[This item was reported in CNI News on April 16, 1997]
An air traffic controller working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) says that in the six years he has worked there, he has personally witnessed four unexplained UFO incidents.
"My area of jurisdiction [covers] northeast of LAX, out over the Mohave desert (including the Edwards test ranges), and up around the LAS area (including 'Dreamland')," he says. This area includes a large part of the most restricted airspace in the western United States, an area known to host a large amount of top-secret aircraft activity and also rich in UFO reports.
The writer says he is kept completely apprised of even the most secret air traffic. "We work closely with the military, and when I am at a sector, there is NOTHING that goes in my sky (military or civilian) without my knowledge. Even the most classified military projects have proper protocol for reservation of airspace, and numerous flight restrictions (they're not about to let their multi-billion dollar projects be sighted or harmed by some dentist's
Cessna 172 chugging along for a weekend trip to Vegas)," he says.
Codenames or nicknames are assigned to the most secret aircraft. "They'll just call them something else to keep with procedures and restrictions (the Stealth fighter went
around as an "A6" fighter when it was classified)," he explains.
That being the case, when he sees something that is truly unidentified, he's pretty sure it's not a super-secret military project. And he has seen some unusual things.
"In my (only) six years at the Center, I have personally been part of three bizarre encounters, non-military and non-civilian. I'm just one of 15,000 controllers, too, so there have to be many more that go unreported.
"We used to have a specific number to report 'UFO' sightings," he says, "but in the late 80's the directive was replaced by an official 'advisory' to tell pilots, if requested, that they should contact a university or research institution, and no further paperwork was required (unless it was a near mid-air [collision])."
On one occasion, he saw another controller discuss a UFO incident with his supervisor. "The controller told the supe about the encounter, and after both determined there was nothing on radar, they just kind of shook their heads and rubbed their chins, and that was that.
"This I believe is what typically happens," he says. "Nobody knows what to do, really. There is no government 'coverup,' no mirror-sunglassed agents 'debriefing' us in the back room, no military specialists to take reports. But 'UFO' encounters happen.
"I've directly been involved in three incidents -- DIRECT involvement. I was there, plugged into the sector, my own eyes were watching the radar, it actually happened! I've been puzzled on all three."
The writer describes his three UFO incidents as follows:
1) (Date uncertain, probably 1992) Northeast of LAX, a UAL 747 on climbout, about 24,000 feet (Flight level 240), suddenly said, "Do you show something went right under us?" We didn't; there was absolutely nothing on the radar. The pilot said it "went right under us, opposite direction, about 3 times the normal closure rate," which normally is 900 knots (head-on jets at 450 knots each), so 3 times is about 2700 knots, minus the 450 of the 747 means it was approximately 2,200 knots. We pulled up the primary radar (raw radar returns) and there was absolutely nothing. The pilot said it was "kind of like a rocket, but with something on the top," and it was "about the size of an F-16." I got on the landline to the lower controller to warn him for subsequent aircraft. The only nearby restricted (military) area had no activity at those altitudes, and there were no military aircraft in the area. We told the supe, and he just said "huh." We just shook our heads, and mostly forgot about it, though the pilot did make a report on it and it appeared in Aviation Week and Space Technology.
2) (1995) I was working a UPS jet in descent to ONT (Ontario), as the only controller at the sector. There was ZERO traffic within 30 miles of him, but he said a "large aircraft of some type, no, I'm not sure what it is" just went over and in front of him, crossing right to left. It was about 9 pm local, after sundown. I showed NOTHING on radar, and anything large would show up on primary radar (we see even tiny Piper Cubs). The military restricted airspace R-2508 was completely cold and the airspace turned over to us. I asked the pilot further if he could see the type, and he said, "No, it was just very large, and it had some strange lights." He was very shaken and asked for a number to call in. I gave him the Area's number and told my supe he'd be calling. After they landed (15 minutes later) he called in and talked to my supe. I just told him what I saw -- there was NOTHING on radar, and NO military activity, and again we just shook our heads. The Area Manager (facility boss) was called in and he shook his head and said they "used to have a UFO reporting number, but we don't any more." That was that.
3) (date not given) I was the only controller in the area during the S-L-O-W midnight shift. Two little cargo aircraft within a 200 mile range was all. This was around 3 am. The military airspace (R2508) was cold and was turned over to us. Nothing going on, not even up at Dreamland -- all the military controllers were home in bed.
I'm sitting there and I notice a primary target moving across the desert, about 30 miles east of MHV (Mohave), 20 or so north of Edwards and near our sensitive Boron radar site, close enough that the radar picks up everything, even cars on the highway. The target was zipping along about 4 miles between updates, which is about 20 nautical miles per minute, or about Mach 2. Then, within a 1-mile radius, it reversed course and headed the other way. (At 450 knots, jets need about 10 miles or more to reverse course, and at supersonic speeds even more. The SR-71 needs half the state to turn around!). I lost it as it got away from the Boron site, and wasn't sure what to make of it.
One hour later the Kern County Sheriff's [Department] called in. I answered -- I was the only controller in the Area. They had several calls about an extremely bright light moving around the area north of Tehachapi. Did we have any aircraft in that area? I was staring right at the scope, right at Tehachapi, and there was nothing, not even a primary target (no ground clutter even). I asked them if it was a flare. He said no, it's been there for a half hour, moving around, no sound, and they had a deputy right there looking at it too. I said we had nothing there, but I'd call him back if I saw anything. I saw nothing. About 30 minutes later the Sheriff called back and said the light "turned off" and was gone. There was nothing on the radar the whole time.
[The writer says he will notify the National UFO Reporting center immediately if any such incidents occur on his watch again, so that "you can get the hard data (voice tapes are erased after 15 days, and radar data after 5, I believe)."]
Original file name: CNI - LAX Controller.UFOS
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