Aviation In Canada

Friday, October 21, 2005


A reader asked me about UFOs recently. You know who you are.

I can honestly say I haven't seen anything that related to UFOs while on the job. Or at least, nothing that stayed unidentified. For example, I once saw a target on radar, no transponder return just the reflected radiation (aka Primary Radar), that was heading directly to CYHZ in an area where no known traffic was operating, with a groundspeed of over 1700 knots. Being the keener I was, my thoughts went to the SR-71. No, wait, they're not flying any more (they weren't at the time). Well, perhaps, ... Could it be?... An Aurora? The product of speculation in recenty years as the works of the Lockheed Skunkworks in Area 51? Wow! Turned out to be an erroneous set of returns when we looked at the raw radar data. The target did exist, just not at the azimuth that was being reported, and therefore the plotting of the changes in distance made for an exaggerated groundspeed.

We've had other stories, though. When I worked in the TWR I received the odd call from time to time of someone in a panic asking if we knew of an airplane in their area. Typically, these calls came in about 2:00 am, and alcohol was suspect...

And another time I had a B727 underflying a formation of a KC-135 and 3 F-15s in the wee hours of the morning. The 727 pilot called in a panic asking if we had traffic for him. Well, my instructor nearly shit himself since he wasn't paying much attention (it was late in my training, and I was easily capable of handling two flights) until this call came in. It shocked me, so I scanned the radar, then the databoard, to see what I had forgotten and began immediately thinking about how short my career in ATC would be. Then it hit me. The formation flight was directly overhead, about 7,000 feet above him, but he was likely looking at the wide spacing between the nav lights and filling in the black hole between them, with perspective making it seem like it was a single airplane just outside his windshield. But a UFO, it was not. Fortunately for all of us, it wasn't a problem with traffic, either. But I think the pilot needed a new seatcover, if you know what I mean.

Anyone else out there with UFO stories from an ATC or pilot perspective?