Three Seconds, Thirty-Six Years; What Was It?

It was early in 2008 that I first became interested in UFOs and the whole Extraterrestrial scene. As a very young man back in the late 1940s and 1950s I had tuned it out, which is just what the government wanted everyone to do. I wasn’t going to make a dime out of it anyway, and with a family to support, I never gave it another thought.

But in 1972, I don’t even remember the month, I was very much into flying light planes, and instructing students as an avocation. Whenever it was, I was flying my twin engine Piper Apache at night from Jacksonville, Florida to my home in New Orleans . I was alone, having dropped off my older sister who was visiting her daughter and her family in Jacksonville.

Ever since I became rather suddenly interested in the subject in 2008, people have asked me from time to time if I have ever seen a UFO. I have almost always taken the easy way out and simply said no. Because, even if I did, it was too long ago and too brief a sighting to be sure. But even before my sudden interest in that whole subject, during the 36 year after that flight , I have often thought about it, and wondered just what the devil it was that I did see. For 36 years, the possibility that it was a UFO never crossed my mind. UFOs were simply not on my horizon. But that 3 or 4 second sighting of something has stayed with me, and returned in my memory from time to time. And each time I have thought much about it, but never could come up with a satisfactory answer.

I was flying at 8000 feet by instrument flight rules, though the weather was clear and calm. IFR means continual ground contact and coverage by radar. Suddenly, dead ahead there flashed a very bright light. I would describe it either as white or colorless, and my immediate thought was that it must be the landing light of a large plane, though it seemed rather ominous  from the start. The ground controller did not mention any approaching traffic, though he had from time to time called out traffic in my vicinity, as ground controllers usually do, giving me its altitude, position and distance. This one came out of nowhere and no one had warned me. Its distance from me I could not tell. I would imagine something between two and five miles. Nor could I judge its speed. knew only that it seemed to be on a collision course with me, and it frightened me.

I put my plane into a fairly sharp descending right turn to get out of its way. After about 90 degrees of turn and loss of about 5 to 600 feet of altitude I rolled back to my original heading of west to see how I stood in relation to whatever I had seen. But there was nothing there.

I called the ground controller and asked if he had picked up anything to the west headed in my direction. His puzzled voice answered in the negative. No traffic at all. I said OK and asked him to inform me if anything showed up. I climbed back to 8000, wondering all the while what it could have been.

I soon realized that if it was a plane, it was a mighty strange one. There were no running lights. Planes flying at night are required to have a green light on the starboard wing tip; a red one on the port. They are required to have a white light on the top of the vertical fin of the tail section. I saw none of that. When pilots want to be seen, to show themselves to other planes, especially in high traffic areas, they usually turn on a red rotating beacon on top of the fuselage. They do not flash their landing lights until they are on final approach to a landing, not at 8000 feet above the airport.

I had often read about the illusions that can beset pilots at night, ground lights, stars and so forth, and I soon noticed out in the Gulf of Mexico what seemed to be a fire, whether a controlled one for some purpose or a conflagration I would have no way of knowing. I wondered if the light that seemed to be ahead of me could have been really ahead and off to my left. I watched the flame gradually move back toward a position abeam my plane.

I soon realized that there was no way on earth I could have mistaken that flame for the light I saw. The thing I saw was directly ahead of me, not the slightest doubt about it. The light I saw was white or colorless; the flame was orange to yellow. The light I saw was steady as could be. The flame was flickering, as flames do. The voice of the controller returned. Could I describe what I saw? I told him what I had seen. When he came back again and asked another question about my sighting, I decided to tell him that I realized I might have been looking at a flame in the gulf.

Why did I tell him that? Because I didn’t want him to think I was ‘seeing things,’ that I was one of those hysterical people who see all kinds of things at night that really aren’t there. He had radar and said there was nothing there. So, I thought, let’s just end it. He said OK. It might have been my imagination, but to me he sounded somewhat disappointed.

But for me that didn’t end it. From time to time, during that 36 years, especially when I was flying at night, I thought of that light, and could see it clearly in my mind. I never dwelled on it for long, as it would have been pointless. Over the years I thought about it less and less, but it never really went away.

Then, in 2008 I read something that abruptly got me interested in UFOs. I started reading. As I read accounts of UFO sightings by pilots, that light came back to me. At first I decided that the controller had not told me the truth. He was probably required to deny any sightings that could be interpreted as UFO. But as I continued to study and read, I read more and more often about visual sightings and genuine negative readings on radar.

 As I mentioned in previous postings, there was the possibility that radar was, or was believed by the alien crews, to be a danger, interfering with their steering mechanism.  As often as not when our radar trackings became public, the government either talked about radar being error prone, or called the operator inexperienced or incompetent. But in any event, though there were many sightings corroborated by radar in the 50s and early 60s, from  later reports it seemed there were fewer and fewer radar confirmations, and many instances of clearly seen UFOs being undetected by radar. I ultimately came to read credible reports that our stealth bomber, invisible to radar, was made possible, or easier, with the alien technology. See Colonel Corso’s “The Day After Roswell” for one.  It must be noted that there are still many radar confirmations of sightings. Alien protection devices, whatever they are, are obviously not functioning all the time.

What do I think happened that night? Obviously I don’t know. My guess is that it was a UFO, and that its crew picked up something on whatever means they have, and decided to take a visual look. They probably determined quickly that I was not worth fooling with. The Apache meant nothing to them. There are probably infinite scenarios that it could have been, and mine is probably wrong. But it is the only thing I can think of that explains the whole thing. If anyone can think of any other, I would be glad to hear about it. Unless the thought is that I was hallucinating. No chance.

           The author’s website is

            His book is “Our Interplanetary Future: A UFO Primer For Skeptics”

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