The image below is of Google Maps (30 May 2018) of Amsterdam Schiphol's Aalsmeerbaan (36R).

It shows 4 planes on the runway and a fifth that's about to land. When you zoom in, all planes seem identical.

Has this image been tampered with or could there be an explanation for this?

enter image description here

  • 54
    $\begingroup$ Just a note, but tamper strongly implies some kind of unauthorised/unlawful/nefarious alteration. If the planes aren't actually there, it's far more likely to be some kind of post-processing artefact rather than some kind of deliberate tampering. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ If those are actually different planes, then the controllers at Schiphol are utterly failing at maintaining separation. $\endgroup$ Commented May 30, 2018 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ Sattelites photography are usually not actual photos but rather a compilation of multiples photos not necesserally taken at the same time. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ManuH A lot of Google's photography is aerial rather than satellite. However, you're correct that it's not taken at the same time. The aircraft or satellite would fly in a line taking photos which would later be stitched together. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ Didn't you know? The Netherlands has a group of 787s that not only do formation flying, they also do formation landing... No, it's not a thing, but I want it to be a thing. $\endgroup$
    – n_b
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 5:42

3 Answers 3


Google Maps and Google Earth are made by stitching together many different images to create the illusion of a single massive picture of the globe.

The image you are seeing was almost certainly made by an aerial photography plane passing overhead of another plane landing. In multiple snapshots, it captured the same plane on final, touching down, rolling out and stopping.

The images were assembled together to line up the ground and all static elements. But items that are moving appear multiple times in different images.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer makes so much sense that it makes me wonder why I didn't think of it myself. The spacing between the planes also supports your answer. You can actually see the plane slowing down. $\endgroup$
    – mgr326639
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @CptReynolds Google uses satellite imagery when you're zoomed out and aerial imagery when you're zoomed in. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ @IanW It's most certainly aerial photography, satellite photography simply does not have an adequate resolution for images like these. Wake turbulence only applies to directly crossing the flight path; ATC requires something like a 2000ft vertical separation (my guess is that the surveyor flew at 7000ft, as flights at Schiphol are generally initially cleared to 6000ft) $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at the zoomed-in image, it's pretty clear that the survey plane takes three images (RGB) with three filters and then they are stitched together to get true colour - of course the stitching fails with a fast moving object. $\endgroup$ Commented May 31, 2018 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Tonny Not necessarily. In the US, the airspace over major airports isn't restricted at all altitudes. At the major airports around New York City, the class B airspace only extends to 7000 feet $\endgroup$
    – MattD
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:02

This is a common occurrence with airplanes on Google maps. Google overlays multiple scans taken seconds apart from satellite imagery to get the best image quality.

This works very well for stationary objects, such as buildings and land structures but results in multiple images of high speed objects, such as airplanes. Sometimes this effect is visible even with cars on a highway.


What looks like tampering is actually multiple exposures, plus cross-channel rolling shutter (the color fringes). If you measure the spacing of the aircraft images and the size of the fringes, you can infer that it's one aircraft slowing down after touchdown. You can even see the puffs of smoke that show the main gear touching down before the nose wheel. Here's a careful analysis.


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