Description: This sighting occurred while I was acting as Captain during a routine [type of flight deleted] flight in a [type of a/c deleted] from OAK (Oakland, CA) to BUR (Burbank, CA). We had leveled-off at FL210 and were cruising just south of Manteca VOR (a navigational aid near the city of Manteca, CA).
Traffic at this time of night is usually very light and quite easy to spot at ranges exceeding 50 miles. ATC (Oakland Center) routinely advises us of traffic in our area.
While on a mostly southern heading, I noticed a somewhat unusually colored light off to my nine-o-clock position (east of us). It appeared to be close to our altitude, but many miles distant (over the foothills of the Sierra mountain range). Normally, lights seen at that altitude and distance appear to be of a clear white color. usually the recognition or landing lights of another aircraft descending into the Bay Area for landing. This light was exceptionally bright and very yellow in color.
I pointed it out to my First Officer, in passing. He also remarked on how bright it was. I'd seen unusual lights like this one before - both out over the ocean and on descent into the Bay Area over Concord, CA. They'd always turned out to be oil refineries/rigs burning off gas. This light did not flicker as those had.
As we continued our flight to BUR, we'd occasionally look out to the left to watch the light - which, over time grew both larger and brighter.
After about five minutes of observing the light, it began to take a definite shape and seemed to be paralleling our course. The top portion of the light was semispherical, and the bottom portion formed a clear "V" shape coming to a point at the base. Over time, this "V" shape with a pointed-bottom became larger-and-larger.
Our curiosity piqued, I asked my F/O to call Oakland Center and ask if they had any traffic on their radar at our nine-o-clock, same altitude. They replied saying that the only traffic in our vicinity was an opposite direction King Air descending out of 13,000 feet (which both I and my F/O already had in sight). No traffic at our nine-o-clock was seen on radar.
We continued to watch this bright yellow light grow in size over the next ten minutes, until it filled about a four-inch square through the window on my side. It was impossible to accurately gauge our distance to the object, or its true size, since we didn't have any other visible references against with to judge it.
Anecdotally, all I can say is that it was both LARGE and of a VERY unusual shape and color. Other aircraft lights (while flying at night) uniformly appear to be circular points of light, and are all in standard colors (red, green, white or white strobe). The light we saw did NOT appear to be a light ON an aircraft - the light appeared to be the entire outline of some sort of aircraft.
As I said before, the light appeared to be paralleling our course and coming closer (i.e., remaining in the same relative position even though we were moving south at around 300 knots over the ground, yet getting larger). Please take that observation with a grain of salt though. Without being close enough to see details on the craft or compare it against a ground reference - it could just as easily be something very large seen at a great distance. Things observed at a large distance do not appear to have any relative motion.
We continued to watch the light until it appeared to take a northern course away from us at great speed (both decreasing in brightness and size, without changing altitude).
Both my F/O and I have 5,000+ hours of experience - most of which was gained under similar circumstances (at night, over California routes). and we were both flabbergasted by what we saw. We both admitted it made the hair on our neck stand up. To be honest, I was spooked by the experience, but have chosen to not bring it up with our airline or the FAA out of concern for being judged a nut-job.
I'm not saying the things we saw were of extraterrestrial origin - but I am saying we saw something that (in both of our professional opinions) was nothing like any other aircraft we've ever experienced in our careers.
source and references:
Archived UFO Articles and News Items, 2007
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