Have you ever seen a Tornado-like spinning vortex on a Typhoon? Just phase transition thermodynamics

I’m pretty sure many of this weblog’s readers have already seen this phenomenon generated at the air intake of an F-16. There is also a quite famous image of a C-17 engine, generating this tornado-like spinning vortex. However, the following picture is the first I’ve seen so far showing the vortex generated by an Italian Eurofighter Typhoon (F-2000A according to the Mission Design Series).

The picture was taken in May 2011, by Nicola Ruffino and shows a Typhoon of the 36° Stormo, based at Gioia del Colle, generating a vortex on the apron before taxiing for night sortie.

The principle is quite simple: the air is sucked into the intake generating a depression. As the pressure lowers, the air cools and the water vapor contained in it condesates and becomes visible. The process is the same I’ve explained when I discussed sonic booms and condensation clouds) and it is frequent in high humidity or wet weather conditions.

Noteworthy, if temperature is particularly low the water vapor contained in the air changes directly to ice (without first becoming a liquid). Known as “deposition”, this phase transition can cause some problem to the aircraft, in the form of engine Ice FOD (Foreign Object Damage) and intake ice build-up.

About David Cenciotti 4424 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

3 Comments

  1. One more example how infrastructure-intensive Typhoon is. Cleaning of the airbase maneuvering areas must be done frequently. I believe Italian AF learned how to cope with this with F-16.

  2. I also saw a vortex at the front of a 757 200 engine recently whilst we was about to take off and wondered what causes it?

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