National UFO Reporting Center  
Air Traffic Controller Testimony 
February 20, 1997 

NUFORC Index 


The following letter was received from a California air traffic controller whose name has been witheld by request. 

Dear Sirs: 

I've been an air traffic controller at the Los Angeles Air Route 
Traffic Control Center for six years now, with my area 
of jurisdiction covering northeast of LAX, out over the Mohave desert 
(including the Edwards test ranges), and up around the LAS area 
(including "Dreamland"). 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 be harmed by some Dentist's Cessna 172 chugging 
along for a weekend trip to Vegas, after all). Projects are of course 
need-to-know, but 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). 

The point is, we know ---*I* know, when I'm at the sector--- all 
military activity, and all civilian aircraft certainly above 18,000 feet 
(federal regulations prohibit flight above Flight level 180 without 
authorization from the controller), and most activity below 18,000. 

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. I know we used to have a specific number to report "UFO" 
sightings (was it to your organization?), 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). 

In a fourth incident I was present for (in the area but not at the 
actual sector), 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. 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 
those 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, but there was no place to report it, no 
official literature on what to do about it, until I saw your 
organization. 

So, thanks for your efforts---I've got your number now and will 
certainly contact you at my next "incidents" so you can get the hard 
data (voice tapes are erased after 15 days, and radar data after 5 I 
believe). 

The three incidents I was involved in, by the way: 

(1) 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?" I was the D-controller (there was two of us plugged into the 
sector), and the R-side (the radio controller) said she didn't show 
anything. 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" and some other details, but 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 (this was in 1992?). 

(2) 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 
9pm 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 in. After they 
landed (15 mins 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. This was in 
1995. 

(3) 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 3am. The only thing to do is stare at all the primary targets 
on the radar (ground clutter). 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 
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 20nm 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. SR-71's need 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 called in (I answered, I was 
the only controller in the Area) and said they had several calls about 
an extremely bright light moving around the area north of Tehachapi, and 
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 and 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, and about 30 minutes 
later the Sheriff's called back and said it was gone, the light "turned 
off" and was gone. There was nothing on the radar the whole time.