of a commercial airliner. I can only speculate that atmospheric conditions, combined with the air turbulence produced by the aircraft, conspired to merge the two trails into one, and to disturb it at regular intervals, perhaps as a wake vortex periodically intersected the trail.

Of course, I'd much prefer to believe that I'd recorded evidence of a secret aircraft, due to my long-standing fascination with such things (and what photographer wouldn't like to have taken an "important" photograph?), but I believe the evidence points to a prosaic origin in these two cases, and ultimately leaves me in doubt as to the significance of any of the "donuts on a rope" observations.

Disappointing, but interesting, nonetheless.


  1. I posted a photo in my Flickr photostream of a similar contrail and one of my contacts referenced your blog. I'd be interested in what you think it is. At the time, I thought it was just atmospheric but now I'm curious. Here's the link to my photo:


    Jim Webb

  2. Jim,

    Juding from your photo, I think we saw different instances of the same phenomenon. Based on my experience, I continue to believe that these contrails are the result of the distortion of a normal contrail by some periodic force, like a wake vortex, produced by the same aircraft that created the contrail.


  3. Anonymous1:52 AM CDT

    Man i used to see those smoke lines all the time when i was younger (5-10 years ago) I used to wonder they just appear in the sky all the time. Sometimes I could see the jet (or UFO) that expelled the smoke lines... they were very high in the sky, and they were only in the sky for roughly 10 seconds...

  4. Anonymous6:49 PM CST

    I came across your site and thought I would add a report of a contrail that I sighted about 5 years ago over central indiana, usa. I
    looked up in the sky over my head one day in August 2007 and the sky was clear with large cumulus clouds. I spotted a contrail coming from a craft or UFO. The UFO was heading straight up at an angle to my left at about 11 oclock. At the time I spotted it, it was probably under 20,000 ft altitude. It was a conical shaped craft that was a little bigger than what you would see on the top of a saturn 5 rocket. The shape was probably a little more skinny than the saturn 5 module. The best way I can describe it is to say it was similar to the Mcdonnell Douglass Delta Clipper. It had a polished metallic appearance exterior and the sunlight would flash off of its reflective skin as it moved. Its speed was not too fast or too slow but about what you see commercial jets flying at. The contrail was a white continuous stream with clear and crisp white rings at a constant frequency (donuts on a rope). I saw these rings popping out of the exhaust of the UFO and it was maybe 1 every 2-7 seconds Id say -not too fast or too slow. I kept watching this craft as it increased in altitude to probably above 60k feet where I couldnt see it any more. Also, to the right I saw 2 other ufos that were of the same shape and design which were ascending at a similar speed to the first. They appeared to the upper right or at the 1 oclock position of me and these were at a lower altitude at first (staged lower from the first ufo). However, these two which looked like they were side by side had no exhaust whatsoever that I could see. Again I kept watch of these 2 ufos until I could not see them as they disappeared into the upper atmosphere.

    Out of all of the research Ive done on the internet Ive not come across anything such as what I've seen. The donuts on a rope photos that Ive seen are not any where close to what I saw. I think the photos you see on the net are just whipped up air from commercial jet contrails using standard day turbo fan jet engine technology. What I saw was a contrail that had clear and crisp rings at a constant distance from each other and was produced from a relatively small craft compared to a huge Aurora sized craft (if Aurora and operating pulse detonation engine technology exists in DOD black hardware) Unfortuantely I did not have a camera at the time so I cant describe it that way but it was truly an amazing sight I had. I do not think these ufos were man made and can only think that these were extraterrestrial. The fact that they were there and then went into the upper atmosphere suggests that the DOD had nothing to do with it since there are no military bases close by and the DOD wouldnt experiment over a populated area like that. I dont really believe that the DOD has a working ufo that they play with as reverse engineering is alot harder than you think in my opinion and the likelyhood of the DOD pieceing together crashed ufo hardware is highly unlikely.

  5. Anonymous,

    Regarding your August, 2007 sighting, I'd first like to say: wow, I wish I'd seen that.

    WRT the DoD and what it might or might not do, especially the black projects boys, the law of the land doesn't apply to anyone operating in such secrecy that law enforcement can't get anywhere near them. Documented practices like burning extremely toxic materials in open pits at Area 51 led to a lawsuit from workers there against the government for the health problems they suffered as a result. If memory serves, the government lawyers had the lawsuit dismissed on national security grounds, claiming that the lawsuit would confirm the existence of a secret base in the Nellis complex, and the world would end if that happened. The judge agreed, and that was that. So, the idea that the DOD wouldn't experiment over a populated area is probably incorrect. They would, however, be concerned with the security imlications, not wanting (for instance) a repeat of the F-117 crash in a national forest before its existence had been declassified. With the vehicle you describe, it might be that it was so high up that it only appeared to be over a city, or that its altitude and speed were such that if it broke-up in-flight the debris would land in a more-or-less unpopulated area well beyond the city, a situation they might feel they could control.

    With regard to DoD operations in the upper atmosphere and low earth orbit, Aviation Week published an article around 3(?) years ago claiming to have solid sources telling them that the parts for XB-70 no. 3 (construction not finished before the program was cancelled) were dug out the wear-house where they were mouldering and assembly was completed. It was modified to carry, presumably using the bomb bay, a one person "space shuttle". Supposedly this setup worked successfully, but was so expensive to operate, and delivered so little unique value, that the program was shutdown. The story has been widely derided, but I believe Aviation Week stood by its sources ... Make of it what you will.

    All of which brings me back to: I wish I'd seen what you saw, and sure would like to see XB-70 no. 3 and it's shuttle, as well.

  6. Chris,
    As for your pics,it's clearly a jet dynamic stream boosting waves from the jet nozzle breaking constant stream,as opposed to a pde or pdwe which makes a lot clearer donut-shaped marks. Most turbofan jets do these kinds of circles,seen quite a few over Koprivnica,Croatia (my home town)to know a thing or two.
    As far as pde/pdwe engines and ramjet/scramjets go,they make a series of loud booms near or at the center,so with those contrails you'd hear a series of evenly spaced and finely timed super (or even hyper)sonic booms.
    I myself don't fall for conspiracies but do believe it IS in fact either AURORA or an AURORA-based project that anonymous actually saw. Who knows what hides in Dreamland (or Groove Lake or Area51),that small slice of Nevada heaven for techies. And TR-3A/B is NOT the true Aurora,it is only BASED on Aurora scramjet/pde tech.
    With regards,
    Ivan from Croatia