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Colored Smoke Oil

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Disclaimer: These IAC pages are developed by individual IAC members and do not represent official IAC policy or opinion.

Collected by: Guenther Eichhorn gei at


How can you produce colored smoke?


There seems to be no way of making colored smoke from recip engines, at least not safely, without deleterious effects on the airplane.. Jet engines can produce colored smoke.

Guenther Eichhorn gei at


I researched this a few years back. A short lived model airplane company made it for RC use. It was VERY expensive to produce($65.00/gal.) and left heavy residue on the airframe. Also, it was not really very effective and only came in yellow. As for full size aircraft, I found that the only colored smoke was for jet engines. They use a seperate injector to shoot the die into the exhaust gasses in the tail pipe seperate from the Corvus oil. The problem as I understand it is that we ( recip engines ) do not create high enough EGT's to burn the colored dies. They tend to be a bit thick and also leave a lot of staining on the airframe.

From: "Matt Chapman"

Seriously, you have probably recieved no reply because the method of producing colored smoke is a black art, known to few. I remember flying the Biggin Hill Air Fair years ago with the Red Arrows, Foland Gnats I remember, and they produced red, white and blue smoke. Now the white is no mystery, but the red and blue were a compound of Corvus oil and something which, when burned, tinted the smoke a color. Cobalt comes to mind as a blue producer but I do not know how to get it into the Corvus, sorry. I wish I were a better chemist amongst other things.

Perhaps a query to the brits or one of our jet demonstration teams might get results. Also I have seen a picture of some SF260's with R,W&B smoke. Team America? I think that might be it.

From: Rob Dorsey

The only info I have about colored smoke comes from a book about the US Navy Blue Angels and a article about the Patroille De France/Frecce Tri-Colore.

It appears a few decades ago the Blue Angels, when flying the F9F Panther, decided to add fuel dye to their wing tip tanks. Then all they did was dump fuel. This lasted one performance or so until it became apparent that the cars and spectators received a light hard-to-cleanoff dusting of the fine spray. They then reverted to motor oil pumped directly to the exhaust pipe creating the now familiar white smoke.

The two other Euro teams mentioned above added a dye to the smoke oil itself. Evidently everything the clouds of smoke enveloped caused it to suddenly be tinged with the very same color. I believe this became apparent at the Moffett Airshow in Calif. a few years ago. I know that the two teams were asked to refrain from using it for "environmental" purposes. Again I believe the environment that was being refereed to was the spectators and equipment on or near the flight line.

The Blues have kept with basic white smoke for the same reason.

I do have a tape of the Red Arrows who seem to be pumping out prodigious amounts of red, white and blue smoke and have not read anything about its deleterious effects.

Has anyone experimented with a colored dye added to their smoke system?

From: "R.H.F. Spencer"

I don't know personally, but here's a lead that either does, or knows someone who does. Call Stanley Segalla (he's Internet-impaired) at (860) 824-1008 after 8PM almost any night. He's the "Flying Farmer" at Rhinebeck NY; has flown there since 1951. Say "hi" to him from Bill Kaercher in Venice, FL.

From: Bill K.

I don't know how to reach them, but the Italian team, Frecce Tricolori, use three colors as their name suggests. Also, I think the French National Airshow team, uses at least red in addition to white. French Connection uses Red and Blue, as well as White, too ... but I think they are using cannisters attached to the wingtips for the colors - which is somewhat different from exhaust smoke oil. Interesting question, though. Got a feeling everyone is waiting for the answer.

From: Harley Carnes

As far as I know, there is no way to make colored smoke unless the oil mixture passes through the combustion chamber, ie. jet teams. We need a really creative chemical engineer to work on this project. Someone could make a lot of $$ if they figured out a way to do this.

From: Roy Speeg

As far as I know, Frecce Tricolori use coloured gas stored in tanks. No info about gas composition, but it should be CO2 with something added. In airshows we use a 50-50% mixture of diesel fuel and vaseline oil. Diesel burns, while vaseline oil gives that nice white, thick appearance. I suggest adding aniline colours to the mix, but I have no direct experience about.

From: Salvadori Luca

I do not know this for a fact, but I understand that the UK jet aerobatic team the Red Arrows use a dye to produce their coloured smoke. In order to work, this requires a VERY high EGT and therefore will not work if used with a piston engine.

From: Nick Wakefield

I talked with Stanley Segalla last night (he lives in Canaan, CT); he recalls that the Holiday Inn flying team used to use multi-colored smoke oils in their planes. He asked them what they did to color the oil; they said they added an acidic compound to the corvis oil to produce the coloring. They discontinued the use of the colored smoke oils when they discovered it was deteriorating their wing fabric.

This may be the reason that nobody seems to be coming up with an answer to your question. Stan and his son Billy have experimented with different stuff over the years, but have yet to find a suitable "dye" for their use.

From: Bill K.

The colored smoke you occasionally see comes from pyrotechnic cannisters rather than from smoke oil. Smoke oil is heat vaporized oil particles and I don't think there is any way to effectively color it.

From: Charlie Harrison

© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
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