SHORTLY after the copilot told the AARTCC, at 5:23:05, that
the clouds were "below us", he reported a new
and sudden event:
JAL16298 And now the target, ah, traffic is extinguished.
We cannot see it now.
5:23:19 AARTCC JAL1628 Roger. And I'm not receiving any
IT was probably at this time that the "two ships"
which had been quite close to the plane since 5:18 or 5:19
PM suddenly moved farther away and to the left. Looking
to the left the captain could now see that "there was
a pale white flat light in the direction where the ships
flew away, moving in a line along with us, in the same direction
and same speed and at the same altitude as we were."(2)
ABOUT this time the AARTCC controller decided to find out
if the Air Force at Elmendorf Regional Operational Control
Center had anything on its radar.
AARTCC (to the ROCC) Could you look approximately forty
miles south of Fort Yukon? There should be (JAL1628) up
there. Can you tell me (if) you see (a) primary target and
IT took the ROCC operator about two minutes to answer the
question. In the meantime, significant events occurred aboard
the plane and at the AARTCC.
IT was now about 14 1/2 minutes since Capt. Terauchi had
first seen the lights traveling along with his plane, about
6 to 7 minutes since the lights had appeared abruptly in
the plane, and only a minute or so since the "ships"
quickly moved away from the jet, apparently in the direction
of the "flat pale white light" (2) which the captain
later described as like "two white fluorescent-like
lights. (12) The captains drawing indicates
that the lights were horizontally oriented and spaced apart,
like two long fluorescent tubes end-to-end but with a large
dark gap in between them. (See Figure 5a. Figure 5b is the
captains map to illustrate the location of the airplane
along its flight track in Alaska when the traffic
first appeared at the left - 1, when the traffic appeared
in front of the airplane - 2 and when the traffic departed
and the two white lights appeared at the left - 3. The illustrations
in Figure 5 were drawn several hours after the sighting.)
this time in the flight he could only see the two white
lights. He was not sure whether the two "ships"
had become pale white lights after they moved away from
the jet or if the white lights were something entirely different.
(He reported that later in the flight that he could see
the outline of a large shape connecting the lights. After
seeing the outline the captain had the impression that the
distant lights were on a very large "mothership"
and that the two small "ships" had traveled to
the "mothership."(1)) It was difficult for the
other crew members to see the pale lights through the left
window and they didn't try to describe any particular orientation
or shape to the lights. They did, however, agree that there
were some lights at the left where the pilot indicated.
UP to this time the AARTCC had not acknowledged the detection
of any anomalous target on the ground radar. Terauchi recalled
his feelings at the time: "We had (earlier) said we
could see lights in the 10 o'clock position (i.e., about
60 degrees to the left) at the same altitude and wondered
if they could see anything on their radar. The Anchorage
Center replied that they could see nothing on their radar."
(See the response from the AARTCC at 5:23:19.) Copilot Tamefuji
recalled that, even though the lights were now farther away,
the captain decided to "search the object by the (airplane's)
TERAUCHI wrote (2), " I thought it would be impossible
to find anything on an aircraft radar if a large ground
radar did not show anything, but I judged the distance of
the object visually and it was not very far. I set the digital
weather radar distance to 20 (nautical) miles, radar angle
to horizon (i.e., no depression angle). There it was on
the screen. A large green and round object (here he refers
to the image or "blip" on the radar screen) had
appeared at 7 or 8 miles (13 km to 15 km) away, where the
direction of the object was. We reported to Anchorage center
that our radar caught the object within 7 or 8 miles in
the 10 o'clock position. We asked them if they could catch
it on ground radar but it did not seem they could catch
it at all."(21) During the January interview Terauchi
recalled that the radar detection occurred about 15 minutes
after he first saw the lights, i.e., at about 5:25 PM. He
was only slightly in error.
AARTCC JAL1628, do you still have, uh, visual contact with
the, ah, traffic?
5:24:53 JAL1628 Affirmative. Also, (4) we (have) radar contact,
ah...(unintelligible; broken transmission).
5:25:02 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, roger, sir. I'm picking up
a hit on the radar approximately five miles in trail of
your six o'clock position (i.e., behind the plane). Do you
(Note: this was probably a silly question to ask since the
crew could not see behind the plane. However, it is the
first indication that the Elmendorf radar may have detected
something other than the plane.)
5:25:12 JAL1628 Ah, negative, ah, 11 o'clock, ah, eight
miles, ah, same level. Over.
A month and a half later the captain did not remembered
the direction exactly (see above; he recalled the 10 o'clock
position) but he had recalled the distance correctly (this
is an important check on the accuracy of his recall).
FLIGHT engineer Tsukuba recalled seeing on the radar screen
at "about 10 miles" a "green dot like, not
exactly a dot. It was not a dot but stream like", i.e.,
elongated. He did "not think it (the radar target)
was the same lights as the one (sic) I saw in front of us."
Here the flight engineer is referring to the visual difference
between the two bright "ships" which had been
nearly in front of the jet and the pale whitish light of
the "mothership." Tsukjuba described this "second"
light as "very difficult to see" and "vague,"
although he did indicate that he saw it for "a total
of 30 minutes." (10)
ACCORDING to Tsukuba (and also the pilot and copilot) there
was no problem with internal cockpit lights reflecting off
the windows since the internal lights had all been turned
off (except the dim instrument lights). Tsukuba was sure
that the "mothership" light was indeed outside
the aircraft, but it was sufficiently indistinct and "hard
to see" from his seat on the right side of the jet
that he was "not certain whether it was lights of a
distant town or a strange object." (10) He reported
that the weather was clear and that none of his instruments
showed any disturbances.
COPILOT Tamefuji recalled that the radar echo was "just
like other traffic, but, ah, I thought a little bit large."
He said the radar target image was green and at a distance
of 7 to
8 miles (nautical). He said he had "many experiences
before in checking oncoming aircrafts on a radar" and
in his opinion the radar echo was similar to a conventional
SEVERAL hours after the sighting the captain, who had the
best view of the radar screen, drew a picture of the radar
image. (7) His illustration, Figure 6, shows a filled circle
at the center of a thick arc that covered ten or so degrees
of arc. The image was roughly the 60 degree to the left
of straight ahead. (The radar screen was marked with circles
at varying distance, 5 mi., 10 mi, 15 mi., etc., and the
image of the unknown was an arc lying between the 5 and
10 mile circles.) In commenting on the radar image the captain
pointed out that "normally it appears in red when an
aircraft radar catches another aircraft" whereas green
is usually the color of a weak weather target such as a
cloud. The fact that the echo was green on the screen led
him to ask whether or not the "metal used in the spaceship
is different from ours."(2) One might also speculate
on the use of radar signature reduction techniques generally
calssified as "stealth." At any rate, the shape,
size and color of the radar target indicated that the object
was quite large and yet quite a weak reflector.
THE radar target remained on the screen for an undetermined
length of time, but probably for no more than several minutes.
"While we were communicating with Anchorage Center,"
the captain said, "the two pale white lights gradually
moved to the left side and to the left diagonally back 30
degrees as if they understood our conversation and then
when they were beside our aircraft (i.e., at about the 9
o'clock position or 90 degrees to the left) they totally
disappeared from our radar." This is not surprising
since the weather radar as it scans back and forth does
not cover an arc greater than 90 degrees to the left or
WHILE the "mother ship" lights were dropping back
to the left and the radar echo was going off the screen
of the airplane radar, the Air Force and the AARTCC were
having their own radar detections. At 5:25:45, after spending
two minutes looking, the ROCC radar controller reported
back to the AARTCC that he was getting some "surge
primary return." By this he meant an occasional radar
echo unaccompanied by a transponder signal. (It is important
to understand the difference between "primary return"
and a transponder return. On the radar screen each appears
as a small dot or "blip" and if a plane with a
transponder is present the two blips appear together (if
one is not masked out). Primary radar, which is the standard
echo-based radar, is the only way of detecting a distant
aircraft that has no transponder. It is what one would expect
to use to detect "non-cooperative" objects which
don't have transponder, such as UFOs!. A transponder is
a transmitter on an airplane which sends out a coded signal
in response to a radar pulse from the ground station. All
commercial planes carry transponders as the main means of
detection by the ground controllers. The transponder can
carry more information than just the echo, such as the plane
designation and its altitude. In this case the JAL1628 carried
a transponder. Therefore the radar operator would expect
to see two adjacent blips each
time the radar beam, in its continuous rotatory sweep mode,
would sweep past the airplane. Any primary return without
a transponder return would be evidence of a radar reflective
object without a transponder. The difference between primary
radar and transponder signals played a roll in the FAA "explanation"
of the radar detections described below.)
THE ROCC controller added, "I don't know if it's erroneous
or whatever, but..." The AARTCC responded:
AARTCC Negative, its not erroneous. I want you to keep a
good track on there and if you pick up a (transponder signal),
verify that you do not have any (military) aircraft operating
in that area.
5:25:57 ROCC That is affirm(ative). We do not have anybody
up there right now. Can you give me the position of the
primary you're receiving?
5:26:03 AARTCC I'm picking up a primary approximately 50
miles southeast. But it's right in front of the (JAL1628).
Unfortunately the AARTCC controller did not say what the
primary return was southeast of (I know; don't end a sentence
with a preposition!). He may have meant something southeast
of Ft. Yukon, since it was displayed as a location on his
radar screen. At this time the plane was roughly 60 nm south
southwest, relative to geographic north, of Ft. Yukon. But
with respect to magnetic north (which is used on air route
maps), the plane was southeast of Ft. Yukon. (The reason
for this difference in direction is that in that area of
Alaska magnetic north has a deviation of about 30 degrees
clockwise from true geographic north.)
THE conversation continued as follows:
ROCC OK. I've got him about....
5:26:15 AARTCC Eight miles in front of the (JAL1628) he's
got traffic at the same altitude (35,000 fty).
5:26:18 ROCC OK. I've got him about his, ah, oh, it looks
like about, ah, 10 o'clock at about that range, yes.
THE clear implication of the last ROCC comment is that the
Elmendorf radar showed a primary return - an object without
a transponder - in about the same location as the captain
reported! (Keep this in mind as you read the FAA "explanation"
presented farther on in this paper.) The AARTCC then asked
the ROCC to check on any military flights in the area around
the plane and ended the conversation at 5:26:35.
ABOUT a minute later AARTCC called ROCC to report that the
"target in front of the (JAL1628) is unknown to us."(4)
ROCC reponded (5:27:53), "OK. We've lost contact with
it now. The AARTCC controller then went on to say, "OK.
We're not working that aircraft (meaning the unknown target)
in the...(unintelligible)... well, the aircraft (JAL1628)
still has a visual contact, only he can't identify the (unknown)
aircraft. He believes it has white and yellow strobes."
To this the ROCC controller responded (5:28:04), "OK.
I'm still not, I, we lost contact on him. I don't see him
at all. " In other words, there was no longer an unknown
primary return on the ROCC radar display.
DURING this conversation the flight was continuing along
a straight line heading of 215 degrees (southwestward) toward
Talkeetna. The unusual lights were at the left side. The
captain recalled, "When they were in front of us they
were positioned slightly higher in altitude than we were,
but now they placed themselves slightly below the horizon
where it was difficult to see. The distance between us was
still about seven to eight miles visually." The airplane
radar no longer showed a radar echo since the lights were
too far to the left. (7)
MANY minutes earlier, when the sighting began (about 5:10
PM), Ft. Yukon was at the right of the plane. The captain
recalled the lighting conditions of the sky at the time:
"When we started to see Ft. Yukon diagonally below
us at the right the sun was setting down in the Southwest,
painting the sky in a slightly red stripe , approximately
two to three millimeters (at arms length?) and gave a bit
of light but the east was still pitch dark."
A calculation of the angular elevation and azimuth of the
sun shows that at the time of the intial sighting the sun
was about 15 degrees below the horizon, from ground level,
and was at an azimuth of about 270 degrees, or due west.
This would place it below the horizon and 55 degrees to
the right of straight ahead of the plane. Thus the astronomical
calculation shows that the captain was incorrect in referring
to the sunset direction as "southwest" although
he wasn't far off. The calculation is consistent with the
claim of the captain and crew that the sun had set and that
there was a thin reddish stripe of sky just at the horizon
to the right of straight ahead.
UNDER these conditions the sky to the left of the plane
would have been very dark and stars would have been visible.
The nearly full moon which had lighted the sky while the
plane was over Greenland was now behind the plane at an
azimuth of about 50 degrees and an elevation of about 10
degrees. Two planets were visible above the horizon in the
southeast: Jupiter at an azimuth of about 140 degrees and
an elevation of somewhat more than 11 degrees and Mars at
about the same azimuth but only several degrees above the
horizon. Jupiter was quite bright and Mars was much dimmer.
Jupiter and Mars were 70 degrees to the left of straight
ahead as the plane flew southwestward.
BY the time the "small ships" had moved away from
the aircraft and the ROCC had detected some "surge
primary return" near the jet, the sun was several more
degrees below the horizon, the sky in the southeast was
darker and the plane was well south of Ft. Yukon. The captain
picks up the narrative: "Far in front of us there were
lights increasing from the U.S. Military Eielson AFB and
Fairbanks." Each was about 40 miles away at this time.
"The lights were still following us at exactly the
same distance. However, it was too dark to identify by only
the lights whether or not they were the same spaceships
that were flying in front of us a few minutes ago. It seemed
that we were flying on the lighter side and gave them the
advantage of being on the dark side."
THAT is, from the viewpoint of the supposed "mothership"
the airplane was silhouetted against the light western sky,
but the crew of the jet could not see the outline of the
mothership because it was silhouetted against
the dark sky in the east. The captain was able to see only
the faint lights from the mothership.
AS the plane approached Eielson Air Force Base and Fairbanks
the captain saw two very bright lights appear
suddenly from the north...perhaps four or five mountains
away. He speculated at the time what these might be.
He couldnt identify all the normal ground lights because
the "flight above Alaska territory is generally in
daytime and it is confusing to identify the kind of lights"
on the ground. He finally decided that the lights were along
the Alaska pipe line.
CONTINUING his narrative, Capt. Terauchi recalled, "We
arrived at the sky above Eielson AFB and Fairbanks."
(Actually, at this time, about 5:30 PM, the plane was about
20 miles northeast of Eielson and about 30 miles east-northeast
of Fairbanks.) "The lights (of the city) were extremely
bright to eyes that were used to the dark." (The cockpit
lights had been turned off to eliminate window reflections
of internal lights.) "We were just above the bright
city lights and we checked the pale white light behind us.
Alas! There was a silhouette of a gigantic spaceship. We
must run away quickly! 'Anchorage Center. The is JAL1628
requesting a change of course to right 45 degrees."
It felt like a long time before we received permission."(2)
Actually it took only 15 seconds to get permission, as the
transcript of the AARTCC tape recording shows. But it did
take longer to actually begin the turn (see Figure 7 which
illustrates the flight track and the locations of the airplane
at specific times).
JAL1628 (very broken communication; unintelligible)
5:30:20 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, you're coming in broken. Say
5:30:23 JAL1628 Request, ah, deviate, ah, ah, from, ah,
object, ah, request heading two four zero.
5:30:52 AARTCC JAL1628 Roger. Fly heading two four zero.
Jal1628 heavy, deviations approved as necessary for traffic.
since the controller knew that there were no other known
aircraft in the sky it was OK for JAL1628 to go anywhere
it wanted to avoid "traffic")
JAL1628 It's, ah, quite big...
5:30:52 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, you're still broken. Say again.
5:30:56 JAL1628 It's, ah, very quite big, ah, plane.
THE radar tracking data show that by asking for a magnetic
heading of 240 degrees Tamefuji was requesting a 60 degree
turn to the right. At 5:31:08, about 50 seconds after Tamefuji
called for permission to turn, the plane began to turn from
its magnetic heading of 182 (+/-1) degrees (about 215 degrees
with respect to geographic north). By 5:32:08 the plane
had settled on its new heading of 222 degrees magnetic (255
true), a turn of 40 degrees, which is close to the 45 degrees
which the captain recalled, but less than the 60 degrees
requested by Tamefuji.
THE captain's narrative continues after the right turn:
"We checked our rear (and) there was still the ship
following us. 'This JAL1628. Again requesting for change
course 45 degrees to the right.' We had to get away from
that object. 'JAL1628. This is Anchorage Center. We advise
you, continue and take 360 degree turn.' 'Jal1628, thank
you. we will continue 360 degree turn."(2)
UNFORTUNATELY the captain was not totally accurate in his
recall of these apparently frightening events. The AARTCC
transcript shows that there was no request for a second
right turn. There was, however, a request for a descent
in altitude from 35,000 to 31,000 ft at 5:32:07 followed
by a request to turn to a heading of "two one zero,
" i.e. about a 12 degree turn to the left, at 5:34:56.
Later on, at 5:36:37 the AARTCC controiller asked the plane
to make a 360 degree right turn. But all of this is getting
ahead of the story.
SO, what was it that the captain saw that caused this "flight
response?" What did he mean by the "silhouette
of a gigantic spaceship?" The term silhouette is applied
to a situation in which the observer sees the outline of
a relatively dark object against a brighter background,
or vice versa. The location of the plane just before the
turn was northeast of Eielson AFB and roughly east of Fairbanks.
East of Eielson there are no cities, just mountains. Looking
behind and to the left, then, the pilot was looking away
from city lights. This would mean that anything in the sky
at an altitude somewhat below that of the plane would not
be silhouetted against a bright backround. Something above
the horizon, however, might have been silhouetted against
a slightly bright sky since the moon (on the horizon behind
the plane) brightened the sky. Perhaps what happened is
that before this time the "spaceship" was below
the altitude of the airplane and thus silhouetted against
the dark earth (and so the captain could only see the pale
white lights) but at this time the "spaceship"
moved upward and was above the horizon and the captain could
now see its silhouette against the slightly glowing sky.
Alternatively., perhaps what the captain saw was a reflection
of ground lights off the object and thus was able to see
its outline silouetted against a dark background. At any
rate, he got the impression that the object was bigger than
his airplane, so big, in fact, that in public statements
he compared it to the size of an aircraft carrier! He could
still see the horizontal pale white lights, as illustrated
in Figure 5a, but he could now also see other structure
as illustrated in Figure 8, which was drawn about a month
and a half after the event.
after the plane turned to the right, the AARTCC controller
called the Fairbanks Approach Radar controller to find out
whether or not the short range radar had a target near the
JAL. The approach radar reported no target other than JAL1628.
AFTER the right turn the plane was flying on a heading of
about 255 degrees (true) and was about 20 miles north of
Eielson AFB and 30 miles east of Fairbanks (see Figures
1 and 7). At 5:32 PM, the conversation between the controller
and JAL1628 continued:
JAL1628 JAL1628, ah, request descent.
5:32:20 JAL1628 JAL1628 Request three one zero. (i.e., 31,000
5:32:25 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, understand. Requesting flight
level three one zero.
5:32:34 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, your transmissions are broken.
5:32:39 JAL1628 Flgith level three one zero.
5:32:41 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, descend at pilot discretion.
Maintain flight level three one zero.
5:32:45 JAL1628 Leaving three five zero to three one zero.
(The descent begins)
THE tracking data show that the plane descended from 35,000
ft to 31,000 ft over the next four minutes, reaching the
lower altitude when the plane was almost due south of Fairbanks
and just before it entered the 360 degree turn.
AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, do you still have your traffic?
5:33:00 JAL1628 Still, ah, coming, ah, ah, right in formation,
in ah, formation.
5:33:07 AARTCC JAL1628, understand.
A minute and a half went by, during which time the plane
flew on a straight heading whlile decreasing in altitude.
Then the AARTCC decided to find out what had happened to
AARTCC Jal1628 heavy, say position of your traffic.
5:34:42 JAL 1628 Affirmative. Just over Fairbanks .
5:34:52 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, understood. Your traffic is
over Fairbanks at this time.
5:34:56 JAL1628 Affirmative, ah, requesting heading two
5:35:02 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, roger. Deviations approved
as necessary for traffic.
THIS portion of the audio tape transcript shows that the
captain was incorrect in recalling a second right turn.
Instead, the plane turned left about 12 degrees beginning
at 5:35:09 and it continued to turn as if it were heading
back in the direction of Talkeetna. By the time of the left
turn, the altitude had decreased to about 33,000 ft.
THE statement at 5:34:42 that the object was "over
Fairbanks" could not be correct if the object were
at the left side of the plane because at that time, Fairbanks
was still ahead and somewhat to the right.
AARTCC JAL1628, say altitude of your traffic.
5:35:20 JAL1628 Ah, oh, ah, ah, same level.
ANOTHER minute passed by during which time the AARTCC called
the Fairbanks approach radar again and once again the approach
radar reported no target other than the JAL1628 itself.
The copilot indicated that he wanted to resume his flight
straight directly to Talkeetna:
JAL1628 Ah, Anchorage Center, JAL1628. Request direct to
5:36:18 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, cleared direct to Talkeetna
and in, ah, advise me of your (sic) position of your traffic.
5:36:24 JAL1628 Ah, same po... same position.
IN other words it appeared that the "traffic"
had stayed in the same position relative to the aircraft
and had descended with the aircraft to an altitude which
was about 31,200 ft. (3) The AARTCC decided it was time
to "test" this unusual "traffic."
AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, sir. I'm gonna request you to make
a right turn three six zero degrees, 360 degree turn and
advise me what your traffic does then.
5:36:47 JAL1628 Right turn 360.
THE plane commenced the turn at anbout 5:37:15. The pilot,
in his testimony written a month and a half later, recalled
this event: " We had to get away from that object.
'JAL1628. This is Anchorage Center. We advise you, continue
and take a 360 degree turn.' 'JAL1628, thank you. We will
continue 360 degree turn.' It was too slow to circle in
the automatic pilot mode; therefore we switched to the manual
mode and set to turn right on a 30 degree bank. We looked
to our right forward but did not see any light." (Note:
if an object initially behind the plane remained stationary
as the plane turned to the right it would first be seen
by the copilot on the right side.) "We were relieved,
thinking the object may have left us and (we) returned to
level flight, but when we checked to our rear the object
was still there in exactly the same place" (i.e., after
the turn was complete it was seen again, by the captain,
far to the left rear of the plane).
WHEN the plane began the turn the AARTCC communicated with
the ROCC. At 5:37:23, the ROCC confirmed that no military
aircraft were "working up there" and at 5:37:30
that there was no "traffic" on the radar screen.
AARTCC then called the plane again. By this time, the plane
had been turning for about a minute and a half. It would
take several more minutes to complete the turn.
AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, sir. Does your traffic appear to be
staying with you?
5:38:57 JAL1628 Ah, (unintelligible) distinguished. (He
5:39:01 AARTCC JAL1628 say again?
5:39:04 JAL1628 It, ah, disappeared.
5:39:10 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, roger. At your discretion
proceed directly to Talkeetna, J125 (to) Anchorage.
THE "mothership" was behind and to the left before
the right turn. Therefore there were three possible outcomes
of the turn assuming that the object didn't just "disappear":
(a) if the object remained stationary while the plane turned
it would initially "disappear" from the left side
and then reappear nearly behind the plane but on the right
hand side after 30 seconds to minute of turning; (b) if
the object also made a right hand turn but did so on the
"outside" of the airplane's turn (i.e., at a much
larger turning radius) then it would stay to the left and
behind and be continually visible at the left; (c) if the
object also made a right turn but trailed behind the airplane
it would remain invisible during the turn.
THE fact that it "disappeared" very soon after
the plane started the turn indicates that the "mothership"
did not make a turn on the outside of the turn of the plane.
On the other hand, the captain and copilot recall that they
looked out the right hand side to see if it would reappear
during the turn, but they did not see it. Therefore it may
have trailed the aircraft during the turn. But it did not
stay directly behind the aircraft after the turn because
the captain recalled that after the turn had been completed
and they were again heading southward "we" (the
captain, since he was the only one who could see to the
left and behind) "checked to our rear and the object
was still there in exactly the same place."
THE conclusion that the object may have trailed behind during
the turn is consistent with a radar report made at the time.
While the plane was turning the ROCC confirmed an anomalous
radar target in the vicinity of the plane. (Note: some of
the times given below do not agree with the times in the
FAA transcript. This is because some of the transcript times
are in error. The times given below agree with the FAA-supplied
tape recording of the conversations between the FAA controllers,
ROCC and the aircraft.)
AARTCC Anchorage Center.
5:38:58 ROCC Ya, this is one dash two again. On some other
equipment here we have confirmed there is a flight size
of two around. One primary return only.
5:39:05 AARTCC OK. Where is, is he following him?
5:39:07 ROCC It looks like he is, yes.
5:39:10 AARTCC OK. Standby.
THE use of the phrase "flight of two" indicated
that, on the radar screen, the JAL 1628 had a companion.
That companion appeared as a primary return only (no transponder).
Moreover, it appeared to the ROCC that the companion was
"following" that is, it was behind the plane.
SOON after the ROCC confirmed a "flight of two,"
the AARTCC resumed communication with the plane:
AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, roger, at your discretion proceed
direct to Talkeetna J125, Anchorage. (Note: J125 is a flight
5:39:15 JAL1628 (unintelligible)
5:39:35 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, roger sir. The military radar
advises they do have a primary target in trail of you at
5:39:32 JAL1628 Ah, say again?
5:39:35 AARTCC JAl1628 heavy. Military radar advises they
are picking up intermittent primary target behind you in
trail, in trail I say again.
5:39:47 JAL1628 I think so.
WHILE one of the AARTCC air traffic controllers was conversing
with the plane another one was continuing to converse with
AARTCC OK. Do you want to, do you have anybody you can scramble
up there or do you want to do that?
5:39:30 ROCC Ill tell you what. Were going to
talk to the liaison officer about that.
5:39:33 AARTCC OK. Uh, its starting to concern Japan
Airline 1628, a 747. Hes making a 360 now and its
5:39:46 ROCC Where is this search (radar) return at, right
behind him or where?
5:39:50 AARTCC Say again?
5:38:51 ROCC Ah, Im gonna talk to my other radar man
here has gotta, hes got some other equipment watching
5:39:54 AARTCC OK.
5:39:55 ROCC OK. Were going to call the military desk
AT this point, the conversation with the ROCC ended and
the plane was contacted again.
AARTCC JAL1628, Anchorage Center.
5:40:12 JAL1628 Go ahead.
5:40:13 AARTCC Roger Sir. Would you like our military to
scramble on the traffic?
5:40:17 JAL1628 Negative. Negative.
CAPTAIN Terauchis immediate reaction to the offer
of military assistance was to decline it. In his testimony
he recalled the event and explained his reaction:
JAL1628, This is Anchorage center. Would you like
to request scramble for confirmation? The Anchorage
Center, this is JAL1628. We would not request scramble.
We turned down the offer quickly. I knew that in the past
there was a U.S. military fighter called the Mustang that
had flown up high for a confirmation and a tragedy had happened
to it. Even the F-15 with the newest technology had no guarantee
of safety against the creature with an unknown degree of
scientific technology. (Note: his reference to a Mustang
flying high and a tragedy may be a reference
to the Mantell case of January, 1948 when Mantell flew his
F-51 to such a high altitude that he, apparently, blacked
out while chasing some huge shiny object that was very high
in the sky. This was subsquently explained, with a high
degree of probability of being correct, as a high altitude
DESPITE the immediate negative reply the AARTCC was persistent:
AARTCC Jal1628 heavy, sir, we do have military ah, at Eielson,
40 miles away. I can put them up and let them check the
traffic for you.
5:40:34 JAL1628 Roger.
5:40:35 AARTCC JAL1628, roger. Would you like us to do that?
AT this time a military aircraft referred to as TOTEM, which
was not a fighter aircraft but was already in the air, offered
to check out the traffic. The transmission was somewhat
garbled, however, and the AARTCC controller thought he was
hearing JAL1628. JAL1628 was also confused momentarily:
TOTEM Anchorage Center, you have TOTEM 71 up here. We might
be able to get close to him.
5:40:48 AARTCC JAL1628, you were broken. Say again.
5:40:55 JAL1628 Ah, say again?
5:40:59 AARTCC JAL1628 Your transmission was broken, sir.
We do have military aircraft in your vicinity that we can,
ah, check on the , ah, traffic with you.
5:41:07 JAL1628 Ah, JAL1628. No radar traffic above.
(This last statement seems to make no sense in the context
of the conversation. Perhaps Mr. Tamefuji did not correctly
understand what the AARTCC had said.) It was now one minute
since the AARTCC had been directed the plane to fly directly
to Talkeetna. At that time, 5:39:10, the plane was about
1/3 of the way around the circle (see Figure 7). Finally
at 5:42:04 the plane responded. By this time it was 3/4
of the way around the circle.
JAL1628 Anchorage Center, JAL1628. Confirm direct to Talkeetna
three one zero.
5:42:09 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy. Affirmative. Direct to Talkeetna
and descend at pilots discretion. Maintain flight
level two five zero.
5:42:16 JAL1628 Ah, pilots discretion. Two five zero.
WHILE the plane was being directed to Talkeetna the AARTCC
and the ROCC continued discussing the radar targets.
AARTCC Wheres that, ah, are you still painting a primary,
ah, by that JAL flight?
5:41:56 ROCC OK. Let me look at my other....
5:41:59 AARTCC If so, wheres the position of it?
5:42:00 ROCC OK. Standby.
5:42:24 ROCC It looks like, ah, offset left and then possibility
fell back in trail. However, I cant see him now. I
cant pick him out.
WHILE this conversation was going on Capt. Terauchi was
looking to his left and backwards. It was there again!
JAL1628 Ah, we have...Anchorage Center, JAL1628. We have
in sight same position, over.
5:42:42 AARTCC JAL1628, understand. In sight, same position.
THIS statement, made as the plane was just coming out of
the turn to head southward from near Fairbanks toward Anchorage
(see Figure 7), indicates, as described previously that
the mothership may have followed behind the
plane. The captain remembered the events this way: The
consumption of fuel during this flight was almost as expected
but there was only 3,800 pounds left and as such was not
enough for extra flying for running around. We have got
to arrive at Anchorage. At this point from in his
testimony the captain recalled the direction from the AARTCC
to proceed directly to Talkeetna. But he thought that the
plane had initiated the request. He continued, We
checked behind us again. The ship was in formation and ascending
with us. We wondered and feared as to their purpose.
The word ascending should have been descending ( the plane
never ascended during the sighting according to the tracking
data) and furthermore, it is in the wrong temporal location
in the testimony because the descent occurred before, not
after the turn. (The captain incorrectly recalled the descent
as occurring after the turn.)
HIS testimony continues at this point with his recollection
of the query about a scramble of a military jet. But according
to the transcript, the discussion of a scramble came before
the plane completed the turn rather than after, as the captain
ABOUT a minute and a half later the AARTCC decided to find
out whether or not the traffic was still with the plane.
AARTCC JAL1628, sir, do you still have the traffic?
5:44:12 JAL1628 Ah, say again pease.
5:44:13 ARTCC JAL1628 heavy.. Do you still have the traffic?
5:44:17 JAL1628 Ah, affirmative, ah, nine oclock.
CAPTAIN Terauchi recalled the reappearance of the mothership.
We flew toward Talkeetna at an altitude of 31,000
ft. The spaceship was still following us, not leaving us
BY this time the plane was completely out of the turn and
headed southward toward Talkeetna. At about 5:40 a United
Airlines passenger jet took off from Anchorage and headed
north to Fairbanks. Several minutes later it reported being
at 29,000 feet and on a 350 degree (magnetic) heading. The
AARTCC controller decided to ask the UA pilot if he could
see anything behind the JAL flight. At 5:44:43 he called
the UA pilot to say that the JAL flight was in his 11 oclock
position and 110 nm north and he has traffic following
him, sir. Its unknown traffic... I want you to see
if you see anything with him. The UA pilot said he
would look when he got closer. The controller asked the
JAL flight to stay at 31,000 ft and the UA flight to stay
at 29,000 ft. He then directed the UA flight to turn some
more so that the planes would pass within five miles of
AARTCC JAL1628 heavy. Maintain flight level three one zero.
5:46:54 JAL1628 maintain three one zero.
5:46:59 AARTCC JAL1628, roger. Im gonna have a United
aircraft get close to you and take a look, ah, to see if
he can identify your traffic.
5:47:06 JAL1628 Thank you.
SEVERAL minutes later the planes were much closer together
and closing on one another rapidly (the separation was decreasing
at rate between 15 an 20 nm per minute).
UNITED 69. Can you please point the traffic out again please?
5:48:19 AARTCC United 69 heavy, affirmative. The, ah, Japan
Air is in your eleven oclock position and five zero
(50) miles (away), southbound.
5:48:28 UNITED 69 Ah, roger. Thank you.
5:48:31 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, sir, Say the position of your
5:48:34 JAL1628 Ah, now, ah, ah, moving to, ah, around 10
miles now, ah, ah, position, ah seven, ah, eight oclock,
5:48:36 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, roger.
AS the planes approached each other in the dark sky the
mothership apparently dropped back, allowing
the JAL plane to get far ahead. Of course the 10 miles distance
was only the pilots guess. The object was too far
back to be detected on the airplane radar, which would give
an accurate distance. The United pilot asked the AARTCC
to have the JAL pilot flash the headlights on the JAL aircraft
so he could locate the plane. At 5:49:45 the JAL pilot did
that. At this time the planes were about 25 miles apart.
TERAUCHI says that at about the time that his plane headed
toward Talkeetna after the 360 turn, a United Airline
passenger jet which left Anchorage to Fairbanks flew into
the same air zone and began communicating with Anchorage
center. We heard them transmitting that there was an object
near JAL1628 and requesting for confirmation. We heard the
Anchorage Center was saying to the United Airline aircraft
that JAL1628 was at an altitude of 31,000 ft and therefore
the United aircraft should maintain 33,000 ft. (Actually
the transcript shows that the UA altitude wa 29,000 ft.)
It sounded as if Anchorage Center had the United Airline
aircraft fly above the spaceship. We were flying the east
side of Mt. McKinley. The United Airline aircraft came close
to us. The United Airline aircraft requested us to flash
our landing lights for visual confirmation and we both confirmed
our positions visually. The United Airlines aircraft was
coming close to us. We knew that they were watching us.
When the United plane came by our side the spaceship disappeared
suddenly and there was nothing left but the light of the
WHEN the planes were about 12 miles apart and still approaching
one another, the UA plane reported seeing the JAL plane
and nothing else. By this time the mothership
had apparently disappeared:
UA69 UA69 heavy. Weve got the Japan Airliner in sight.
I dont see anybody around him. Hes (referring
to the spaceship) at his seven oclock
5:50:46 AARTCC UA69, thats what he says. JAL1628 heavy,
say the position of your traffic now.
5:50:52 JAL1628 Ah, now, distinguishing (he meant to say
extinguishing), but, ah, ah, your, I guess,
ah, 12 oclock below you.
5:51:02 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, say again. Youre broken.
5:51:06 JAL1628 Just ahead of United, ah..(unintelligible)
THE above conversation appears to confirm Terauchis
later recollection that the object disappeared when the
two planes got close to one another. The copilot used the
word distinguishing and followed this with I
guess 12 oclock below you. Previously he had
used the word distinguished when he meant extinguished,
or no longer visible, because the object had disappeared
shortly after the 360 turn began (see 5:38:57 and 5::39:04
above). Apparently, he meant extinguishing or
extinguished at this time as well. Furthermore,
if the object had been still visible he would not have said
I guess 12 oclock below you. because the
captain would have been able to see where the object was
relative to the UA jet. Thus it appears that the object/light
had disappeared by 5:51 when the planes were still about
12 miles apart.
IT is also interesting to note that the copilot used the
words below you which suggests that at that
time the JAL flight crew thought that the UA plane was above
their altitude. This is as the captain remembered it. Perhaps
they did not hear the controller tell the UA plane to maintain
AT 5:51:32, after the planes had passed one another, the
UA plane reported being able to see the JAL plane silhouetted
against the sky. The UA captain could see the contrail as
well as the jet but nothing else. The controller responded,
We got just a few primary hits on the target and then,
ah, we really havent got a good track on him, ever,
meaning that the radar never showed a continuous
track (a continuous series of blips) of primary-only
radar targets associated with the unusual traffic.
AFTER the UA plane had passed the JAL flight at a point
about 60 nm south of Fairbanks at about 5:51, the AARTCC
requested that TOTEM also fly toward the JAL plane for a
look. AARTCC then directed the JAL plane to descend. The
plane made its final report on the traffic,
which was long gone by this time.
AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, descend at pilot discretion. Maintain
flight level two five zero (25,000 ft).
5:53:13 JAL1628 JAL1628, ah, pilots discretion maintain,
ah, two five zero, so , ah, ah, I cannot, I couldnt
see, ah, UFO, over.
5:53:27 AARTCC JAL1628 heavy, understand. You do not see
the traffic any longer.
5:53:31 JAL1628 Affirmative.
DURING the next several minutes TOTEM viewed the JAL plane
but couldnt see any other traffic. JAL1628 proceeded
to Anchorage and landed at 6:20 PM. The FANTASTIC FLIGHT
was over, but the seeds of controversy had been sown. They
would bear sometimes bitter fruit about a month and a half