Help ID this airplane?

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eorange

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Trying to figure out what kind of airplane this is. I don't have a lot of detail so bear with me. I have a pretty good idea of what normally flies over my house (airplanes en route to CLE, and also to a local county airport), and this one is puzzling me.

I've seen this airplane just a few times over the past 2 or 3 years, and only at night (when I happen to be out stargazing). I just happened to see it again this weekend. Here are the key points:

1. It always flies W to E whenever I see it (although that probably doesn't mean anything).

2. Estimating the altitude about 5 to 10K, and it flies very slow, slower than any other airplane I've seen.

3. It's very quiet. There's no prop noise, and so it must be a jet engine, but I don't even hear that.

4. There's a single red strobe on the bottom, but it's not a xenon-type flasher. It's one of those rotating red incandescent beacons that's pretty bright, even as it disappears over the horizon.

5. Once I happened to catch it approaching, and I think I remember a pattern of 3 white lights too (center front, and 2 aft, like an oncoming triangle).

I do see aerial refueling over my house during the daytime / early evening, but that's at 20K, much higher than this, plus there's 2 airplanes. I'm thinking this is a military plane of some sort, but I have no idea as to the shape since it's at night.

Any ideas?
 

AirScan

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I have a pretty good idea of what normally flies over my house (airplanes en route to CLE, and also to a local county airport), and this one is puzzling me.
Where exactly are you located ? Do you remember the time you saw the aircraft ?

If it's civilian you might find it on Flightradar24. There is a playback option where you can go back and check a date/time in the past.

Flightradar24.com - Live flight tracker!

Military aircraft generally do not show up though. Do you have an airband scanner to monitor traffic ?
 

eorange

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I know for sure it's not a blimp.

Good suggestion on Flightradar24, at least it's a start.

It being a drone did cross my mind!

The thing that stands out is the red rotating incandescent beacon. When you think about it, nearly every civilian airplane we see nowadays has the flashing xenon strobe. That, and how I hear almost no noise at all, for such a low altitude.
 

AirScan

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Good suggestion on Flightradar24, at least it's a start.
There's also the archives over at LiveATC that has coverage of the Cleveland Terminal Airspace.

What day and time did you see this ?

The thing that stands out is the red rotating incandescent beacon. When you think about it, nearly every civilian airplane we see nowadays has the flashing xenon strobe. That, and how I hear almost no noise at all, for such a low altitude.
Incandescent ? You mean like the LED lights on the B787 and B747-800 ? I've also seen B737's with them now as well.

How are you estimating the altitude if all you can see is a light ?
 
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Too bad only contact is after dark,short of using NV and a telephoto lens ..Maybe hope for a bright moonlit night to make out a silhouette..

Then again,IF its a dark operation they'd be scheduling flights during dark skies..LOL..
 

wtp

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bright lights

a bright light on a dark night can be deceiving and look much closer than it is.
my brother is convinced a meteor whizzed by him about 20 feet away and made no sound also hit nothing.
he lives 5 miles from new york city in new jersey so how could it not hit anything
it was going about 60 miles an hour by his account.
i have spent years trying to get him to see the problem with this.
 

SkiBob

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I have been fooled by red sky lanterns. I saw 4 of them on the 4th of July and thought for sure they were planes until they got closer. The flickering flame makes it look very believable.
 

eorange

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There's also the archives over at LiveATC that has coverage of the Cleveland Terminal Airspace.

What day and time did you see this ?

Incandescent ? You mean like the LED lights on the B787 and B747-800 ? I've also seen B737's with them now as well.

How are you estimating the altitude if all you can see is a light ?
It was not just a red light that I saw. I could make out a faint silhouette of an airplane, but not enough to be able to identify it from underneath, looking at the bottom. I am very familiar with observing and listening to aerial refueling, which I see fairly regularly in daylight. I know that's at 20K feet, so I'm estimating the altitude is about 5-10K based on that. I could be wrong though.

I last saw this on 7/10, around 10:00pm. I caught it directly overhead, and watched it as it flew eastward and disappear on the horizon/trees.

I don't know if the light is LED or incandescent, but the point is it's a rotating red beacon, and not a flashing xenon-type light.

I am now wondering if I'm seeing a KC-135 on its way back to Pittsburgh.
 

AirScan

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I last saw this on 7/10, around 10:00pm. I caught it directly overhead, and watched it as it flew eastward and disappear on the horizon/trees.
This maybe ?

Endeavor Air (9E) #4056

Passed over the Cleveland area around 10:10pm heading more southeast than east. Would be in the altitude ballpark and being in descent at idle thrust would have been quiet.
 
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