Summary: Considering the mystery of UFO's is essentially an aerial phenomenon it isn't surprising that a large percentage of the best sightings are made by military pilots on routine missions!
Considering the mystery of UFO's is essentially an aerial phenomenon it isn't surprising that a large percentage of the best sightings are made by military pilots on routine missions! So frequent are these sightings that one expert on the subject believes up to thirty per cent of all pilots have experienced a UFO encounter at some point in their careers! In fact since man first realised the potential of the plane as a weapon of war there have been literally thousands of instances of UFO's buzzing military aircraft, and playing havoc with their controls!
In the early days these sightings and encounters were relatively well reported, but since then, pilots, both military and otherwise, have been under growing pressure to remain silent!
Ironically one place where pilots have considerably more latitude to talk openly is in Russia. Here the new wave of open-mindedness has thrown up a wealth of extraordinary encounters. Perhaps the best of these sightings concerns a former pilot Maxim Churbakov, whose encounter was closely scrutinised and accepted as true by no less an authority than the dreaded KGB!
In August of 1991 Churbakov was considered the cream of Russia's pilots. Then suddenly all that changed one summers afternoon. On that fateful day Churbakov had already made two flights with his commander and then went up alone! At an altitude of just over twelve thousand feet he became aware of a bright orange ball directly in front of him. The light was blinding. Churbakov says he was seized by an unexplained fear and the feeling of being watched. In addition the back of his head warmed up dramatically. Churbakov maintains that at this point he was still in full control of the plane, though convinced his movements were being controlled by someone other than himself.
Bright orange orb.
By this time radio transmission to base was now severed, and alongside the aircraft the bright orange orb was still in close contact! Suddenly the aircraft's generator failed and the cockpit began to fill with smoke. The jet then went into a steep dive and after fighting with the controls Churbakov managed to wrestle the plane away from a major residential area, before ejecting from the stricken aircraft which then ploughed into the ground in a massive fire ball!
The military authorities were not amused. Churbakov was charged with sabotage and duly interrogated by the KGB! He was threatened that if he did not tell the truth he would be charged with terrorism and shot by firing squad. Not surprisingly the Military Prosecutor, Anatoly Musinenko took a dim view of Churbakovs explanation, but after speaking to his mother, his comrades, and his superiors, he became convinced of Churbakov's sincerity and all charges were dropped! However he was not accepted back as a pilot! Ruefully Churbakov comments that there was no training given to pilots to deal with such encounters, which according to him had been going on for a very long time. Older pilots said that in the old days under communism, it was something you kept quiet about!
For further details on the Churbakov encounter see our special feature on the topic.
Interestingly enough Marina Popovich, a Colonel in the Russian military, and herself a former test pilot, says that today's cosmonauts are routinely taught the proper protocol of dealing with aliens, implying that contact was more widespread than commonly supposed. She insists she was once a profound sceptic, but aerial photographs taken by Russian pilots of UFO's actually firing on military aircraft convinced her the phenomenon was real!
In the west pilot sightings of these unidentified denizens of the sky are not so closely accessible! Yet despite the secrecy amazing accounts do still emerge, and it appears that on numerous occasions the unfortunate pilots involved did not live to tell the story!
The Cuba Incident.
In 1966 a high-altitude U2 spy plane went missing over Cuba. A better way of putting it would be to refer to the official explanation "that the pilot could not be contacted"! Apparently the mission took the plane south over the tip of Florida and then high over Cuba! When the plane failed to make an expected course change the alarm was raised, but the pilot could not be contacted! Instead the plane continued to fly in a southerly direction before crashing in Bolivia!
The official version of events referred to a catastrophic failure of the oxygen supply, that if true would certainly have led to a life threatening situation within no more than a couple of seconds! On the face of it this would appear to be the likeliest explanation. However there were other factors involved. As the stricken aircraft was being tracked over Panama, the local Air Rescue Center, noted that a high flying unidentified object was in close proximity to the spy-plane.
Whether this object played any part in the crash is almost impossible to say. What we do know is that an altered state of awareness - as happened to Maxim Churbakov - is a frequent accompaniment of UFO encounters! Perception, acuity, and a true sense of time and direction can all become radically impaired! If the pilot of the U2 was similarly affected, then he might well have drifted on oblivious to his peril or the frantic attempts being made to contact him!
Sensory impairment following a disturbing encounter with unknown sources was blamed for the sudden hysteria involving one of the early astronauts. Frank Edwards, author of "Flying Saucers - Here and Now" gives us the following insight: "There is the very strange case of one of our early astronauts who became unduly excited about something during the course of his orbiting. His radio messages were cut off the intercom for several minutes, lest the newsmen hear what it was they were describing. He was brought down sooner than had been anticipated.....He was never sent aloft again. Something exceedingly disturbing had so affected this well-trained astronaut that his reports had to be censored and his career in space had to be aborted!"
Another disturbing incident occurred during the Second World War when a pilot on a special mission needed to be heavily sedated after an unexplained incident. At the time UFO's had frequently buzzed Allied and German aircraft! In addition Allied bombers returning from missions over occupied Europe kept experiencing unexplained engine trouble!
Mystery of Second World War.
The problem eventually became so persistent that the Allies suspected the Germans had somehow developed a machine capable of interfering with the electric's of their planes! Considering the power that this would have required - as much as the entire electrical output of western Europe this sounded highly implausible! But what else could it be? Eventually a special plane with sensitive monitoring equipment was sent aloft to try and track down what was causing these faults.
When the plane returned back to base the pilot was in a highly agitated condition, ranting and raving hysterically! He was so wild and emotionally charged that he screamed and cursed at anyone who came near him! As much for his own safety as anything else the pilot was quickly sedated! Surprisingly the next day he woke up as fit as a fiddle but with absolutely no recollection of the previous days hysteria! Instrumentation from the special plane recorded nothing unusual, and the pilot was completely unable to remember what it was that caused him to become so irrational!
In the USA, in 1948, USAF Captain Thomas Mantell, flying an F-51 was killed after crashing in pursuit of a massive metallic shaped object! The incident which happened close to Louisville Kentucky badly shook up the air force establishment and Project Sign - the forerunner of Project Blue Book, was instigated soon afterwards! Apparently Mantell's last radio message spoke of him closing in on the object!
On many occasions military planes have actually opened fire on UFO's, and during the Vietnam War these mystery objects were a constant plague on the US forces! In fact the situation became so confused that one outbreak of sightings triggered off an air-sea battle in which an Australian destroyer was badly damaged! Describing the incident in their book "Beyond Earth", authors Ralph and Judy Blum quote USAF chief of staff George S Brown, with the following admission: "I don't know if this story has ever been told", Brown said, "but they (UFO's) plagued us in Vietnam during the war"!
Brown, a former commander of the 7th Air Force in Southeast Asia, said, "We didn't call them that (UFO's). They could only be seen at night in certain places." Brown said that in the summer of 1968 near the demilitarised zone there was a series of sightings which set off "quite a battle with an Australian destroyer taking a hit"! Astonishingly Brown made it clear that Vietnamese forces were not in any way responsible for the incident!
Korean War Incidents.
In 1954 American Air Force officials announced their planes had pursued and fired on several UFO's over the skies of Korea! Barely a fortnight before this, in May of that year, USAF jets over Dallas "engaged in a game of high altitude tag before the jets were outmanoeuvred and outdistanced" as reported by the Dallas Herald.
In 1933 the whole world was tuned into the enigma of the "ghost fliers" of Sweden! For a period of at least several months mysterious craft flew low over towns and villages even in the most atrocious of weather. On one occasion the entire Swedish airforce - then consisting of just 30 planes was put on alert. Most however could not take off through the inclement weather, and of those that did, two later crashed! Undeterred by any of this, the 'ghost planes' continued to fly on regardless!
In 1954 radar contact with an unidentified object ended in tragedy! An F-54 jet scrambled to investigate the sighting over New York State was soon in pursuit of a gleaming disk shaped object hanging motionless in the sky. When however the aircraft rose up to challenge it, the instrumentation suddenly went haywire and the cockpit began to heat up dramatically! Forced to bale out, the two pilots watched on helplessly as their plane spiralled out of control before crashing down to Earth in a fireball that killed two children and two adults!
In 1952 a wave of UFO's were monitored entering the restricted air corridor around the White House in Washington. F-94 jets were immediately scrambled and the UFO's promptly vanished from sight! However the moment the F-94's returned to base the strange objects reappeared again, and this aerial game of tag carried on virtually all night till day break!
In 1976 in the night skies over Tehran in Persia, radar contact was made with a strange unidentified object the size of a large passenger jet! An F-4 fighter plane from a nearby airbase was immediately ordered to intercept the object but turned back after experiencing an instrumentation black-out and complete loss of radio transmission! A second jet then took up the pursuit and beginning to feel threatened was about to fire a missile when the firing mechanism went dead. Again this was accompanied by a complete loss of radio transmission. Several projectiles launched from the UFO apparently proved harmless, and the aircraft landed without further trouble!
What emerges from this astonishing wealth of sightings and encounters is that though the phenomenon of UFO's still remains unexplained, it is by no means a rarity, and constitutes almost a routine, if baffling aspect of modern day flying! Moreover the expert testimony of highly trained observers provides the finest and best authenticated accounts of this aerial mystery. Pilots are trained to identify everything that flies. The reality is that on some occasions, this high degree of excellence is forced to interpret objects and circumstances that fall far outside the established norm. Events that leave even the most experienced pilots shaken and disturbed in the face of the real denizens of the sky!