Documentary footage covering several cases of Giant saucer shaped UFOs following commercial ariline flights flying through Alaskan airspace.
On November 18, 1986, over the frozen Alaskan landscape, one of modern history’s most important UFO events took place. This was the encounter by Japan Air Lines 1628, a Paris- Tokyo cargo flight filled with expensive French wine, with what the pilot later described as an immense object and two “space ships.” The flight was in its middle leg, from Iceland to Anchorage, Alaska, having flown by the North Pole. In command was Captain Kenju Terauchi, a man with three decades of flying experience, accompanied by a copilot and a flight engineer. The weather was clear as the Boeing 747 flew at 35,000 feet over the Beaufort Sea to northern Alaska. At 5:11 p.m. local time, while on approach to Fort Yukon, Terauchi and his crew saw unexpected lights to their left and below. They gained the distinct impression that the lights were flying along with them. The fact that the lights were below their own altitude ruled out astronomical causes – an important point that would arise later when skeptics attempted to explain the sighting.1
Matters became more interesting a few minutes later. With great speed and suddenness, two objects – “spaceships,” said Terauchi – maneuvered to the airplane’s 11 o’clock position, one positioned above the other, both extremely close. The witnesses estimated the distance was not more than 1,000 feet, perhaps as little as 500 feet, nearly directly in front of them. They were rectangular or squarish and were so bright that Terauchi said the inside of the cockpit lit up and that he felt heat. Both objects had a dark stripe across their center that resembled black charcoal dotted with glowing orange embers. Terauchi estimated their size to be comparable to a DC-8 jet. In other words, fairly large. For three to five minutes, the two objects paced the jet, swaying slightly as they moved through the air, one positioned above the other. Then, abruptly, they rearranged their orientation to side-by-side.
Realizing that they were seeing something that was supposed to be impossible, the perturbed pilot and crew radioed Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center (AARTCC) at 5:19 p.m. The flight controller asked them to identify what they were seeing. They could not do this, but stated the objects had strobing lights that were yellow and white. The fact that none of the crew were fluent in English meant that some inaccuracies occurred in their descriptions to Anchorage. Later interviews indicated the actual colors were yellow, amber, and green. Communication was further hampered by the apparent radio interference caused by the objects: transmissions were garbled and weak during much of the UFO encounter.
Then, at 5:23 p.m. the objects very suddenly and quickly moved away. They appeared to have moved several miles to the left, toward a long, horizontal, pale light. To Terauchi, it looked as though the light connected to an immense object. The aircrew decided to use the on-board radar equipment to search for any nearby objects. “There it was on the screen,” recalled Terauchi: a large, green, round object seven or eight miles away to their left. The crew informed AARTCC, although Anchorage had still not detected any radar anomalies. However, AARTCC did contact the nearby USAF Elmendorf Regional Operational Control Center (ROCC) to learn whether they had tracked anything.
At 5:25 p.m., before ROCC could even answer, AARTCC picked up an anomalous radar target. Although the position was wrong – five miles behind the JAL jet when in fact the object was to the left – at least something was being recorded. Bruce Maccabee, who later provided an in depth analysis of this incident, concluded that the full radar data “indicated that the object was quite large and yet quite a weak reflector.” In other words, it could have been able to reduce its radar cross section through some form of stealth technology. After all, the U.S. was already employing operational stealth aircraft at this time.
Moments later, the ROCC radar controller reported back to AARTCC that he was obtaining an occasional radar echo without a transponder signal. All commercial aircraft have transponders, which provide a specific signal to air traffic controllers. This is distinct from “primary radar,” which traffic controllers also use to identify aerial objects. There were no military aircraft in the area, and the ROCC controller wondered if his tracking was erroneous. The AARTCC controller told him: “negative, it’s not erroneous.” At 5:26 p.m., both radar operators were tracking the unknown target eight miles ahead and to the left of the JAL flight.
A minute later, the object disappeared from all radar. But not visually. JAL 1628 was now approaching Fairbanks. At 5:30 p.m., there was enough ambient light from the Moon and possibly from Fairbanks below for Terauchi to see the object that had been pacing his airplane. Several miles off to his left, the horizontal pale white lights were still visible, but now he saw something else: “the silhouette of a gigantic spaceship.” The object was of staggering size. Terauchi estimated its length as being equal to two aircraft carriers. Feeling an overwhelming need to get away from this object, the crew requested a change of course. The fifteen seconds during which they waited for permission seemed like an eternity. Finally, AARTCC instructed them to turn 40 degrees to the right. The JAL crew executed the turn, only to see the huge object still pacing them. They then received permission to descend to 31,000 feet and turn twelve degrees to the left. The unidentified object also descended and continued to pace the jetliner.
This was becoming too much. At 5:36 p.m., Anchorage air traffic instructed the JAL jet to make a full-circle, 360 degree turn. The crew gladly complied. While engaging in the turn, they lost sight of the object, and hoped they might succeed in escaping from it. Many miles to the south, ROCC radar picked up an unknown target following the plane. Once again, the object gave no transponder signal, only a primary return. As Terauchi completed his long circular turn, he looked to his left and backwards: the UFO was still there.
The JAL jet was running low on excess fuel and needed to get to Anchorage. Meanwhile, a United Airlines passenger jet had left Anchorage and was heading north toward Fairbanks at 29,000 feet. AARTCC asked the UA pilot to look for the JAL flight and any accompanying traffic. By 5:48 p.m., the two airliners were fast approaching. At this time, the UFO dropped back from the JAL jet, and was lost from the airplane’s short range radar. By 5:50 p.m., the UA pilot saw the JAL airplane, but no UFO. When the planes passed each other a minute later, the JAL crew could no longer see their mysterious companion.
The final half hour of their flight was quiet, and JAL 1628 landed in Anchorage at 6:20 p.m. The crew was interviewed immediately by an FAA official who described them as “shook-up but professional.” Two special agents also were there. One of them, Special Agent James Derry, wrote that he called a duty officer at NORAD, and learned that NORAD had tracked both JAL 1628 and the UFO on radar.
For a month afterward, the media was unaware of this case. As Christmas approached, one of the crew members appears to have leaked the story, and it broke worldwide on December 29. Terauchi had no hesitation telling anyone who would listen that the object most likely came from another world. The FAA confirmed the event and reopened its inquiry into the matter a few days later.
Contradictory statements emerged from the FAA. Spokesman Paul Steucke acknowledged that air traffic controllers tracked something pacing the JAL 007, that the encounter was a “mystery” and “a violation of air space.” But there was also “nothing to investigate.” The FAA records were being reconstructed, he said, and the alleged uncorrelated echoes could not be found. As for the Air Force, said Steucke, it no longer possessed its radar data but was attributing the apparent UFO to “clutter.”
Steucke referred to the radar signal of the JAL and UFO as a “split image” caused by the FAA primary radar signal and JAL’s transponder. Such things can happen, although hardly ever in the region of the JAL encounter. Normally, the transponder signal and the primary signal would be either directly adjacent or occupying the same spot. Steucke was in fact saying that the primary return reported by the AARTCC and ROCC controllers was a malfunction of the radar set, causing the two types of signals to separate and look as though they were distinct objects. Bruce Maccabee pointed out in his detailed analysis that if this were true, the extra echo would have come back with every sweep of the radar, which it did not. Steucke also did not mention that three AARTCC traffic controllers who were on duty explicitly denied this explanation. They told an Anchorage journalist that, while the radar signal from the UFO was not especially strong, it was not due to a split radar image. Everyone in the control room believed it was an actual object. On January 22, long before the FAA inquiry was finished, the skeptic organization CSICOP issued a press release announcing that Philip Klass had solved the case. In apparent seriousness, Klass argued that the UFO sighting had been the planet Jupiter, and possibly Mars. He suggested that the crew was unaware of Jupiter’s presence, even though it was very bright that evening. Klass had no access to the radar tracking data, and therefore could not know the precise locations and various directions of the plane. He ignored how the jetliner’s onboard radar tracked an unknown object. He ignored statements by the other crew members which fully supported Terauchi, in particular about how the two objects had appeared in front of the plane. He failed to mention how Terauchi saw a “gigantic spacecraft” behind and to his left, in a direction nearly opposite the planets. Incredibly, he ignored Terauchi’s widely publicized drawing of the object, which was as clear as could be. Klass’s fast and sloppy explanation caused Maccabee to remark, “it appears that the CSICOP press release which was marked For Immediate Release should have been marked For Premature Release.” But CSICOP won the public relations battle. The media quickly accepted the “explanation” and let the matter drop.
A year later, Klass revised his explanation, arguing that the JAL crew was confused by reflections of moonlight from the clouds and “turbulent ice crystals.” These thin clouds also caused false radar echoes, argued Klass. This second attempt was a little better than the first embarrassment, although it remained highly speculative. It also failed to address the spectacular nature of the two objects that maneuvered in front of the jetliner: their brightness and maneuverability, the heat that Terauchi felt from them, and their description by the two other crew members (the co-pilot likened them to the lights of an oncoming aircraft).
On March 5, 1987, the FAA announced that it “was unable to confirm the event.” It repeated Paul Steucke’s January statement that the second radar target was a “split radar return” from the JAL jet. No attempt was made to explain the visual sighting – perhaps because CSICOP had
already done so, after its own fashion.
The story died after this. Captain Terauchi was “grounded” for several years. It was primarily through the research of Richard Haines that Terauchi’s reputation was restored with his employer and he was flying again. Considering such a severe penalty for reporting the event, it is no surprise that pilots so seldom come forward. One can only wonder how many other dramatic air encounters have taken place, but are never discussed outside the cockpit.
One interesting postscript to this case came in the person of FAA official John Callahan, Division Chief of the Accidents and Investigations Branch of the FAA in Washington, D.C. Many years later, Callahan revealed that the day after the event, FAA administrator, Admiral Donald D. Engen, convened a special briefing which included the FBI, CIA, a scientific study team from President Reagan, and others. Evidence in the form of videotaped radar tapes, air traffic voice communications, and paper reports were compiled and presented. At the conclusion of this meeting, the attending CIA members instructed everyone present that “the meeting never took place” and “this incident was never recorded.” They confiscated all evidence that was presented, but did not realize there was more. “They never asked anyone if we had copies, so I never told them I did,” said Callahan, who possessed videotape and audio evidence of the event. The CIA also advised the group that the media would not be informed of this event, as “it would scare the public.” Years later, Callahan provided testimony of his involvement in this affair, including official memoranda and pilot transcripts, to Steven Greer, which were reprinted in Greer’s book Disclosure.2
1. On this matter, see Bruce Maccabee’s analysis, “The Fantastic Flight Of JAL 1628,” International UFO Reporter, March/April 1987, also available at http://brumac.8k.com/JAL1628/JL1628.html and http://ufoevidence.org/documents/doc1316.htm
2. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), “Chronological Summary of the Alleged Aircraft Sightings by Japan Airlines Flight 1628,” January 6, 1987; Andrus, Walter H., “Strange Alaskan Encounter,” MUFON UFO Journal, February 1987; Maccabee, Bruce, “The Fantastic Flight of JAL 1628,” International UFO Reporter, March-April 1987; “Extraterrestrial Object Involved in Japan Air Lines Pilot’s UFO Sighting, According to Leading UFO Investigator,” Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, January 22, 1987; “FAA Releases Documents on Reported UFO Sighting Last November,” by Paul Steucke, Office of Public Affairs, Alaskan Region, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. department of Transport, March 5, 1987; Klass, Philip J., “FAA Data Sheds New Light on JAL Pilot’s UFO Report,” The Skeptical Inquirer, Summer, 1987; Greer, Steven, Disclosure, p. 79-93; Filer’s Files, 6/19/02. For more resources, see “JAL Flight 1628 Over Alaska,” in http://ufoevidence.org/topics/jalalaska.htm