Monday, August 15, 2011


Interesting UFO cases revisited: 3. JAL 1628

This is the incident where a Japanese cargo plane encountered what was said to be a UFO (or UFOs) over Alaska on 17 November 1986.

In this posting I am not attempting to argue that any particular explanation for the incident should be accepted, I merely wish to draw attention to a few features of the case that indicate that it might perhaps not be so mysterious as some ufologists would like it to be. Also, please note that I am not attempting to discuss all the details of the case.

Let us look at a translation of the statement made by Captain Terauchi, the pilot of the aircraft and the main witness. The first officer and the flight engineer did not see all the detail reported by Captain Terauchi, as they didn't have such a good view from where they were seated.

After making a change of course, Terauchi "saw lights that looked like aircraft lights, 30 degrees left front, 2000 feet (600 meters) below us, moving in the same direction and the same speed as we were".

This suggests that the lights were at a great distance from the aircraft, but that Terauchi thought they were much nearer. He noted that "the two lights began to move in a manner different from ordinary aircraft, maneuvers like two bear cubs playing with each other". This suggests to me that he might have been watching an auroral display which he failed to recognise.

This possibility is discussed in a thread on the Physics Forums web site, where one of the contributors mentions that a satellite recorded a solar flare hitting the Earth's atmosphere over Alaska at the same time that the lights were seen. (There is more discussion of the incident on another thread on this web site.)

In his statement, Terauchi repeatedly refers to the lights as "spaceships", and says they had "numbers of exhaust pipes". His descriptions also seem somewhat incoherent, and his interest in the UFO controversy is obvious.

An important detail which partly accounts for his confusion is revealed when he notes some lights apparently on the ground and remarks: "The flight above Alaska is generally in the daytime, and it is confusing to identify the kind of lights."

The main point I am trying to make about this case is that I suspect that those who rate it as one of the best UFO reports, should perhaps study the details of the sightings and the investigations more carefully and more critically. As the other two men in the aircraft obviously did not get a very good view of the lights, and there is no independent confirmation of the presence of anything that could reasonably be described as a spaceship (or spaceships) in the area at the time, it is essentially a single-witness UFO report.

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