Ham Radio Operator Hears American Airlines Pilot Report UFO.

NOTE: THIS INVESTIGATION IS IN PROGRESS.
PERIODICALLY CHECK THIS SITE FOR UPDATES

UFOs Northwest & a Team of Utah Investigators headed by MUFON Director Erica Lukes are Working on This Case.

Location of Sighting: Near Nephi, Utah
Date of Sighting: January 14, 2016
Time of Sighting: Between 12:12 and 12:13 AM MST

Voice Transmission of Airline Pilot Reporting Possible UFO (YouTube):

Watch Animation of Radar Returns from 12:08 to 12:15 AM MST (YouTube):

FIG 1 VISUAL TRACE OF AUDIO FILE. LIKELY "REDACT" AROUND 12:11 MST.

FIG 1 VISUAL TRACE OF AUDIO FILE. LIKELY “REDACT” AROUND 12:11 MST.

FIG 1 RADAR SHOWING PATH OF AIRCRAFT & UNKNOWN RADAR RETURNS.

FIG 2 RADAR SHOWING PATH OF AIRCRAFT & UNKNOWN RADAR RETURNS.

FIG 2 - ZOOM IN MAP OF RETURNS NEAR NEPHI.

FIG 3 – ZOOM IN MAP OF RETURNS NEAR NEPHI.

FIG 2 ZOOMED OUT MAP SHOWING ISOLATED AREA OF RADAR RETURNS NEAR NEPHI, UT.

FIG 4 ZOOMED OUT MAP SHOWING ISOLATED AREA OF RADAR RETURNS NEAR NEPHI, UT.

DOPPLER RADAR PAINT NEAR LOCATION & TIME OF UFO SIGHTING.

FIG 5 DOPPLER RADAR PAINT NEAR LOCATION & TIME OF UFO SIGHTING.

FIG 6 LOCATIONS OF RADAR SITE AND POSSIBLE UFO SITE.

FIG 6 LOCATIONS OF RADAR SITE AND POSSIBLE UFO SITE.

ALL PRIMARY RETURNS MIDNIGHT TO 12:30 AM.

FIG 7 – ALL PRIMARY RETURNS MIDNIGHT TO 12:30 AM.

FIG 7 - TERRAIN PLOT OF PRIMARY RETURNS 12 TO 12:30 AM MST.

FIG  8 – TERRAIN PLOT OF PRIMARY RETURNS 12 TO 12:30 AM MST.

FIG 9 - MAP OF MILITARY OPERATION AREAS - UTAH.

FIG 9 – MAP OF MILITARY OPERATION AREAS – UTAH.

Background: This case was reported to me by Erica Lukes who is the director of MUFON for the state of Utah. She knows a radio show host (Pat Daniels) who was scanning communications between aircraft and the FAA shortly after midnight on January 14, 2016. He heard a conversation between an airline pilot and Air Route Traffic Control.

 The pilot reported seeing an extremely large bright object that he estimated a mile wide to his right. The air traffic controller told him that he was looking in the direction of Nephi, Utah. Apparently the air traffic controller told the pilot that the object was not detected on radar. The object appeared to keep pace with the aircraft.

A Freedom of Information (FOIA) request was written to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). About six weeks later we received a response to the FOIA. The response consisted of radar returns, voice tapes and tower logs. The FAA is to be commended for their full and timely response to our request.

Research showed that the aircraft was American Airlines Flight Number 434 which was enroute from San Francisco, CA to Philadelphia, PA. The actual sighting time was between 12:12 and 12:13 AM MST on January 14, 2016. We were able to find segments of the conversation on the Air Traffic Control archives website, but much of conversation was deleted. One could hear the controller telling the pilot that Nephi, Utah was off to his right and the pilot acknowledging the transmission. However, the UFO report was not on the tape. The ham radio operator did not record the conversation so the “UFO report” could not be heard. He heard the conversation on the frequency of 127.95 mhz.

Update: March 4, 2016. The voice tape obtained from the FAA (see above) does fill in some of the transmission missing from the tape from the Air Traffic Control archives website. The only thing not included from the original transmission was the estimated size of the object and the conversation where the FAA said that the object was not detected on radar. The airline crew described the object as a large orange square.

An animation was constructed for each revolution of the radar (12 seconds). The radar animation frames are speeded up to one second/revolution in the animation. (Animation follows voice tape above.) The animation shows 1 to 3 returns for each revolution of the radar. There are a few rotations where no returns are detected. This is strange. There is no detected conventional movement and the returns vary from 0 to 3 over the 7 minute period. The time period is from 12:08 to 12:15 AM MST which is a few minutes before and after the pilot reported the strange object. One wonders if the object was moving erratically and perhaps was rotating exposing more or less radar cross sectional area resulting in no detection or a different number of returns? The object could have been large considering this type of “radar signature?”

A visual trace of the FAA tape is shown in Figure 1. Pat Daniels (ham radio operator) stated in a radio interview that the aircraft radioed the FAA and inquired whether radar showed anything in the area of their sighting. This conversation was around a minute before the conversation where the FAA told the crew that the town to the right was Nephi, Utah. There was some conversation in this time frame. (See annotation in Figure 1.) However, the conversation has been deleted and only a second or two not “redacted.” The question is why did the FAA redact this conversation? According to Pat Daniels the crew did not announce their flight number when they first sighted the object. So perhaps the FAA didn’t include it for that reason. Or perhaps they did not want the public to hear the conversation? In the recorded conversation starting just after 12:12 AM the crew was talking about their sighting and the FAA responded “you mean to the right.” How did they know that? They knew because they had it on radar.

Figure 2 above shows the  route of the aircraft. The aircraft was flying at 31,000 feet and 530 knots at the time of sighting. The pilot reported the sighting to the FAA around 12:12 AM. (See Figure 2.) The pilot stated that he had been watching a large square of orange light for sometime and that the object was “off his nose.” The aircraft was headed in an ENE direction. The radar shows a “dense” area of returns at approximately the 2 o’clock position at the time of the sighting. However, the returns would have been at near a 12 o’clock position beforehand as the pilot had been watching the object for sometime and was heading in an ENE direction. These returns are quite isolated and very numerous. They are likely not birds, angels, ground targets or anomalous propagation. (See discussion below of anomalous propagation.)

Figure 3 above is a zoom in of the radar returns to the SW of Nephi.  The time is from 12:08 to 12:15 AM which is the time that the crew saw the object(s).  The map shows a large area of returns near and to the East of I-15.  The returns are not traffic as the radar is too far away to detect ground targets.

The “zoom out” map (Figure 4) shows  the concentration of radar returns just to the SW of Nephi.  The returns are in the position and time observed by airline crew. Note that most of the radar map is devoid of returns except in the area immediately to the SW of Nephi.

The Doppler radar map for Salt Lake City was also obtained. (See Figure 5). The map does show some returns to the Northeast of Nephi at the time of the sighting. The radar was operating in “clear air mode” which means that the gain is turned up making it more sensitive. (See radar map above.)

Figure 6 above shows the location of the 2 radar sites used in the analysis.  One radar (Cedar City, UT) is about 155 miles to the SSW of sighting location.  The other radar (Francis Peak, UT) is about 90 miles to the north. These returns were likely true objects and probably quite large given the distance from the radar sites.

I also took a look at the radar returns for the entire time period of my radar request which was from midnight to 12:30 AM MST.  Figure 7 above shows all of the returns for this time period near Nephi.  Returns were found for each minute from midnight to 12:30 AM in the sighting area. In all 106 radar returns were detected. This means that the object(s) were there before and after the sighting. The returns in Figure 7 almost look a “gridded” radar map. Figure 8 shows the plot of these returns on a Google Earth relief map. It is fairly obvious that the returns are not due to the radar reflecting from higher terrain. A few of elevations are displayed. There was very little elevation change in the area of the returns.

Radar Propagation Analysis:
Atmospheric conditions can cause radar waves to bend downward or upward causing “false returns” or showing returns in the wrong location. Also there is a possibility that radar returns may be reflected off of higher terrain. (However, this is generally not the case as aviation radar is designed to not detect stationary targets.) However, Doppler weather radar can detect higher terrain and result in false returns. Figure 8 shows very little elevation change in the area of the returns.

Watch Slide Show of Photos of UFO Sighting Area (YouTube):

The above slide show of photos taken by Utah MUFON Assistant State Director show no anomalies in area that could possibly cause radar returns.

FIG 8 - TABLE OF RADAR REFRACTIVE INDEX CALCULATIONS - CEDAR CITY RADAR.

FIG 10 – TABLE OF RADAR REFRACTIVE INDEX CALCULATIONS – CEDAR CITY RADAR.

FIG 9 - TABLE OF RADAR REFRACTIVE INDEX CALCULATIONS - FRANCIS PEAK RADAR

FIG 11 – TABLE OF RADAR REFRACTIVE INDEX CALCULATIONS – FRANCIS PEAK RADAR

Both of the aviation radars were at considerably higher altitude than the target detect area. The Cedar City aviation radar (155 miles to the SSW) was at an elevation of 10,760 feet above sea level which is over 5,000 feet higher than the target area. The Francis Peak aviation radar (88 miles to the north) was at an elevation of 9,324 feet which is nearly 4,000 feet above the target detect area. Given this scenario it is unlikely that the radar waves would be refracted abnormally because the waves would be above any surface temperature inversions over lower terrain. Figure 6 shows the locations of the two aviation radars with respect to the target detect area.

Figure 10 above is a table of computed radar refractivity gradients/1,000 Feet for the Cedar City, UT radar. Figure 11 is a similar table for the Francis Peak, UT radar. The tables show pressure levels, heights of pressure surfaces ASL, temperature, dew point temperature in degrees C, refractivity index and the gradient of refractivity index per 1,000 feet. The data were obtained from the weather balloon sounding of the atmosphere from Las Vegas, NV for the Cedar City radar. Data were obtained from the weather balloon sounding at Salt Lake City, UT for the Francis Peak radar. For both radar sites the refraction gradients are small and well within the normal atmospheric propagation of 0 to -24/1,000 feet. Given that fact the radars were at high elevations (over 10,000 feet for the Cedar City radar and over 9,300 feet for the Francis Peak radar) and given the values in the above tables the probability of anomalous radar propagation (false returns or returns in the wrong location) is nearly 0.

Comments From Martin Shough, Retired Air Traffic Controller & Radar Expert -England: As for the radar, you’re right that those primaries clustered around the interstate are not traffic and AP seems not to be relevant. You might get multiple-trip ghosts from (say) remote mountains appearing at almost any displayed range, but they’d be random with respect to local features. In this case I do get the sense of some correlation with the road, but I don’t know why. I doubt AP would look like this. There’s no significant terrain here. No airfield (although there is a small airfield and heliport to the NE at Nephi). I have absolutely no idea what they are.

Interpretation of Voice Tapes and Radar Data:

I have the following comments and concluding remarks regarding this radar-visual sighting:

1. Pilot reports a large unusual orange square of lights while flying at 31,000 feet.
2. The first conversation where the crew asked if the object was on radar & the FAA responded saying that the object was not on radar was likely redacted (see Figure 1).
3. The radar shows a dense area of returns at the exact position and time reported by the pilot.
4.  These dense returns are well removed from radar sites. The closest site was about 90 miles to the north at Francis Peak, Utah. The other radar was located at Cedar City, Utah about 155 miles to the SSW. (See Figure 6 above.)
5.  These returns are not due to military operations. There are several restricted military operations areas (MOA’s) in Utah, but Nephi is well outside of these area. (See Figure 9 above.)
6
. These returns are not drones. Regular drones would not be likely detected at the long distances from the radar sites. Military drones would be detected, but they would not be in the area. (See Figure 6 above.)
7. These returns are likely not due to anomalous propagation. (See Figure 10 and 11.)
Anomalous propagation generally starts closer to the radar antenna.
8.  Birds, weather targets would not be detected in an isolated area that far from the radar sites.
9. Radar angels are sometimes observed. These are false targets, but there would not be that many of them that far removed from the radar sites.
10. The object(s) were likely at the sighting location before and after the time that the crew sighted the object(s). Figure 7 above shows returns for each minute from midnight to 12:30 AM MST.
9. Of course keep in mind that the pilot crew saw a large square area of orange lights so the radar and observation “corroborate” each other.

Where Do We Go From Here? Erica Lukes and her team of investigators have ran an ad in the local newspaper to see if other people have seen anything unusual. She conversed with the manager of a local truck stop near the sighting location and was told that UFO’s are frequently sighted in the area. One investigator believes that the crew sighted lights from a local power point (Currant Creek Plant – Mona, UT). To me this doesn’t explain the sighting as the conglomerate of radar returns suggests something unusual. Also I would expect that the same crew had flown this same route before. If this was true, why would they ask the FAA about the location?

Request: Any passengers on American Airlines Fight number 434 are urged to
file a report if they saw anything unusual on the flight. Please note the time of your sighting in the report. The flight left San Francisco at 10:08 PM PST on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 and arrived at Philadelphia at 5:35 AM EST on Jan 14, 2016.

Resources:
1.
Listen to Interview of Radio Operator Pat Daniels Who 1st Learned of Sighting (YouTube):

2. William Puckett Interview With Erica Lukes (KCOR Radio)

3. William Puckett & Pat Daniels Interview With Race Hobbs (MUFON Radio – KGRA Radio)

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This entry was posted in Pilot sighting, Radar Detection., Special Reports, Top Cases Received Since 2012, UFO Sightings 2016, UFO Sightings Utah, Unidentified, Witness Audio Recordings. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Ham Radio Operator Hears American Airlines Pilot Report UFO.

  1. Barbara Griffith says:

    You know something I think these pilots see UFO’s all the time, but the public doesn’t know about it. All they can do is report it to the tower, but this is another case of the object not showing up on tower radar which renders it radar invisible. If radar can’t pick it up, it may have the same coating on it the stealth bomber has. The size of this thing must have been gigantic.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi:
      I agree with everything that you said. One wonders how many UFO’s are reported by pilots? I am going to take a look at the aviation data to be sure that nothing showed up. The weather radar did show some returns near the location, but saying this was the UFO is speculative.

  2. Westcoaster says:

    I read somewhere recently UFOs such as this may not show up because it doesn’t match the radar’s “expected” parameters for aircraft, so either the radar doesn’t process a return because it’s too big to be an aircraft and the radar thinks it’s weather and deletes it. Seems to me older analog radar would show anything that produced a return, but the newer digital stuff can be fine-tuned by software.

    Anyhow, something to think about. I hope this pilot isn’t red flagged for reporting it.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi:

      Good comments. Some radar data sets are filtered removing false aircraft returns such as birds, weather, angels, etc. The type of radar dump that I requested probably won’t have these filters applied? I also believe that many UFO’s are not detected by radar because of their “stealthy” design (flying disks, triangles).

    • Thad says:

      I doubt that the pilot will be red flagged. That might be why these types of conversations are deleted from the records. If the pilots knew their UFO comments were not going to be deleted, they might be much more reluctant to say anything at all.

  3. Ed Sanborn says:

    If you want to get a better sense as to how many pilots report UFOs you should check out the research by Richard Haines. He has investigated and catalogued quite a few reports from pilots.
    Visit http://www.narcap.org

    He is one of the best researchers of the subject.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi:

      Yes, I am a friend of Dr. Haines and have done several radar/meteorological analyses for NARCAP cases. NARCAP is only interested in cases where pilots take “evasive action” due to the UFO. Apparently that was not the case here.

    • cookaboorra says:

      Thank you SO much.

  4. Brad says:

    I have driven the I-15 corridor between Cedar City and Salt Lake many times. I have seen a BIG, long, silver cigar shape crossing between Beaver and Nephi in the past.

  5. ryan skinner says:

    Skinwalker Ranch is to the east. Utah is a UFO Mecca.

  6. Richard says:

    It is great to read these reports. It is amazing what hams hear on their radios. I am a licenced operator too and I have heard all sorts on the scanner over the years, but never a UFO sighting being reported.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Comment:
    I just read your article regarding the incident near Dephi, Utah. My dad was a pilot during WWII and had a long flying history. While flying a mission over Laos he had a UFO head straight at his plane. Neither he nor his co-pilot would report it. This was 1969. Pilots are reluctant to report sightings because it will either affect their job or promotion if in the military.

  8. Ruth says:

    I appreciate the detail and scientific methods applied in researching this incident. It’s amazing how every incident is whitewashed by the government. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Mike Orrell says:

    Just wanted to share my front page UFO discovery here in San Diego. One of the daylight objects in my accidental 35 MM photo of 10 UFOs has provided a pattern also visible in numerous other UFO photos as well as countless ancient artifacts proving that aliens have been nurturing mankind since our beginning. “UNSETTLING”-Los Angeles Times….Google Mike Orrell
    http://ufodigest.com/article/archaeological-breakthrough-proves-aliens-exist

  10. Jerome says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for the hard work and the very interesting report. I still have one question: I understood that you received data from 2 FAA radars (Francis Peak and Cedar), but it is not clear to me which radar is detecting the UFO (primary returns). Does the two radars agree on the primary returns location? If so, the correlation would almost eliminate the likelihood of any radar artifacts (AP, angels, terrain, etc.).

    Anyway, keep up the good work. It’s nice to share all the information with us, great way to gather new ideas and theories.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi:

      You have asked a good question. The answer is that I don’t know what radar detected the UFO. The reason that the data are a composite of radars. In the past we used to be able to obtain data from the Air Force for individual radars, but the Air Force has closed the door on radar requests. The FAA and NORAD share all long radars in the U.S. (about 400).

  11. Joe says:

    I am a long time UFO enthusiast and deeply curious and interested in the topic. I have read almost every book on the topic and seen almost every documentary film on the topic to date. I heard about this report and listened to the tapes that were published. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I have inside information about this particular case. I made inquiries of my own and I am one hundred percent convinced that this event was the pilot inquiring about the lights at the Currant peak power plant. The pilot never says that the object is airborne. He asks what the rectangle of orange lights is off his nose. The aircraft trajectory would place the power plant at exactly the right spot. I have driven past that power plant many times at night and know that the lights at the plant are unusually bright and is lit up in the shape of a rectangle as the pilot mentions. The lights of the plant are so bright that they are of common inquiry among pilots in the area. We all know that legitimate UFOs are out there, but this case is not one of those. In order to stay credible we must be willing to use logic and reason to check our emotional connection to this topic. I know we are probably all well versed in UFO lore, ask yourselves, how many cases report an orange rectangle? Black triangle, yes. Silver disk, yes. Cigar shape, yes. Orange rectangle, nope.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi: Thanks for your comments. A number of investigators worked on this case. One thought possibly that the lights seen by the crew could be the power plant, but the consensus among the rest of us was that this is an unlikely explanation. First the crew likely flew this route routinely as most crews do. This was a regular flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia. Why did they not ask about the lights before? Second the radar returns were “highly” unusual and they alone would constitute an unusual case. The returns were isolated and far removed from radar indicating that they were “strong” targets. Also the entire conversation between the FAA and the crew is not in the report. There were two conversations and I have proof that the FAA redacted the first conversation. This conversation was only heard by Pat Daniels who is the ham radio operator who first heard the report. Why would the FAA redact this report? I am not sure what “inside” information that you have. We were never able to contact the crew.

  12. Steve Conner says:

    As an airline pilot myself and having flown that route before I thought the crew was asking about the power plant. After listening to the audio again I am certain of it. That is why he is asking what town it is and states he will see what he can find. More than likely once he was on the ground he did an internet search of the town as I have done many times when seeing something from the air I am curious about. Just a side note – the crew would not have necessarily flown that route or flight before so wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with the orange lights. As an example I have been with the airline for 30 years and just last week flew from Phoenix to Des Moines – a sequence I had never done before.

    • Administrator says:

      Hi:

      Thanks for offering your perspective on this case. It is good getting input from an airline pilot especially given that you have flown the route. The only thing that still confounds this case is the dense radar returns in the area. The long range radars picked up these returns and they were at a large distance. (I believe one radar was over 100 miles away and the other about 80 miles.)

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