I was coming back from Palmdale, via Hwy 14, a couple of days ago and saw an F-117 turning right out of the pattern at USAF Plant 42. It was cranked around in a steep turn, so I got a good look at its planform. Probably not as good a look as I thought, of course, because it's fairly difficult to see much difference between, say, 60° and 90°. Mostly the plane just looks a little too skinny at 60°.
I would have recognized it even if it had been flying level, though. It's pretty distinctive, being the only small black airplane that flies out of Plant 42 or Edwards AFB. It's a cool airplane and I really like it, so I'm always happy to see it flying.
I once had a cow orker quite impressed by my ability to tell F-15Es (the ground-attack version) from earlier F-15 models at a glance. I guess he thought I could pick out the differences, even from a few miles away. I almost didn't have the heart to tell him that the Es were painted a darker gray than the earlier models and that was the only way I could tell them apart.
I could tell F-4Ds and F-4Es apart, from the Dryden ramp, but not much further away than that. There's no way I could have told the F-15E apart that far away.
Speaking of airplane recognition, I have to tell a story about my maternal grandmother during WWII. She lived in Allison, CO, in the Four Corners area. They'd had some itinerant War Department speaker come around and lecture on recognizing enemy aircraft, complete with hand-outs. My grandmother, with her oldest son in the AAC as a B-17 navigator, studied the material carefully. A few months later she saw an airplane which she identified as a Focke-Wulf 190*. She walked into town from their ranch and, using the only phone in town, called the number on the hand-outs. She got a real ration from all her neighbors, who were certain that she'd mis-identified an American airplane because there was no way a German plane would be flying over Allison. She got her own back when the letter from the War Department came, explaining that she had indeed seen an Fw 190, which had been captured and was being tested in the Southwest US.
*I think it was a Focke-Wulf 190, but I could be wrong. I only saw the letter once, when I was about 12 and not very interested in military aircraft.