Filmmaker Turns the Swirling Air Around Airplane Wings Into Art

Planes generate wafts of air that float in the sky, but sometimes it takes an artistic touch to bring them to live, though. 

by Sam Blum

Floating in the sky, miles above our heads, are long and gentle streaks of wind, generated by circular patterns of air that rotate around a plane’s wing when it creates lift.

The phenomena are called wingtip vortices: They’re pretty hard to notice when glaring up at a plane taking off from a runway, but luckily, an aeronautics enthusiast in England has been filming the wispy air streaks for the last three years, adding lucid visual effects to enhance their visibility.

Here’s a video Youtube user Flugsnug uploaded on December 6.

He tells Inverse the effect is similar to “a monochrome aurora borealis in the sky.”

You’ll notice that wing tip vortices always trail an airplane’s wings. When a plane creates aerodynamic lift, air pressure from beneath a wing is greater than the pressure on top, which creates a vortex that later trails off in the plane’s wake.

The effect is much easier to see in dreary weather, that’s why Flugsnug had to chase clouds for so long to create the nearly three-minute video — you’ll notice there’s a gentle thudding of rain throughout the entire clip.

“Many of the planes produced the effect, but not as clearly as on the first occasion so I “enhanced” the footage by increasing the contrast,” he writes in an email.

You’ll see the enhancement Flugsnug speaks of put to practice in this next gif:

“What draws me to it - I think - is a combination of the beautiful aerodynamic shaping and movement in three dimensions of aircraft, plus the intriguing effects they have on the atmosphere.”

So the next time you’re glancing overhead at planes against a murky, cloud-riddled sky, observe the vortices, but don’t be upset if they’re not as apparent as those captured by Flugsnug.

Especially this one: