Published: 3:55 PM 4/9/2016
so baffling that he felt compelled to report to control tower...
A UFO enthusiast and ham radio hobbyist monitoring airline communications heard a UFO report from a commercial airline pilot to the control tower near Nephi, Utah, according to a new report by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), a non-profit organization that documents and investigates UFO sightings reports from around the world.
Although the ham radio operator — paranormal radio host Pat Daniels — did not record the communication, MUFON investigators were able to obtain a recorded copy from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
MUFON reports that Daniels was monitoring airlines communications on January 14 when, at about 12:12 a.m., he caught what appeared to be a UFO report from an airline pilot.
According to the website UFOs Northwest, which first reported the case, Daniels claimed he heard a pilot reporting to the air traffic controller that he saw a one-mile-wide bright orange object flying to his right at a lower altitude and apparently keeping pace with his airplane.
The air traffic controller told the pilot that the direction he indicated was towards Nephi in Utah, but insisted that no object was detected on radar.
Daniels promptly reported the details of the communication to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) in Utah and the case was investigated by Erica Lukes, the Utah state director for MUFON. She was assisted in the investigations by UFOs Northwest’s William Puckett.
The YouTube below contains the audio of Erica Lukes’ interview with Pat Daniels.
The team of investigators was able to determine that the flight from which the strange report emanated was the American Airlines flight number 434 that took off from the city of San Francisco, northern California, at 10:08 p.m. PST on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, and landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 5:35 a.m. EST on January 14, 2016.
The investigators then filed an FOIA request with the FAA and obtained a set of audio files from the Air Traffic control website.
According to Ms. Erica Lukes, she and Puckett spent hours listening to audio communications covering the time frame before they found the communications from the flight they believed the mysterious UFO report came from.
However, the two were surprised to find that although the files contained communications from American Airlines flight number 434, the UFO report was missing.
The investigators notified the FAA about the missing report and after a delay of six weeks, the FAA sent voice tapes, tower logs, and radar returns pertaining to the UFO report.
The YouTube video below contains the voice communication between the pilot of flight 434 and the control tower.
A transcript of the audio by Open Minds website comes below.
“American 434: Tower, American 434.
Tower: 434, go ahead.
American 434: You wouldn’t happen to know what this bright orange square we are flying over is, would ya?
Tower: Uhhhh, no. That’s a good question. I am not sure. Is it off to your right side?
American 434: It is like directly off of our nose right now. It is right below us. We have been watching it for awhile now. I don’t know what it is. It is a perfect square and it is bright orange. What town are we next to? This town right off of our two o’clock (indistinguishable word).
Tower: American 434 that is Nephi. Nephi, Utah.
American 434: Nephi, okay. Cool. Now I will see what I can go find. Thank you.
Tower: You bet.
The pilot’s report sounds ambiguous compared with the report given by the ham radio operator because it is possible to conclude from the transcript that the pilot was only referring to something on the ground far below. But the audio appears to confirm that the pilot saw something below his aircraft he found so baffling that he felt compelled to report to control tower.
The pilot states unambiguously that his plane was flying above a “bright orange square” and that he and his crew had been “watching it for a while now.” He also stated that he had no idea what it was.
Daniels, the amateur (ham) radio operator, had stated in his report to MUFON that he heard the pilot say the object was about a mile wide and that it was keeping pace with the aircraft. But the audio does not record the pilot making such statements. The part where the air traffic controller reportedly said the object was not detected on the radar was also apparently missing.
The investigators concluded after careful investigation and analysis that the audio files may have been redacted.
However, Daniels suggested the audio file containing the communication from the pilot of American Airlines flight number 434 may have been missing initially from the audio files provided by FAA because the pilot and his crew had failed to identify themselves when they first contacted control tower. This means that the files containing the earlier communications were not linked to flight 434 in the filing system and thus FAA could not send them to the investigators until they received specific information about them.
Open Minds reports that Puckett, who holds a master’s degree in atmospheric science and has considerable experience with radar, analyzed the radar data and found multiple radar hits near Nephi and close to the flight path of American airlines 434 (see animation of the radar returns in the YouTube below).
According to Puckett, the radar data could be interpreted to mean that the UFO was “moving erratically and perhaps was rotating.”
“The object could have been large considering this type of radar signature,” he added.
Open Minds’ Alejandro Rojas reports that the case is still under investigation and that MUFON investigators are looking at several alternative explanations that have been proposed to explain the baffling sighting report. One suggestion was that the bright orange glow of the alleged UFO could have come from a local power plant.
But the investigators felt that experienced pilots were unlikely to be confused by the sight of lights from a power plant because they must have seen power plants from the air several times in the past.
The mystery was further compounded by several local residents who confided that UFO sightings were unusually common in the area.