...and compare this to a report (by me -- no copyright problem) of a similar sighting by an over-excited airliner crew:
A second case is the so-called "Tajik Air" UFO, on January 28, 1994. It is based on message from the American Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (Mr.
Escudero), Jan 31/0310Z. Selected passages follow:
"1. Tajik air chief pilot, amcit [american citizen] ed rhodes, and his two american pilot colleagues reported jan 29 that, on january 27, they had
encountered a ufo while flying at 41,000 feet in their boeing 747 at lat 45 north and long 55 east, over kazakhstan. They first encountered the object
as a bright light of enormous intensity, approaching them from over the horizon to the east at a great rate of speed and at a much higher altitude
than their own. They watched the object for some forty minutes as it maneuvered in circles, corkscrews, and made 90-degree turns at rapid rates of
speed and under very high g's. Captain rhodes took several photos with a pocket olympus camera and will send copies to the embassy and tajikistan
desk (lowry taylor) in the department, if they come out. After some time, the object adopted a horizontal high-speed course and disappeared over the
"2. As it was dark when the object was observed, the crew were unable to discern its shape. They described the light it emitted as having a 'bow
wave' and as resembling a high-speed photo of a bullet in flight, in which a very small object gives off a much larger trailing wave of heat/light.
Some forty-five minutes after the initial sighting, as the sun was rising, the aircraft flew under the contrails which the object had left behind. The
plane was making over 500 knots. Rhodes estimated the altitude of the contrails at approximately 100,000 feet, noting that there is too little
air/moisture at that extreme altitude to enable the creation of contrails by the propulsion mechanisms of ordinary aircraft which might be able to
reach that height. The paths of the contrails reflected the maneuvers of the object, i.e., circles, corkscrews, etc.
"3. To our suggestion that the object might have been a meteor entering and skipping off the earth's atmosphere, rhodes and his crew were adament
that they had seen thousands of 'falling stars' and other space junk entering the atmosphere in their years of flying passenger aircraft for panam.
This, they insisted, was nothing like a meteor. On the basis of its speed and maneuverability, rhodes expressed the opinion, which his crew seemed to
support, that the object was extraterrestrial and under intelligent control."
Rhodes appears to be a sincere witness who's convinced he saw a true UFO. But to understand the case we need some more relevant data and comments.
First of all, this is the key: The Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome (space launch center) is located at approx 46N 66E, east of the Aral Sea in independent
The regularly scheduled unmanned supply ship Progress M-21 was launched toward the Mir space station at 0212 GMT on January 28 (a Friday) aboard a
"Soyuz" (SL-4) booster. It blasted off and then pitched over on a slightly north-of-east course, and nine minutes later achieved orbit about 140
miles up, 1200 miles down range, at a speed of 17,600 mph. During ascent it followed a straight course on a constant heading. However, at about 2.5
minutes into the flight the four strap-on boosters separated and fell back to Earth still trailing smoke.
The "Tajik Air" report does not provide direction of eyewitness view or direction of motion of the airliner. However, if one assumes it was flying
eastwards, the launch would have been seen directly in front of them and they would have passed under the booster exhaust trail (NOT a jet engine
"condensation", or CONtrail) much later.
These booster plumes are known to last 40-60 minutes after a launch, which would explain the air crew's feeling that they observed the UFO for that
long. The plumes are twisted into corkscrews and zig-zags by the varying directional winds in the upper atmosphere.
Since this is the obvious visual stimulus for this apparition, we can see that this air crew made many, many perceptual mistakes, including:
1. A "bright light of enormous intensity" must be calibrated with a pilot's dark-adapted yes in a dimly lit cockpit. From hundreds of miles away a
rocket is indeed a "bright light" but it it is hardly dazzling, blinding, or "of enormous intensity".
2. They concluded the UFO "approached them from over the horizon" when it merely rose and grew brighter as it was at all times flying away from
their reported position. They mistook "brightening" for "nearing", an extremely common UFO witness error.
3. They claim to have watched "the object" for forty minutes, although the rocket would have been out of sight in four or five minutes. The smoke
plumes, sunlit in the pre-dawn upper atmosphere, would have been visible ahead of them in the sky for forty minutes, but there was no "object"
4. The pilots reported seeing "circles, corkscrews, and 90-degree turns" but the actual rocket did no such maneuvers. However, the smoke trail would
within half an hour have portrayed such a path, so the pilots could have simply assumed they were seeing an accurate history of the object's original
path, instead of a smoke trail distorted by winds. They could NOT have actually seen the UFO performing these maneuvers, but in hindsight they could
easily believe they did.
5. The UFO maneuvered "under very high g's", according to the pilots. But that rests on assumptions of actual distances and actual speeds, as well
as the erroneous belief that it really changed course as reflected in the smoke trail.
6. The pilots recall that "after some time, the object adopted a horizontal high-speed course", when the rocket had been flying essentially straight
and horizontally away from them since early in its flight. Their report of a non-existent gross change in course and speed must have been a
rationalization to explain its eventual disappearance.
7. The pilots "were adament that they had seen thousands of 'falling stars' and other space junk entering the atmosphere in their years of flying.
. . . This, they insisted, was nothing like a meteor." While true, it mis-aims attention at one explanation while omitting the other, a rocket
8. The pilots concluded that "on the basis of its speed and maneuverability, . . .the object was extraterrestrial and under intelligent control."
One last erroneous interpretation based on all previous misinterpretations and imaginations.
These recent examples are consistent with the experience of UFO investigators for more than fifty years. Reports of UFO maneuvering, intelligent
flight formations, responses to witnesses, and other 'inexplicable' narratives can be engendered from prosaic, simple, but unfamiliar phenomena. In
these cases, "UFO reports", even from pilots, did not need a "real UFO" to create them.