Throughout the mid-1990s, several sightings of unusual missile or flare-like objects were reported over the northeastern United States. Many of the sightings, which were concerning by themselves, began to receive increased attention following the tragic crash of TWA Flight 800 in the summer of 1996.
Although the cause of the TWA crash was determined to be an explosion originating from within the center wing fuel tank on the aircraft, several eyewitnesses reported seeing what appeared to be an object resembling a boat flare ascending upward out of the ocean on the night of the incident. The National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI eventually concluded, however, that there was not enough evidence to support the missile theory regarding the TWA Flight 800 crash.
Of the more compelling cases involving sightings of unidentified flying objects that were logged around that time, one incident that took place just a few months prior to the Flight 800 crash involved a sighting of a peculiar, green object flying on a horizontal trajectory that was seen by the crewmembers aboard several aircraft.
On November 17, 1995, Lufthansa Flight 405 and British Airways 226 were leaving New York when they both observed a strange, brightly-lit object fly past them at approximately 10:20 PM. The crew onboard both aircraft observed what they described as a projectile producing green light, flying 3000 feet above and to the left of them. The location of the sighting was just north of airspace used for military operations, according to FAA records, prompting some of the observers to question whether the object might have been an experimental military aircraft. Whatever the object was could not be located on radar by air traffic control operators out of nearby Nashua, New Hampshire.
Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center was later able to obtain a transcript of the radio communications between Boston ATC and both Lufthansa 405, referred to as “Heavy” in parts of the transcript, as well as the British Airways flight, which operated under the “Speedbird” handle. According to the transcript, the mystery object was first observed passing off the left-wing by the pilots of Lufthansa 405, who told ATC that “it was looking strange.” Shortly thereafter, the pilots aboard British Airways Flight 226 confirmed having visual as well.
According to a portion of the transcript:
BRIT: Speed Bird 226, we confirm that. We had something go past us about two, well... about one to two thousand feet above on the left hand side. Uh, looked like a green trail on it, and a very bright light on the front of it. We assumed it was an opposite traffic.
FAA: Speed Bird 226, roger that.
LUFT: (Garbled)..Lufthansa 405/Heavy. We are right now about 26 miles east of "Hotel Tango Oscar (Hampton??)." And the Speed Bird is now ahead, or behind us (or where)?
FAA: Lufthansa 405, the Speed Bird is in your 12:00 o'clock, and about 30 miles, 40 miles.
LUFT: That was not our traffic. Lufthansa 405 Heavy.
FAA: Lufthansa 405, roger. And the heading of the traffic, was it the same direction, or opposite direction?
LUFT: Exactly opposite. Lufthansa 405/Heavy.
FAA: Roger. Did it pass off your right side?
LUFT: Uh, left side.
BRIT: Yea, Speed Bird 226 confirms that. We saw the same thing. It certainly looked like an aircraft initially, but it may not have been one.
LUFT: (We can't tell then??) It was looking very strange, with a long, uh, light, in the tail.
BRIT: Yea, a big bright white light on the front, and a greenish tail coming out the back.
LUFT: Can you confirm this, Lufthansa 405/Heavy.
FAA: OK, Lufthansa 405, Speed Bird 226. Thanks, we'll look into it.
Later in the transcript, the pilots of British Airways Flight 226 said the object “did have a very strong trail to it...a vapor trail, which looked more like smoke. And the light on the front was very, very bright, and as it went past us, it seemed to just disappear.”
Lufthansa 405 added that the object “didn't have any lights... (normal) lights, beacon lights, or red or green lights. Only a white light in the front, and with a long green light.”
“It looked like a UFO,” the Lufthansa pilot said.
An almost identical sighting had been logged almost two decades earlier by the crew aboard an Italian aircraft, Flight IH662, on March 9, 1978. Transcript of the dialogue between the pilot and ATC in Milan was later released by the Italian military, which gives us the following description of the object:
Flight IH662: As a point of reference, we're the IH662, at an altitude of 2,600 feet, and on our right we have, that is, it has appeared here like a ...
Flight IH662: No UFO. No, let's say a green rocket but for purposes of signaling, it's a little bit high or low depending on your point of view.
Later in the transcript, the pilot provided a more complete report on the object to landing control:
ATC: …if you have a minute, you can talk with landing control on the other set about the sighting so we can write it down.
Flight IH662: All right, but I bet you'll be biting your tongue, after a minute. At 2,600 ft., 75 miles inbound to Vicenza, there appeared on our right something lit up like a green rocket, similar to the type the tower sends up to tell us we have to land, but very luminous and a mile off. That's it.
ATC: Perfect, IH662, we copied you perfectly, and we can confirm, in any case, that at your position and altitude there was no plane within 40 miles of you and therefore, you were really alone from the point of view of the AT.
Flight IH662: Now we can tell you, there was a thought that it could have been a back burner (as of a jet) because it had the same kind of intensity but there being no airplanes in flight, we don't know what it could have been. It might be a meteorite or anything else, but I doubt it would make a flare of that kind at 2,600 feet; in other words, it was very bright.
ATC: Perfect and the news is encouraging to us because we can corroborate by official channels that there is no other plane.
Presumably, the Italian “mystery missile” sighting was never determined to have been another aircraft military or otherwise.
Interestingly, the sightings of green, missile-like UFOs bear similarity to the reports of “Green Fireballs” that were being logged in the late 1940s. Often described as bright objects resembling meteors, the fireballs were said to make no sound as they were observed passing overhead. Sightings were frequent enough that a network of observation stations was united under the name Project Twinkle in December 1949, although the project did not reach full operation before it was discontinued in 1951.
Perhaps some of the green fireballs have continued to be observed over the years, and if the incidents involving “green missiles” are any indication, they appear to remain as difficult to explain today as they had been in the early days of the UFO mystery.