Summary: Statistics show that across the world UFO sightings occur at a rate of around one every two or three minutes. Not surprising then that pilots of commercial airliners should be high on the list of people to have most witnessed them.
Passenger Plane Encounters.
Statistics show that across the world UFO sightings occur at a rate of around one every two or three minutes. Not surprising then that pilots of commercial airliners should be high on the list of people to have most witnessed them. It is a fact that ever since the beginning of flight and commercial aviation strange craft or disk shaped objects have proved the bafflement of many a professional pilot. In many cases the sightings have been witnessed by the entire crew and passengers - literally hundreds of separate witnesses to each individual incident.
In the early days of commercial aviation these sightings proved something of a novelty. Pilots and air crew were happy to recount their experiences to any one who would listen. Gradually however this openness began to disappear. Airlines became increasingly sensitive to these issues, some even going as far as to prohibit their pilots from talking publicly of their sightings.
In America the intelligence networks exerted considerable pressure on airlines to prevent pilots making any public announcement of these incidents. In 1954 for instance a meeting between the Military Air Transport Intelligence Officials and the Airline Pilots Association, reached an agreement that effectively muzzled pilots from reporting UFO encounters. And the reason? Because according to Military Intelligence, UFO's represented a serious problem for the government and the civil airlines were asked to "cooperate".
According to Frank Edward's in his book Flying Saucers - Here And Now, 'under the arrangements worked out at that meeting , the pilots were to radio any sightings immediately to the nearest airport control tower - and to make no public statements about the incident.
Later this arrangement was modified ( after some of the radio reports were overheard and broadcast ) and the airlines instituted a policy which required the pilot and copilot pilot and navigator, if any, to sign the report of the sighting. This led to irksome questioning by both airline and military officials, and most pilots quickly discovered that it was simpler to see nothing and say nothing'.Effectively this meant that from that point onwards accounts of aerial encounters with civilian airliners where always going to be relatively few and far between.
In the USA where restrictions are tighter than anywhere else this has certainly proved the case. Elsewhere in the world official censure has not been quite so strict. However restrictions or not, the fact is we are still left with a particular rich selection of civil aviation encounters that are amongst the best witnessed UFO sightings on record.
The flap of 1947.
In the years before official censorship U S passenger plane sightings were nothing unusual, and one of the best documented cases occurred during the famous UFO flap of 1947. Sightings were then running at an all time high, and on the 4th of July a United Airlines flight from Boise to Seattle reported seeing two flights of U F O' s flying in strict formation. This was simultaneously witnessed by up to four hundred people on the ground. Descriptions ranged from disc or oval shaped objects to fire balls flying in a straight course at tremendous speed. In the event the United Airlines flight crew were able to observe the formation for very nearly fifteen minutes. The following year an unidentified craft almost collided with an Eastern Airlines DC 3. Eye witnesses spoke of a luminous object with rows of brightly lit windows.
In 1950 in the skies above Dayton Municipal Airport a TWA pilot reported a strange object that glowed with a brilliant light. The object was subsequently tracked on radar and disappeared when an F. 51 jet was scrambled to intercept it.
1954 proved a particularly hot year for U F O's. On the 19th of July of that year a Pan Am D C 4 above Washington D. C. was buzzed by up to six flying discs. The pilot reported them shooting across the sky at crazy angles, above and below his aircraft, till they vanished out of sight. Barely a week later a Capital Airlines DC 4. was directed by air traffic control to take a look at a strange object on their radar screen.
What the crew encountered was several bright lights hovering above the ground. These flew off and vanished at the planes approach. Said Captain Pierman: " in all my years of flying I've seen a lot of falling or shooting stars but these were much faster than anything I've ever seen. They couldn't have been aircraft...... they were moving too fast". These same objects later created an immense security scare when they entered controlled air space above the White House. Other airliners reported mysterious lights coloured orange, green and red that kept crossing in front of them.
The Valencia Incident.
In November 1979 , a Spanish charter plane en route from Ibiza to the Spanish mainland almost collided with an unidentified object at 24,000 feet. Radar control advised the pilot of a potential emergency, but suddenly all communication between plane and ground was lost in a storm of static. At that moment the pilot was startled to see a bright object with powerful red lights heading on a collision course towards them. Immediately putting the plane into a sharp descent a collision was avoided, but for some time the object continued to buzz the aircraft in a series of sweeping runs.
Inside the plane, blissfully unaware of the unfolding drama the passengers were being served with dinner. Below, on the ground, the object was simultaneously tracked on radar and witnessed by dozens of people. Two fighter planes sent to intercept the objects were themselves buzzed by it, before managing to capture it on film.!
One Year Later.
Incredibly, it was exactly one year to the day after the Valencia incident when there was another near miss with a UFO in approximately the same area. On this occasion an Iberia Airlines jet flying at 31,000 feet was suddenly confronted by a bright green object directly in front of them. The pilots immediate reaction was to put the plane into a steep dive, taking them directly beneath the object which then disappeared. Pilot Ramos later described the UFO as being "like an enormous green soap bubble".
In the crowded air corridor of the well traveled holiday route the same "green soap bubble" was spotted by no fewer than six other airliners including a Monarch Airlines holiday jet en route to England from Alicante.
On the ground the same craft was simultaneously witnessed by dozens of people and at Barcelona airport it swooped low over an Iberia Airways jet as it prepared for take-off. An airport worker confessed: "it is totally impossible for a machine that does all these things to be anything else but controlled by some type of intelligence.
Goose Bay Incident.
One of the most bizarre of these early passenger plane incidents occurred over Goose Bay Labrador. The year was 1954 . A B O A C, Strato Cruiser en route from New York to London was coming in for a refueling stop at Goose Bay when suddenly the pilot reported seeing something strange. In his own words: "I became aware of something moving along off our port beam at a lower altitude at a distance of maybe five miles, in and out of a broken layer of stratto cumulus cloud. As we watched, these objects climbed above the cloud and we could now clearly see one large and six small".
The pilot subsequently informed ground control who vectored a fighter plane to intercept. Before it could reach them however the pilot reported that the smaller objects "seemed to enter the larger", mother ship, before vanishing from sight. Captain James Howard later described the main object as the "the size of the Queen Mary"!
The Lisbon Incident.
Perhaps the most celebrated of all passenger airline sightings occurred in the 1970's in the skies just south of the Portuguese capital Lisbon. The crew of a British Airways Trident were alerted to the presence of a UFO after overhearing an air traffic control communication with another aircraft, a Tristar flying directly above them. Lisbon control had asked for confirmation of a strange object in that area, which the Tristar crew were immediately able to verify.
Alerted by this message the crew of the Trident then spotted a bright object in the distance that was soon joined by a brown cigar shaped craft that hovered alongside it. Casually the Trident captain then informed his passengers of the sighting. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you look on the starboard side of the plane, you will see what we believe to be a UFO!" At that moment a Portuguese airlines 727 also sighted the objects which were plainly visible to the passengers, some of whom were able to view them through binoculars.
On the return trip to London the British Airways Captain was able to establish radar contact with the craft! Although on this occasion no visual sighting was made, the magnitude of the combined objects was tentatively put as "the size of three large super tankers."
The Canadian Pacific sighting.
In 1966 a Canadian Pacific airliner en route from Peru to Mexico City was caught in the beams of a strange craft at a height of around 35,000 feet. It was around 2.am and the passengers were nearly all asleep. In the cockpit the object was observed by the entire flight crew.
The Captain, Robert Millbank later filed a complete report of the incident with the relevant authorities in Mexico City! Here are some of the most telling extracts from that report: "The copilot and I saw two white lights on the horizon to the left of the DC-8.....The lights were close together. They were twinkling and at first I thought they might be stars. But there should not have been two stars so close together. As we watched the two lights seemed to be gradually separating and they were getting closer to us. If it had been a plane, I thought, the lights might have been red and white or green and red - but these lights were both red."
Shortly after this the crew noticed the lights pulsate and change in intensity. It was at that moment according to pilot Millbank that, " we noticed two beams of light coming from the lights and shining upwards in a V - shape. The two main lights seemed to be descending and they leveled off alongside our aircraft. At one time the object shot off a trail of sparks like a rocket. I tried to convince myself that this object was only another aircraft - or a satellite re-entering the atmosphere, but it was pretty clear it was neither of those."
By this time the crew appear to have become decidedly edgy. Continues Millbank: "Then it seemed to be moving closer to us - and we could see a string of lights between the two white lights. It leveled off at our left wing tip and, in the light of the full moon, we could see a shape between the two lights, a structure which appears to have been thicker in the middle. It stayed there for a couple of minutes and then disappeared behind our aircraft."
In 1966, a Boeing 707 on approach to Luanda airport was followed by two disc shaped objects. To gain a better view of them Captain Henrique Maia banked the plane left and right, in a wide swinging maneouvre, that also afforded the passengers a spectacular sighting of the objects, which proceeded "to fly very close to the plane,"!
BOAC flight 703/ 027.
In 1973 the flight crew of a BOAC aircraft en route from Bangkok to Tehran suddenly caught sight of a brightly lit object a mile to port moving at an irregular speed. The crew later spoke of an object the size of " a rail road train "! According to their description it was enveloped in a thin cloud and glowed from an orange light that emerged from a long line of port holes
Dan Air Encounter 1982.
At a height of 23,000 feet over the Italian port of Brindisi the flight crew of a Dan Air flight en route to Corfu were surprised to witness a black shiny object hovering stationary in the sky. Described as not unlike a doughnut the object was also observed by a number of the passengers. The significant size of the object was evident from the fact that at no point did the aircraft come closer than three or four miles. Even at this distance it still retained enough angular resolution to make it plainly visible.
A Chinese Airways 747 encounter with a brightly glowing object forced an emergency landing of the plane involved. As the aircraft descended the object was seen to disappear in a burst of light that left a blue ring of cloud in the area where it was last observed.
The Manchester Encounter.
One of the latest and best documented of UFO passenger aircraft encounters occurred over Manchester in 1995. A British Airways 737 was repeatedly buzzed by a UFO, that came close to one side of the plane. Here as in the other above mentioned encounters, the episode was short lived and quickly over. The aircraft landed safely, and the passengers disembarked with more than just the usual holiday tales to tell to their friends and relatives. So remember, next time you travel by air take a little time to look out of the window. Maybe you too will see one of these exciting enigmas of the air waves.