12/23/2003 9:53:16 AM
Full Description & Details
On November 27th 2003 I was flying from Pittsburgh PA. to Memphis TN. I am an airline pilot. We were on top of a cloud layer at appox. 30,000 feet, and had unlimited visibility above in all directions. At just about the half way point of the flight (approx. 18:45 local time) I noticed a bright object above the horizon. Thinking it was just a planet, I didn't give it a second glance. About 10 minutes after I had first noticed the object, I saw my captain adjusting our TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) to the farthest setting of 80 miles. I then looked out at the object and it was now below the horizon. I asked the captain if he was trying to see if the object was an aircraft using our TCAS. He said yes. The object which appeared to be approximately 20-40 miles in front of us was now changing colors from it's original white, to red and green. At first we thought it was just another aircraft with it's anti-collision lights on until the color changes. I was handling the radios and decided to ask air traffic control if we had any aircraft in front of us at a range of 20-40 miles. His reply was that we didn't have any traffic within 80 miles of our position. He asked me to describe the object, which I did, and then he proceeded to contact another aircraft that was at our 9 o'clock position and 80 miles from us, to see if they saw the object that I described. They (the other aircraft) responded that they saw the same thing. We never gained any ground on the object and as we started our decent to Memphis, the object in front of us did the same. The object went into the cloud layer and we never saw it again. The air traffic controller told us to keep him informed and that the object was most likely a weather balloon.
I have never seen a weather balloon at night time, let alone change colors and be bright enough to be seen at night. We never closed distance on this object making me think that whatever it was, was also traveling at the same speed as our aircraft (500 mph).
Reported To:Memphis Center ATC