Ever since the day that changed the UFO/UAP world unfolded in December of 2017, a tremendous amount of attention has been focused on the testimony of military pilots and their encounters with seemingly baffling engagements with Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. That’s understandable, given the training our Top Gun pilots receive as keen observers and navigators of restricted airspace around the world. But last weekend, a report from an American Airlines pilot generated a number of headlines after audio was released of him reporting a sighting of a “cylindrical, fast-moving object” passing over his aircraft.
The primary credit for unearthing this story goes to master radio interceptor Steve Douglas of Deep Black Horizon. If he hadn’t recorded a snippet of air traffic communications, the public likely wouldn’t have even known of the event. He captured the radio transmissions of American Airlines flight 2292 on February 22nd when a pilot reported seeing “a long cylindrical object ” passing over his aircraft over New Mexico while flying from Cincinnatti to Phoenix. The pilot somewhat apologetically described it as looking something like ” a cruise missile.”
FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.
Given that the American Airlines flight was in the vicinity of the White Sands Missile Range, obvious questions were raised. But was what the pilot saw actually a cruise missile? Many commercial airline pilots got their wings in the military. As a former aircraft carrier squid myself, I can tell you that I’ve seen a cruise missile. They are rather distinctive in shape. But they also resemble the descriptions we’ve heard of the “tic-tac” UAPs if you take away the flight control fins. So what did the pilot see?
Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone has done additional digging, including obtaining statements from the FAA regarding this encounter. Read Tyler’s full report for the details, but the general conclusions seem fairly clear. The military didn’t have any scheduled missile flights during that period of time The FAA has said that “FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.”
There was an alternate theory suggested by UFO debunker Mick West, blaming a Learjet 60 in the area at that time for the sighting. But there are three major problems with this idea, as Tyler points out. First of all, a Learjet should have shown up on the radar data, but the FAA says no. (And a Learjet would have had an active transponder.) Second, the Learjet 60 passed through the subject area nine minutes before the reported encounter. Would a pilot actually sit there and dither for nine minutes before finally deciding to radio in and say he might have just been buzzed by a cruise missile? And third, we would have to assume that a trained pilot wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between a Learjet five thousand feet above his airliner and a cruise missile or some other terrestrial craft.
FOIA requests have been submitted, so perhaps some additional information will come to light later this year. But the it’s still an intriguing event. If White Sands was launching missiles without any standard warnings to the civilian air flight community, there has been a major malfunction on the part of the military. (This can’t be ruled out.) If there was a terrestrial craft flying at that altitude over New Mexico without a functional transponder, that’s an issue as well. But what else is left as an explanation?
We simply don’t have enough data to reach any solid conclusions yet, including making the leap to assume that the object the pilot reported could be some sort of off-world creation. But the incident serves as a useful reminder of two things. First, the FAA has historically been very tight-lipped when it comes to sharing data about UFO encounters and they encourage commercial pilots not to talk about them. They rarely give out useful information without being compelled via a FOIA request. (There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare.)
The other fact we should be reminded of is that commercial airline pilots almost certainly experience more unexplained encounters every year than military pilots. That’s not a slam on our Top Gun pilots. It’s just that there are so many more commercial flights every year than military missions. And the military tends to stay in controlled bits of training airspace or battle theaters, while the commercial flights cover most of the globe.
One of the more memorable ones was the experience of Captain Kenju Terauchi, the pilot of Japan Airlines flight 1628 on November 17, 1986. The crew of the Boeing 747 cargo jet reported being tailed by a “massive” object more than twice the size of their plane for nearly 50 minutes. Evasive maneuvers were performed, but Terauchi was unable to shake whatever it was. He later landed safely and without incident.
The Boeing 747 cargo jet reported being tailed by a “massive” object more than twice the size of their plane
Professional debunker Philip J. Klass claimed to have “solved” the mystery of the encounter by writing the sighting off as being the planets Jupiter and Mars. Of course, it’s Klass’s stock in trade to debunk sightings, so that was to be expected. But Jupiter and Mars wouldn’t have shown up in FAA radar data as was later confirmed.
An encounter similar to the New Mexico incident took place over the Sonoran Desert in 2018. With a bit of digging, you can find many other such reports. The point is, that while we should never ignore the reports of military pilots, we probably need more people tracking commercial air traffic chatter the way Steve Douglas does. We could be missing out on a lot of data. At the same time, we should find a way to apply a bit more pressure on the FAA to be more transparent with this sort of information. We’ve got the Pentagon admitting to having a UAP Task Force, for Pete’s sake. Surely the FAA can publicize unexplained encounters and not pressure pilots to keep quiet about them.