With the coming of the anniversary of the Phoenix Lights, I thought it time to revisit those sightings. However, I think the discussion of the lights seen over Phoenix actually masks the other, more significant sightings of a V-shaped or triangular-shaped craft that was seen over much of Arizona that night. In this discussion, I have eliminated the information about the lights to focus on that craft. I have written about it at other times. Some of the information here is based on my discussion of that craft with Mike Rogers, he of Travis Walton abduction fame. You can listen to that discussion here:
The sightings of an object that could be described as a flying wing with lights in a “V” formation were made first in Nevada rather than Arizona. Just before seven (Pacific Standard Time) a man living in Henderson, just outside of Las Vegas, said that he saw a “V”-shaped object that he thought was about the size of a Boeing 747 and that sounded like the rushing of wind. There were six lights on the leading edge. He watched as it flew to the southeast, eventually disappearing over the horizon.
A young Mike Rogers
Had this been the only sighting in that area that night, it would have been just another UFO report. A little over an hour later, at 8:15 p.m., a former police officer said that he and his family saw a cluster of lights in a “V” formation near Paulden, Arizona. He described them as red-orange balls of light. He said that there were four lights traveling together with a fifth bringing up the rear. He said that the lights were in sight for about two minutes and that they made no sound. He thought that each of the lights consisted of two parts. When he returned home, he watched them through binoculars until they vanished over the horizon.
Others reported the UFO as it flew from northern Arizona to the southern corner, a distance of about two hundred miles in about thirty minutes, or at about 400 miles per hour. The speed is not outside that of conventional aircraft, though the configuration suggests something else.
Peter Davenport, and his National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) received dozens of calls from witnesses in Arizona that night. According to him:
One group of three witnesses, located just north of Phoenix, reported seeing a huge, wedge-shaped craft with five lights on is ventral surface pass overhead with an eerie “gliding” type of flight. It coursed to the south and passed between two mountain peaks to the south. The witnesses emphasized how huge the object was, blocking up to 70 – 90 degrees of the sky.
A second group of witnesses, a mother and four daughters near the intersection of Indian School Road and 7th Avenue [in Phoenix], were shocked to witness an object, shaped somewhat like a sergeant’s stripes, approach from over Camelback Mountain to the north. They report that it stopped directly above them, where it hovered for an estimated 5 minutes. They described how it filled at least 30 – 40 degrees of sky, and how it exhibited a faint glow along its trailing edge. The witnesses felt they could see individual features on the ventral surface of the object, and they were certain that they were looking at a very large, solid object.
this point in the sighting, the facts are somewhat less clear to investigators.
It is known that at least one object continued generally to the south and
southeast, passing over the communities of Scottsdale, Glendale, and Gilbert.
One of the witnesses in Scottsdale, a former airline pilot with 13,700 hours of
flight time, reported seeing the object execute a distinct turn as it
approached his position on the ground. He noted that he witnessed many lights
on the object as it approached him, but that the number of lights appeared to
diminish as it got closer to overhead. Many other witnesses in those
communities reported seeing the object pass overhead as it made its way toward
the mountains to the south of Phoenix.
Other sightings occurred shortly afterward along Interstate 10 in the vicinity of Casa Grande. One family of five, who were driving from Tucson to Phoenix, reported that the object that passed over their station wagon was so large that they could see one “wing tip” of the object out one side of their car, and the other “wing tip” out the other side. They estimated they were driving toward Phoenix at approximately 80 miles per hour, and they remained underneath the object for between one and two minutes as it moved in the opposite direction. They emphasized how incredibly huge the object appeared to be as it blocked out the sky above their car.
Many witnessed, located throughout the Phoenix basin, allegedly continued to witness objects and peculiar clusters of lights for several hours following the initial sightings. One group of witnesses reported witnessing a large disc streak to the west over Phoenix at very high speed. Others reported peculiar orange “fireballs,” which appeared to hover in the sky even hours after the initial sightings.
One of the more intriguing reports was submitted by a young man who claimed to be an Airman in the Air Force, stationed at Luke Air Force Base, located to the west of Phoenix in Litchfield Park. He telephoned the National UFO Reporting Center at 3:20 a.m. on Friday, some eight hours after the sightings on the previous night, and reported that two USAF F-15C fighters had been “scrambled” from Luke AFB, and had intercepted one of the objects. Although the presence of F-15’s could never be confirmed, the airman provided detailed information which proved to be highly accurate, based on what investigators would reconstruct from witnesses over subsequent weeks and months. Two days after his first telephone call, the airman called to report that he had just been informed by his commander that he was being transferred to an assignment in Greenland.
What all this demonstrates is that there were more sightings than have been reported by most of those commenting on the lights. More important, some of the explanations offered in the days that followed did not account for the variety of sightings.
But the sightings didn’t end; they just became more controversial and produced a number of video tapes. These were lights that inspired the investigations as well as the media attention because nothing excites the media like a good visual. One of the tapes, shown repeatedly on local, national, and cable television, was analyzed using an impressive looking array of computers and some very sophisticated software. The conclusions drawn in those early investigations were that the lights were not natural phenomena and did not exhibit any of the features of manufactured lights. In other words, they were unique. Later investigation suggested that flares were responsible for some of those sightings.
Quite naturally, the Air Force was questioned about this and the official spokesman said, as usual, the Air Force no longer investigates UFOs. Most people in Phoenix were unhappy with that answer and believed that the Air Force was hiding the truth about this.
Others, including private researchers began to gather the stories of the lights that had moved across Arizona, some of them believing that all the sightings were related. There were those who claimed to have a triangular-shaped object and others who claimed to have seen individual lights in a triangular or “V” shaped formation. Some thought the lights were white, others red, and still others saw various faded colors in the lights.
There is no radar data available for any of this. According to those at Sky Harbor these high flights would not be monitored on their radar. It would be controlled by FAA radar in Albuquerque. If such a flight had been made it would have been represented by an asterisk, but since they flight would have been far above their control zone, they would not have been concerned about. Radar records would have been kept in Albuquerque, but since no question about the radar displays was raised within two weeks, the tapes were reused. The record has been lost.
It might also be said that this is where things become confusing. There is good testimony that one formation of lights was identified as airplanes. While those in the UFO community were talking of multiple formations, it was reported by Steve Wilson of The Arizona Republic, that they might be right. He interviewed four people who saw the lights and whose testimony suggests there was more than a single formation. He reported:
Dr. Bradley Evans, 47, is a clinical psychiatrist from Tucson. He and his wife, Kris, were driving north on Interstate 10 to a swimming meet in Tempe. They watched the lights for 20 minutes or so move slowly south in a diamond formation and pass over them at an estimated 1,500 feet. Even then, with the car’s moon roof open, they heard not a sound from the sky. He was ‘awed’ by the experience and has no idea what he saw. Kris said she couldn’t explain it either and guesses it was ‘something military.’
…Max Saracen, 34, is a real estate consultant who lives in north Phoenix. He and his wife, Shala, were driving west on Deer Valley Road when they saw a huge triangular craft. They pulled off the road, got out and watched it pass overhead. “It was very spooky – this gigantic ship blocking out the stars and silently creeping across the sky. I don’t know of any aircraft with silent engines.
Adding to this was an investigation by Arizona MUFON investigator Richard F. Motzer who studied “all the videos I could find and interviewed other witnesses,” outlined his research in the July 1997 (number 351) of the MUFON Journal. He wrote:
The key to the solution was also the biggest mystery. Why did all videos of 3-13-97 at 10:00 p.m. have a different number of lights, different order of starting and decay, and shapes?
It was really dependent upon the observation point of the witness in the Phoenix area and, most important, how high their viewing point was. It turned out that the lights were not over Phoenix, but near the Estrella Mountains to the southwest. This determination was made after viewing all the video tapes and going to all but one of the sites and shooting 35 mm film in daylight. Using the point marked by the pilot, I drew a line from each of the sites where the Estrella lights were taped. On the Rairden tape there are nine lights, but only eight lights on the Moon Valley footage and just in the early part you see a light form briefly which then goes out, but did it really? No, something must have blocked it out, but it was still there in the Rairden footage. As the lights drifted downward, some lights were blocked out by the many small peaks making up the Estrella range.
…What I wanted to find was footage where a tripod was used and the zoom lens was left in one spot. To my surprise there were several clips that met these specifications. What I did next was to mark each segment the ground on a monitor and the ending position of each light. When I ran the editor video deck in reverse, I could see each light rise in altitude and drift to the right or to the left. In all the video clips the results were the same. Just before each light went out, there was an increase in the descent of each light.
What this suggested to Motzer was that the lights were, in fact flares. The witnesses believe that the lights were in front of the Estrella Mountains, but the video showed they were not. He learned that the Army had been firing flares that night and that these were parachute flares. The heat generated by the flare helps to slow the rate of descent of the flares, but as the flare begins to die out, the rate of descent increases. But there should be smoke visible and some of the witnesses said they had seen no smoke. Motzer reported that the control tower crew at Sky Harbor had seen the smoke.
With that, including the confirmation by the Army National Guard they were firing flares that night, that they were firing them at 8:30, 9:25 and 10:00 on March 13 and the evidence on the tapes suggests flares, that seems to end the questions. Contrary to the reports from Village Labs, the evidence available suggests flares as the most logical and best solution here.
But this does not explain the “V” formations that some people reported. Giving the timing of some of the reports and given the length of time that some of the “V” formations were visible to witnesses, it seems that there might have been more than a single event. That would mean that both Stanley and Contry saw airplanes but some of the others didn’t.
This seems to be where the March 13 events remains. As I mentioned briefly, I believe the video tapes show flares and some of the “V” formations are identified as aircraft, but there isn’t a good explanation for the sightings of the large, V-shaped craft. As I say, those sightings have been lost in the glare of the flares and the discussion of the Phoenix Lights.