Background: This report was received from James Clarkson who is the director for MUFON for Washington State. Multiple witnesses saw a disk shaped object in the Pasco, WA area. (See report below.) The witness is a retired law enforcement officer and there were other witnesses to the sighting. Given the “strangeness” of the report and reliability of the witness Jim thought it wise to obtain aviation radar data to see if the object was detected. He requested assistance with radar analysis from UFOs Northwest. Subsequently I wrote a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to the FAA for radar data. The results of the analysis are below.
Location of Sighting: Pasco, Washington
Date of Sighting: September, 27, 2016
Time of Sighting: 8:15 PM PDT
Witness Report: On 9-27-16 at about 08:15 PM I was on my back patio. I looked to the north of me. I noticed three red lights Glowing on and off. Not like airplane lights that flash off and on, but more like someone walking in front of the light and then to the next light and then the third, and then back to the front and start over again. We live by an airport and see planes at night on a nightly basis, this was not a plane, and was four or five times larger than a normal plane coming in for a landing at the airport. The vehicle appeared to be HUGE moving very slowly to the east. The object was just above the roof tops and appeared to be a mile or so to the north of me.
I ran into the house and told my wife, granddaughter and her boyfriend to come out and look at what was in the sky. We then all watched the object travel at a very slow speed to the east. We could all see the outline of what appeared to be a disc shaped object about a quarter of a mile long or more, and about 300 feet high. The object continued to travel east. It went behind a tree in a neighbor’s yard, so we moved to a new spot but still in the back yard. It appeared to descend to a slightly lower altitude and seemed to slow down. Then it appeared to either stop and hover, or it started to move away from us which made it appear to stop.
We all decided to get in our vehicle and follow the object. We drove to the airport, as there are no trees or buildings around. However, by then we had lost sight of it, as if it had continued North East and out of sight.
This made a believer out of all of us. Do not know if it was alien, or military, but it was the largest object that any of us had seen in the sky.
All of us were very excited at what we had just witnessed. My daughters boyfriend stated that it was like an “Independence Day ” space ship. We were all so excited and in awe of what had just taken place.
Radar Analysis: The radar data received from the FAA was filtered and contained “tracking only” returns. This means that all superfluous returns like birds, weather, ground traffic, radar angels, etc. were filtered out. Many of the returns were known aircraft and could be identified by transponder id. Some returns had no transponder codes and were therefore either aircraft with inoperable transponders or were in fact “unknowns.” Several returns were found that were tracked for brief periods (a few minutes). One group of returns was very close (less than a mile) to the witnesses. (See radar return map above.) The return appeared on the radar scope at 8:17 PM and vanished at 8:18 PM. The object was moving to the southeast at between 50 and 60 MPH. The witness who originally saw the object said that it appeared to the north at 8:15 PM and moved to the east before disappearing. One could speculate that perhaps the object was visible to the naked eye before being detected by radar. If this is true doing a back trajectory of the speed and direction that the object was moving from would place the object at a due north position at 8:15 PM at a distance of around 2 miles. (See radar map above.) The witnesses all drew disk shaped objects. (One of the sketches is shown above.) Disk shaped objects would have a varied radar “cross sectional” area depending upon on how they were orientated. Therefore the object may or may not be radar reflective depending upon the orientation with respect to the radar beam. A “right angle” orientation would have a much high refractive area versus a parallel position. Of course UFO’s have a characteristic of recurrent appearance and disappearance behavior.
I believe that UFO’s may regularly appear on the radar screens of air traffic controllers. Controllers generally only pay attention to beacon returns which are emitted from known aircraft. They are in charge of routing these aircraft. Controllers only pay attention to “non-beacon” returns (sometimes referred to as “skin paints” if pilots report something in their vicinity and therefore ask controllers if anything shows up on radar.
So are there other explanations for the unknown return (titled UFO on the above map)? The movement is consistent with a helicopter. However, the witnesses heard no helicopter. The object was close enough to the witnesses so they would have heard a helicopter. It couldn’t be a small aircraft because it was flying too slow. A low ground speed is possible if there are strong winds, but local weather showed that winds were calm in the area. Also planes and helicopters do not suddenly appear and vanish from radar scopes unless they have just taken off or landed. The object was not near Pasco Airport when it appeared and vanished.
Summary Conclusion: Four witnesses saw a disk shaped craft for a few minutes. They observed that the craft was first seen to the north, moved slowly in an easterly direction, possibly hovered and disappeared after a few minutes. Radar showed an object moving to the southeast at 50 to 60 MPH within one mile of the witness location. The object appeared on the radar at 8:17 PM and vanished at 8:18 PM. Given the trajectory the object would have been at a due north position of the witness location at 8:15 PM. The object is not likely a helicopter or light aircraft and could very well be the UFO sighted by the witnesses.Note to Commenters: If you are reporting a sighting, be sure to include the location (city, state, country), date and time of your sighting. Be detailed in your description. You may also use our report form to report your sighting. Comments will only be published if they are in "good taste" and not inflammatory. Also the name that you list in the comment will be posted. Use abbreviations or aliases if you don't want your name listed.