Bright lights | 

Investigation into UFO sightings over Co Kerry by pilots in 2018 'inconclusive'

Three commercial pilots reported seeing bright lights and unidentified aircraft moving at great speed

In a still from video footage taken during a separate incident in 2015, an unexplained object is seen at centre as it soars through the clouds. Photo: US Department of Defence

Allison Bray

Reports that the Irish Aviation Authority is investigating reports of UFOs off the Co Kerry coast made headlines around the world after three commercial pilots reported seeing bright lights and unidentified aircraft moving at great speed to air traffic controllers at Shannon Airport in November 2018.

Fast forward almost four years later and the IAA said its investigation into the sightings was ‘inconclusive’.

“Given the lack of further reported sightings or recorded material, there was no definitive conclusion,” the IAA said in a statement to the Sunday World.

“The report cannot be released as it is confidential. Please note this is not specific to this occurrence - all reports recorded by the IAA’s occurrence reporting system are confidential,” a spokesperson said when the Sunday World asked to see the report.

And while the incident remains a mystery, the US House Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation heard a shocking report from a senior American military official this week that UFO sightings are now so common around US military facilities that the reports of of unexplained encounters has grown from 143 last year to 400 so far this year.

“Since the early 2000s, we have seen an increasing number of unauthorized and or unidentified aircraft or objects in military control training areas,” US Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray (no relation) told the first congressional hearing into UFOs in more than 50 years on Tuesday.

“Reports of sightings are frequent and continuing,” he said.

He attributed the increase in sightings in part to better military sensors but also to the lessening of the stigma surrounding the reporting of UFOs or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) – especially amongst military personnel – since the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in June, 2021 on UAP which revealed that 143 reported sightings since 2004 remain unexplained.

Since then, the Pentagon set up a task force to investigate UFOs, known as the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG) “to eliminate the stigma by fully incorporating our operators and mission personnel into a standardised data gathering process,” according to US Undersecretary of Defence for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie, who heads the task force.

“UAPs posed potential flight safety and general security risks, we are committed to a focus effort to determine their origins,” he told the committee.

But for the pilots who reported their strange encounters to the Shannon Air Traffic Control on November 9, 2018, his words will likely come as cold comfort.

A British Airways pilot on flight BA94 - an overnight transatlantic flight from Montreal, Canada to London’s Heathrow airport contacted Shannon air traffic control at 6:47am local time when she reported seeing “a very bright light” from an unidentified object that came up alongside the jet that suddenly “rapidly veered to the north.”

She asked controllers if there was some sort of military exercise taking place because there was something that was “moving so fast” and “we were just wondering what it might be.”

“It came up on our left-hand side and then rapidly veered to the north. We saw a very bright light that disappeared at very high speed,” she told controllers who responded that there were no military exercises taking place and that nothing showed up on either primary or secondary radar.

Around the same time, a Virgin Airlines pilot flying from Orlando, Florida to Manchester England also contacted air traffic control to say it might be a “meteor or another object making some kind of re-entry. There appeared to be multiple objects following the same sort of trajectory. They were very bright from where we were.”

The pilot said he saw “two bright lights that seemed to bank over to the right and climb away at speed at least from our perspective.”

A third Norwegian Airlines pilot also told controllers that the speed was "astronomical, it was like Mach 2,” (twice the speed of sound), adding “I’m glad it wasn’t just me” (who witnessed it).

Following the reports, various astronomers speculated that the phenomenon could have been shooting stars, space dust entering the earth’s atmosphere at high speed, otherwise known as a meteorite. Other explanations include possible incursions by rogue military operations from China or Russia.

But Irish astronomer Dr Eamonn Ansbro, who has been observing activity in the skies from his private Kingsland Observatory outside Boyle, Co Roscommon, for more than two decades, quickly dismisses this theory.

“You won’t see them (meteorites) in daylight, number one,” he told the Sunday World. “Meteorites are very tiny objects that leave a streak behind it.”

But the phenomenon described by the pilots “were in a horizontal mode and there was a fleet of them,” he said.

“Space debris’ (meteorites) trajectory is vertical,” he said.

And while the notion of extra-terrestrials either manning UFOs or controlling them has typically been dismissed as conspiracy theories, the fact the Pentagon is now openly gathering data on UAP says a lot, he said.

“It’s gotten quite serious. It’s recognised as a reality,” he said.

The fact that the pilots reported seeing multiple objects speaks volumes, he said.

“What’s major about it is there was a fleet of UAPs. When you rule out all the other stuff you’re left with a UFO,” he said.

He cites the renowned American physicist James Edward McDonald, a senior physicist at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics and a professor of meteorology at the University of Arizona in Tucson as “an inspiration.”

He is best known for his appearance before the US Congress on a hearing on UFOs in 1968 in which he said he believed that “UFOs are entirely real and we do not know what they are, because we have laughed them out of court.

The possibility that these are extra-terrestrial devices, that we are dealing with surveillance from some advanced technology, is a possibility I take very seriously.”

While Dr Ansbro said that the concept of the possibility of UFOs or UAP remains a “no no” to politicians, he believes “it’s real and we have a problem.”

Citing Dr McDonald’s testimony and his years of credible research into UFOs, he said “we believe there’s a controlled automated surveillance of the earth” taking place, and the unexplained UAP seen by the pilots over Co Kerry was an example of this.

“I think we’re dealing with automated probes,” he said.

“We’re dealing with very advanced technology here,” he said.

“I’ve had a number of reports (of sightings) over the past 12 months and it hasn’t stopped,” he said.

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