By Richard Rokeby
Two Commercial Pilots share their stories of UFO sightings, Maori healers and a very close encounter
It is a bright spring morning on the 30th May 2009 and a Bombardier DASH 8 Q400 aircraft is flying a routine passenger flight north from the English Channel Island of Jersey to Southampton, UK at a height of around 19,000 feet. This is a fast plane and it is traveling at approximately Mach 0.6. The two pilots are experienced flyers and both have had spells in the Emergency Services before realizing their dreams of being commercial pilots. Both have a natural air of calm assurance and for reasons that will become clear I will refer to them as Pilot A and Pilot B. Pilot A describes himself as a man of science, a self confessed cynic and has a keen sense of humor. Pilot B is extremely interested in all manner of flying craft and is open minded as to what is currently flying around earth's skies. Both are about to have an encounter that they would find strange to say the least.
It is now 10 am and Pilot A and B are carrying out theirin flight checks and scanning the sky. Pilot B becomes aware of a glint on the horizon. The unidentified object is below their position and it's moving at high speed towards them. Within seconds both pilots see a craft flying over the top of their airplane and get a split second view of the underneath of this strange craft. The pilot B estimated that the object was travelling at around Mach 0.4 and this combined with their own speed means it was moving at the speed of sound and very close to them. Due to the speed they can't give accurate data on distance or the size of the object as in a second it is gone but both men look at each other knowing that it was unusual. Pilot B requests that Pilot A tells him what he saw to ensure he does not taint his account. Pilot A states that he saw what looked like a large silver box, the size and shape of a traditional American caravan or trailer. Pilot B states he saw what looked like a silver tear drop shape but with two clearly visible windows at the bottom of the craft. Pilot B notes that there is no contrail from the craft and it is flying in the wrong direction for that flight lane. Pilot B asks Air Traffic Control (ATC) if there are other aircraft in the area but receives a negative reply. Pilot B also confirms with ATC that there are no Traffic Collision Alert System (TCAS) notices in effect. Being the professionals they are, they then quickly return to the task of flying the plane safely to its destination. Once landed Pilot B records the incident in his flying log and sketches what he saw ,he also visits Ground Control to see if anything was picked up on radar, however this is also negative. Pilot B was intrigued as to what this object was and suspects the rational explanation was that it was a weather balloon although he believes there are good reasons to suggest it wasn't, such as the speed, movement and texture of the craft. I have researched the incident further and can not find any records of a weather balloon launch in that area. The closest in 2009 was some miles off the West Coast of Southern Ireland and weeks prior to this incident. Pilot A believes that it could have been an Italian Piaggio T180 airplane although accepts that no other aircraft were known to be in the area. However for Pilot A this is not his first or strangest UFO experience for he has a remarkable story which, for the first time, he has chosen to share.
First let us explore the relationship between commercial pilots and UFO sightings. Commercial pilots are the real eyes in the sky. Whilst passengers are enjoying the latest film release or a book, the pilots are ever vigilant to what is in the air around them. Commercial pilots spend more hours in the sky than other flyers including military personnel, at all times of day and night and across the whole world. Yet where are all the sighting reports?
It is understandable that there would be a reluctance to report these sightings by professional and responsible men and women who may fear it would negatively impact their careers. But both Pilots A and B suggest that UFO sightings are not the taboo in aviation circles that the public may think and actually the lack of reporting is very often down to a lack of time. Pilots are busy people, whether flying or not, and often the time taken to make a UFO report and all that goes with it, for what may only be the merest of glimpses, could be spent on other critical matters. Of course it can be argued that UFOs are a “critical” matter when one considers the impact on air safety and the scientific interest. However I can see how UFO reports could be put into the “to do'' box in the general churn of a normal working day. In fact UFO’s and its impact on air safety has been looked at and in some detail. In 2010 a 90 page report was released under the title “Aviation Safety in America - A neglected factor” written by Dr Richard Haines, a former senior scientific researcher from NASA. The report detailed over a hundred accounts from pilots, passengers and ground crew of UFO sightings including 56 near misses.
These encounters were often backed up by multiple witnesses and radar traces. Rather underwhelmingly, the report concluded that the reason why there was little to no concern amongst the US Government or Commercial Airlines was that the objects did not appear hostile or aggressive and were so manoeuvrable that they were able to avoid collisions at the last minute! Basically UFO’s were found not to be a threat to aviation safety and security despite the obvious dangers.
Despite the lack of a taboo, both pilots, who are known personally to me, have requested that I keep their details private and I have chosen to respect this. Pilot A is retired but still trains pilots and Pilot B is an active commercial pilot for a well known Airline. It should also be noted that they are recalling events from many years ago and dates are not as exact as they would like but they have used flying logs as reference where available.
Those UFO and commercial Airline encounters that are deemed the most remarkable often make the mainstream press, particularly in the 1950’s when there was more open minded reporting.
On 27th April 1950 a Trans World Airlines ( TWA) DC-3 passenger flight was cruising at a height of 18,000- 20,000 feet, around 90 miles from Chicago, Flying the plane were two highly experienced commercial pilots, Captain Robert Adickes and Captain Robert Manning. At 2025 hours that night both pilots reported seeing a strange red light moving at speed from the horizon towards their aircraft. They explained that this was not a wing tip light as it was too big and was increasing in size as it approached them. The DC -3 was traveling at 175 mph and the red and orange glowing orb was now very close to their craft. This orb was estimated to be between 20 to 50 feet in diameter and was radiating a bright red light in the darkening sky. Captain Adickes called for an Air hostess to look at the glowing UFO to verify what he was seeing and when she did she was reported to be amazed at the sight of the UFO flying parallel to the plane. The Air hostess then told the passengers, who at first were laughing at her insistence that there was a UFO next to the plane, looked on incredulously as a large red and orange ball of light could be clearly seen traveling alongside them. This glowing “disk”, as some of the passengers reported it, was witnessed for some time before speeding off north at an estimated 400mph. Captain Manning radioed to the Control Tower at the South Bend Radio Range explaining what the crew and passengers had seen and when the plane landed at Chicago the gathered masses of the press were there to take their accounts.
Much more recently a very well publicized UFO encounter was reported over the English Channel on the 23rd April 2007 by an experienced and highly regarded commercial pilot, Captain Ray Bowyer. This account was also supported by the passengers, another pilot and confirmed by radar. Captain Bowyer’s account was as follows. It is also worth noting that it is similar in location and the time of year to Pilot A and Pilot B’s joint sighting detailed at the start of the article. Captain Bowyer reported ‘ On the day I was flying a Britten- Norman Trislander 18 seat aircraft at 4000 feet. It was afternoon and the visibility was very good but with cloud cover at 10,000 feet. I was traveling from Southampton, England to Alderney in the Channel Islands. I suddenly became aware of an object emitting a bright yellow light around 20 miles away from my position. The object was huge. I thought it might be reflecting the sun but could see, via my binoculars, that it was producing the light from within the craft. It was a cigar or CD shaped object with a slight rise to the middle with a ratio of about 15:1. I could see clearly that it was emitting the light but had a dark band two- thirds along the side of the craft. Between the two layers there seemed to be a pulsating array of different colored lights sparking blue, greens and other hues which were strobing up and down every few seconds. As I flew closer I could now see that there was an identical second craft behind the first. Both were very large and very bright. I asked Air Traffic Control if they had the objects on radar and, after a bit of pushing, they confirmed that they did. It was clear that the passengers could now see the crafts but, not wanting to add to the panic, I decided not to make an announcement about them. I then started to make my landing descent into Alderney and the objects appeared to be stationary. I was later to find out that the radar contact had shown the two objects moving very slowly apart in different directions. Once I had landed I reported the incident straight away along with a number of passengers.