The Fate of the Furious features some crazy concepts that might just actually be possible. Case in point: the “ghost plane” that serves as the flying HQ for villain Cipher.
The blockbuster doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how the ghost plane works, though it suggests a big part is taking advantage of satellite blind spots. And although the world is rife with surveillance equipment, those blindspots do exist.
“Even with several satellites in a constellation or formation, it is possible that there are gaps where some areas of the Earth do not have a satellite ‘looking’ at them for some period of time,” William A. Crossley, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue University, tells Inverse.
Planes have, of course, disappeared before.
“The Malaysia Airlines Flight disappearance shows it is possible for even a regular transport airplane to disappear,” Crossley says.
Flight 370 confounded aviation experts when it disappeared on March 2014, soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The ensuing search effort was the most expensive in history, and it was eventually suspended in January of this year.
The hardest part about avoiding satellites would be getting information to find the blindspots. We’ll assume Cipher is well-connected.
Another technique for dodging spy satellites comes down to plane design, as stealth fighters often use surface materials and angles that limit reflection of radio waves.
Cipher’s plane, apparently the size of a jumbo jet, may struggle with this. Then again, we don’t know the science behind those strange spinning disks seen on top of her plane, so we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.