How Smoke Systems (and Smoke Oil) Work

How Smoke Systems (and Smoke Oil) Work

It all began in 1957 at the Farnborough airshow. The Black Cats became the talk of the town when they used smoke effects and smoke oil in their aerobatics show.

Since then, smoke effects at airshows are the trend, with nearly all aerobatics teams using smoke in their flight exhibitions. 

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But how do these planes make smoke for their shows—and what do you need to do the same for your aircraft?

How Do Stunt Planes Make Smoke?

Aerobatic planes make smoke through smoke systems that pump paraffin-based smoke oil from a tank through injectors into the exhaust system or fumes of a plane.

These smoke oil tanks come in a variety of sizes and are installed and mounted differently based on the aircraft. The tank connects to a pump that continuously operates, even when empty, without reducing the effectiveness or causing damage to the plane.

The oil mixture valve attaches to the outlet of the pump to optimize the flow of oil. A pressure hose then runs from the oil mixture valve to the airplane’s firewall where it connects to a bulkhead fitting. From there, teflon-lined stainless steel braided hoses deliver the flow to the injector (or multiple injectors) mounting point.

After the biodegradable paraffin based oil passes through the injector, it is immediately vaporized by direct injection into the exhaust system (for piston or turboprop engines) or directly into the exhaust fumes (for jet aircraft).

Smoking Airplanes smoke systems are engineered for ease of use and safety. They use -AS (formerly -AN) fittings and Eaton’s Aeroquip hoses for all connections inside the aircraft.

All electrical applications are MIL spec wires, and the entire setup has been tested and works in 10+ “G” environments.

What is Smoke Oil?

The other component to great smoke trails at your airshow is the smoke oil. Smoking Airplanes smoke oil is a proprietary blend of mineral oil with a paraffin base that produces a brilliant white smoke trail. It is non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It’s a highly refined base oil that has been properly atomized and the low viscosity produces superior results while leaving less residue on the plane itself.

The best smoke oil is free from additives like zinc, phosphorus, sulfur and any other metals—high quality smoke oil means a flawless trail of smoke and longevity of the smoke system. That’s why some of the best teams approve of the Smoking Airplanes C-13 smoke oil blend—just ask the Blue Angels!

Uses of an Aircraft Smoke System


Our smoke systems function as visual collision avoidance system so your plane is visible while in flight. A large plume of white smoke makes it easier for other pilots to see your path. In many rural areas with limited or inactive air traffic control, this proves especially important.

Airshows & Exhibition Flights

Most of our customers use our smoke systems for aerial performances. Smoking Airplanes systems even work while inverted so nothing will hold you back from the performance of a lifetime.

Fire Control

Forestry services and fire departments have used smoke systems to mark the optimal areas for helicopters and larger aircraft to drop their payload of water and fire retardants during wildfires.

Our Smoke Systems

Smoking Airplanes offers reliable, proven systems installed in airplanes around the world. All systems come with a comprehensive installation manual and our team is available to help with any technical information and support, both during and after installation. We are always responsive and happy to go the extra mile for our customers. Want to learn more? Contact us or check out the smoke systems.

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Nikhil - February 12, 2024

Greetings. I am working on developing a smoke system (colored dye) . I needed guidance interms of temperature and atomization aspects. The trail has not been persistent. Primarily I am using diesel based dye which is ejected into jet exhaust directly. Can I get in touch with your design agency for appropriate guidance, please.

Francis Chin - January 2, 2024

We are interested in your airplane smoking system.

Please quote us your products, specifications and price.


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