A i r p l a n e s 

Most investigators of UFO reports will readily acknowledge that a high percentage of nocturnal sightings can be attributed to airplanes. Especially when white lights are seen, travelling in a fixed pattern in combination with a red and green light (the navigation lights that are attached to the left and right wingtip respectively), there is a good chance that the sighted object was an airplane. The absence of a red and green light does not, however, imply that the object was not an airplane. To a distant observer these lights are easily masked by the brighter landing lights (usually two white spotlights close together under the nose), and by the beacon or anti-collision light (this can be a rotating red light or a white-bluish strobe light mounted under the belly or on top of the aircraft). Pilots preparing to land should have their landing lights switched on, but sometimes a haze or mist close to the ground will reflect these lights, creating unusual effects not only to an observer on the ground but also to the pilot. The latter may find himself confronted with an uncomfortable glare that will prompt him to switch the lights off.

Airplanes usually follow a straight path, but in the vicinity of an airport they may have to execute a curved track. If no runway is free, planes must circle until clearance to land is granted. On clear nights, planes may appear to hover motionless for several minutes. This impression arises when the craft is moving in a straight line towards the observer with its bright landing lights pointed in his direction. The landing lights can be visible up to distances of more than 100 km (160 miles). What is often reported in these circumstances is a single white light (the two landing lights seen as a single light because of the distance) that splits up in two (the individual lights that become visible as the aircraft approaches). The illusion of immobility may also arise when an airplane is spotted from a moving vehicle. As the vehicle changes direction or stops, the impression may arise that the airplane suddenly accelerates or executes a sharp turn.

Contrary to helicopters, airplanes cause a great number of UFO reports during daytime as well. We suspect that the highly reflective fuselage of aircraft (especially airliners) is responsible for a great many reports of whitish cigar-shaped objects that are seen mostly, but not exclusively, in the early and late hours of the day. Often, these "wingless cigars", "cylindrical craft" or "shiny discs" have a vertical dark band around the centre portion of the object. This "band" is explained by the wing on the side of the craft that faces the observer. Since the wing is in a different plane as the fuselage, it will reflect the Sun's rays in a different way, causing a dark patch in the area where there is no light reflecting towards the observer.

Airplanes are linked to at least three types of atmospheric phenomena that found their own place in UFO lore: contrails, chemtrails and distrails, the latter are better known as "punch-hole clouds".