|Occurred : 1/11/2011 18:45 (Entered as : 01/11/11 18:45)
Reported: 1/12/2011 10:51:38 AM 10:51
Location: Buffalo area (In-flight observation), NY
|Bright lghts apppeared at our 12 o'clock and moved to our 9 o'clock position slowly.
January 11, 2011
To whom it concerns:
At approximately 6:45 pm, Tuesday evening, while enroute to KBUF from KHVN, half way between ULW VOR and BENEE intersection at flight level 200 the captain called to my attention a bright light directly in front of our aircraft. The Captain remarked that it might be a planet considering that it was so bright.
As I made visual contact I remarked that the flickering/flashing light seemed to be a consistent flash and was getting closer hinting to the fact that it was not a planet.
As our flight continued in the next few minutes the light did indeed get closer. Our aircraft was flying west bound at approximately 380 knots true airspeed and the flashing lights were heading east bound at a fairly slow speed, slow enough that we were able to view the lights for approximately 5 minutes. I found this to be peculiar considering that in my 5 years of professional flying typically aircraft passing at this altitude pass each other very quickly because they are operating at their cruise air speeds. The relative motion of the flashing lights just did not make sense, just to slow.
It was at this time that the captain called New York center and inquired with them about traffic at our 9 o’clock position and above our flight level. New York center informed us that there was traffic at that position however it was west bound, same direction, as our flight path. The lights that we were observing however were east bound and moving at significantly slower speed than a jet or turbo prop aircraft typically does. In fact, I remarked, "Is that a helicopter?"
The observed lights did not make any evasive maneuvers nor did we need to maneuver to avoid a perceived collision. The captain continued a dialogue with ATC as they inquired with other aircraft in the area if they had observed what we had reported, the other flight crews however did not see anything.
The lights observed consisted of a large bright white strobe like light at the lowest point as well as three to four smaller white lights that surrounded the main light. The brilliance of the light lacked the whiteness of modern strobe instead it had a pearlescent quality and flickered rather than flashed however with intensity. At times then main light seemed to be casting a fluttering shadow much like a flashlight would yield if cast through a rotating fan blade. In fact that prompted me to question if the craft was a helicopter as previously stated. I looked intently for the red and green navigation lights that all aircraft have conversely none were observed.
The flight conditions were good; visibility was excellent as the stars made a magnificent backdrop as they typically do on night flights during the winter months. An overcast layer existed well below our flight level that I estimate to be at 10 to 12 thousand feet. The flight did experience intermittent light turbulence, as we got closer to KBUF most likely because of the approaching low-pressure system. Weather conditions deteriorated in the decent to KBUF, which required an instrument approach for landing on runway 5.
In summary, what I had witnessed was completely unique and somewhat confusing. Hopefully I was able to convey my experience with some coherency. If I can provide any other help or you need further explanation please do not hesitate to contact me.
First Officer ATP/Citation 550