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FAA Tapes from That Oregon UFO Incident (thedrive.com)
282 points by tensor_rank_0 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments



I want to point out the aircraft with the reddish-orange contrail moving at high speed in the first video -- 25 to 32 seconds into the video. The caption says, "It was moving south at a very high speed over Northern California."

This is not the UFO aircraft being discussed. After looking at the video several times, I finally noticed that it says GETTY in the top right corner, meaning that it's stock video from Getty Images. I know that lots of TV journalists do this kind of thing for dramatic effect, but I still find it dishonest and misleading.


Do not confuse these web sites with TV journalism or journalism at all. They don't even have an "About" page. This is a consumer magazine and that's all it is.


Agreed, but it does say "© 2018 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved" at the bottom, that enough of an About page for me.


Most of the first video was composed of stock footage though. I initially assumed it all was.


> but I still find it dishonest and misleading.

I'll agree with confusing and misleading; but I don't feel it is being dishonest (in the sense that it being deliberate) in this case. Just stupid and confusing.


Maybe not dishonest in the sense that they're purposefully trying to mislead viewers, but it's negligent in the least.


Most likely scenarios, in my mind:

- An American military exercise or other secretive government maneuver, but the reporting chain of command got screwed up (suggested by all the "who ordered that?" chatter mentioned in the article), which caused a scramble that wasn't supposed to happen.

- More alarmingly, a foreign military aircraft in US airspace. (Who knows what behind the scenes posturing might have engendered it).

- Some private entity behaving very badly, and flying something big around with no transponder. This would be very interesting and sketchy indeed, as "owning an aircraft" (particularly of that size) is not something you'd undertake unless you're a pretty big organization. Who with that kind of money would take that kind of risk? Organized crime, perhaps?


I initially thought of these scenarios, but the article doesn't really mention the speed other than "it outpaced a 737".

If we had a better idea of the speed, it'd be easier to make a guess. However, I'm not sure a foreign military aircraft would be "very large", given how risky that would be, I'd envision it as a fighter jet or a Blackbird-type of aircraft.


It sounds like it’s likely to be subsonic, since whatever it is, it’s maintaining a low profile in every way beyond simply being a highly visible white paint job, and appearing on radar at all.

The ATC commentary suggests a fast relative speed, in reference to other traffic only. So, in the 600MPH to 700MPH region, it would be going faster than most air traffic, but wouldn’t cut the noisy wake of a sonic boom overflight, which means, in my mind it wasn’t going “very fast” or fast enough to put it in the same league as what qualifies for fast for any fighter or other fast military plane.

The “large” description is also vague, but suggesting as big as a passenger jet is my estimate. Perhaps not freakishly large like a KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III [0,1,2]. Large, in aviation, often means “not a 2 passeneger Cessna,” to evoke not scale relative to other humans, but scale of catastrophe if it fell into a neighborhood or if a pilot had to think about colliding with such a thing, which would “win.”

That said, the white paint job sounds uncharacteristic of military/government (especially skunkworks) operations, and the expanding attention of the incident, points to unexpected events.

Another hypothesis is high level leadership asking questions about actual preparedness for something that fits the profile of a sudden terrorist hijacking incident, based on peered civil aviation inputs alone, along with an undisclosed fire drill.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_KC-10_Extend...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_C-5_Galaxy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_C-17_Globemaster_III


I agree. This is something related to military. China recently unveiled their hypersonic plane. Imagine the number of trials they had to run before the launch. I’ll be surprised if those planes did not pass through U.S at high speeds.


Can someone who knows tell me whether or not disabling your transponder would make you "disappear from radar"? The two are not completely related are they? Transponder to ID you, but radar is just bouncing a return signal off you, besides being a stealth plane to begin with how would you just turn that off?


Primary radar[1] is only mostly used in larger airports or military installations. Secondary radar like ADS-B[2] has become really popular and requires the transponder on the plane to be on and working. If you switch that off, for a lot of people you do disappear.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_radar

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_dependent_surveillan...


Very end of the article:

[The call with the pilot of Southwest 4712 was by far the most interesting. He immediately notes how strange the encounter was and how he has never seen an incident like it in nearly 30 years of flying jets. The pilot noted, "if it was like a Lear (private jet) type airframe I probably would not have seen it this clear. This was a white airplane and it was big. And it was moving at a clip too, because we were keeping pace with it, it was probably moving faster than we were... It was a larger aircraft yeah."]

What's most interesting is how many people we're involved and of course... Someone is apparently flying some really advanced aircraft over the U.S.


> Someone is apparently flying some really advanced aircraft over the U.S.

Apparently? So many atmospheric effects can look the same to many people from a single perspective.


I'm all for atmospheric effects when the only other explanation is aliens but this thing was flying at a height and speed and appearance totally consistent with modern aircraft with multiple observations. By far the most likely explanation is US military.


Why military? Not smugglers? Not intelligence services, or just an asshole?

The military is a possibility, but I don’t know about “most likely” here.


Most of the speculation here hinges on it being an advanced aircraft that successfully evaded the USAF. Though it's entirely possible that that is easier than it sounds.

Given that assumption, the answer to your questions are:

> Why military?

The assumption here is that the military goofed, didn't tell another branch about it (hence the USAF scrambled), and is avoiding either embarrasment or needs to keep the deployment of the craft as secret as possible. This probably happens on a regular basis (though if we have data on how often that happened during the Cold war, that'd be useful), and explains why USAF couldn't find anything.

> Not smugglers

I have never heard of smugglers having advanced aircraft that would be flying around Oregon; Seems pretty risky. Also, doesn't make a ton of sense as you presumably wouldn't be able to transport much with a high speed aircraft.

Definitely an interesting proposal, have you heard of smugglers having advanced aircraft?

> intelligence services

Possible; Which ones, the American Intelligence Services? If so, I believe the parent was lumping them in with 'military'.

Though it still seems more likely that this was just bad internal communication, mostly because I wouldn't expect a foreign spy plane to be ever be caught flying at high speeds; though it could be a generic attempt to test the US response. Be great if anyone has any data on how often that sort of thing happened during the Cold War.

> just an asshole

Seems very unlikely. What random assholes have access to advanced aircraft that can evade the USAF?

So under the assumption that this was an advanced aircraft, the most likely explanation is government, either the US's or a foreign intelligence service. Since presumably the US is in control of it's own airspace, the idea that this was the US itself seems the simplest explanation.


What randon aholes? Almost anyone with the money. Sending an f15 to intercept something moving like an airliner isnt simple. Everything is moving at close to supersonic speeds. By the time they get up there the target is over the horizon. They need to be directed to one of a dozen targets without burning all thier fuel on the way. It is a big ask.

Intercepting an inbound russian is easy. He is comming towards you. An airliner moving away or past you at 200nm is exponentially more difficult.


>assumption here is that the military goofed, didn't tell another branch

Perhaps intentionally provocated a response from FAA, USAF, etc as a real-world test of the aircraft's stealth/evasion technology


Drug cartels have been using old airliners to smuggle cocaine for years. A Boeing 727 or something similar could achieve the flight profile described in this incident.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/nov/15/south-american...


And immediately get painted by three or more primaries. Large airliner doesn’t fit with the primary radar loss, and they seem to use those aircraft for transoceanic routes on account of their radar signature. One doesn’t hide a 727, even with weaker civilian radar. Once the military was involved it should have been a slam dunk intercept, in that case.

Although Southwest flies 737s and the SWA pilot did report it was bigger...

Could be a routine ferry of Nightwatch/NEACP based on the same profile, but seems like NORAD and WADS would have caught that sooner. And kiboshed FOIA and not made public statements and all that. Nightwatch is operated by USAF, though, under high classification, while WADS reports up through the National Guard. Miscommunication seems at least plausible.


The US didn't stop developing secret aircraft after the B-2 was declassified in 1988.

The SR71 was built in the 50s and still seems crazy advanced. I can't imagine what they are working on now.


>> The SR71 was built in the 50s

The SR-71 is a 60's era aircraft. First flight in 64. Its predecessor, the A-12, flew in 62 with construction starting in Sept. 1960. Prior to that these aircraft were a series of paper designs beginning in the late 50's. Early versions of the J-58 were run in the late 50's, but these early engines were not flown in A-12/SR-71; substantial rework was needed to sustain mach 3.


> The US didn't stop developing secret aircraft after the B-2 was declassified in 1988

But the rate at which information disperses changed since then. Big, covert, multi-decade military research projects might be possible if we entered a new Cold War. But in peacetime? While we’re navigating political junctures? Unlikely. (Though not impossible.)


Peacetime? The US is still in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force bombed Russian military contractors in Syria last week.


We have always been at war with EastAsia.


I keep reading news stories about how we are in a new Cold War/the threat of nuclear confrontation is as high as any point during the cold war ....


Here's an interview with Greenwald discussing current Russian fear mongering in the US media today. His conclusion is that the lessons of the mistakes in journalism which led us to the Iraq War are being repeated.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/01/07/glenn_gre...


Fear mongering?!

In the context of the increasing evidence of Russian involvement in our elections and reports about their support of our enemies (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/05/17/evidence-russian-mil... or https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/04/24...) I'm not sure it's baseless fear mongering.

Greenwald isn't exactly an impartial source when it comes to Russia either - he has his own overt biases. It's healthy to be skeptical but naive to assume Russia is a benevolent actor on the world stage (even more so in the context of events like https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysia_Airlines_Flight_17).


He does provide examples here, and numerous times elsewhere, of claims which turned out to be entirely false. This has happened in the past, in Iraq with the WMD lies, and Vietnam with the Gulf of Tonkin. This is a big problem.

I'm not convinced of your smear against Greenwald as a pro-Russia journalist. As an openly gay man he would have a lot of difficulty there. And Jews have been fleeing Russia. As far as I can tell, his biggest bias to protect minorities like himself, so it would be exceptionally odd for him to be pro-Russia. There is certainly no evidence I have ever seen of that.

Anyways, before this election, if someone told me that Russia, China, Iran, etc, were all trying to influence US politics, hack US gov/bus, etc, I would say that is a given. Everyone knows that. There is a reason for the Russian fear mongering and not Chinese fear mongering, Saudi Arabian fear mongering, etc.


Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that our society doesn't need skeptical journalism - if anything we need more of it. As you point out, we have been failed many times by the media in the past. I've read plenty of articles from The Intercept over the years that have been informative and thought provoking.

The bias I was referring to was not so much one of pro Russia but more one related to the particular focus that Greenwald/The Intercept seems to have on American policy. If you read their "About Us" page (https://theintercept.com/about/) it mentions that their mission is to "expose corruption and injustice __wherever__ they find it and hold the powerful accountable.". Personally I find it very interesting that they rarely seem to find examples of this in other contexts - the reporting is predominantly about American/western issues. I don't think I'm stretching to suggest that Greenwald/The Intercept wear their disdain for western foreign policy/hegemony openly.

This doesn't negate their reporting or perspective but it does make me question what impact this has on the conclusions they draw about the Russia issue, particularly when the public record shows questions about the role of Russia in relation to organizations such as Wikileaks. As you said - "There is a reason for the Russian fear mongering and not Chinese fear mongering, Saudi Arabian fear mongering". Personally I believe being skeptical also includes being open to the idea that extraordinary events can occur and the growing body of public evidence seems to suggest that the Russian influence was far greater than previous efforts.


I know Russia is doing things that I, and a lot of people, disagree with and think are just wrong. Lots of people, money, governments are invested in fighting against this.

The thing is, governments often turn out to be quite awful. Japan, China, Russia, Germany, Spain, etc, etc...

I love many things about America, and that's why I appreciate Greenwald. Who else is invested in investigating the un-American lies and corruption, who is looking to protect our civil liberties and constitutional rights? I don't think cable news is doing it.


i don't think that he's pro-russia whatsoever.

it's more that russia is the demon we know is a demon. we can't tell whether our own governments are also demons as effectively, so he focuses on that.


They authorized 250 Billion in Defense Spending last year. They are not slowing down. Eisenhower warned us, and that is not even counting black ops that are funded "privately"


From the recordings it sounded to me like they got visual confirmation from both north and south bound aircraft.


How did this pilot estimate distance? In clear air with nothing to give you perspective an object can be close, small and slow, or big, fast and distant; there is simply no way to tell the difference visually.


Not sure what the pilot in question did, but changing altitude whilst you observe an object can help you make an educated guess.


Really advanced? The size, speed, and altitude were no better than airliners from 50 years ago.


Airliners from 50 years ago couldn't make themselves invisible to radar. Still can't.


Turn off transponder. In the US, outside the ADIZ, we don't have a blanket of active radar.


That's fine for secondary, but you'll still show up on primary.


Civilian primary radar in most places isn't that strong. It may or may not get a good skin paint depending on distance, size, and atmospheric conditions.


Primary radar is good enough to pickup a 2500# single engine airplane from 50+ miles away.

I flew from Detroit to Boston a few years back in a 4-seat, single engine airplane after an electrical failure. On a hand-held radio and with no electrics, ATC had a good primary target on me the entire way (at 5-9K feet). On controller handoffs, I would have to turn north for 1 mile for them to confirm the primary target they were looking at was me.

Up and down the Eastern seaboard, I pretty regularly get traffic called out as "primary target only" which also means ATC has no idea of the altitude. Those tend to be low, slow moving aircraft (often without electrical systems).


Possibly, although it strikes me as possible that being a pilot doesn’t make you necessarily supercompetent where observing unfamiliar phenomena is concerned. Pilots are trained for a specific, if comprehensive, set of circumstances, and things like death spirals occur because even that training can fail.

Pilots, ground crew, flight controllers and so on, are not magically reliable. That said, it could be exactly as reported, but it might not be.


[Just speculation]

It could very easily have been a plane replacing one like N313P, or similar, outfitted with higher-performance engines.

Perhaps on a test flight to see how it handles. There are plenty of military landing spots up and down the west coast for a plane like that. An empty plane with big engines could go very fast, and maneuver quickly.

That'd be my best guess. If they had used a shell registration and transponder, the flight would still be tracked and then there'd be a flight record they don't want.

Here's an example of planes that are in this category, and it's not unheard of for a 737 to get souped up engines[1]: https://www.therenditionproject.org.uk/flights/aircraft/inde...

1: Trump put RR engines on his 757, for instance.


It sounds like they had trouble tracking it with primary radar which means there might be something else going on.

It'd be amusing to find out how the people on the other side of this are reacting: Either "hey that was a pretty successful test," or "someone f'd up big time and now we have to clean up this mess."


Or maybe the civilian air radar isn't very good and the operators aren't highly skilled in using it since most traffic uses ADSB now. The article says "disappears from radar" but that could mean "flew out of effective radar range".


It's not the engines that would prove limiting to cruise speed at those altitudes, it's the aerodynamic design of the wing. Airliners are flying at between 78 to 86% of the speed of sound, you can't improve on that in a way that would be dramatically noticeable without a huge redesign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swept_wing#Subsonic_and_transo...

Many 757s have RR engines, but adding more power would allow take off with higher weight from shorter runways etc, not faster cruise.


Listening to these phone calls in the last video, it's really surprising to me how archaic this is. There doesn't seem to be established rules. And everybody is calling everybody to relay messages on phones and missing information because their phones aren't connected.

Only-semi-joking but maybe someone there should set up an IRC channel that the FAA manager's in charge, and the defense operators can join to exchange info.


Oh, they're using IRC, all right. They're using IRC to keep the cover story straight as they're conversing over the air. wink wink


Yeah, they need Slack


They'd get killed on pricing.


The unpaid plan might be useful in this case ... the history would become hidden very quickly ;)


And the rest of us would get killed whenever it went down!


The pilot of the Southwest flight 4712 was convinced it was a plane (and “a large one”). At no point he mentioned considering it to be something else. On top of that he reported following the thing “for some 100 miles”.

Also, not many currently declassified stealth aircraft fit the description of being large and white.

I don’t know if knowing this was a large plane flying faster than cruise jets is more concerning than not.


It's not very hard for large planes to outpace a cruise jet, for the very reason that cruise speeds are rather far from maximum speeds. Even a cruise jet could outpace a cruise jet.


Different airliners are optimized for different cruise speeds, too. Large planes like the 747 and A380 tend to fly faster by default than smaller planes like the 737.

A large passenger jet with an airspeed close to Mach 0.9 in strong tail wind can sometimes show ground speed very close to, or even a bit over, what we normally take as Mach 1.



There’s no reason to believe that it was stealthy, based only on the failure of civilian ATC to track it.


Well, having just listened to the entire tapes, WADS clearly weren't seeing anything either as they were relying on vectoring the f-15s with info from civilian pilots with visual identification of the unknown aircraft relayed through the civ ATC operators.

Presumably WADS has access to some of the most sophisticated radar equipment as isn't is part of NORAD?

The suggestion being no one was tracking this aircraft, not just a failure of civ primary radar.


I want to believe this was something extraterrestrial so bad. The sad part is even if they find the answer, we won't ever know.


We'll know alright... it will just be too late.


The Sinaloa cartel has been known to use old B-727 and Caravelle aircraft to smuggle drugs.[1] At least once, a DC-8.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/el-chapo-guzman-mexico-drug-t...


Are those aircraft invisible to radar?


When flown in the radar shadow of another plane, yes. They’ve done that before.


Invisible to radar is a better standard than a B-2, while hard to track from civilian ATC radar isn’t really stealth at all.


I know that many people will think UFO as extra terrestrials, but could it be that these aircrafts are actually stealth spy planes from foreign governments that are doing surveillance over US territory?

We know that the US does regular flights over foreign countries for intelligence and normally we tend to think of foreign powers as "less capable" in their military technology. I think it's quite the opposite. There's heavy investment in military tech. Could be Russian or Chinese stealth spy planes. It would make more sense that this is the case than aliens from outer space.

Stealth planes would behave this way. Dropping in an out of radar, no transmission, etc.

If you think about aliens, if they were to make it to the US, they would need some sort of advance propulsion systems in their space craft. This would likely allow their space craft to NOT fly like normal earth aircraft. Why do they need to be traveling in linear patters as this incident shows?

I think foreign military is a more likely answer to the incident.


Stealth is easy to detect with ancient long-wave radars from WW2 (not very precise, but visible anyway when arranged into a grid). Foreign spy planes would be immediately visible and military planes could easily make visual contact after being roughly guided by LFR.


Could it have been an E-4B[1] or some new variant of it? That's the first thing I think of when reading large, white, unidentified plane. I remember seeing one on Sept 11 circling near Wright-Patt - very unsettling thing to see in person.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_E-4


Living near Omaha, I see them all the time -- they look a lot like Air Force One (and get mistaken for that by non-locals all the time due to the similar livery). That's the first plane I thought of reading this article, too. I imagine that, while not being developed as true stealth aircraft, any variants developed of this plane would try hard to not show up on radar.


> Both agree that there was "definitely something out there" with the Oakland Center controller saying the aircraft first appeared going southbound at high speed before executing an abrupt maneuver and then "took off northbound."

So what constitutes an abrupt maneuver and how many aircraft can make such radical change in direction while moving at full speed?


I wonder if there's any publicly available satellite footage, from someone like planet.com


(Planet employee here) Planet imaging happens in the late morning, because that's when we tend to get clearer atmosphere, relatively short shadows, but minimal specular-like reflection of sunlight. This event happened in early evening (I think the aircraft was first spotted on radar around 4.30 PM) so we won't have any imagery of it. We'd have more luck if we could guess at a location it would be in the morning, and we had reason to believe it was parked out in the open.

Any guesses? Does anyone want to dig into something like flightradar24 records and see if something took off with a transponder then disappeared that day?


Well at least it is a persistent mystery. Has anyone said how fast it was moving? I'm presuming it was subsonic the whole time but it seemed an odd omission.


In the exchanges, no one seemed particularly surprised at the speed, just that it was relatively fast. So my WAG would be like mach .8 to .9 maybe? The anomalous thing they were focused on was that it wasn't squawking a transponder code, wasn't in radio contact, and possibly that it wasn't being well-tracked on primary radar.



Does anybody know the airspeed or have an estimate? Since it was originally visible to radar, I was wondering why the speed wasn't listed in the article.

Also by what mechanism could anything become radar-invisible mid-flight? Some kind of adaptive geometry? Could things like roll angle have influenced the RCS?


Angle absolutely can affect RCS.

Retracting landing gear, retracting flaps, etc. can reduce RCS.

For military aircraft, closing of weapons bays that were previously open would reduce RCS.

In an extreme case, jettisoning of external fuel tanks and weapons can reduce RCS.


Thanks. I was also wondering if radio wave propagation might have been a factor.

It'd be nice if someone put together a timeline that includes these sensor data so we could build a better model of the situation.


Read between the line. It's a UFO/Rat 55 [0] in the sense that commercial pilot see poor airmanship and calling it out. The same kind of poor seamanship from the Navy we saw last year.

[0]https://thedailyintrep.com/nt-43a-the-rat-55-a-very-unusual-...


Maybe the pilots should start being issued binoculars?


I brought my 8x42* binocular on an international trip last year but I found it took up space and weighed my carry-on luggage down (every kilo makes a difference with lengthy time in transit and tired walks through large terminals). I also didn't end up using them all that much enroute. On my return trip, I simply packed it as checked luggage.

I imagine pilots and flight crews would have similar considerations as to how useful binoculars are on a typical sector - most seem to not pack all that much with them. It sounds that if pilots were to be issued expensive binoculars for the purpose of identifying unidentified objects, rare events would need to become a lot more frequent?

On a vaguely related note, in 2012 an Air Canada passenger plane was diverted to help locate a stranded yacht off Australian waters. Apparently, there was a call out to any passengers who might have had binoculars, but it's not clear whether they were instrumental in the end: https://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/18/travel/australia-yacht-re...

* While smaller binoculars are lighter and more compact, they also cost a lot more if optics quality is to be preserved. Also, smaller ones don't work as well at night - so that probably rules out any real chance of identifying stealth aircraft when it's dark.

I've noticed with my 8x42 binocular at daytime, large aircraft at a certain height (I can't remember if it was 10,000 or 30,000 ft) on a clear day with no contrails cannot be seen by my naked eye on the ground but shows up clearly in the binocular - but only if I know where to scan (after looking up FlightRadar, etc). While they do bring the view closer, they're not magic and come with tradeoffs like a narrow field of view, etc.


Note: this is just a general guess.

But my money is on this just being a military test—some SR71-like replacement (probably air-breathing, maybe even unmanned). It's not really out of the question, but a big hole in this idea is that merging with general air traffic is usually a no-no even by military standards.

Anyways, on a somewhat unrelated note, it just reminds me of this[0] story, for anyone even remotely interested in flight.

[0] https://oppositelock.kinja.com/favorite-sr-71-story-10791270...


I mean, it's been identified as aircraft by pilots nearby. And it has the ability to disguise itself from radar. That's all you really need to conclude spy plane. I know that people had made sightings of previous US planes before they were declassified. A slightly scarier possibility is that its not American.


ATC primary radar is pretty weak. Not showing up (particularly after changing flight direction) doesn't mean much. It's very odd (and illegal) for something to be up in flight levels without a transponder though.


Military test of a stealth plane is the simplest explanation, but why would it not talk to ATC? As a test to see whether it could make it a few hundred miles in a busy air corridor without being noticed?


Probably to not be on record of the ATC, would be my guess.


The altitude is the curious part to me. 37,000 feet is right in the commercial aviation region, though it sounds like they were staying well away from established corridors.


That linked story never gets old.


If you haven't heard him tell it, it's worth a listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lg73GKm7GgI


I've never heard this before, I've only read it.

I like the context of the written one better. Seems like the focus/slant/whatever changed from the one-upmanship of the written one to let's-piss-off-center of the spoken one.


Always makes me smile. So well written.


This thing disappeared from radar. So if it was a secret military aircraft the it appears to have the ability to hide and unhide its radar signature. Also, if you listen to the FAA telephone calls you'll hear the air traffic controller mention that the object was heading south bound, at a fast clip, and then did an abrupt maneuver and took off north bound. Now, you could say the object just did an Immelmann, but I'm not aware of anything that can perform an Immelmann that fast in an object that large.


Wow that SR-71 photo makes the pilot's face look so doctored. It looks like a video game rendering of a face.


Part of it may be that he was badly burned in a crash in Vietnam.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Shul#Vietnam_war

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajjlNYvO1CU


I think the next “SR-71” is hypersonic, part of the “cancelled” HTV-X3 successor program under FALCON. There would be no “chasing” something like that, and it would be.... striking.


No one in the calls even seemed particularly surprised at the speed, so maybe in the high-performance business jet territory.


This could be a Chinese or Russian Spy plane for all we know.


I know it's unlikely to be the case here, but it would be quite amusing to learn this was someone like Jeff Bezos one-upping the likes of Bill Gates and John Carmack with their fast cars. [1] [2]

It is only a matter of time before this actually becomes plausible, if not already. The next logical step for extreme hooning and evading police is doing it in the air, and evading the USAF. If you're not pushing it further than those who came before you, it's kindof irrelevant in this context.

[1] https://www.topspeed.com/cars/car-news/bill-gates-famous-mug...

[2] https://www.reddit.com/r/teslamotors/comments/4kfs42/john_ca...


Crossed my mind; some Silicon Valley/Seattle-based billionaire testing a skunkworks project. Or maybe Sebastian Thrun flying high-performance version of Kitty Hawk for next-gen Uber flying taxis ;-)


Or even something far less extraordinary like billionaires betting they can fly their jet from point A to point B in controlled airspace without transponders in complete radio silence without getting caught.

The whole disappearing from radar thing in this story is the only reason anyone suspects something extraordinary or military.

Everything else about it says it's somewhat benign. The observed speeds are fairly common, they describe something behaving like a normal jet, and it's traveling in airspace the military has no reason to mess with and every reason to avoid for safety reasons.

I know of a number of psychopaths who would do this kind of thing if they had the means.


Yeah I've heard stories of some people doing crazy, dangerous, illegal things in small planes and just turning their transponders off.

I was a passenger in a C182 once where the transponder antenna fell off midflight. It was very educational how much trouble ATC had seeing us. Even after telling them exactly where we were, flying the heading they gave us to present the broadside of the a/c to the radar antenna, they basically said "there's something that might be you there, but I can't really tell."

A big jet at FL370 should show up on primary, but I can see it depending on a bunch of factors.


Or John Travolta (just Stayin' Alive).


Woah!!! This is crazy!!!


How come there is no Wikipedia article?


I think this was a test flight for somebody's new personnel transport.

Facts: It's large, fast, airplane shaped, painted white, and off radar. It stayed in the area, but ran away when fighter jets were nearby.

Since it's large, then it must be for holding things, so it's for transporting something. It's fast, so whatever it is transporting needs to get their quickly, or needs to run away from other things. It's distinctly airplane shaped, so it's optimized for flying through the air at cruising altitudes.

It's white, so it's not trying to hide at night or under cover. Commercial airliners are generally white, so maybe it is supposed to blend in at commercial airports.

It's off radar. Stealth airplanes are flat and small, this airplane is not. It does not have radar absorbing/deflecting abilities, it is off radar. Is it possible that civilian radar equipment is programmed to ignore certain transponders like photocopiers reject scanning dollar bills?

It knew the difference between commercial aircraft and fighter jets, and that the fighter jets were a threat. It didn't leave the area until it was in proximity to the fighter jets.

It could have been a test of the airplane's capabilities. But since it seemed to hang around the area for a bit, almost as if it was teasing pilots, I think it was testing the reaction time of the ATC and the fighter jets. The thought being, "If we need to get out of here, how long until they scramble fighters? And if they scramble them, can we get away?"

Could be that there are multiple factions in the government/military and one of these factions is planning for a quick getaway. That's the only way it would have "off radar" capabilities, civilians wouldn't be able to get a hold of that tech.

Is this Donald Trump and co's getaway van?


Hmm ... I think you have something there. It's got to be Apple iPhone delivery (and the all white motif matches Jony Ives design sensibilities - you can't have tail numbers messing up your design. Or transponders cluttering up your radio spectrum).


What are the reasons to assume this wasn't just junk from space? Why say it was an aircraft?

The object was referred to as a "white speck" by one pilot. Civilian radar did not hold on to it for long. That's all I got from those exchanges. Did I miss something?


Did you read the article and watch the videos? The encounter went for several minutes, was identified as a white aircraft, the object maintained altitude and was able to manoeuvre.

Never heard of "space junk" doing that before.


> the object maintained altitude and was able to manoeuvre

Is there a chart of the encounters somewhere? All I heard is "it's northbound".


One of the pilots reported following it for "over 100 miles".




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