Former Arizona Governor Now Admits Seeing UFO
Fife Symington Decides To Set Record Straight Ten Years After
Famed Phoenix Lights Incident
By Leslie Kean
Ten years after the Arizona UFO incident known as the 'Phoenix
Lights', former Arizona Republican Governor Fife Symington, III,
now says that he himself was a witness to one of the strange
unidentified flying objects, even though he originally did not
say so publicly.
"It was enormous and inexplicable", he said in an exclusive
interview from his home in Phoenix. "Who knows where it came
from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it too."
On March 13, 1997, during Symington's second term as Governor,
thousands saw multiple triangular and V-shaped craft, gliding
slowly and silently across the sky for half an hour beginning at
approximately 8:15 pm.
Awestruck witnesses, throughout the state, estimated that the
eerie, lighted vehicles were bigger than many football fields,
up to a mile long.
John McCain, a friend of Symington's who the former Governor
describes as "open-minded", acknowledged at a 2000 press
conference that lights were seen over Arizona.
"That has never
been fully explained. But I have to tell you that I do not have
any evidence whatsoever of aliens or UFOs", he said.
evidence for a possible UFO, which simply means something in the
sky that can't be identified, lies in the fact that countless
witnesses reported seeing low, gigantic, technological flying
machines that blocked out the stars - not merely lights.
former Governor attests to that. Symington says he saw a large
triangular "craft of unknown origin" with lights, moving slowly.
"It was dramatic. And it couldn't have been flares because it
was too symmetrical", he says. "It had a geometric outline, a
The sightings of the objects that evening are sometimes confused
with the row of lights that appeared at about 10 pm, near
Phoenix, and have been shown repeatedly on television news.
These later lights were probably flares. People witnessed the
objects at around 8:30 because they were outside on that
pleasant, cloudless night watching the Hale-Bopp Comet.
Symington was known for ridiculing the incident at a spoof press
conference, so his statement marks a dramatic turnaround. He
wants to make amends to his constituents and set the record
On the morning of June 19, 1997, when pressure was building from
frustrated citizens who wanted answers, the Governor announced
on television that he was ordering a full investigation and
would make "all the necessary inquiries."
"We're going to get to the bottom of this. We're going to find
out if it was a UFO", he said in a serious tone.
Later that same afternoon, Symington suddenly called a press
conference and told viewers that he had found the source behind
the Phoenix Lights.
His chief-of-staff, Jay Heiler, was escorted in by public safety
police officers while handcuffed, wearing a large rubber mask
and dressed as a space alien.
The Governor presented the costumed extraterrestrial as the
While laughter filled the room, he joked that "this just goes to
show that you guys are entirely too serious."
"It was an insult to the intelligence of the witnesses", Barwood
"The message to Arizona citizens was that reporting this was
"If I had to do it all over again I probably would have handled
it differently", Symington explains.
He says that the state of Arizona was "on the brink of hysteria"
about the UFO sighting when he called the press conference, and
the frenzy was building.
"I wanted them to lighten up and calm down, so I introduced a
little levity. But I never felt that the overall situation was a
matter of ridicule", he says.
The former Governor, a cousin of the late Missouri Senator
Stuart Symington, states that the incident remains open and
unsolved, and should be officially investigated.
The US Government has never acknowledged that something was in
the sky that night.
Phoenix city councilwoman Frances Barwood was the only elected
official to launch a public investigation in 1997, but she
received no information from any level of government.
Barwood spoke with over seven hundred witnesses, including
police, pilots and former military, who provided very similar
"The government never interviewed even one witness", she says.
Symington also attempted to find an explanation.
He called the Commander at Luke Air Force Base, the General in
charge of the National Guard, and the head of the Department of
Public Safety in 1997.
None of these officials had answers, and they were "perplexed",
In 2000, the Department of Defense maintained that it could not
find any information about the triangular object, in response to
a court-ordered search requested by a U.S. District court in
Phoenix, as part of a class action suit filed by witnesses.
"How could they possibly not know about these huge craft flying
low over major population centers? That's inconceivable, but
it's also frightening", Barwood commented.
Symington's announcement is bolstered by the fact that similar
flying objects have been documented by the governments of
England and Belgium.
On March 30, 1990, the Belgian Air Force sent two F-16s armed
with missiles to intercept a black triangular UFO displaying
bright lights on its underside. The object could accelerate or
dive at tremendous speeds, starting from a stationary position,
as recorded on radar. It flew at the speed of sound without
making a sonic boom.
The Belgian Ministry of Defense released all its data on the UFO
to the press, after eliminating American stealth aircraft and
all other possible explanations.
On the night of March 30, 1993, three years later to the day, a
vast triangular-shaped craft, also capable of rapidly
accelerating in seconds from a virtual hover, was seen by over a
hundred witnesses in England, including police officers and
The British Ministry of Defense stated that "none of the usual
explanations put forward to explain UFO sightings seem
applicable" and concluded that the evidence showed that "an
unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating
over the UK."
According to an April 1993 MOD document, the agency sent a
letter to the US Embassy which was "disseminated to all
'interested Agencies' in the US" to find out whether the March
UFO could have been attributable to some US prototype such as
"The answer I got back was extraordinary", reports Nick Pope,
the MOD official who investigated the 1993 sighting.
"The Americans had been having their own sightings of these
large, triangular-shaped UFOs and wanted to know if the RAF
might have such a craft."
This statement, four years before the display over Arizona,
contradicts the 2000 claim by the US DOD that the department had
no information at all about the triangles.
To this day, US officials continue to keep the lid on the
Phoenix Lights and other well-documented American sightings of
mysterious giant triangles.
"I wish that government entities would stop trying to shut down
these investigations by putting out some flakey story", says
Symington, a long-time pilot, drawing an analogy to the November
sighting of a hovering disc by many aviation witnesses at O'Hare
airport, which the FAA explained away as a "weather phenomenon."
Leslie Kean is an investigative journalist whose articles
have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines around the
world such as the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Providence
Journal, Sacramento Bee, Atlanta- Journal Constitution, Newark
Star Ledger, The Nation magazine, International Herald Tribune,
Globe and Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Bangkok Post, the
Kyoto Journal, and the Journal of Scientific Exploration.
Her stories have been syndicated through Knight-Ridder Tribune,
Scripps-Howard, New York Times Wire Service, Pacific News
Service and the National Publishers Association.
She is the co-founder of the Washington-based Coalition for
Freedom of Information.