To paraphrase the saying, In every
person there is at least one good book I say, "In every person there is at
least one good UFO sighting." So, "Ive seen mine, have you seen
This accounting is true. Even the names, as used, are true.
Only first names are used out of deference to privacy. As events unfolded I am certain
that it was intended that we should see what we saw. I know what we saw only I dont
know what it was we saw. I dont know what it was but I know what it wasnt.
Having been in aviation all of my adult life as a commercial pilot and a retired flight
engineer and having flown all over the world I am not prone to flights of fancy and
fantasy. With my sanity in hand I can say, unequivocally, that it was not:
- A star, planet, moon, comet, meteor, or any other known visible celestial body.
- A weather or research balloon.
- An airplane, as airplanes are commonly known.
- A rocket launched from earth, manned or unmanned, for space exploratory or military
- An experimental air borne device launched by any country on earth.
It happened late on Christmas Eve, 1966, at 37,000 feet
over the North Pacific Ocean between Japan and Anchorage, Alaska. We were in a DC-8-54 (a
four engined jet aircraft manufactured by Douglas Aircraft Company) empty freighter
ferrying back to our home base in Delaware from Vietnam. On board was Dick (Dickey Bird),
the Captain, John, the First Officer, (John was also a captain but was on this trip as a
first officer) and I, the Flight Engineer. Aviation technology had advanced to the point
where we didnt use a Navigator anymore.
Up until things started to happen it had been just a normal
uneventful flight. I was at my Flight Engineers station behind the first
Officers seat doing my normal things with my left ear cocked and on the ready for
any unusual comments from the pilots that would be important for me to hear. Then this - -
"Look at that, Dick. What do you suppose that
is?" John exclaimed. Dick had no idea. I didnt know at the time that he was
talking about what he was watching on radar but it sure perked me up. Then John explained
what had excited him: He had been watching a rather bright blip out the right side that he
estimated was about 75 miles. It was moving at our speed; not moving ahead or going
behind. John said that at first he thought it was a ship down on the water then he
realized that was a stupid thought; the blip was going the same speed we were - Mach .80
(for those who dont know--.80 is 8/10 the speed of sound). Pretty fast for a ship -
- huh! He had watched it for several sweeps of the radar then it came out what it was that
got him so excited.
That blip had all of a sudden picked up speed, angled to
the left a little bit and went off the screen in front of us. After John had explained all
this to us it was now question time.
"Hey, John", I asked, "how many sweeps did
it take for that blip to go from out there on the right side of us to off the screen up
front?" "I don't know exactly but I think about three." John replied. Next
question, "How long does it take to make a 360° sweep?" As near as we could
figure it took about 10 seconds.
So, some quick arithmetic. I did this quicker on my
American Airlines circular slide rule than I can do it here but bear with me; I am going
to work in round numbers 'cause that's all I have to work with. (I don't have any square
ones) Three sweeps of the radar at 10 seconds each would be 30 seconds. The distance from
75 miles abeam of us to off the radar ahead of us was at least 100 miles. So, anything
traveling 100 miles in 30 seconds would be going 200 miles in one minute. 200 times 60
(minutes in an hour) comes out to the astounding figure of 12,000 MPH. As I say, I can't
vouch for the exactness of these figures but if you reduce it by 50% that still leaves
6,000 MPH - faster than anything we have around here. And I don't think I was off by any
50%. But the best was yet to come!!
We batted this around for about 15 minutes, relieving
Pacific boredom and wondering what it all meant. We were all completely unprepared for
what happened next.
All of a sudden John exploded with uncustomary expletives
while pointing out through the Captain's window, "crist a mitey, what the hell is
that?" Dick and I both immediately looked in the direction John was pointing. I
wouldn't even attempt to explain what I saw I can only describe it. As I said, we were not
prepared for what we were seeing.
There alongside was the brightest white light I had ever
seen - it reminded me of Magnesium burning. It was impossible to tell, in this black of
night, how big, or how far away, it was. This demonstrates the inherit stupidity of the
human being: when John was describing what he had seen on radar we hadn't thought to look
outside and when we saw what we saw outside nobody thought to look inside at the radar. We
were so enthralled at what we were seeing nothing else seemed important - who could blame
Out behind this brilliant white light was strung a long red
tail of flame of unknown length, but a long, long ways. At the end of this red column was
a flame of lesser intensity - red blending into orange. This whole display reminded me of
rocket shots from Cape Canaveral except it had a much longer and narrower fire tail and it
was going horizontally.
This extremely bright light paced alongside us for a few
minutes. No, that's probably not true; I lost track of time - it was probably less than a
minute. All of a sudden it took off. I have no idea how fast it was going. All I know is
that we were going .80 - 8/10ths speed of sound - and this thing ran off and left us like
we were standing still. After it got a ways in front of us it cut over to the right until
it was directly in front of us and then corrected to the left, accelerated, and went out
of sight straight ahead. Although I had entertained the thought of the existence of UFOs
for some time, this was beyond the scope of my reasoning.
This led to some more conversational disagreement. You had
to know John. He very seldom agreed with anything anyone said if that person was below his
self proclaimed station in life.
After this thing, or things, traveled from alongside to in
front of us I noticed immediately that I was now seeing three distinct glowing objects.
The best analogy I can think of is if you hold up three fingers spread out in a row off to
the side you only see one but if you move those three fingers out in front you now see all
three. But good old John didn't let me down; when I said I saw three he insisted there
were four. Isn't that something - - here we've just seen something neither of us has ever
seen before and we're arguing about how many we saw.
After several more minutes of animated conversation that is
impossible to even begin to relate here I finally sorted these things out: Dick had a
camera in the bottom of his flight bag but he was so flustered he had not been able to
find it - he found it when it was too late.
John had this very profound statement to make: "All my
life I thought nothing like that existed - but now I'm not so sure."
The only thing I could think of was, "John, you stupid
jackass, you saw it with your own two eyes and you're not so sure. What does it take to
make you believe what you saw?"
There was more to come and for this you have to remember it
was Christmas Eve: John called Shemya Control (in the Aleutians) to give a position report
and sort of as an aside he asked, "have you had any reports of any UFOs
tonight?" Shemya's non-descript answer was "Negative" End of conversation.
Not only ".", but "period". "Roger" came from John, nothing
more and nothing less. And I thought to myself - John, you stupid son-of-a-bitch everybody
knows that on Christmas Eve everyone equates UFOs with Santa and his reindeers. Tell them
what we saw - - but he never did. And I rode along for the rest of the trip in a state of
complete frustration. My only thought, "How can anyone be that stupid?"
In due course we landed at Anchorage, completed our normal
customs clearance and preceded to the hotel. I only relate this because later I went to a
local pub for a Christmas Eve libation and to relax a little and who should invite me to
their table, and quite unknown to me, but an ATC (Air Traffic Control) man from the local
center. We discussed what I had seen but he could offer no suggestions. Anyway, we had a
long evening of great conversation. His name was Rhodes, and anyone with that name is
always known as "Dusty". I saw him several times after that when I had trips
through Anchorage but it was never the same. You only experience your first UFO one time,
anything after that is anti-climatic. In this regard I can only say "Dusty, if you
are reading this, do you remember? I do!"
In retrospect, I have concluded that the maneuver we saw
was the same on both sides of our aircraft only by seeing one on radar and one visually
they seemed different at the time. This leads to the conclusion that the thing that we
saw, what ever it was, was under some type of intelligent control and the maneuver was
As fate would have it, about two weeks later on a return
from Europe, over the Atlantic Ocean, at a time when the Captain was out of the cockpit,
the First Officer called my attention to a light about the brightness of a star, far off
in the distance, out through the Captain's window. When you are accustomed to looking at
stationary stars, one that is moving gets your attention right away. As we watched this
light moved from far out on the left, across in front of us, in an apparent straight line,
and continued until it went out of sight near the horizon to the right of us. As I
considered what we had seen the thought came to me that this could be the same as what I
had seen in the Pacific only it was so far away that the red tail was not visible.
Even though this sighting was 30 years ago the information
contained here is just as viable now as it was then as there seems to have been no
noticeable progress made by the government, or any one else, toward the solving of
phenomena of this nature.
Copyrighted 1999 by William M. Slater