Brent Swancer August 22, 2021
Some of the best and most close proximity UFO encounters are reported from the pilots who are right up there in the skies with these mysterious objects. I have recently done a series of articles covering some of these cases, spanning the 1950s, the 1970s, on into the 1980s, and most recently the 1990s, only really hitting the tip of the iceberg on such reports, which are numerous. Of course it goes beyond even that, well into the present day, and pilots continue to come into contact with things up there that cannot be easily explained. Here let us look at a selection of very odd pilot UFO encounters from the year 2000 and onwards.
One strange case comes from the files of UFO researcher Scott Corrales, with the Institute of Hispanic Ufology (IHU), and involves a bizarre UFO encounter experienced by a Mexican military Merlin C26/A jet belonging to the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA). On March 5, 2004, the jet was on maneuvers to patrol for drug runners in the area of Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche, when the pilot picked up a radar hit for an unknown object at an altitude of around 3,500 meters. The very fast-moving object was also seen on the its infrared equipment (FLIR), and the jet followed it only to lose it in the clouds. After that, they then detected more of the objects, 11 in total, which appeared from the clouds to follow and surround the jet. At the time there were eight witnesses to this surreal event, including the pilot, radar operator, FLIR operator, and other monitoring specialists, and they were able to take video footage of some of the objects through the FLIR. Oddly, the objects were only picked up on radar and FLIR, and were not witnessed with the naked eye. All of the crew insisted that these could not have possibly been any normal aircraft. The footage was shown on Mexican news outlets and created quite a stir at the time, although it is a relatively obscure case outside of Spanish speaking sources.
One of the FLIR images of the objects
From the same year is a case from San Francisco, California, involving a passenger airliner making its final approach to San Francisco International Airport on November 3, 2004. As the plane was making its approaching descent, the pilot and co-pilot observed a bright orange light flashing to the west, and it then began to change colors from orange to white in an alternating pattern. They at first thought this must be another plane, but the object soon was behaving in an erratic manner that showed that it was no normal aircraft. The pilot would say of what happened next:
It then began to move in a northeasterly direction. Once again, being in an airplane, it is very easy to think an object is moving, from small corrections the autopilot makes. I found a handful of stars to serve as a reference point and verified that the object was slowly moving north.
It moved about 30 degrees and then stopped. Then, it made a slight tangent to the right and continued moving for about 20 more degrees. It stopped and turned again to the right and continued for 10 degrees, then stopped again and disappeared. The whole sighting ran about two minutes or so from start to finish. It was difficult to judge the actual distance and speed. When I talk about ‘moving in degrees and turning,’ I am talking about my cockpit viewpoint and compass degrees. The UFO’s size was very small, about the size of the stars and planets you see in the sky. There were two of us in the cockpit, and we both witnessed the same thing. We were both in awe. I have been flying for 14 years have never witnessed something like this before.
From the following year we have a report from the files of the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), concerning a not a report from the pilot themselves, but rather from a witness on the ground that saw what appears to have been a harrowing encounter between a fighter jet and UFO. On May 27, 2005, the witness was taking a walk at around 11:30 p.m. on a clear, calm night, when his attention was drawn to something very strange playing out in the sky above., which appeared to be a fighter jet engaging with some sort of triangular UFO. The witness says of what he saw:
The craft’s speed was about 500 knots. The craft was perfectly silent and moving rapidly. Several miles behind the craft was what appeared to be a fighter jet moving very rapidly, 600 to 700 knots. As the jet was chasing the craft they both where flying toward my position. I could begin to hear the engines of the jet at that time. It appeared as thought the triangular craft was toying with the jet in that as the jet got closer to the craft, the craft would speed up somewhat and leave the jet behind. As the craft and jet got nearly directly over my location, the triangular craft made a sharp right hand turn the west. The jet was unable to make the turn at the same angle as the craft. The jet’s turn was much more pronounced and made a much wider loop. Due to that, the jet lost quite a bit of ground on the craft during the turn, yet again as both craft began traversing in a straight line toward the west-northwest the craft again appeared to toy with the pursuing jet in the same manner aforementioned. After a few seconds it appeared that the craft accelerated dramatically and left the jet behind. I observed the jet make one tight loop several miles from my position and then turn off to the north-northeast and flew out of my line of sight.
One thing that was odd about the triangular craft was the three lights making up the triangular pattern were not equal in distance.
Referencing the wingspan of the jet, two of the lights on the craft were about 50 to 75 feet apart and the third light was approximately 100 to 150 feet from the other two lights. Additionally, the two lights closer together were at the front and the other further away light was at the rear facing the pursuing jet. This made the craft to appear to be moving in reverse. It should be noted, that the color of the triangular craft lights were an unusual milky white color, nothing like that of the very bright red, green and white lights observed on the jet. Tinker Air Force Base, which does have fighters, is located about 25 miles east of my house.
Image by Steve Baxter
Unfortunately, despite an investigation into the alleged incident by NUFORC, they were unable to find any further witnesses to the event, and furthermore the military of course denied that such an event had happened or that it even had any jet in the area at the time at all. It would be very interesting to hear an account from the pilot of that jet, but this seems as if it will never happen, and we are forced to wonder what was going on here. Moving to the year 2007, we come to a report from the Alderney Coast of the UK, where two seasoned airline pilots on two separate unrelated flights both saw something very odd in the sky on April 26 of that year. One of the witnesses was a Captain Ray Bowyer, a pilot for Aurigny Airlines, who says he first noticed a bright yellow light at 3 p.m. around 30 miles from the coast during a flight from Southampton. He would describe it as follows:
It was a very sharp, thin yellow object with a green area. It was 2,000ft up and stationary. I thought it was about 10 miles away, although I later realized it was approximately 40 miles from us. At first, I thought it was the size of a 737. But it must have been much bigger because of how far away it was. It could have been as much as a mile wide It was exactly the same but looked smaller because it was further away. It was closer to Guernsey. I can’t explain it. At first, I thought it might have been a reflection from a vinery in Guernsey, but that would have disappeared quickly. This was clearly visual for about nine minutes. As I got closer to it, it became clear to me that it was tangible. I was in two minds about going towards it to have a closer look but decided against it because of the size of it. I had to think of the safety of the passengers first. I’m certainly not saying that it was something of another world. All I’m saying is that I have never seen anything like it before in all my years of flying.
Another pilot with Blue Island Airlines also reported something very similar in the same area at the same time, yet air traffic control were unable to get a radar signature for what was being reported. One of the air traffic controllers on duty at the time would explain:
The pilot from Blue Islands was en route to Jersey at the same time and as he went past Sark he described an object behind him to his left.
The description was very similar to Captain Bowyer’s and they described it as being in exactly the same place. But they were looking at it from opposite sides. The Blue Islands plane was at 3,500ft at the time so, again, both pilots placed it at the same altitude. If the object was stationary, our equipment would not have picked it up because the radar would have screened it out.
The incident was apparently investigated by the Ministry of Defense, but it is unknown what became of it. From the country of Greece, we have an incident from 2009 that involves both civilian airline pilots and fighter jets. On October 11, 2009, Olympic Airways flight 266 was on a routine flight from Athens to London, when at approximately 3:20 a.m. the pilot noticed a very bright object with a “constantly shifting shape” to the west of Athens. At the same time, two other airliners, Olympic Airways flights 730 to Kos and flight 700 to Rhodes, saw the same thing, and it was also witnessed by personnel at the Athens Airport control tower.
As all of this was going on, the Greek Air Force was tracking the object, and considering the object was not responding to efforts to contact it by radio and was violating Greek airspace, two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled and sent to intercept. The fighters approached the location of the mysterious object, but as they drew closer it is reported as having shot off at breathtaking speed to disappear from sight. Very unusually, although the object had been visually identified on the ground and by the pilots, it had at no point actually shown up on radar. After this, Greek officials would try to cover it all up, but the case eventually leaked to the media, after which the Greek Air Force explained it away as a misidentification of the planet Venus. Case closed, yet the several experienced pilots who observed the object dispute this, saying it was no planet, nor any known aircraft they have ever seen. What was going on here? We may never know for sure.
Image by Steve Baxter
Our final and most recent case we will look at comes from 2012, in the country of Scotland. On December 21 of that year, a passenger Airbus 320 with 220 people aboard was about 13 miles outside Glasgow Airport and making preparations to land when a glowing blue and yellow object sped out of nowhere to narrowly miss the plane, whizzing by just 300 feet below it, a hair’s breadth in respect to aviation. It was so close that the pilots had prepared to take evasive action, but it passed by so quickly they had no time to react. The pilot would later report that there had been “a high risk of collision” with the unidentified object, but ground radar picked up nothing. The pilot and co-pilot would both describe the mysterious object as “blue and yellow or silver in color with a small frontal area.” Part of the transcript between the pilot and ground control during the incident reads:
A320: ‘Er yeah we just had something pass underneath us quite close and nothing on TCAS. Have you got anything on in our area?’
Control: ‘Er negative er we’ve got nothing on er radar and we’re n-not talking to any traffic either’
A320: ‘Er not quite sure what it was but it definitely er quite large and it’s blue and yellow’
Control: ‘OK that’s understood, do you have a an estimate for the height?’
A320: ‘Maybe er yeah we were probably about four hundred to five hundred feet above it so it’s probably about three and a half thousand feet. We seemed to only miss it by a couple of hundred feet it went directly beneath us … wherever we were when we called it in it was within about ten seconds… couldn’t tell what direction it was going but it went right underneath us’
An official investigation would be carried out into the matter, which looked into several possible explanations for what had happened, but they were ultimately forced to conclude that it was unexplainable. Part of the official conclusion reads:
The board initially considered likely candidates for the untraced aircraft. The A320 crew had not been able to assimilate any information regarding the form of the untraced aircraft in the fleeting glimpse they had, reporting only a likely colour. Members were of the opinion that, in the absence of a primary radar return, it was unlikely that the untraced aircraft was a fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft or man-carrying balloon. It was considered that a meteorological balloon would be radar significant and unlikely to be released in the area of the Airprox. A glider could not be discounted but it was felt unlikely that one would be operating in that area, both due to the constrained airspace and the lack of thermal activity due to the low temperature. Similarly, the board considered that a hang-glider or para-motor would be radar significant and that conditions precluded them, as they did para-gliders or parascenders. Members were unable to reach a conclusion as to a likely candidate for the conflicting aircraft and it was therefore felt that the Board had insufficient information to determine a cause or risk.
Indeed, for all of these cases there seems to be no rational explanation that can trump the experience and observational skills of these pilots. Sadly, most reports like this will never come properly to light, partly because pilots are afraid to put their reputations on the line to file such things, and partly because many of the reports that are made are just explained away and brushed off, often to the disagreement of the witnesses themselves. We are left with some very intriguing accounts by some very credible witnesses who are right up there with the phenomena, often practically rubbing elbows with it, hinting at something very strange going on up in our skies. Whatever that might possibly be remains to be seen.