It’s very rare that one hears of strange happenings in the airline industry, especially when it comes to cargo planes and one of the strictest cultures in the world. However, an international sensation occurred in 1986 when JAL Flight 1628 was finishing up a routine trip delivering a shipment of wine to Tokyo. This was because Japan Airlines had a very bizarre occurrence while Flight 1628 was heading towards Tokyo from Paris – a sighting that many people believe could be evidence of extraterrestrial visitation.
While sailing across the Alaskan skies in the evening, the crew of Flight 1628 were alerted to the presence of unidentified objects seemingly escorting the plane. The two objects appeared to be square, and seemed to have rows of thrusters or nozzles attached to their sides, while a third disc-shaped object trailed the plane from behind. Alarmed and confused, the crew immediately messaged the Anchorage Air Traffic Control to find out whether or not they could confirm any other air traffic in the nearby area. The officials in the control tower attempted to find any other traffic from other airlines near them, but could not confirm anything nearby.
The strange objects continued to follow Flight 1628 for almost an hour. During this time, the crew decided to report everything that they noticed about these strange crafts. It became very clear that the crafts were being steered in an intelligent manner, and that the energy that all three of the objects expelled was incredibly powerful. The crew members reported that all of the unidentified objects had lights that glowed a very bright white, and that they could feel the heat coming off of the ships at times. The crew watched as the objects changed formations, and flew away at a very high speed.
Scarier still was the appearance of an massive craft in the distance. As the crew noted, it was about twice the size of a large aircraft carrier. This giant spaceship was at the 10 o’clock position and the aircraft's radar showed it was 7 nautical miles away. Wishing to avoid this strange enormous craft the crew changed course in order to avoid it. As they changed course, they noticed the ship craft changing course to pursue them. Needless to say, the entire crew was dumbfounded and shaken at the bizarre, unexplainable events that had just occurred.
Meanwhile, Anchorage Air Traffic Control was unable to even confirm that they could detect any other ships anywhere near Japan Airlines Flight 1628. However, the military radar at Elmendorf Regional Operational Control Center did picked up something. The Elmendorf radar controller reported he was getting some “surge primary return” or in other words an occasional radar echo unaccompanied by a transponder signal.
As a result, the captain of Flight 1628 officially filed a UFO sighting with the Federal Aviation Administration. It made sense after all – they had definitely seen a flying object, and no one was able to identify it successfully. Of course, it was only a matter of time until the media began to get wind of the strange and otherworldly sights that the crew of Flight 1628 had seen. Television and newspaper reporters actively sought out crew members from the cargo ship and began to ask them for a description of the things they had seen.
One of the crew members, Captain Terauchi, decided that it was time to tell the media a little bit about what they witnessed on that fateful night. Soon after, Kyodo News journalists recorded what he said, and began to research it – even going so far as to contact the FAA to confirm that the incident actually occurred. The FAA spokesman stated that he was unaware of any incident in the Alaska region. Either way, Kyodo News ended up publishing the story. Almost immediately after the publication of his statement, Japan Airlines revoked his flying position and forced him to a desk job.
Many UFO enthusiasts began to ask questions about Japan Airline's harsh treatment of the captain of the crew. It was not fair, they argued, that he was grounded due to the fact that he simply said what he saw in the sky, and asserted that there was something that the FAA was not telling the public. Others, however, argued that the captain may have just lied to gain fame, money, or attention. Arguments from believers and skeptics quickly erupted over the incident. It debatable if any of the proceedings had any effect but after several years Captain Terauchi’s flight status was reinstated.
Shortly after the reported UFO sighting by Flight 1628, several other airplanes reported seeing strange glowing objects while they were flying across the ocean. Two notable ones are as follows:
Alaska Airlines Flight 53 on 29 January 1987 observed a fast moving object on their onboard weather radar at the 12 o’clock position, at 25 miles (40 km) range. Though no visual contact was made the pilot reported the speed of the UFO estimated to be 3,600 mph.
On January 30, 1987 a US Air Force KC-135 jet flying from Anchorage to Fairbanks observed a very large, disk-shaped object. Incredibly the pilot reported that the UFO was 12 m or 40 ft from the aircraft.
Could this be a mere coincidence, or could it be something more? What did all these people see flying across the ocean? Was the airplane’s captain really making this story up, or did the FAA perform a small cover-up on the story?
According to John Callahan, who at the time was Division Chief of the Accidents and Investigations branch for the FAA at the time, initially believed it was most likely a stealth craft under development by the U. S. Military. He requested that the relevant date be sent to the FAA technical center in Atlantic City New Jersey for analysis. There the data examined combining the radar data and voice tapes for concurrent playback.
The following day they briefed the Federal Aviation Administration Administrator retired Vice Admiral Donald D. Engen. After watching the video he asked them not to talk to anybody until they were given the OK. He also instructed them to prepare a brief to present to government representatives. The following day a meeting with representatives from the CIA, FBI, and others. According to Callahan at the end of the meeting The CIA representative told all present that the UFO event and meeting never happened, and all data was confiscated. Fortunately John Callahan managed to retain the original video.
On March 5, 1987 the FAA released their official findings. FAA’s Regional Public Affairs Officer Paul Steucke retracted statements that air traffic controllers had confirmed a UFO. He went on to explain the UFO event as a “split radar image” with unfortunate timing. He also claimed that the FAA did not have enough data to make a confirm that the crew saw anything.
Whether this is a cover-up for a UFO story or a cover-up for a stealth military project it appears much was swept under the rug. At least one credible witness, John Callahan, states there was a cover-up. The FAA investigation concentrates on equipment issues and ignores not only the visual evidence of the crew but also ignores evidence from two other similar creditable incidences.
This incident like most UFO incidents with creditable provenance follows the same pattern. Give a plausible explanation for what you can and ignore the rest.