Published: 6:32 AM 8/18/2012
Paul Taylor and Susannah Wright
Documents released by the Ministry of Defence list a host of sightings of UFOs in the skies above Britain. Paul Taylor and Susannah Wright open Manchester’s X-Files ...
STEPHEN Mera has had more than his share of close encounters, and he did not have to go further than his own back garden in Wythenshawe.
"We were sitting outside, my partner and her children, watching satellites with the naked eye," explains Mera. "All of a sudden a triangular object flew over at reasonably low altitude with no engine sound whatsoever. It was an equilateral triangle with an apex light in each corner and one very dull fixed red strobe in the centre. It traversed across the sky very quietly in a northeasterly direction. We watched it for three or four minutes."
That incident, four years ago, was not the only time Mera has seen something unexplained in the skies. On a November night four years ago, he spotted an object jumping across the sky. In April 2010, on a sunny afternoon, he saw a circular, wingless object at 11,000 feet.
"You don’t have to go to the top of a hill in Wales to see something," he says. "If you keep your eye on the sky long enough, you will see things."
Mera knows just how many of us are ‘seeing things’. He runs Manchester Association of Paranormal Investigation and Training, he is editor of the online magazine Phenomena and, what with lecturing and training, spends his entire working life in the realm of the odd and unexplained.
Shelf upon shelf at his semi-detached home in Baguley groans with files on UFOs and other phenomena.
Mera’s association investigates hundreds of reports of UFOs every year in the north west alone.
The vast majority turn out to be aircraft, balloons, Chinese lanterns, astronomical or meteorological quirks, even a flock of birds or swarm of bees. But in a few dozen instances, there is no obvious explanation.
"There are definitely things flying around which do not have characteristics of known aircraft, such as wing appendages, engines, sound, navigation lights," says Mera. "These things are real. However the big question is whether they are ‘ours’ or not."
Mera – who once worked for NATO as a telecommunications officer, and so signed the Official Secrets Act – firmly believes that the military has incredibly advanced craft which may explain some of those UFO sightings.
That said, he does believe in extra-terrestrial visitation – "There is is so much evidence in old scriptures, paintings from 3BC which clearly show objects in the sky", he says – and is certain the authorities do not tell us everything they know on the matter. Mera is even suspicious of the copious information on UFO sightings released lately by the Ministry of Defence to the National Archives.
"The MoD is releasing this documentation to the public because they want to be seen to be transparent, but they are far from it," says Mera, aged 45. "They are not releasing the good stuff, and I know that because my own documentation that I provided to them has not been released. For example, there was a huge incident which took place in February 1998 involving three police officers who saw this triangular object in the sky over Stretford, and reported it as a UFO.
"The MoD got all that information and tried to make it hush-hush. Agents even visited the police officers to shut them up."
Mera even ponders whether governments may be involved in a long campaign of drip-feeding populations with information about UFOs and extra-terrestrials to ensure there is not mass panic when we do finally come face to face with the aliens.
But he claims to be, by nature, a sceptic.
"I came from a science background. I got interested in psychology and sociology trying to rationalise events and people’s experiences," he says.
"What stopped me being a sceptic was a number of things I’d heard, people I had met, people who assured me there were certain things flying around which were not the normal civil or military aircraft, and then just being in the right place at the right time and seeing something I couldn’t identify."
Local sightings: The strange case of the BA pilots and the ‘mystery’ visitor that flashed past over the Pennines.
IT WAS just before 7pm on a dark January night in 1995 and a British Airways plane was approaching Manchester Airport.
The Boeing 737 was flying from Milan with 60 people on board, and was at 4,000 feet over the Pennines, around nine miles from its destination when a dark object appeared in front and flew down its right side at high speed.
The surprise and closeness of the object led both pilots to duck their heads. The object hadn’t appeared on radar and there was no sound or wake felt. Captain Roger Willis and first officer Mark Stuart were in the cockpit.
This is a transcript of their conversation with Manchester Airport’s air traffic control tower:
Boeing737: "We just had something go down the right hand side above us very fast."
Manchester Airport: "Well there’s nothing seen on radar. Was it an aircraft?"
B737: "It had lights, it went down the starboard side very quick."
MA: "And above you?"
B737: "Just slightly above us, yeah."
MA: "Keep an eye out for something. I can’t see anything at all at the moment, so, it must have been very fast or gone down very quickly after it passed you, I think."
Although it was dark, visibility was more than six miles, and there were strong winds.
The crew did not immediately report the near-miss, for fear of being ridiculed by their colleagues. When they did report it, an investigation was held by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Willis and Stuart believed the object was triangular shaped, larger than a light aircraft and may have had a dark stripe down its side. It made no attempt to deviate from its course, despite its closeness to the plane, but the pilots had differing ideas as to how it was lit.
Capt Willis thought it had a number of small lights, like a Christmas tree, while first officer Stuart thought it had been illuminated by the aeroplane’s landing lights.
Both, however, agreed that what they had seen was a solid object and not a balloon, weather phenomenon or stealth aircraft, which they had experience of seeing.
The CAA considered various explanations. There was no military activity in the area at the time, and any other commercially-operated craft or microlight would have been highly unlikely to be airborne given the darkness, the position over the hills and winds.
The CAA concluded that ‘the incident therefore remains unresolved’.
It is one of many to be mentioned in the release of files from the National Archives of reports held by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Thousand of pages of documents detail unexplained sightings across several decades.
Those over Greater Manchester include a bright light and adjacent grey object over Pendleton in 1997, a glowing red ball seen from Oldham in 1996, a round white light which stopped and moved quickly over Longsight in the same year, and an intermittent dark and light phenomenon of up to 15 miles radius above Prestwich, also in 1996.
In 1986, police officers travelling from Greater Manchester to West Yorkshire on a moorland road reported seeing a round object on the horizon emitting an intermittent yellow/red light. It remained clearly visible for 20 minutes.
The MoD began investigating strange airborne sightings in 1950 when the government set up a Flying Saucer Working Party (FSWP).
This was during the Cold War, a time of extreme tension with Russia, and when the UK was developing its radar system.
Even the late Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles’ favourite great uncle, believed Earth was being visited by aliens.