By Scott Marcano
UFO encounters are often dismissed by skeptics as the product of attention-seekers, hoaxes, or simply overactive imaginations. But what happens when the UFO is seen by some of the most trained and trustworthy professionals around? Compared to encounters by ground-dwelling civilians, cases of UFOs seen by pilots and astronauts are some of the most credible UFO stories around.
These UFO sightings are, perhaps, the most convincing because these witnesses are highly respected professionals whom we trust with our lives. These individuals have nothing to gain by putting their careers and reputations on the line reporting bizarre happenings in the skies.
More shocking is the sheer volume of these reported incidents that happen every year. Here’s a list of some of the more notable sightings of alien spacecraft by pilots and astronauts.
Pilots Chiles and Whitted Reported a Double-Decker “Flying Cigar”
The granddaddy of all UFO encounters has been giving professionals the chills for decades because of the credibility of the witnesses and the fact that it proceeded “UFO mania” in the popular media.
The event happened in the early morning hours of July 24, 1948. Clarence Chiles, chief pilot, and John Whitted, co-pilot, were flying an Eastern Airlines passenger plane near Montgomery, Alabama, at about 5,000 feet altitude on a clear night.
At about 2:45 am, Chiles “saw a dull red glow above and ahead of the aircraft.” He told Whitted, “Look, here comes a new Army jet job.”
The object closed on their DC-3 in a matter of seconds, and flew past the right side of their plane before it pulled “up with a tremendous burst of flame out of its rear and zoomed up into the clouds.” The pilots said that the object looked like a flying cigar with two decks and windows.
One of the plane’s passengers, C.L. McKelvie, also reported seeing a “bright streak of light” that flashed by his window.
The military and scientific skeptics later challenged the account, saying that it was probably a meteor the pilots and passenger saw – although it must be pointed out that few meteors have windows for passengers or zoom straight up in a rapid climb, rather than falling down to earth. Additionally, both men claimed they got a good, long (10 to 15 seconds) look at the object. The event remains one of the most cited examples of credible “UFO” encounters.
Astronaut Leroy Chiao Reported a UFO While on a Space Walk with the ISS
In 2005, astronaut Leroy Chiao, commander of the International Space Station, reported a UFO encounter during a space walk. He and a colleague were installing navigation antennas when something unusual caught Chiao’s eye. Below him in the Earth’s atmosphere he saw a line of lights that looked like “an upside-down question mark.”
One non-UFO explanation for Chiao’s sighting offered by skeptics is that Chiao simply saw the bright lights of a fishing boat hundreds of miles below him. Of course, those would have to be some pretty insanely powerful fishing lights to be seen all the way in outer space – and why Chiao didn’t see the lights of other boats all over the ocean has never been explained.
Lt. Gorman Engaged in a Dogfight with a UFO
One of the most well-known early UFO encounters involved Lieutenant George F. Gorman of the North Dakota Air National Guard, who said he had a twenty-seven minute “dogfight” with a UFO in the skies above Fargo.
On the night of October 1, 1948, Gorman was preparing to land his P-51 when he saw a light aircraft outlined plainly about 500 feet below him. He called the tower, but the operator there told him they knew of no other planes in the area.
Gorman informed the tower that he was going to investigate. He closed to within about 1,000 yards and took a good look at the object.
It was about six to eight inches in diameter, clear white, and completely round without fuzz at the edges. It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower.
Gorman says the light suddenly charged him. When collision seemed imminent, the object suddenly shot straight up into the air in a steep climb-out, disappearing overhead. Gorman again attempted to pursue it, but his plane went into a power stall at about 14,000 feet, and the object was not seen again. It was then 9:27 pm.
In the airport control tower, traffic controllers Lloyd D. Jensen and H. E. Johnson also saw a strange light near the airfield. In a statement to Major D. C. Jones, commander of the 17th Fighter Squadron at Hector airport, Gorman said he was convinced that there was “thought” behind the maneuvers.
George F. Gorman retired from the Air Force in 1969 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and settled in Texas.
Major Cooper Witnessed a UFO, But NASA Forbade Reporters to Ask Him About It
Even the original Mercury astronauts had strange encounters in outer space. Major Gordon Cooper (who was later famously played by actor Dennis Quaid in the blockbuster film The Right Stuff) had more than one UFO encounter.
The most well-known one took place on May 15, 1963, when he was shot into space in a Mercury capsule for a 22-day journey around the world. During the final orbit, Cooper told the tracking station at Muchea (near Perth, Australia) that he could see a glowing, greenish object ahead of him that was closing fast on his spacecraft. The UFO was picked up by Muchea’s tracking radar – so there is no doubt it actually existed.
Cooper’s sighting was reported by NBC, but when Cooper landed, reporters were told that they would not be allowed to question him about the UFO sighting.
Major Cooper later testified before the United Nations on the subject, saying:
I believe that these extra-terrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets… Most astronauts were reluctant to discuss UFOs… I did have occasion in 1951 to have two days of observation of many flights of them, of different sizes, flying in fighter formation, generally from east to west over Europe.
Pilot Bethune Spotted a Gigantic Floating Object Over Canada
On February 10, 1951, US Naval Reserve Lieutenant and co-pilot Graham Bethune was occupying the captain’s seat near Newfoundland, Canada, when he spotted a huge floating object (he claimed it was 300 feet in diameter) on a near collision course with their aircraft.
The co-pilot stated in his official report:
I observed a glow of light below the horizon about 1,000 to 1,500 feet [330-470 meters] above the water. We both [the pilot as well] observed its course and motion for about 4 or 5 minutes before calling it to the attention of the other crew members…
Suddenly, the object changed direction at incredible speed, and began to pulsate and change its colors, as well. Then it somehow reversed its course and tripled its speed until it at last disappeared over the horizon.
Bethune’s report says that the object came within five miles of his aircraft – a fact proven by radar evidence provided by the DEW Line Ground Radar at the base in Goose Bay, Labrador, that tracked the object.
Two Turkish Pilots Saw a Mysterious Object – And So Did Citizens Below
Pilots from Turkish Airlines were flying from the Turkish resort town of Bodrum to the country’s largest city, Istanbul. Suddenly, a mysterious green light appeared over the plane. As the pilot later testified,“An unidentified object with green lights passed 2- to 3,000 feet above us. Then it disappeared all of a sudden. We are guessing that it was a UFO.”
The UFO was also reported to be seen around Istanbul’s Silivri district.
The General Directorate of State Airports Authority denied spotting any image that fitted the description of the pilot. Doubters claim that the pilots saw a green laser pointer that was reflecting off a cloud. However, it seems pretty hard to believe pilots would never have seen a laser pointer before – plus, that would have had to be a pretty huge laser pointer to create an effect such as they described.
For the record, pilots do not generally report fleeting flashes of light as UFOs.
Andrew Danziger Claims That Most Pilots Believe in UFOs
This famous encounter was recounted by pilot Andrew Danziger. It happened during a routine flight on April 10, 1989. It was about 8 pm on a clear night with a full moon. Shortly after take-off from the Kansas City International Airport, Danziger saw a white disc clearly visible through the clouds just off to his right. It appeared to be flying parallel to them, matching their speed and direction.
The captain of the flight admitted he had noticed the same thing since they had leveled off. The pilots describe the light:
It looked similar to the moon faintly visible though thin fog, except the two were visible at the same time on opposite sides of our cockpit…. The captain and I had cumulatively spent many years flying and were accustomed to seeing – day and night – all manner of airplane, blimp, hot air balloon, satellite, and bird. But neither of us had any idea what this disk could be.
All of a sudden, the white disk turned into a giant red ball of light. The red light hovered in the air and then disappeared into some clouds as the plane descended for landing.
Danziger explains how common this is for pilots:
I’m not going too far out on a ledge to say that virtually all pilots believe in UFOs. Little green men, ‘close encounters,’ alien kidnappings… not so much. But with billions of stars and trillions of planets out there, ‘ya gotta believe,’ and almost all of us do.
Reports Claim UFOs Met Astronauts During the Moon Landing
According to unconfirmed reports, both Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin saw UFOs shortly after that historic landing on the moon in Apollo 11 on July 21, 1969. Viewers listening to the broadcast heard Armstrong refer to lights above a crater before his audio feed went dead for a few minutes.
According to former NASA employee Otto Binder, unnamed radio hams with their own VHF-receiving equipment (that bypassed NASA’s broadcasting) picked up the following exchange:
NASA: What’s there?
Apollo 11: These babies are huge, sir! Enormous!
OH MY GOD! You wouldn’t believe it!
I’m telling you there are other spacecraft out there,
Lined up on the far side of the crater edge!
They’re on the moon watching us!
Armstrong and Aldrin have denied the exchange took place, but other have insisted that off the record, the astronauts have admitted to many scientists that they did indeed see something.
Gemini Astronauts Reported a UFO to NASA in Orbit
In December 1965, Gemini astronauts James Lovell and Frank Borman also saw a UFO during the second orbit of their record-breaking 14-day flight.
Skeptics later pointed out that Cape Kennedy identified the object as the final stage of their Titan booster rocket… Which would make perfect sense, except for the fact that Lovell says he could also see the booster rocket nearby. Their exchange:
Lovell: Bogey at 10 o’clock high.
CAPCOM: This is Houston. Say again, 7.
Lovell: Said we have a bogey at 10 o’clock high.
CAPCOM: Gemini 7, is that the booster or is that an actual sighting?
Lovell: We have several… actual sighting.
CAPCOM: …estimated distance or size?Lovell: We also have the booster in sight….
Mercury Astronaut Slayton Tracked a Flying Saucer
Gordon Cooper wasn’t the only Mercury astronaut to report strange encounters. Deke Slayton revealed in an interview he had seen UFOs in 1951:
I was testing a P-51 fighter in Minneapolis when I spotted this object. I was at about 10,000 feet on a nice, bright, sunny afternoon. I thought the object was a kite, then I realized that no kite is gonna fly that high. As I got closer, it looked like a weather balloon, grey and about three feet in diameter. But as soon as I got behind the darn thing, it didn’t look like a balloon anymore. It looked like a saucer, a disk. About the same time, I realized that it was suddenly going away from me – and there I was, running at about 300 miles per hour. I tracked it for a little way, and then all of a sudden the damn thing just took off. It pulled about a 45-degree climbing turn and accelerated and just flat disappeared.
Pilots Reported a Flying Saucer Over Bariloche Airport During a Mysterious Blackout
In 1995, an Aerolineas Argentinas flight landing at Bariloche airport in Argentina reported that it was “buzzed” by a luminous disk moving in a way that defied the laws of physics. According to reports, the pilot was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision. Strangely, at the same time, there was also a mysterious power shortage in Bariloche.
There was also a power outage at the airport. One Argentine newspaper reported the air traffic control personnel as saying, “The control instruments went crazy.”
The UFO was also seen by personnel on the ground, as well as the crew of a police plane flying 600 meters (2,000 ft) above.
The FAA Investigated a 1986 UFO Sighting by Japanese Pilots
In November 1986, a UFO was sighted by the crew of Japanese Airlines Flight 1628 over Alaska. This incident made headlines when the FAA announced it would investigate the sighting, which had been caught on radar.
Captain Kenju Terauchi and a crew of two were on a special flight delivering French wine when suddenly Captain Terauchi saw lights to the left and right of the plane. At first he thought it was US fighter planes patrolling the border with the Soviet Union, but his opinion changed when then the objects suddenly reappeared much closer to the aircraft.
“Two spaceships stopped in front of our face, shooting off lights,” Terauchi was quoted as saying. “The inside cockpit shined brightly, and I felt warm in the face.”
The captain described the objects as square-shaped spaceships with jet propulsion systems that had horizontal lines of circular exhausts clustered around a dark center. Terauchi also reported the spacecraft interfered with ground communications, jamming his signals.
Terauchi’s testimony was called into question because his testimony varied somewhat from what he originally said to the FAA during the encounter and his co-pilot and flight engineer described the objects as nothing more than lights – however, they did not dispute that they were UFOs.
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry suggested that the phenomenon was caused by light refraction through ice crystals suspended in clouds. Well, at least they didn’t say it was a weather balloon!
Creepy Audio From American Airline Pilots Indicates They Think They Saw A UFO In 2017
On February 24, 2018, two pilots flying two separate planes both claim to have seen an unidentified flying object during flights to the American Southwest, not far from Roswell, New Mexico. One of the pilots reported the UFO flying overhead, above the plane, and denied that it could have been a weather balloon. Audio footage is an unsettling behind-the-scenes look at what the aircraft might have been
“I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t an airplane but it was, the path was going in the opposite direction,” the pilot reportedly told Air Traffic Control.
US Navy Pilots Were “Weirded Out” By Possible UFOs In 2004
When the Pentagon program was publicly revealed in 2017, indicating the US government had been keeping track of reported UFO and alien sightings for a number of years, many stories emerged based on the program’s reports and records. One told the story of Naval pilots who, in 2004, tracked a conglomerate of unidentified flying objects for several weeks. According to records reported in the NY Times, “The objects appeared suddenly at 80,000 feet, and then hurtled toward the [Pacific Ocean], eventually stopping at 20,000 feet and hovering. Then they either dropped out of radar range or shot straight back up.”
At one point after a few weeks of monitors, two fighter jet pilots — Cmdr. David Fravor and Lt. Cmdr. Jim Slaight — were ordered to investigate further, and honed in on the crafts. One unidentifiable, white-colored aircraft reportedly hovered about 50 feet above the water, sending a roiling churn through the sea. According to the record it “around 40 feet long and oval in shape. The craft was jumping around erratically, staying over the wave disturbance but not moving in any specific direction.”
When the pilots headed toward a rendezvous point so they could figure out an approach to the UFOs, the object headed toward it at incredible speed before disappearing entirely. The objects were not seen again and the pilots claimed they were “weirded out” by the whole encounter. “It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Commander Fraser said.