Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pilot Reports Seeing Object Over Harlan, Kentucky

During a flight from Kennesaw, Georgia to near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a pilot observes something in the sky that he describes as "self-powered and intelligently controlled object or vehicle, as it performed maneuvers not typical to conventional aircraft."

Case Number:    29396
Date:    2011-03-07
Time:     20:23
City:    Morristown
State:    Tennessee
Shape:    Star-like
Summary:    I witnessed the visible white light being emitted from a self-powered and intelligently controlled object or vehicle, as it performed maneuvers not typical to conventional aircraft.

On March 7th, 2011, I was flying from KRYY (McCollum Field) located in Kennesaw Georgia direct to KAGC (Allegheny County) located near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, in my single engine Cessna 172. At 8:23 PM Eastern Time, my attention was drawn to a fairly bright light located in the sky out of my front window at approximately an 11 o ‘clock position relative to the nose of my aircraft. Over the next few seconds this light exhibited a strange behavior not typical for conventional aircraft.

Immediately after the event occurred, I recorded a series of hand written notes on a Charlotte VFR sectional, since I was unable to locate a notepad at the time. My notes read exactly as follows:

March 7th 2011
8:23 PM
298 miles from
KACG Direct
From RYY
Left Front window
11:00 O clock
At least 20Kft
Slightly brighter than
Jet Landing Light
Sky clear At least 30- 50 miles away
Fades > S-turn in Assent
Brightest Top
Fades as it Moves SIDE
As soon as I look up it moves and takes S turn

The following is my own account of the event from memory, as I recalled it approximately three months later:

My autopilot was engaged and I was checking something on my iPhone. As I looked up briefly to engage in a regular scan of my instrument panel, my attention was drawn to a light located in the sky. At first it appeared almost exactly as a normal landing light on a conventional aircraft, with the acceptation being that it appeared slightly brighter in intensity. The color temperature of the light appeared identical to that of a traditional halogen landing light (yellowish white CCT approximately 3500 degrees Kelvin). It appeared to move slowly from my right to left (opposite to my direction of travel) and then appeared to accelerate while performing an ascending right turn towards the west. I now estimate the craft may have been 20 miles away, slightly closer than I originally assumed. My altitude at the time was 10,500 feet MSL, and the light appeared at a slightly higher altitude than my own.

My general speculations about this event:

It is extremely easy and common to misidentify objects and lights in the sky, even for experienced pilots. This is mainly due to lack of a reference point, making it difficult to determine factors such as distance, speed, altitude, and size. However, I have logged a significant portion of night hours and have always paid close attention to the appearance of other aircraft in the night sky. Due to the maneuvers performed by the light I witnessed (perceived as accelerating ascending right turn) I can state with some confidence that what I witnessed was most likely not a conventional aircraft. In my opinion, there is a very good possibility it may have been some type of high performance, top secret, or/and experimental craft. Based on my estimate, it is possible this craft was traveling in excess of 1000 knots, but a truly accurate speed cannot be determined due to a lack of reference points. I must note, as the light appeared to perform the turning maneuver; the intensity grew consistency dimmer in a very linear fashion. This is important to note because the light appeared to remain dim, but visible, as it proceeded away from my aircraft. This is not a typical trait of a forward facing landing light found on conventional aircraft.

My onboard GPS was programmed direct for KAGC, my destination in Pennsylvania. GPS indicated my distance was 298 nautical miles from KAGC. I later estimated my magnetic coarse would have been approximately 035 degrees. This indicates my aircraft location was in close proximity to Morristown Tennessee. Without factoring for a wind correction angle, I can estimate the strange light I witnessed may have been located in close proximity to the Harlan Kentucky general area.

The Weather Underground archives indicate the following conditions on that day at 8:20 PM, as recorded from the Jonesville Virginia weather reporting station. Temperature 37.4 degrees F, due point 30.2 degrees F, humidity 75%, sea level pressure 30.21 in, visibility 10 miles, wind calm, no gusts, no precipitation, conditions partly cloudy.

My conclusion:

Based on lack of data, all I can conclude at this time is that I witnessed the visible white light being emitted from a self-powered and intelligently controlled object or vehicle, as it performed maneuvers not typical to conventional aircraft.


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