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UFOs & Pilots: The Brit Files

Since 1947, countless UFO sightings have been made by numerous sources all across the world. And, amongst those same reports, are a significant number that have been filed officially by pilots, both military and civilian, and, probably most famously, by Kenneth Arnold in June 1947. And from my home country of Britain, come a number of significant “pilot-UFO” cases, as we shall now see. Declassified British Air Ministry files of 1957 detail an extraordinary, and very close, encounter of the pilot variety. It was 10.22 a.m. on April 29, and a pair of Hunter aircraft took off from RAF Odiham to engage in a mid-air exercise. At 45,000 feet one of the pilots was confronted by an unidentified aerial object…

The official report on the matter states: “…when over Hayling Island Mission 28 No. 2 saw a large white object at 10 o’clock slightly above. The object was circular with a white slightly curving tail hanging below. The time was approx 1110. Formation Leader was informed and both pairs turned east onto a northerly heading to look for the object. At first the object was thought to be a parachute but later it was realised that the object must have been larger and at a greater distance because of the slow passing speed.”

A document of December, 29 1962 from a Squadron Leader J.G. Mejor of the Air Ministry Operations Center to Air Intelligence states: “A civilian pilot, call-sign GASCX, name and company unknown, flying from Renfrew to Manchester, was over Morecambe Bay at 7,000 ft at 1955z on 28th December, 1962, when he saw approx 1,000 ft below him a bright light, three times brighter than a star, traveling East to West at approx. 800 m.p.h. At exactly the same time a motorist, reporting via the Morecambe Police and Crosby Coastguard, said he saw a green flare. He was at LEVENS BRIDGE, Nr. HARROW, looking south. No radar confirmation.”

A public service corporation, the Civil Aviation Authority was established by the British Parliament in 1972 as a specialist aviation regulator and provider of air traffic services. Following its separation from the National Air Traffic Services in 2001, the CAA became the U.K.’s independent aviation regulator, with all civil aviation functions (such as economic regulations; airspace policy; safety regulations; and consumer protection) integrated within a single, unified body. The CAA has declassified into the public domain a number of documents that tell of extraordinary encounters with UFOs, as the following, small selection acutely demonstrates:

“19 Sep 79 Vicenza – UFO observed passing 200 feet below aircraft. Milan control reported no traffic.

“11 Jun 80 Vicenza – UFO passed close to aircraft. Object appeared to be like a fighter aircraft drop tank.

“13 Feb 81 Lyon – Unidentified foreign object seen on aircraft radar. A sizeable oval shaped target appeared on radar center-line at limit of range tracking at very high speed. No visual sighting made.

“12 Jun 82 Dinkelsbuhi – Large translucent object 500 feet long at 41,000 feet. ATCC [Air Traffic Control Center] requested subject aircraft to investigate this object which was found to have the form of a double rectangle surmounted by a globe (egg shape) crowned by a silver cone. Object observed by all on board.

“21 Jun 82 Brindisi – Unidentified object sighted by pilots. Object passed down left hand side at same height as aircraft (FL230) & 2 miles away. Black shiny doughnut shape about the size of a car. Object was tumbling and judged to be stationary.

“18 Aug 83 Florence – Unidentified flying object seen by crew. Large black object, balloon shaped with large white spot on it, observed 10 NM SE of Firenza. No attachments to object. SUPP. INFO.: Italian CAA replied no met [meteorological] balloon could possibly have been present at the indicated place or time.

“24 Aug 84 Ipswich – UK Reportable Accident – A/C [Aircraft] struck object in cruise. Propeller, fuselage, cowling & control runs damaged. The A/C was flying in slight turbulence when a bump was felt. Just before descent the right hand engine control was found to be seized so an asymmetric approach & landing was executed. On inspection it was apparent that the left propeller had struck an unidentified object, propelling it through the cabin roof, with a piece exiting through a window. There were several holes in the fuselage & damage to the engine, aileron & rudder trim cables. Three pieces of foreign metallic object were found, including a small cylindrical magnet. The UFO has not been identified. No information received concerning nature or origin of UFO.
“20 Dec 84 Herald – Bright white lights arced across A/C track. No range activity in channel. Lights also seen by another A/C.”26 Oct 84 Reading – Unidentified flying object: bright light 65 Deg Elev, 200 Deg T, duration 7 minutes.

“5 Feb 86 5427N 0530W – Bright light passed upwards in front of A/C. A/C was crossing east coast of Ireland on descent. Light travelled towards A/C from a 2.30 position range approx 11/2 miles and passed 1000 feet above travelling right to left 1 mile ahead. Burst of green light observed at peak of its ballistic flight. A/C ht [height] 1450 ft. CAA closure – possibly flare fired at about time of OCC by Aldergrove. Pilot considered this unlikely but no other explanation has emerged.

“21 Aug 86 Belgrade – Non UK Airmiss missile type object passed 500 ft above on reciprocal track A/C heading 290 MAG at FL 390. Object was black, cigar shaped, without wings. Belgrade radar informed on RTF. CAA closure – foreign authority advised.

“1 May 1994 – Sighting of unusual object. Member of public reported seeing a black boomerang-shaped object, which appeared to hover over RAF Northolt, above 30,000 feet, before tumbling approx 2000-3000 feet, while rotating through 180 degrees on its axis. No other reports of anything unusual received – possibly A/C in Bovingdon stack seen from odd angle in setting sun.”

Moving on…

Shortly before 1.00 a.m. on June 8, 2008, a South Wales Police helicopter, carrying a crew of three, was over MOD St. Athan, awaiting permission to land and refuel. As they held their position in the skies, the crew’s attention was drawn to a ‘brightly lit’ object above them that was reported as being”flying saucer shaped.” Suddenly, without warning, the object raced towards them at ‘great speed’ – something that caused the pilot to take immediate, evasive action to avoid a potential collision. The object then sped away and the helicopter crew decided to follow. Their pursuit took them over the Bristol Channel until, as they neared the North Devon Coast, a lack of adequate fuel forced them to abandon the chase.

What may have been the same object was seen later that same day by George Withrington, who happened to be a retired RAF glider pilot from St. Mellons, Cardiff. He said the unknown intruder was “peculiar with lots of flashing lights” and added that: “I was looking at an aeroplane overhead when I spotted this thing that was in the corner of my eye. It shifted direction very quickly, in the blink of an eye. I looked at it for quite a while. I was watching it for at least 10 minutes. It flew off towards the east, towards Newport.”

Media coverage was intense; which led South Wales Police to state that: “We can confirm the Air Support Unit sighted an unusual aircraft. This was reported to the relevant authorities for their investigation. The crew are very experienced and responded in a professional manner in relation to what they saw. In today’s skies, there are a wide variety of aircraft which come in a range of different shapes and sizes and in all probability, this sighting has just confirmed that one of these was in the area at the relevant time.”

Today, the case remains steeped in controversy, with some UFO researchers perceiving the incident as prime evidence that aliens were flying over South Wales on that fateful night. Others, meanwhile, suggest that nothing stranger than Chinese Lanterns and media exaggeration were the cause of all the cosmic fuss.

In view of all the above reports from qualified and experienced pilots, however, if one day you should be in the fortunate position to see a UFO, remember: you’ll be in very good company!


Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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