NUFORC Sighting 180099

Occurred: 2024-01-14 05:00 Local
Reported: 2024-01-19 11:03 Pacific
Duration: 45 Minutes
No of observers: 4 - Pilot

Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
Location details: Flight Level 410 heading eastbound viewing to the east

Shape: Formation
Color: White
Estimated Size: Uknown
Viewed From: Aircraft
Direction from Viewer: east
Angle of Elevation: 10
Closest Distance: 600NM
Estimated Speed: Uknown
Characteristics: Lights on object, Changed Colo

Maneuvering lights at very high altitude views for 45 minutes at FL400

AAL flight 116 POGG - KDFW at FL410 heading eastbound starting at 1100Z. VMC clear skies. No moon. Initially saw two bright lights about 10° above the horizon, and both pilots commented seeing slow burning meteorites. One pilot suggested slow moving "space junk." We then noticed the bright white/orange light would dim as it climbed higher on the horizon. These two lights would climb to about 15-20° above the horizon then dive back down to the original inclination, almost chasing each other at times. At the lower inclinations, they were brighter and the speculation was that we were seeing the sun reflect off the objects more brightly as the lower inclination. After a few circuits, the two lights would fade away to the right or left of our course, and then reappear a few moments later. Occasionally, a third light would cross horizontally across the horizon sometimes while the other two were maneuvering. They appeared well above us, and we expected to eventually fly beneath the lights. After 20 minutes the lights climbed slightly higher but not as quickly as we expected, and their erratic maneuvers continued. We speculated that these might be military aircraft and we were seeing afterburners, but it did not make sense. I asked ABQ center if they had any military traffic above us, and they replied negatively. We contacted AAL102 which was 50-100NM ahead of us and they confirmed they were watching the same thing and they were not flying beneath us. After 300NM, the inclination of these maneuvers only climbed from about 10° to 20° above the horizon and they still appeared to be hundreds of miles away. At about 1145Z the lights faded away. Speculation was that the rising sun and angle of inclination was beginning to obscure the reflection. If the objects were maneuvering in the same area as we traveled east, and the inclination increased 10° in 300NM, my rough calculations put the objects about 600NM away at an altitude above 100NM. I've been an aviation profession for almost 40 years, and I've never seen nor reported something I could not explain.

Posted 2024-02-15

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