Occurred: 1979-07-15 14:30 Local
Reported: 2008-02-14 18:17 Pacific
Duration: 5-6 seconds
No of observers: 2

Location: Apple Valley, CA, USA

Shape: Sphere
Characteristics: Aircraft nearby

Daytime / air to air near miss / sighting

This incident occurred on a cross country flight from Palm Springs CA, to Apple Valley, CA at approx. 2:30 in the afternoon , July 1979.

I was flying one of the required cross country practice flights needed for a private pilot’s license. I was with my instructor at the time and had been flying on instruments only (IFR) for 20-30 min. At the time we were mid-way between Palm Springs and Apple Valley, which was our destination.

We were approx. north-east of Big Bear when my instructor said to me that “we have traffic at 12:00”. This statement was to notify me that we had converging aircraft directly in front of us. This in itself was alarming because federal regulations state that all west and east converging aircraft were to fly at 1000 feet separation plus 500. This aircraft was obviously ignoring the rules because he was heading straight at us! As this object approached closer and we prepared for evasive maneuvering, we noticed that this object was void of any type of wing surfaces, propellers, engine nacelles, or landing gear. As we drew closer the object seemed to veer and passed off our left wing at approx. 100 feet. At this distance it simply appeared as a metallic sphere. It left no contrail, had no cockpit, and was most certainly moving under its own power on a flat trajectory.

My estimation of its closing speed was that it was flying close to ours, based on my past experiences with other aircraft in close proximity. At the time we were flying in the 120mph range. The time available to see this machine was probably no more that 5-6 seconds at the most.

Once it passed, I banked sharply to get on its tail. But by the time we were in position…it was simply..gone! Nothing had been said between my instructor and I during this entire event, until after we had finished looking for the object. I asked him “what was that?” His response was that he had no idea, and then told me “when we get back, don’t say a word about this ok?” And I never did. Not until almost 20 years later, when I found him again flying for a major airline, and had a chance to speak with him about it. All our recollections matched, and we both were still perplexed as to what that thing might have been.

Since those days I have acquired a commercial pilot’s license and flown professionally. I have also acquired several degrees, one of which is in Aeronautics. And in addition, I became a federally licensed aviation maintenance technician.

Now I am a public school teacher at the secondary level and teach technology education and aviation science classes.

And NONE of my training, education, or professional experiences has helped me to explain what I saw that hot summer afternoon so long ago.

Posted 2008-03-04

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