UFO encounters are often dismissed by skeptics as the product of attention-seekers, hoaxes, or simply overactive imaginations. But what happens when the UFO is seen by some of the most trained and trustworthy professionals around? Compared to encounters by ground-dwelling civilians, cases of UFOs seen by pilots and astronauts are some of the most credible UFO stories around.
These UFO sightings are, perhaps, the most convincing because these witnesses are highly respected professionals whom we trust with our lives. They have nothing to gain by putting their careers and reputations on the line reporting bizarre happenings in the skies.
More shocking is the sheer volume of such reported incidents that happen every year. Here's a list of some of the more notable sightings of alien spacecraft by pilots and astronauts.
In September 2019, US Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed three videos released by the military contain evidence of "unidentified aerial phenomena." The Navy agreed to confirm the sightings because aviators often fail to report unidentified aerial phenomena due to "the stigma attached to previous terminology and theories about what may or may not be in those videos."
The videos in question include reports from The Stars Academy of Arts & Science released from December 2017 to March 2018 regarding oblong-shaped objects captured with infrared that appear in the Earth's atmosphere before rapidly disappearing from view. Gradisher also confirmed footage from 2004 that captures a similar phenomena, and two videos from 2015 in which US fighter pilots encounter an unknown object in the sky.
Unidentified aerial phenomena presents a safety hazard for pilots, and apparently the public footage represents only a fraction of what the US Navy actually encounters.
The granddaddy of all UFO encounters has been giving professionals the chills for decades because of the credibility of the witnesses and the fact that it proceeded "UFO mania" in the popular media.
The event happened in the early morning hours of July 24, 1948. Clarence Chiles, chief pilot, and John Whitted, co-pilot, were flying an Eastern Airlines passenger plane near Montgomery, Alabama, at about 5,000 feet altitude on a clear night.
At about 2:45 am, Chiles "saw a dull red glow above and ahead of the aircraft." He told Whitted, "Look, here comes a new Army jet job."
The object closed on their DC-3 in a matter of seconds, and flew past the right side of their plane before it pulled "up with a tremendous burst of flame out of its rear and zoomed up into the clouds." The pilots said that the object looked like a flying cigar with two decks and windows.
One of the plane's passengers, C.L. McKelvie, also reported seeing a "bright streak of light" that flashed by his window.
The military and scientific skeptics later challenged the account, saying that it was probably a meteor the pilots and passenger saw - although it must be pointed out that few meteors have windows for passengers or zoom straight up in a rapid climb, rather than falling down to earth. Additionally, both men claimed they got a good, long (10 to 15 seconds) look at the object. The event remains one of the most cited examples of credible "UFO" encounters.
In 2005, astronaut Leroy Chiao, commander of the International Space Station, reported a UFO encounter during a space walk. He and a colleague were installing navigation antennas when something unusual caught Chiao’s eye. Below him in the Earth's atmosphere he saw a line of lights that looked like "an upside-down question mark."
One non-UFO explanation for Chiao’s sighting offered by skeptics is that Chiao simply saw the bright lights of a fishing boat hundreds of miles below him. Of course, those would have to be some pretty insanely powerful fishing lights to be seen all the way in outer space - and why Chiao didn't see the lights of other boats all over the ocean has never been explained.
One of the most well-known early UFO encounters involved Lieutenant George F. Gorman of the North Dakota Air National Guard, who said he had a twenty-seven minute "dogfight" with a UFO in the skies above Fargo.
On the night of October 1, 1948, Gorman was preparing to land his P-51 when he saw a light aircraft outlined plainly about 500 feet below him. He called the tower, but the operator there told him they knew of no other planes in the area.
Gorman informed the tower that he was going to investigate. He closed to within about 1,000 yards and took a good look at the object.
It was about six to eight inches in diameter, clear white, and completely round without fuzz at the edges. It was blinking on and off. As I approached, however, the light suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left bank. I thought it was making a pass at the tower.
Gorman says the light suddenly charged him. When collision seemed imminent, the object suddenly shot straight up into the air in a steep climb-out, disappearing overhead. Gorman again attempted to pursue it, but his plane went into a power stall at about 14,000 feet, and the object was not seen again. It was then 9:27 pm.
In the airport control tower, traffic controllers Lloyd D. Jensen and H. E. Johnson also saw a strange light near the airfield. In a statement to Major D. C. Jones, commander of the 17th Fighter Squadron at Hector airport, Gorman said he was convinced that there was "thought" behind the maneuvers.
George F. Gorman retired from the Air Force in 1969 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and settled in Texas.