Last Updated 10/12/03 00:22

Pilots and UFOs

Pilots and UFOs

Over the last 5 decades there have been thousands of reported UFO sightings by pilots, both military and civil.
It would be impossible for all of these sightings to be included on this site but here are a number of significant sightings:

Francis Chichester

The famous yachtsman Francis (later Sir Francis) Chichester actually began his career as a pioneering aviator.
In 1931 he made the historic first solo flight from Australia to New Zealand across the Tasman Sea and during this flight he was suddenly startled by a group of flashing lights moving at high speed across the sky.
One of the strange objects approached his aircraft - he described it as "like a silver pearl and flashing like a searchlight". The object moved in front of his aircraft before disappearing.

Foo Fighters

Towards the end of the Second World War many pilots and aircrews reported seeing small orbs of light whilst flying military missions. These orbs appeared alone or in groups and flew around and between the fighter and bomber aircraft that they gave the impression of being intelligently controlled. 
Somewhere along the line they were given the nick-name "Foo Fighters" and were seen to emit a bright light or to flash intermittently. On 23rd November 1944, Lieutenant Ed Schlueter was piloting a mission in France when he, along with his crew, observed approximately nine balls of light travelling at high speed. These "Foo Fighters" were undetected by Radar and disappeared only to re-appear soon after before vanishing completely. Similar reports of these strange objects were made by many pilots throughout the rest of the war and it was speculated that the anomalous objects were a secret military device being developed by the enemy.
However, the objects were seen by pilots of all forces involved in the war and suggestions that they were some form of Radar jamming device developed by the Germans seem unfounded as Foo Fighters were observed in the skies over Japan. 

Foo Fighters - photographed over Japan towards the end of the 2nd World War.

Kenneth Arnold's Sighting

1947 was a notable year as far as UFOs were concerned being the year of The Roswell Incident and a number of significant UFO sightings. Probably the most important and certainly the most famous was the sighting of a group of UFOs by Kenneth Arnold, a pilot, whilst flying over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State (U.S.).
Arnold, aged 32 and a businessman based in Boise Idaho, took off from Chehalis airport (Washington) at 2 p.m. on June 24th in his own small aircraft intending to search for a missing Marine C-46, in the hope of finding the craft and claiming the reward of $5,000. 
Flying conditions were very good and approximately an hour after take-off Arnold was at a height of about 9,500 feet in the skies near Mount Rainier when he was startled by an extremely bright flash. There was another aircraft in the vicinity but it was too far away to be responsible for the flash. Soon there was another and to Arnold's amazement he observed nine shiny objects in a chain-like formation, flying from the North to the South.
The strange objects were flying between the mountain peaks and because of his familiarity of the area, Arnold was able to calculate their speed - in excess of 1600 m.p.h. which was well above the top speed of the fastest aircraft of the times. The anomalous objects had a strange appearance, having wings but no tails. Arnold watched the craft from a distance of approximately 22 miles and for about 3 minutes.
Arnold, a highly responsible pilot, later reported his sightings and was interviewed by the press. During his first press interview he described the motion of flight of the objects "like a saucer would if you skipped it across water", hence coining the name "flying saucer".
Kenneth Arnold's sighting caused excitement all over the world and was one of the main incidents causing the authorities to become interested in UFOs.

1947 was a busy year as far as UFOs were concerned. On 24th June Kenneth Arnold saw a formation of nine objects over Mount Ranier (Washington State) which were later described as "flying saucers"  by a reporter. This description was based on how Arnold described the manner in which the objects crossed the sky. This event heralded a host of sightings of mysterious objects capable of carrying out incredible maneuvers over a period of several weeks.

The Army Air Force (U.S.) regarded the matter so seriously that a reward of $5000 was offered  to anyone who could help in solving the mystery of  UFOs. Click on photo for larger size


Kenneth Arnold's official report of a UFO sighting that would change the course of history.

Flight Lieutenant John Kilburn

During a NATO exercise on 19th September 1952, an anomalous object was sighted following a meteor jet. Three aircrew and two RAF officers observed the object and the incident was described by Flight Lieutenant John Kilburn:

"The Meteor Jet was crossing from east to west when I noticed the white object in the sky. This object was silver and circular in shape, about 10,000ft up some five miles astern of the aircraft. It appeared to be travelling at a lower speed than the Meteor but was on the same course.
I said 'What the hell's that?" and the chaps looked to where I was pointing. Somebody shouted that it might be the engine cowling of the Meteor falling out of the sky. Then we thought it might be a parachute. But as we watched the disc maintained a slow forward speed for a few seconds before starting to descend. While descending it was swinging in a pendulum fashion from left to right.
As the Meteor Jet turned to start its landing run the object appeared hung in the air rotating as if on its own axis. Then it accelerated at an incredible speed to the west, turned south-east and then disappeared. It is difficult to estimate the objects speed. The incident happened within a matter of 15 to 20 seconds. During the few seconds that it rotated we could see it flashing in the sunshine. It appeared to be about the size of a Vampire jet aircraft at a similar height.
We are all convinced that it was some solid object. We realised very quickly that it could not be a broken cowling or parachute. There was not the slightest possibility that the object we saw was a smoke ring or was caused by the vapour trail from the Meteor or from any jet aircraft. We have, of course, seen this, and we are all quite certain that what we saw was not caused by vapour or smoke.
We are also quite certain that it was not a weather observation balloon. The speed at which it moved away discounts this altogether. It was not a small object which appeared bigger in the condition of light. Our combined opinion is that, it was something we had never seen before in a log experience of air observation."

1st Lieutenant Felix E. Moncia Jr.

On 23rd November 1953, an unidentified anomalous object was detected on Radar by Air Defense Command - the object was flying over Lake Superior. 433rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron (Madison, Wisconsin) was alerted and an F-89, piloted by Felix E. Moncia, was despatched to intercept the object.
As they approached the object, Moncia and his observer Lt. Robert Wilson, were seen to descend to 8,000 ft. by ground based radar observers, at which point both the F-89 and the unknown object disappeared from Radarscopes. No trace of either craft was ever found. The Air Force maintained that the "UFO" was, in fact, a Canadian Air Force C-47 and for some unknown reason the F-89 had crashed into Lake Michigan after turning away from the intercept. 
The flight plan of the C-47, however, did not leave Canadian air space and there is no evidence that the air craft deviated from its flight plan. Also, despite claims that Moncia had suffered from vertigo causing him to lose control, there has never been a satisfactory explanation for why both F-89 and the UFO disappeared from various radarscopes at exactly the same time.

Captain James Howard.

On 29th June 1954, a Boeing Stratocruiser (the Centaurus, flying at 19,000 feet, speed 230 knots) was flying from New York en route to Newfoundland when, over the sea off the coast of Labrador, a large "metallic" object emerged from a gap in the clouds - this object was circled by six smaller objects. The pilot, Captain James Howard, sketched the larger object which seemed to change form; however, in a BBC interview he finally described it as a large triangle. The co-pilot, Lee Boyd, contacted Ground Control and told them, "We are not alone". "We know", was the reply from Ground Control. "What is it?" Boyd asked. "We don't know but we have scrambled a Sabre from Goose Bay to investigate", - was Ground Control's response.
The UFO flew along with the stratocruiser at a distance of about 3 miles until the Sabre jet aircraft approached - at this the smaller UFOs lined up and, one by one, merged into the larger object. When the Sabre reached the UFO, it vanished.
The whole event was witnessed by the crew and 30 passengers.

Joseph Walker

Initially Joseph Walker was the first to announce a sighting - he told the National Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Space Research in 1962 that he had an aerial encounter with two disc-shaped objects the previous month. He had actually filmed the encounter.
In April 1962, NASA pilot, Joseph Walker, filmed five cylindrical and disc-shaped objects from his X-15 aircraft. Another test pilot reported an incident involving a formation of UFOs whilst flying at 314,000 feet.
NASA refused to reveal any evidence that might substantiate the pilots' claims - photographs or films were never released.

Graham Shepherd

Graham Shepherd [ below ] was a commercial pilot with B.A. (British Airways) for many years. Since his retirement he has decided to reveal his experiences with UFOs.
On the 22nd March 1967, Graham Shepherd was piloting an aircraft on a return flight from Gibraltar to London when the aircrew noticed a very bright star - twice as bright as any normal star or planet. The object became yet brighter and started to manoeuvre as though intelligently controlled; performing figures of eights and loops.
Shepherd contacted Bordeaux Radar (France) and who confirmed the presence of an unidentified object 10 miles to the west, on their screens.
In another instance, Graham Shepherd was flying from Scotland to London (Heathrow) in daylight. Just after crossing into England, he was alerted by Preston Radar Control that there was "unidentified opposite direction traffic "at 24,000 ft., approaching at very high speed. Shepherd was astonished to see a disk-shaped craft, similar to a shiny car hub cap, flying towards his aircraft. He estimated the object to be about 30ft. in diameter.
The UFO passed within a quarter of a mile, about 2-300 feet below Shepherd's aircraft and yet caused no shockwave. The aircrew and the observers at Preston Radar Control were completely puzzled.
Neither Graham Shepherd or Preston Radar Control submitted a "near-miss report" as everyone involved in the incident felt that something extremely strange had happened.
His decision to reveal his experiences have some anger as far as B.A. are concerned, writing to Graham Shepherd asking him not to relate details of his UFO encounters to anyone.

Graham Shepherd - retired airline pilot who spoke out 

UFOs.Graphical representation of 
the UFO sighted by Graham Shepherd [above].

Graham Shepherd describes a UFO he sighted. [Audio] 


Captain Lawrence J. Coyne 

At 11-05P.M. on the night of October 18, 1973, Captain Lawrence J. Coyne, Staff Sergeant John Healy, Co-Pilot Arrigo Jezzi, and Crew Chief SSGT Robert Yanacsek, Army reservists, were returning from Columbus, Ohio to Cleveland, Ohio in an "H-1 Huey" helicopter. At a point southeast of the Mansfield, Ohio airport, flying at 2500 feet/heading of 030 degrees, Staff Sergeant Yanacsek noticed a red light on the eastern horizon at approximately 90 degrees to the Huey's flight path. 
After observing the object for 30 seconds, Yanacsek reported that the object appeared to be on a collision course with the Huey and was flying at a speed in excess of 600 knots. After observing the object himself, Captain Coyne took over the controls of the Huey, commencing a powered descent from 2500 feet to 1700 feet to avoid a collision. Captain Coyne radioed Mansfield Airport and asked if there were any high performance aircraft known to be in the area. However, the radio did not seem to be functioning on any frequency. The crew of the Huey were fully expecting to crash with the object, but instead it virtually stopped in mid air and hovered for a moment above the Huey, afterwards continuing to the west, turning to the north and speeding away after it passed Mansfield Airport (Ohio). 
Coyne later reported that the object slowed down from 600 miles per hour to 100 miles per hour (the speed of the Huey) and hover over it for a short length of time.
Co-pilot Jozzi described the object as cigar-shaped, metallic grey, with a dome on top.
Healy remarked:
"It as about 60 feet long, no portholes or intake openings could be seen. At first it was just showing a red light in the nose. Then a green spotlight at the back swept around and shone into our cabin. The helicopter's radio had gone dead as soon as Coyne had contacted Mansfield tower, and did not return to normal until ten minutes later, after the incident was over" 
Captain Coyne reported that, at the end of the incident, the altimeter showed that the Huey climbed at 100 feet per minute to 3500 feet although the controls were in the full down position. Coyne returned the helicopter to 2500 feet and proceeded to Cleveland, Ohio, where a formal report was made to the FAA Flight Service Station. 
The incident was witnessed by people on the ground - A woman and four children reported seeing the helicopter with an object shaped like a blimp and as big as a school bus hovering over it. They also noted that the object's green spotlight illuminated a significant area of the ground for a short time. Other ground witnesses also verified the events, including the brilliant green light from the UFO. 

The Kaikoura Incident.

On 21st December 1978, the crew of an Argosy cargo plane flying from Blenheim (South Island, New Zealand) to Dunedin made radar-visual contacts with UFOs - see The Controversial New Zealand Film on this site.

Gordon Cooper (Colonel)

Now retired, before becoming an astronaut Gordon Cooper [ right ] was a test pilot. Whilst in this capacity at Edwards Air Force Base, he sighted a saucer-shaped UFO actually land near a camera crew filming the installation of precision landing equipment. The UFO was captured on film which Cooper personally sent to Washington - he never heard about or saw the film again. 

Gordon Cooper describes the sighting and filming of a UFO.[ audio]

Colonel Gordon Cooper - Ex- astronaut 
who had a first hand experience of a UFO.

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Copyright 2001 by [The Why? Files]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10 Dec 2003 00:31:35 -0000 .