And if all that wasn’t enough in 1987 US President Ronald Regan even spoke about "an alien threat from outside this world" in a speech to the United Nations, and that same year the major US soap opera The Colbys featured a storyline in which the character Fallon reported being the victim of an alien abduction! In a guest article for this blog UFO author and historian Rupert Matthews wrote: "The Colbys TV series and Whitley (Strieber) book launched the abduction phenomenon into the mass media. Suddenly the television, magazine and newspaper world could not get enough abduction stories. Many researchers took to hypnotic regression of witnesses in an effort to get more details and more coherent versions of events. Sadly some researchers had little or no training in hypnotic treatments and made some key errors of technique that would later discredit their findings. Nevertheless UFOlogy in the later 1980s became dominated by abduction stories obtained largely by hypnotic regression. It seemed that the answer to the entire UFO riddle might finally be within grasp of researchers."
The decade also ended with Bob Lazar's famous allegations that he had worked at the secret Nevada Area 51 or Groom Lake base back in the late 1980's on a back-engineering program involving captured alien saucers. There’s no doubting then that the 1980s marked a turnaround in the popularity of the UFO subject after years of declining interest in UFOs following the US Air Force’s decision to close down their UFO investigation Project Bluebook in 1969.
One year that seems to stand out is 1986. What with it being 25 years now since the UFO events of that year I asked Nick Redfern, who blogs for UFOMystic, if there were any good 1986 cases I should research. Nick replied: "Probably the only two good ones I can think of for that year, is one which was a Jumbo Jet sighting of a UFO over Alaska. I'm pretty sure a Google search will find it. And I know there was a very good Brazilian military UFO chase/sighting in that year, and that the US Defense Intelligence Agency released its files on the case a few years ago, so they may be at the DIA website, as they have their FOIA-UFO files posted there."
A Google search found an AP article entitled "FAA Presses Investigation of Lights Seen Over Alaska" about the Jumbo Jet sighting Nick Redfern had told me about. The sighting took place on November 17, 1986 and involved an encounter between a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 freighter aircraft and three UFOs as it flew over Alaska, en route from Iceland to Anchorage.
According to the crew, "two small objects and one huge Saturn-shaped object were in sight and on radar for more than 30 minuets". The unidentified lights were "yellow, amber and green" and the largest one "showed up on the plane's weather radar".
The pilot changed course and altitude multiple times in an attempt to explain the unidentified objects and VHF radio communications were garbled at the time of the sightings.
In 2006 the pilot, Capt. Kenju Terauchi, was interviewed by two Kyodo News journalists about the sightings. The interview was picked up by various UFO websites. Here is an extract from the interview on UFOcasebook.com:
"Suddenly,” Terauchi said, "600 meters below, I saw what looked like two belts of light. I checked with the Anchorage control tower. They said nothing was showing on their radar." But something was emitting those lights, and whatever it was seemed interested in the jumbo, for it adjusted its speed to match to match the plane's – "like they were toying with us," said Terauchi. That went on for seven minutes or so. "Then there was a kind of reverse thrust, and the lights became dazzlingly bright. Our cockpit lit up. The thing was flying as if there was no such thing as gravity. It sped up, then stopped, then flew at our speed, in our direction, so that to us it looked like it was standing still. The next instant it changed course. There's no way a jumbo could fly like that. If we tried, it'd break apart in mid-air. In other words, the flying object had overcome gravity."
But the strange events of flight 1628 were not over yet for Capt. Terauchi and his crew. UFO authority Richard H. Hall wrote about the third "gigantic" UFO Terauchi witnessed that night in the second volume of his The UFO Evidence:
About 5:30pm, while in the vicinity of Fairbanks, AK, Capt. Terauchi checked a white light behind the plane and saw a silhouette of a gigantic spaceship. It was walnut-shaped, symmetrical above and below, with a central flange. Capt. Terauchi said, “It was a very big one, two times bigger than an aircraft career.” At its closet point, the large object cast such a bright light that it illuminated the cockpit, and Terauchi could feel heat on his face. Radio communications again became garbled during the close approach. The veteran crew became frightened by the large object and requested permission to change course. After the course change they looked back and saw the object still following them. Increasingly fearful, they requested a descent to get away from the UFO (“We had to get away from the object.”) After they descended and turned again, the object disappeared. The FAA at first confirmed that several of its radar traffic controllers had tracked the B-747 and the large object, and that US Air Force radar had also done so. Later official statements backed away from this and tried to a ascribe the radar targets to weather effects. On December 29, 1986, the FAA issued a report saying, We are accepting the descriptions of the crew, but are unable to support what they saw.
More recently the Japan Air Lines flight 1628 sighting was featured on the History Channel's UFO Files series in an episode entitled "Black Box Secrets" and the case has gained a reputation as being perhaps one of the best UFO sightings ever.
Another good pilot aircraft sighting in 1986 happened on May 11, in Sedona, AZ. A pilot, Robert H. Henderson, and his wife travelling in a Cessna 172 saw a dome-shaped object make a head-on pass at them and fly beneath their plane at an estimated 1,200 mph.
There were a concentration of sightings in Brazil in 1986, including many physiological effects cases between March 19 and June 15. The best of which was the UFO chase case Nick Redfern had mentioned. The Telegraph ranked this case, known as São Paulo sighting after the airport where the UFOs were tracked from, number eight in a 2009 "list of 10 of the most famous UFO incidents in history". Telegraph contributor Sasjkia Otto wrote in the newspaper that on the night of May 19, 1986 “around 20 UFOs were seen and detected by radar in various parts of Brazil. They reportedly disappeared as five military aircraft were sent to intercept them."
The São Paulo case was discussed openly by high ranking Brazilian officials. It was first reported by Colonel (Ret.) Ozires Silva, president of the state-owned oil company Petrobrás, who was flying on an executive Xingu turbo-prop, when he and the pilot saw and pursued the mysterious lights for about 25 minutes. The incident was covered widely in the Brazilian media at the time, leading to a press conference at the Ministry of Aeronautics in Brasilia on May 23, with air traffic controllers and air force pilots involved in the scramble mission.
At the press conference the Minister of Aeronautics, Brigadier General Otávio Moreira Lima, said: “Between 20:00 hrs (5/19) and 01:00 hrs (5/20) at least 20 objects were detected by Brazilian radars. They saturated the radars and interrupted traffic in the area. Each time that radar detected unidentified objects, fighters took off for intercept. Radar detects only solid metallic bodies and heavy (mass) clouds. There were no clouds nor conventional aircraft in the region. The sky was clear. Radar doesn't have optical illusions. We can only give technical explanations and we don't have them. It would be very difficult for us to talk about the hypothesis of an electronic war. It's very remote and it's not the case here in Brazil. It's fantastic. The signals on the radar were quite clear."
The Minister also announced that a commission would study the incident. Air Force Major Ney Cerqueira, in charge of the Air Defense Operations Center (CODA), added: "We don't have technical operational conditions to explain it. The appearance and disappearance of these objects on the radar screens are unexplained. They are Unidentified Aerial Movements... The technical instruments used for the identification of the lights had problems in registering them. CODA activated two F-5E and three Mirages to identify the objects. One F-5E and one Mirage remained grounded on alert. A similar case occurred four years ago (1982 Commander Brito VASP airliner radar-visual incident). The lights were moving at a speed ranging between 250 and 1,500 km/hr. [150 to 1,000 mph] The Air Force has not closed the case."
Today São Paulo continues to be a UFO hotspot. In March 2011 a video shown on Brazilian TV of a disc-shaped object hovering in the clouds for a minute or so – before disappearing in a bright flash was widely circulated. The Telegraph writing that: "The television station explained the clip originated from two motorists who saw the object as they were driving near the town of Agudos in Sao Paulo state. They hopped out of the car to shoot the video with their hand-held camera. According to the TV station, the cameramen reported the earth shaking at the same time the unidentified flying object vanished in a blast of light."
In 2010 Brazil's government ordered its air force to officially record any sighting of unidentified flying objects.
There were other sightings in 1986. In Butler, PA, on January 7, a UFO emitted six light beams toward the ground. And around 20 minuets later in Pittsburgh, a silver-gray disk with body lights and mist formed around it was seen hovering above the city, before moving out of sight.
There was also a good landing case in Calalzo di Cadore, Italy on August 15 of that year. Strong physical traces were left at the landing site, and after a two hour memory loss the witnesses reported seeing two humanoid beings.
The 1980s then saw an increase in the popularity of the UFO subject, and while blockbuster films such as ET and bestselling books like Communion played a large part in this turnaround, solid UFO cases like those of 1986 were also important.
Richard H. Hall, The UFO Report: A Thirty Year Report Volume II, (Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2001) p.142-143.