Best of Web // Aaron Zetley

Best of Web // Aaron Zetley

In the image above a Coast Guard C-130J aircraft is photographed ahead of clouds at sunset in which it has formed symmetrical vortices. I enjoy this image for both its incredible aesthetic of the movement of flight and the powerful fluid dynamic forces behind it. These vortices are formed by a phenomenon called wake turbulence which occurs on an aircraft when its wings produce lift. [1] The differential in the high pressure below the aircraft wing and the low pressure field above the wing cause air to swirl outwards and behind the aircraft. As the air is pushed outward it forms two vortices at the wingtips that rotate in opposite directions. These vortices air spread out latterly and downward from a wake behind the aircraft. [1] These vortices of air can remain for miles behind an aircraft which can create beautiful swirls in cloud structure like the image above. [2] Wave turbulence does not just create incredible cloud formations but can also be incredibly dangerous. When this wave turbulence is not taken into account it can lead to airplane to crash when landing and taking off. [1] [2] Image Courtesy of United States Coast Guard, Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina

[1] L’hotelier, Erwan. “Wake Turbulence.” IVAO Wake Turbulence, IVAO HQ Training Department, 18 Oct. 2015,

[2] Cenciotti, David. “This Impressive Photo of a U.S. Coast Guard C-130J Clearly Shows What Wingtip Vortices Look like.” The Aviationist, 20 June 2012,

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Dave Silva
    Jun 11, 2023 13:12

    Hah, I took this photo in 2008. Cool to see it get so much love.

  • Shalil Jain
    Sep 18, 2019 10:57

    First Place. I love the curtails on the cloud created by the plane passing through. The overall lighting from the sunset also creates a “Dr. Suess” type of look as the land depictions in his books always end in swirls like the ones in the picture above

  • Brooke Shade
    Sep 18, 2019 02:45

    Third Place. I love this picture because the vortices in the clouds are so beautiful, but even more flow visualization is captured! The airplane in flight evokes memories of the air foils, turbines, and thrust we learned about in thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. Also the sunset is a great example of Raleigh Scattering. Awesome!

  • Dawood Ahmad
    Sep 18, 2019 00:12

    Third place. Amazing picture. It really shows the impact of forces the aircraft has on the environment.

  • Abduljalil Almashama
    Sep 15, 2019 20:01

    Third place! Honestly my favorite time of the day is sunsets. So many amazing sceneries at this time. The aesthetic for this particular picture especially leaves me speechless. I like how the clouds kinda look like a fire here. Really good picture and amazing color composition.


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