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Tandem Planes?
digimind
thwack
During my bike ride today I saw two planes in the sky that looked to be in formation. They were really close to each other like the Blue Angels would be during an air show, except just two of them, and they appeared to be normal commercial planes flying at normal speeds, low enough to not leave contrails but high enough that I couldn't hear them. I've never seen planes fly like that before. Would commercial planes fly in tandem to save fuel or something if they're both flying the same route?

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No. There are air traffic rules that require them to maintain a separation of 1000 ft. vertical or 3 miles horizontal. They have to have a special clearance to fly closer and I never in all my years as a controller heard of one being issued for fuel economy.

Hmm, well of course that was just a guess, and the only reason I could think of why they might have been doing it. Maybe they were really military aircraft on some mission. They just looked non-military in every way except for their formation.

I suppose it's also possible that it was an optical illusion, if one plane was exactly larger enough to appear the same size while it was really over 1000 ft higher in the sky, and maintained perfect alignment so it appeared to be right next to the other plane the whole time from my specific point of view even as both crossed the sky...

But I'd think the chances of that are even less than that of being issued special clearance. :)

I'm not even sure if commercial planes could save fuel by flying like that. Maybe it would actually hurt fuel economy of the plane behind because the air is too disturbed for the engines to create proper thrust or the wings to create proper lift. And isn't it bad to get in other planes "jet wash" because it will make the engine stall? With the engines on the wings, it would be really hard to avoid that.

I think I've figured it out. There's a military air refueling route in your general area. Not all military aircraft are fighters and such, some of the cargo and personel carriers are just the same as airliners. You probably saw a refueling exercise.

How cool... Thanks! :)

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