Bizarre Pilot UFO Encounters From the 1980s

There seems to be something very strange going on up in the skies above our heads. Something is operating up there with technology that seems to be far beyond what we are capable of, and such reports have gone back through the decades. One type of report that is especially relevant is those from aircraft pilots. After all, they are the ones up there, with observational skills and expertise that allows them to soberly judge what they see up in the clouds, and sometimes what they see is rather bizarre. Here we will look at a selection of very strange pilot UFO reports from the decade of the 1980s, which show that the skies are full of some pretty weird things.

In 1981, a Captain Phil Schultz was flying a TWA passenger jet on a routine flight over Lake Michigan, in the United States under ideal conditions. The flight had up until then been completely smooth, but then things would get strange. Both Schultz and his co-pilot suddenly saw in the near distance a “large, round, silver metal object with six jet black “portholes” equally spaced around the circumference,” which had apparently rapidly dropped from somewhere above them. The object was so large and in such close proximity that a collision seemed imminent, and Schultz, a veteran US Navy fighter pilot in the Korean War, took evasive action. The mysterious object then made a sharp turn and shot off out of sight. Schultz would later talk extensively with a Dr. Richard Haines, former senior scientist with NASA, about the incident, and although he had always been skeptical of similar reports by other pilots, he insisted that what he had seen was “a spaceship.”

Image by Steve Baxter

In the following year we have the case of airline captain Júlio Miguel Guerra, who in 1982 was working as a flight instructor for the Portuguese Air Force, and on this day was making a routine flight aboard a small DHC-1 Chipmunk aircraft. As he flew along, he noticed an unusual object come out of the blue to begin circling his plane and doing amazing aerial maneuvers not consistent with a normal aircraft. He would describe the object as follows:

At various times the object had been very close to me and I was able to verify that it was round with two halves shaped like two tight-fitting skullcaps. I carefully looked at the lower one, which seemed to be somewhere between red and brown with a hole or dark spot in the center. The center band looked like it had some kind of a grid, and possibly a few lights, but it was hard to tell since the sun was so bright and was reflected. It flew at a fantastic speed in a large elliptical orbit to the left, between 5,000 feet to the South and approximately 10,000 feet to the North, always from left to right, repeating this route over and over. I tried to keep it in sight.

In the meantime, he called in the incident, and two other pilots were soon in the air closing inn on his location to investigate. They also saw the object doing its inscrutable circuit, and it would then begin weaving in between the three planes, easily outmaneuvering them and moving at a speed in excess of 1,550 mph. The size of the object was estimated as being 10 feet in diameter, and after around 15 minutes of this aerial show it sped off out of sight. All three pilots would file a report on the matter, but after this the case has largely been forgotten.

From 1983 we have the rather spectacular account of an alleged UFO chase over the country of Poland. It began at approximately 11:26 a.m. on July 6, 1983 with an anomalous radar signature picked up at the Slupsk Military Airport, which appeared to be a fast-moving object blatantly invading Polish airspace. When all efforts to make radio contact with the mysterious aircraft failed, an alert was issued and a fighter jet scrambled to go up and intercept, piloted by a Cpt. Praszczalek. The pilot soon made visual contact with the object, describing it as “steel in color, rotating around its axis, ‘throwing’ as a boomerang,” and with no noticeable windows, seams, or propulsion system. This was strange and alarming enough that the order was given for the pilot to fire on the object, but just as he was about to do so it made a sudden sharp turn and disappeared from view. After this, ground control would apparently be inundated with numerous unexplained radar signals, causing panic and more jets to be scrambled, but no further visual confirmation was made. What was going on here? We may never know, because shortly after this it appears the Polish Air Force more or less buried the report, with only one of the eyewitnesses, a radar operator at the time, coming forward with the bizarre tale to Polish UFO researcher Marcin Wawrzak.

Image by Steve Baxter

A case from 1985 comes to us from the former Soviet Union, where on early morning at around 4:10 a.m. an Aeroflot flight 8352 made visual contact with an anomalous yellow light while flying in clear and calm conditions. It was reported by the crew that this light then shot two cones of light from underneath, along with what appeared to be some sort of “blob.” These cones of light were described as being light beams or lasers of some kind, and were so bright that they were hard to look at directly and illuminated the landscape far below. As the crew looked on in astonishment, one of the beams of light veered up to train right on the airliner, as several multicolored lights approached them. The larger object from which all of these lights had apparently detached was described as “lit up like a Christmas tree,” and at around this time ground control was picking this all up on radar. The pilot would report that there was a vapor pervading the area, and would make the rather odd description of what he was seeing:

There were multiple lights of different colors and fiery zig-zags that crossed the vapor. It developed an appendage and then became a wingless cloud-aircraft with a pointed tail. The yellow and green glow, like phosphorescence, was eerily intertwined. The object seemed to change shape.

A second aircraft passing by would also confirm sighting the object, but what happened after this is anyone’s guess, and there is little further information on it. One of the most spectacular pilot encounters with a UFO from the 1980s comes to us from the year 1986, with Japan Airlines Flight 1628. On November 17, 1986, Flight 1628 was making a flight that was meant to take it from Paris to Reykjavik, Iceland, after which it was scheduled to move from Canada to Anchorage, Alaska, and finally back to its base in Tokyo, Japan. On board were veteran Captain Kenju Terauchi, co-pilot Takanori Tamefuji, and flight engineer Yoshio Tsukuba, and on this occasion, they had no passengers, but rather a cargo of fine French wine. They made it as far as Canada without incident, but then things would take a turn for the weird.

As the flight passed over Alaska, Terauchi noticed the lights of an unidentified aircraft somewhere below them to the left, about 2,000 feet below their position. It was at first judged that this was just another plane, but the captain noticed that these lights seemed to be pacing them, after which they suddenly and inexplicably ascended very rapidly to appear right in front of them, “shooting off lights” that were so intense the cockpit actually warmed up. The two lights were described as being “amber and whitish” in color, and were rocking back and forth, matching their speed and changing from a top-down formation to a tight formation side-by-side one. Each light was described as having what appeared to be exhaust ports that intermittently shot off flames and sparks, The lights seemed to be pulsating, but they were too bright to see their overall shape. The crew notified Anchorage Air Traffic Control, who were unable to make radar confirmation of the objects. During this time, the plane experienced radio interference, and then the lights flew off to their left, and the captain would say:

There was a pale white flat light in the direction where the ships flew away, moving in a line along with us, in the same direction and same speed and at the same altitude as we were. I thought it would be impossible to find anything on an aircraft radar if a large ground radar did not show anything, but I judged the distance of the object visually and it was not very far. I set the digital weather radar distance to 20 (nautical) miles, radar angle to horizon (i.e., no depression angle). There it was on the screen. A large green and round object had appeared at 7 or 8 miles (13 km to 15 km) away, where the direction of the object was. We reported to Anchorage center that our radar caught the object within 7 or 8 miles in the 10 o’clock position. We asked them if they could catch it on ground radar, but it did not seem they could catch it at all.

Image by Steve Baxter

It was at around this time that military radar at Elmendorf Regional Operational Control Center managed to make contact with the mysterious objects, and then Flight 1628 would make visual contact with a very large unidentified object as they neared Fairbanks, of which Terauchi would say:

The lights of the city were extremely bright to eyes that were used to the dark. The cockpit lights had been turned off to eliminate window reflections of internal lights. We were just above the bright city lights and we checked the pale white light behind us. Alas! There was a silhouette of a gigantic spaceship. We must run away quickly! Anchorage Center.

Another airliner, a United Airlines passenger flight, took a look as they approached the JAL flight, but were unable to see the UFO, which by this time had apparently flown off. JAL Flight 1628 then made a landing at Anchorage at 6:20 p.m. and an investigation was launched of the strange incident. It was ultimately officially announced that the UFO was light reflecting off of clouds of ice crystals, and that the anomalous radar signatures were merely spilt radar returns from the plane itself. Terauchi and his crew would deny this, but the case was “explained” and filed away. What happened to JAL Flight 1628? You can read a more detailed account of the case I have written here.

Also from 1985 is the case of British pilot David Hastings, who in September of that year was making a flight over the Mojave Desert of the United States in a Cessna Skymaster along with his co-pilot, David Paterson. As they flew along, they noticed something out over the horizon. It at first appeared as just a speck, but this speck would soon turn out to be something far more bizarre than anything the two of them could have imagined. Hastings would say:

This speck suddenly grew extremely quickly until we saw this huge shadow go over the top of us,” he recounted. “But the most amazing thing about it was there was no noise and absolutely no movement or turbulence at all. We looked at each other, saying, ‘What the hell was that?’

Hastings would grab his camera and snap two photographs through the window in the direction he believed the mysterious craft to be, and when they were developed one of the photos would show a cigar-shaped craft of some sort. The case has never been fully explained. Indeed, none of these cases have ever really been explained, and their mysteries are only further propelled by the fact that they come from extremely reliable witnesses in the form of seasoned pilots. These are people who have no reason to lie, and indeed who often opt not to report their strange experiences for fear of tarnishing their reputations. Indeed, this is one reason for why so many pilot UFO encounters have been lost, because they simply don’t want to deal with it and are silenced. What is going on in the skies and what are these pilots experiencing up there? There may come a time when we have some answers, but for now it remains a perplexing enigma.

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