Unsolved Mysteries of the World
The UFO Incident with Japan Airlines 1628
Welcome to Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season Six Episode 12 Japan Airlines Flight 1608.
It was November 17, 1986 and a huge Japanese Boeing 747-200F cargo aircraft was en route from Paris France to Narita International Airport near Tokyo Japan.
It was an uneventful flight until the aircraft was above Alaska, near Anchorage. At 17:11 hours crew noted specifically that they observed two strange objects coming up to the left side of their aircraft. They rose from below and proceeded to maintain a similar speed and appeared to be escorting the cargo jet.
All three crew members: Captain Kenju Terauchi an ex-fighter pilot with more than 10,000 hours flight experience,in the cockpit's left-hand seat; co-pilot Takanori Tamefuji n the right-hand seat; and flight engineer Yoshio Tsukuba all witnessed the objects approach and flight.
As the objects got closer they noted each had two rectangular arrays of what appeared to be glowing nozzles or thrusters, though their main frames remained obscured by darkness.
The Captain believed they were some sort of military aircraft and were simply identifying the flight, but their maneuverability was mind boggling.
"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 [appeared to be] standing still. The next instant it changed course. ... In other words, the flying object had overcome gravity." recalls the Captain.
Then, suddenly, the two objects came closer and illuminated the entire cabin and produced and intense heat.
Air traffic control was notified at this point, who could not confirm any traffic in the indicated position. After three to five minutes the objects assumed a side-to-side configuration, which they maintained for another 10 minutes.
Each object had a square shape, consisting of two rectangular arrays of what appeared to be glowing nozzles or thrusters, separated by a dark central section. Captain Terauchi speculated in his drawings, that the objects would appear cylindrical if viewed from another angle, and that the observed movement of the nozzles could be ascribed to the cylinders' rotation.
Then the two craft then departed as quickly as they had come, but then the crew noticed something even more strange. A much larger craft was no tailing them. This time, they could identify its shape and each of the crew detailed a disc shaped flying craft was behind them.
Captain Terauchi now noticed a pale band of light that mirrored their altitude, speed and direction. Setting their onboard radar scope to a 25 nautical miles (46km) range, he confirmed an object in the expected 10 o'clock direction at about 7.5nmi (13.9km) distance, and informed ATC of its presence.
Anchorage found nothing on their radar, but Elmendorf's NORAD Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC), directly in his flight path, reported a "surge primary return" after some minutes.
As the city lights of Fairbanks began to illuminate the object, captain Terauchi believed to perceive the outline of a gigantic spaceship on his port side that was "twice the size of an aircraft carrier". The object followed "in formation", or in the same relative position throughout the 45 degree turn, a descent from 35,000 to 31,000ft, and a 360 degree turn. The short-range radar at Fairbanks airport failed, however, to register the object.
Anchorage ATC offered military intervention, which was declined by the pilot, due to his knowledge of the Mantell incident. The object was not noted by any of two planes which approached JAL 1628 to confirm its presence, by which time JAL 1628 had also lost sight of it.
Captain Terauchi cited in the official Federal Aviation Administration report that the object was a UFO.
In December 1986, Terauchi gave an interview to two Kyodo News journalists. Japan Airlines soon grounded him for talking to the press, and moved him to a desk job. He was only reinstated as a pilot years afterwards, and retired eventually in north Kanto, Japan.
Kyodo News contacted Paul Steucke, the FAA public information officer in Anchorage on December 24, and received confirmation of the incident.
The FAA's Alaskan Region consulted John Callahan, the FAA Division Chief of the Accidents and Investigations branch, as they wanted to know what to tell the media about the UFO.
John Callahan was unaware of any such incident, considering it a likely early flight of a stealth bomber, then in development. He asked the Alaskan Region to forward the relevant data to their technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he and his superior played back the radar data and tied it in with the voice tapes by videotaping the concurrent playbacks.
A day later at FAA headquarters they briefed Vice Admiral Donald D. Engen, who watched the whole video of over half an hour, and asked them not to talk to anybody until they were given the OK, and to prepare an encompassing presentation of the data for a group of government officials the next day.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the FBI, CIA and President Reagan’s Scientific Study Team, among others. Upon completion of the presentation, all present were told that the incident was secret and that their meeting "never took place".
According to Callahan, the officials considered the data to represent the first instance of recorded radar data on a UFO, and they took possession of all the presented data.
John Callahan however managed to retain the original video, the pilot's report and the FAA's first report in his office. The forgotten target print-outs of the computer data were also rediscovered, from which all targets can be reproduced that were in the sky at the time.
After a three-month investigation, the FAA formally released their results at a press conference held on March 5, 1987. Here Paul Steucke retracted earlier FAA suggestions that their controllers confirmed a UFO, and ascribed it to a "split radar image" which appeared with unfortunate timing. He clarified that "the FAA [did] not have enough material to confirm that something was there", and though they were "accepting the descriptions by the crew" they were "unable to support what they saw".
The sighting received special attention from the media, as a supposed instance of the tracking of UFOs on both ground and airborne radar, while being observed by experienced airline pilots, with subsequent confirmation by an FAA Division Chief.
It would have been the end of the UFO story but for an extraordinary observation by a military aircraft just a short time after the Japan Airlines incident.
On January 30, 1987, a US Air Force KC-135 was flying from Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska, to Eielson AFB near Fairbanks.
The crew of the KC-135 reported a large, silent, disc-shaped UFO at about 20,000 feet altitude. At this time, Anchorage radar control showed nothing unusual.
In a moment, radar control asked the pilot of the plane if they still had the unknown object in sight. The frightened pilot replied yes, and added that the UFO was only 40 feet from the plane.
The cockpit recording referenced the JAL - 1628 incident, which had occurred only a month earlier.
The pilots of the military aircraft were startled as they observed what they believed was a similar shaped object, flying in the same manner and maneuvering just the same as the one previously reported by the Japanese Airlines flight.
About 30 minutes later, Anchorage Control Tower relayed a message from the FAA, informing the pilot to contact them upon landing. The FAA wanted a full report on the UFO seen by the crew.
The very next day, on January 31, another similar sighting occurred over Alaskan skies. Alaska Airline's Flight 53 reported enormous, disc-like objects flying near their aircraft.
These UFOs, according to the pilot's report, were "tracking" Flight 53. The Control Tower operator related to the pilot that they did not show anything unusual on their radar.
The pilot of Flight 53 was very concerned, stating that the UFO was moving at a mile/per/second, which would be about 3,600 m/p/h.
The pilot also stated that the UFO had almost immediately disappeared after flying under Flight 53.
Neither of the these two encounters were adequately explained by any conventional flying objects, or atmospheric anomalies, and remain a mystery. The reports requested never surfaced.
In 2006 John Callahan gave his eye-witness testimony about his official investigation into the Japanese Airline Incident:
So what can we make out of these sightings made by credible witnesses including air force pilots, flight engineers, experienced pilots, air traffic controllers and aviation investigators? It is obvious that something was witnessed, independently verified over the course of three separate encounters by both aircraft and ground crews – but what was it? And more importantly – why was it seemingly tracking and observing these three aircraft? Is it the occupants on the aircraft that held interest? Or the cargo they were carrying?