On October 25, an unidentified flying object (UFO) was detected on radar, which turned into a series of eyewitness accounts made by commercial airline pilots over the skies of Northern California and Oregon. Even the U.S. Air Force scrambled their McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles as part of the military’s protocol to combat threats of an intruding aircraft penetrating deep inside America’s airspace. By the time the interceptor fighter jets arrived, the mysterious aircraft became invisible and disappeared from radar.
Last November, “The War Zone” blog of the automotive website The Drive, posted an exclusive story detailing the mysterious white object buzzing around the skies near commercial airliners in Northern California and Oregon. The blog tracked down various accounts of what happened that day from pilots and also obtained confirmation about the F-15 Eagles launch to intercept the intruding aircraft that has left so many people puzzled.
Now, through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), The War Zone presents a mindblowing and insightful account of official documentation surrounding what really happened on October 25 over the skies of Northern California and Oregon. The FOIA includes “fascinating audio recordings of radio transmissions and phone calls made as the incident was unfolding, as well as pilot interviews, and conversations between FAA officials made in the aftermath of the highly peculiar incident,” said The War Zone.
The first video is a brief overview of the entire incident:
Full radar obtained from the FAA via FOIA for Northern California and Oregon from 4:34 pm to 5:25 pm PST on October 25.
The War Zone indicates that Oakland Center controllers first spotted the mysterious aircraft on radar moving “very fast at 37,000” feet near sector 31 and bordering sectors 13/14.
Oakland Center Sector 31 first detected the target around 4:30pm PST. Below is a chart showing where Oakland Center’s high altitude sectors are situated around Northern California. Sector 31 spans roughly from Sacramento up towards Redding, before its northern edge, which is near the border with Oregon, terminates and Seattle Center’s airspace begins. To the east, the airspace sits along the California-Nevada border. This makes sense as the craft was eventually tracked by airline pilots as it made its way up over Crater Lake and towards the Willamette Valley.
In the audio, the Oakland Center controller notes that it is near his boundary, so it seems the aircraft’s first appearance officially occurred near the border of Oakland Center Sector 31 and Seattle Center Sector 13 or 14. The target was moving “very fast at 37,000” feet when it was first detected.
As the mysterious aircraft disappeared from radar, numerous reports from different airline crews began radioing into the air traffic controller of an unidentifiable white aircraft. Shortly after, F-15 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the mysterious white aircraft, but it had turned on “stealth mode,” said one controller.
The “intruder” quickly dropped off radar and that’s when the visual sightings made by airline crews began. They continued for roughly half an hour and over hundreds of miles. The exchanges between nearby pilots and air traffic control regarding the unidentified aircraft were constant in the audio, with the same description coming back time and again—that of a white aircraft cruising at around 37,000 feet that is too far away to tell the type or if it has markings of any kind on it.
At roughly 27:30 into the video we get our first indication that the F-15s out of PDX are about to scramble, with the air traffic controller noting this while talking to another FAA controller, during which the controller also reiterates that there has still been no radar contact with the aircraft. The controller also repeatedly asks aircrews nearby to check their Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) for the aircraft, which all come back negative.
The F-15s first appear on radar as they climb out of Portland to the south at time index 33:33 as “Rock” flight—a common callsign used for the alert F-15s stationed at PDX. Alaska 439 asks for an update on the unidentified aircraft and the controller notes they still have nothing on him, saying colloquially that it must be in a kind of “stealth mode or something.” It’s also interesting that the F-15s first went south when it seems as if the object would have been north of PDX by the time they finally launched.
Next, the FOIA request uncovered very interesting recordings demonstrating how FAA officials were in contact with the Western Air Defense sector of NORAD.
Aside from that, the audio is unedited by us, although we cannot be certain if parts were redacted by the FAA or not. There were a few strange areas where conversations went mute and it’s not clear if this was edited or just an anomaly. The primary person talking in most of these calls is the Operations Manager In Charge for Seattle Center at the time that the incident took place.
The first call is to Oakland Center, and it occurs early on after the initial radar detection and as pilots began spotting the craft visually. He also mentions that “air defense” is looking for the target now too (on radar), so it shows how early the military was involved in the encounter.
You will notice that the term “DEN” is referred to repeatedly in these recordings. That is the Domestic Events Network, a sort of hotline system that is used to bridge the FAA with federal authorities, namely the military, during a number of circumstances which you can read about here. You will also hear the term “WADS” and the nickname/callsign “Bigfoot.” This refers to the Western Air Defense sector of NORAD that monitors the airspace over a huge swath of territory in the United States and Canada. Based out of McChord AFB in Washington, WADS scrambles the fighters when needed and works to direct them to their targets of interest during domestic air sovereignty missions, among other responsibilities.
When the Manager In Charge is asked if he was asking for military assistance by another FAA controller, the tape goes blank. The same inquiry is heard moments later, and it goes silent again before another call begins. Although it really doesn’t have much impact on the greater mystery, who asked for the F-15s to scramble and when, comes up in the next video in an exchange between the same manager and an FAA official.
In the final set of calls in the video we hear controllers talking about how the Air Force wants to set up an air patrol over Battle Ground, Washington, which is a dozen miles directly north of PDX. We know the F-15s headed south initially, so it isn’t clear if this call came after they initially headed in that direction or before they were even airborne and the plan changed later on for some reason. Once again “Rock” refers to the callsign of the alert fighters.
The next round of audio is from Seattle Center’s Manager In Charge of Operation, in which he investigates the incident minutes after it happened. He is heard talking with airline pilots who had visual contact on the mysterious white aircraft.
First we hear about the big question as to who “requested” the scramble, as according to the call, it has to come from FAA headquarters. The manager floats the idea, in retrospect, of having the airliners keep a visual on the craft instead of allowing them to descending into PDX, at least until the F-15s show up, but the FAA official swats that down as they didn’t know what the aircraft was, “if they are equipped with anything” or its intentions. She reiterates that getting the military involved was a good idea but that it should have come from FAA headquarters over the DEN. The manager reminds her again that he doesn’t know who requested military assistance and that Oakland Center told him to call WADS initially.
Next we hear from Oakland Center again, at first discussing who ordered the scramble, but then the conversation goes into talking about what actually happened. Both agree that there was “definitely something out there” with the Oakland Center controller saying the aircraft first appeared going southbound at high speed before executing an abrupt maneuver and then “took off northbound.” Even figuring out how to report the encounter seems totally foreign to both higher ranking controllers, with one stating “I have a feeling someone is going to go through this with a fine-tooth comb.”
Then we get into the pilot interviews over the phone, with the manager’s intention being for each crew to write up a report detailing their individual perspective of the incident. During the call with United 612 there are some odd dropped moments, but the pilot describes the encounter, stating that he was too far away to make out the type. The next call, with Alaska Airlines 525, also doesn’t reveal much as the crew says they never were able to see it, but the crew of Skywest 3478 did, although he didn’t have much to add.
The call with the pilot of Southwest 4712 was by far the most interesting. He immediately notes how strange the encounter was and how he has never seen an incident like it in nearly 30 years of flying jets. The pilot noted, “if it was like a Lear (private jet) type airframe I probably would not have seen it this clear. This was a white airplane and it was big. And it was moving at a clip too, because we were keeping pace with it, it was probably moving faster than we were… It was a larger aircraft yeah.” He also said they watched the object from Northern California all the way to their descent into Portland.
The manager’s final call, was with the FAA’s Quality Assurance Group, who is taken by surprise by the details surrounding the event, and especially with the fact that nobody still knew what the aircraft was or where it ended up. “Wow that’s weird” is the operative quote by the FAA official, which is insightful to say the least as these people deal with unique incidents that occur in American airspace on a daily basis. The manager agreed with the sentiment and noted that it wasn’t some small aircraft and it was moving fast, outpacing a 737 cruising nearby. The official also says that the incident should be classified as “potentially significant” on reporting documents. She even said that this was “a weird enough thing that there is not a set procedure… It’s not often we hear about an unknown guy up at that altitude.”
And lastly, The War Zone concludes:
Collectively these materials give us incredible insight not only into this incident, but also into how such an event is actually handled in real-time by those who are responsible for the safety of those in the air and those on ground below. What they don’t offer is any sort of an explanation for what happened on that fall evening. But really, the fact that all those involved, from air traffic controllers, to Air Force radar operators, to airline pilots, and even special FAA officials tasked with responding to all types of out of the ordinary incidents that occur in the sky on a daily basis seem just as puzzled with this event as we are makes the story all that much more intriguing.
The FOIA request of FAA audio and video provides an interesting view of what government officials saw and heard during the incident over the skies of California and Oregon on October 25.
While there is no definitive answer of what and where the mysterious aircraft came from. We should point out that the United States is in a fierce race for hypersonic technologies against China and Russia. Considering Area-51 is some 500-miles away from the incident, it would not of shocked us that the mysterious aircraft is, in fact, a hypersonic airplane from DARPA.
Nevertheless, some speculate the aircraft was likely to be the top-secret B-21 “Raider” of the US Air Force, a next-generation stealth bomber.