It’s gone down in history as the most believable UFO sighting- mana from heaven for UFO spotters and believers, and also very troubling for sceptics and scoffers. This week sees the 26th anniversary of the incident. Here’s a re-cap of what happened.
On November 16, 1986, a Japanese crew with Captain Kenji Terauchi at the helm embarked on a routine flight from Paris to Tokyo in a Papanese Airlines Cargo 747 Jumbo. The cargo was wine…more’s the pity that it wasn’t a passenger plane- that would have led to many more witnesses.
Just after they crossed into Alaska, at 5:09 PM local time, Anchorage Air Traffic Control contacted them on the radio to report initial radar contact. The Anchorage flight controller asked them to turn 15 degrees to the left and head for a point known as Talkeetna on a heading of 215 degrees. They were at 35,000 feet and traveling at a ground speed of about 600 mph. Two minutes later Captain Terauchi noticed the lights about 2000 feet below and 30 degrees to the left front of them. He thought that the aircraft might have been an American jet fighter from nearby Eielson or Elmendorf Air Force Bases patrolling Alaskan airspace. However, after a few minutes, he noticed that the lights were keeping pace with his own aircraft, not the usual procedure for patrolling jets. The Captain then said:
“It was about seven or so minutes since we began paying attention to the lights (when), most unexpectedly, two spaceships stopped in front of our face, shooting off lights. The inside cockpit shined brightly and I felt warm in the face.”
Terauchi said that the two objects he had seen below them minutes before suddenly jumped in from of him. They were as large as an aircraft carrier he said. The craft, one above the other, kept pace with the 747 for several minutes, moving together and displaying an odd rocking motion. They then switched formation to fly side by side. Terauchi said that the “amber and whitish” lights were like flames coming out of multiple rocket exhaust ports arranged in two rectangular rows on the craft. He felt that they fired in a particular sequence to stabilize the craft, much like the small maneuvering thrusters on the Space Shuttle. He also reported seeing sparks like a fire when using gasoline or carbon fuel. The co-pilot described the lights as like Christmas lights with a salmon colour. He added that the lights were pulsing slowly.
The co-pilot called Anchorage Air Traffic Control, and for the next thirty minutes the 747 and AARTCC were in constant contact regarding the UFO. The crew tried to take photos of the UFOs but their unfamiliarity with the auto-focus meant that there is no photographic record. Shortly after the failed photo attempts, the objects flew off to the left.
On the 747’s radar, a large green and round object had appeared at 7 or 8 miles away, where the direction of the object was. This was reported to Anchorage, but they had nothing on their radar. U.S. military radar picked up the two objects trailing the JAL flight and the FAA requested military intervention, however the military did not take any action, as the crafts disappeared.
No more incidents occurred on the remainder of the flight, and a report of a UFO sighting was recorded. The FAA did not pursue the case in any depth. Worse, within a few months, the Captain Terauchi was grounded, allegedly for his indiscretion of reporting a UFO, even though he was a senior captain with an excellent flying record. Several years later he was reinstated by the Japanese government.
The FAA final report was laughable, claiming that what the pilots had seen were Jupiter and Mars. This was quite impossible as the planets were not visible in that part of the sky. Later the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal said that the UFO was light reflecting off of clouds of ice crystals. Another crazy suggestion- the sky was clear at the reported altitude of the UFO. The FAA attributed the radar images received by ground radar to a “split radar return from the JAL Boeing 747.” The military said nothing.
In his drawings of the UFOs, it seems that they were walnut-shaped with a band round the middle. Curious to say the least… I wonder if they will reappear on the anniversary of their sighting? Lets hope we have some passengers and not wine, making the journey from Paris to Tokyo via Alaska!