Original Credits to:
Controls are in game. Note that this was a bit rushed since it is a Halloween special, so please let me know of any bugs in the comments.
About the Boeing 747 & -200F Variant
The Boeing 747 is a large, long-range wide-body airliner designed and manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes in the United States. After introducing the 707 in October 1958, Pan Am wanted a jet 2+1/2 times its size, to reduce its seat cost by 30% to democratize air travel. In 1965, Joe Sutter left the 737 development program to design the 747, the first twin-aisle airliner. In April 1966, Pan Am ordered 25 Boeing 747-100 aircraft and in late 1966, Pratt & Whitney agreed to develop its JT9D engine, a high-bypass turbofan. On September 30, 1968, the first 747 was rolled out of the custom-built Everett Plant, the world's largest building by volume. The first flight took place on February 9, 1969, and the 747 was certified in December of that year. It entered service with Pan Am on January 22, 1970. The 747 was the first airplane dubbed "Jumbo Jet", the first wide-body airliner.
The 747 is a four-engined jet aircraft, initially powered by Pratt & Whitney JT9D turbofan engines, then General Electric CF6 and Rolls-Royce RB211 engines for the original variants. With a ten-abreast economy seating, it typically accommodates 366 passengers in three travel classes. It has a pronounced 37.5° wing sweep, allowing a Mach 0.85 (490 kn; 900 km/h) cruise speed, and its heavy weight is supported by four main landing gear legs, each with a four-wheel bogie. The partial double-deck aircraft was designed with a raised cockpit so it could be converted to a freighter airplane by installing a front cargo door, as it was initially thought that it would eventually be superseded by supersonic transports. Freighter variants of the 747 remain popular with cargo airlines.
While the 747-100 powered by Pratt & Whitney JT9D-3A engines offered enough payload and range for medium-haul operations, it was marginal for long-haul route sectors. The demand for longer range aircraft with increased payload quickly led to the improved -200, which featured more powerful engines, increased MTOW, and greater range than the -100. A few early -200s retained the three-window configuration of the -100 on the upper deck, but most were built with a ten-window configuration on each side. The 747-200 was produced in passenger (-200B), freighter (-200F), convertible (-200C), and combi (-200M) versions. An 'SCD' stands for 'Side Cargo Door'
A Kalitta Air 747-212B(SF) (Registration N703CK) at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (IATA: ANC)
The cockpit of an older MK Airlines 747-200SF (Registration 9G-MKM) at Luxembourg Airport (IATA: LUX)
A Lufthansa Cargo 747-230F (Registration: D-ABYE) at Frankfurt Airport (IATA: FRA) in a 1972 Lufthansa Promotional Ad for the 747-200F with the Nose Cargo Door open as it loads on several dozen Volkswagen Beetles. This is the first ever all cargo 747, delivered to Lufthansa on March 10th of that year.
The cargo bay of an Iran Air Boeing 747-21AC/SCD (Registration EP-ICD) at Imam Khomeini International Airport (IATA: IKA)
About Japan Airlines
IATA Code: JL
ICAO Code: JAL
Callsign: JAPAN AIR
Primary Hubs: Tokyo Haneda International Airport (IATA: HND) & Tokyo Narita International Airport (IATA: NRT)
Headquarters: Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, Japan
The signature logo of the airline, the 'Tsurumaru'
A Japan Airlines Boeing 777-300 (Registration JA8943) at Tokyo Haneda Airport
Japan Airlines Co., Ltd., also known as JAL, is an international airline and Japan's flag carrier and second largest airline as of 2021, headquartered in Shinagawa, Tokyo. Its main hubs are Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport, as well as Osaka's Kansai International Airport and Itami Airport. JAL group companies include Japan Airlines, J-Air, Japan Air Commuter, Japan Transocean Air, and Ryukyu Air Commuter for domestic feeder services, and JAL Cargo for cargo and mail services.
JAL group operations include scheduled and non-scheduled international and domestic passenger and cargo services to 220 destinations in 35 countries worldwide, including codeshares. Japan Airlines, J-Air, JAL Express, and Japan Transocean Air are members of the Oneworld airline alliance network. JAL was established in 1951 and became the national airline of Japan in 1953. After over three decades of service and expansion, the airline was fully privatized in 1987. In 2002, the airline merged with Japan Air System, Japan's third-largest airline, and became the sixth-largest airline in the world by passengers carried.
Japan Airlines Cargo Flight 1628: An Out Of This World Encounter
A Boeing 747-246F/SCD (Registration JA8132) at Cologne Bonn Airport (IATA: CGN) similar to the the 747-200F involved in the incident.
Note that due to the nature of the incident, the official variant and registration of the aircraft are not publicly available, though through some deep digging, I have reason to believe that this possibly was the aircraft involved, though without official any documentation and only scraps of information on the specifics of the aircraft, I cannot be sure.
Another disclaimer. Given the subject of this, I will not make an argument for what happened during the incident. This is the available information, and it is up to you, the reader, to decide the validity of this story. Anyways, enough talking. Lets get into the Halloween Special, shall we?
On November 17th, 1986, Japan Airlines Cargo Flight 1628, or JAL 1628, a Boeing 747-200F was on a return flight to Tokyo from France carrying a cargo load of French Wine. The flight took them westward over the North Atlantic with a stopover at Iceland's Keflavík International Airport (IATA: KEF), before resuming its flight westwards across Northern Canada, with another stop in Anchorage, Alaska before it was planned to return back to Japan. The captain was Kenju Terauchi, an ex-fighter-pilot with more than 10,000 hours of flying experience. With him were co-pilot Takanori Tamefuji and flight engineer Yoshio Tsukuba.
The crew entered Alaskan airspace shortly after 5PM local time, and Anchorage Air Traffic Control Center ordered them to fly south in the direction of Talkeetna Airport (IATA: TKA). At 17:11 local time, as the crew began their turn south, the crew noticed a distant light in the direction they were headed. Once they’d completed the turn, the crew saw two lights off their left and slightly below their aircraft at an estimated altitude of 35,000 ft/10,600meters. Given the speed of the plane, the lights were estimated to be moving at about around 660 mph/900 kmph in the exact same direction as the plane. This gave the illusion that that both objects were stationary.
Captain Terauchi first assumed these were both standard military aircraft, given that they area was not only very remote given that they were flying over Northern Alaska, and their proximity was close to Fort Wainwright, a US army and Air Force base located in Fairbanks, Alaska. Further to the south was the much larger Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. The crew had no reason to believe that anything was particularly abnormal.
F.O. Tamefuji radioed Anchorage Center to ask if there were any aircraft in the area, but the controllers confirmed that their aircraft was the only one visible on radar, which made no sense. However, F.E. Yoshio Tsukuba saw an irregular return on his own radar screen that he described as a 'streak' or 'stream'. The night sky was mostly clear, with only a few thin, spotty clouds situated around the nearby mountains.
For several minutes, the lights appeared to make strange, erratic maneuvers whilst still keeping their distance, something that would be impossible for normal aircraft. 10 minutes after first noticing the lights, the two objects (henceforth referred to as UFOs) suddenly appeared in front of and slightly to the left of the aircraft. They appeared one above the other, then shifted to a side-by-side position. From the crew’s perspective, the UFOs were square, but Captain Terauchi believed that they were actually cylindrical in shape. He reported seeing a wide, vertical stripe down the center of each UFO that was transparent and sometimes ejected a “stream of lights”. These lights spewed out from the central section and appeared to dance from side to side like the embers of a campfire. Each object’s size was estimated by Captain Terauchi to be close to that of “the fuselage of a Douglas DC-8” (150ft/46m). Captain Terauchi asked F.E. Tsukuba to hand him his camera so Terauchi could take pictures of the objects. However, when Captain Terauchi attempted to take pictures, the lens of the camera would not focus and kept re-adjusting. When switched to manual focus, the shutter of the camera would not close. After multiple repeated and failed attempts of taking photos, the crew gave up.
Each of the objects had an array of what Captain Terauchi described as “exhaust ports” that were each lit up with a bright, white light, and were rounded at the corners like the windows of a passenger aircraft. The lights seemed to shift and rotate around the central objects. The "ports" periodically emitted a fiery, bright flare that was compared to the exhaust from a jet engine. The 'exhaust' would flare up and down from different ports at different times. The two UFOs were described as moving as if they shared a common center of gravity while also appearing as if they were somehow oscillating and undulating. F.E. Tsukuba stated that the light of the 'exhaust' was either white or amber-colored. The lights from the objects lit up the cockpit of the Boeing 747, and the cockpit crew reported the light being so intense that they could feel the radiating warmth on their faces.
Captain Terauchi's drawing of one of the UFOs.
An artistic rendition of both objects.
Radar operators at Elmendorf Regional Operational Control Center reported a target ahead of the plane. At this point, the UFOs were flying at the same speed as JAL 1628, although they were now higher in altitude. The UFOs remained in formation for three to five minutes before they moved into a line to the plane’s left, and then shot off at impossible speeds and disappeared.
During the 10 to 15 minutes that the UFOs were either in front of the plane, the flight crew had a difficult time communicating with the ground below as the equipment onboard seemed to malfunction, and radio calls with ATC came through distorted, broken, or failed to transmit completely. Once both of the UFOs disappeared, the equipment started working normally again. The crew breathed a collective sigh of relief, but their ordeal was far from over.
Around 15 minutes after the first UFOs appeared, the crew spotted a pale, white, horizontally-elongated light at the same altitude, direction, and speed as their own aircraft, coming from the direction that the first two UFOs flew away. The crew asked Anchorage Center if there was anything off their 11 o'clock position, but ground based radar returned northing. Captain Terauchi set the aircraft’s digital weather radar distance to 20 miles, and a large round object appeared on the screen about 7-8 miles/11-13 km away from their aircraft, in the same place that the crew could could see the light coming from.
JAL 1628 immediately reported this to ATC. At one point, Anchorage reported that they had a radar hit somewhere 5-8miles/8-13 km away from JAL 1628. Anchorage then radioed Elmendorf Air Force Base where the Elmendorf controller reported that for a minute to a minute and a half, they had also picked up a weak return about 8 miles/13 km from JAL 1628. Whilst Captain Terauchi was speaking with Anchorage, the light gradually repositioned to the left of their aircraft before disappearing from the radar scope. The lights were now located just below the eastern horizon where it was most difficult to see them.
As they were flying over Fairbanks, the crew looked noticed something behind them and to their left. The silhouette of a colossal spherical object with a 'lip' around the middle and two pale, flat lights on the outer tips appeared. The silhouette of the object was visible as the object blocked the lights of the city of Fairbanks which was off to the left of the aircraft. The top was described to be lit by silver lights that flashed in sparse, irregular patterns. The crew estimated it to be about 2 times the length of an aircraft carrier, and later referred to it as a “gigantic spaceship,” or as “the mothership.”
Captain Terauchi's diagram of the "Mothership."
Another rendition of the "Mothership". Notice the size of the aircraft in proportion to the reported object.
Captain Terauchi with a drawing of the "Mothership."
In response he crew requested a right-turn change of course from Anchorage. Once they realized that the “mothership” had followed them on this turn, they requested a second change of course, but the controller ordered that they continue the turn through to a full 360 degrees. As Captain Terauchi executed this maneuver, Anchorage observed a primary target in the 6 o'clock position of the aircraft, about 5 miles/8 km, behind JAL 1628. Elmendorf Control Center’s radar also displayed a target behind the aircraft that followed it through the turn. When the crew completed the full 360 degrees, the gigantic UFO was still observed towards their rear. At the same time, the crew began feeling increasing turbulence as the object grew closer.
The "mothership" continued following the plane towards Talkeetna. At the same time, a United Airlines 747, United Airlines Flight 69 (nice) was entering the same air zone and Anchorage Center requested that they get visual confirmation of JAL 1628. When the planes were in sight of each other, they both flashed their landing lights, but by this time, the "mothership", just like the two UFO's, suddenly and without warning, disappeared. The crew placed the end of the encounter about 75 miles/120 km north of Talkeetna. The aircraft landed safely at Anchorage International Airport at 18:20 local time. The entire encounter lasted about 50 minutes.
The following is real portions of ATC transcript from the incident that I've spliced together. Note that the crew of JAL 1628 spoke mostly Japanese and were not fluent in English, and so not all of the translations on the transcript are accurate.
JAL 1628: Japan Airlines Cargo Flight 1628
AARTCC: Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center
EROCC: Elmendorf Operational Regional Control Center
TOTEM: Callsign of a non fighter military aircraft in the area
UNITED 69: Callsign of a United Airlines 747 traveling in the same air zone
All times displayed are the local standard time
5:11:00 - Lights first noticed.
5:17-5:18 - Objects appear in front on the aircraft
5:19:15 JAL1628 - Anchorage Center, Japan Air 1628, ah, do you have any traffic, ah, seven (eleven?) o'clock above?
5:19:24 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, say again...
5:19:28 JAL1628 - Do you have any traffic in front of us?
5:19:32 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, roger.
5:19:36 JAL1628 - Ah, roger and, ah, we have in sight, ah, two traffic, ah, in front of us one mile about.
5:19:49 AARTCC - JAL1628, roger, do you have.., ah, can you identify the aircraft?
5:19:58 JAL1628 - Ah, we are not sure, but we have traffic in sight now.
5:20:04 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, Roger. Maintain visual contact with your traffic and, ah, can you say the altitude of the traffic?
5:20:14 JAL1628 - Uh, almost at the same altitude.
5:20:21 AARTCC - JAL 1628 Roger. Would you like a higher or lower altitude?
5:20:27 JAL1628 - Ah, no, negative. JAL1628.
5:21:19 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, see if you are able to identify the type of aircraft, ah, and see if you can tell whether it's military or civilian.
5:21:35 JAL1628 - JAL1628. We cannot identify the type, ah, but we can see, ah, navigation lights and ah, strobe lights.
5:21:48 AARTCC - Roger, sir. Say the color of the strobe and beacon lights.
5:21:56 JAL1628 - The color is, ah, white and yellow, I think.
5:22:03 AARTCC - White and yellow. Thank you.
UFOs disappear during this time
5:23:13 JAL1628 - And now the target, ah, traffic is extinguished. We cannot see it now.
5:23:19 AARTCC - JAL1628 Roger. And I'm not receiving any radar replies.
5:23:35 AARTCC - (to the EROCC) Could you look approximately forty miles south of Fort Yukon? There should be JAL1628 up there. Can you tell me if you see a primary target and its position?
The crew of JAL 1628 sees the pale, flat light in the same area where the first two UFOs disappeared somewhere in this time period
5:24:50 AARTCC - JAL1628, do you still have, uh, visual contact with the, ah, traffic?
5:24:53 JAL1628 - Affirmative. Also, we have radar contact, ah... (unintelligible; broken transmission).
5:25:02 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, roger, sir. I'm picking up a hit on the radar approximately five miles in trail of your six o'clock position. Do you concur?
5:25:12 JAL1628 - Ah, negative, ah, 11 o'clock, ah, eight miles, ah, same level. Over.
5:25:50 AARTCC (Responding to EROCC) - Negative, its not erroneous. I want you to keep a good track on there and if you pick up a transponder signal, verify that you do not have any military aircraft operating in that area.
5:25:57 EROCC - That is affirm. We do not have anybody up there right now. Can you give me the position of the primary you're receiving?
5:26:03 AARTCC - I'm picking up a primary approximately 50 miles southeast. But it's right in front of the (JAL1628)
5:26:13 EROCC - OK. I've got him about....
5:26:15 AARTCC - Eight miles in front of the (JAL1628) he's got traffic at the same altitude (35,000 ft.).
5:26:18 EROCC - OK. I've got him about his, ah, oh, it looks like about, ah, 10 o'clock at about that range, yes.
The "Mothership" appears within this time period
5:30:16 JAL1628 - (very broken communication; unintelligible)
5:30:20 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, you're coming in broken. Say again.
5:30:23 JAL1628 - Request, ah, deviate, ah, ah, from, ah, object, ah, request heading two four zero.
5:30:32 AARTCC - JAL1628 Roger. Fly heading two four zero. JAL1628 heavy, deviations approved as necessary for traffic.
5:30:49 JAL1628 - It's, ah, quite big...
5:30:52 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, you're still broken. Say again.
5:30:56 JAL1628 - It's, ah, very quite big, ah, plane.
5:32:07 JAL1628 - JAL1628, ah, request descent.
5:32:20 JAL1628 - JAL1628 Request three one zero.
5:32:25 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, understand. Requesting flight level three one zero.
5:32:34 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, your transmissions are broken. Say again.
5:32:39 JAL1628 - Flight level three one zero.
5:32:41 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, descend at pilot discretion. Maintain flight level three one zero.
5:32:45 JAL1628 - Leaving three five zero to three one zero.
5:32:58 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, do you still have your traffic?
5:33:00 JAL1628 - Still, ah, coming, ah, ah, right in formation, in ah, formation.
5:33:07 AARTCC - JAL1628, understand.
5:34:38 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, say position of your traffic.
5:34:42 JAL1628 - Affirmative. Just over Fairbanks.
5:34:52 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, understood. Your traffic is over Fairbanks at this time.
5:34:56 JAL1628 - Affirmative, ah, requesting heading two one zero.
5:35:02 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, roger. Deviations approved as necessary for traffic.
5:35:15 AARTCC - JAL1628, say altitude of your traffic.
5:35:20 JAL1628 - Ah, oh, ah, ah, same level.
5:36.12 JAL1628 - Ah, Anchorage Center, JAL1628. Request direct to Talkeetna.
5:36:18 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, cleared direct to Talkeetna and in, ah, advise me of your position of your traffic.
5:36:24 JAL1628 - Ah, same po... same position.
5:36:37 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, sir. I'm gonna request you to make a right turn three six zero degrees, 360 degree turn and advise me what your traffic does then.
5:36:47 JAL1628 - Right turn 360.
5:38:55 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, sir. Does your traffic appear to be staying with you?
5:38:57 JAL1628 - Ah, [unintelligible] extinguished.
(Simultaneous communications between AARTCC & EROCC)
5:38:57 AARTCC - Anchorage Center.
5:38:58 EROCC - Ya, this is one dash two again. On some other equipment here we have confirmed there is a flight size of two around. One primary return only.
5:39:05 AARTCC - OK. Where is, is he following him?
5:39:07 EROCC - It looks like he is, yes.
5:39:10 AARTCC - OK. Standby.
(End simultaneous transcript section)
5:39:01 AARTCC - JAL1628 say again?
5:39:04 JAL1628 - It, ah, disappeared.
5:39:10 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, roger. At your discretion proceed directly to Talkeetna, J125 to Anchorage.
5:39:15 JAL1628 - (unintelligible)
(Second simultaneous transcript between AARTCC and EROCC)
5:39:24 AARTCC - OK. Do you want to, do you have anybody you can scramble up there or do you want to do that?
5:39:30 EROCC - I'll tell you what. We're going to talk to the liaison officer about that.
5:39:33 AARTCC - OK. Uh, it's starting to concern Japan Airline 1628, a 747. He's making a 360 now and it's still following....
5:39:46 EROCC - Where is this search [radar] return at, right behind him or where?
5:39:50 AARTCC - Say again?
5:39:51 EROCC - Ah, I'm gonna talk to my other radar man here has gotta, he's got some other equipment watching this aircraft.
5:39:54 AARTCC - OK.
5:39:55 EROCC - OK. We're going to call the military desk on this.
(End second simultaneous transcript)
5:39:35 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, roger sir. The military radar advises they do have a primary target in trail of you at this time.
5:39:32 JAL1628 - Ah, say again?
5:39:35 AARTCC - JAl1628 heavy. Military radar advises they are picking up intermittent primary target behind you in trail, in trail I say again.
5:39:47 JAL1628 - I think so.
5:40:10 AARTCC - JAL1628, Anchorage Center.
5:40:12 JAL1628 - Go ahead.
5:40:13 AARTCC - Roger Sir. Would you like our military to scramble on the traffic?
5:40:17 JAL1628 - Negative. Negative.
5:40:26 AARTCC - Jal1628 heavy, sir, we do have military ah, at Eielson, 40 miles away. I can put them up and let them check the traffic for you.
5:40:34 JAL1628 - Roger.
5:40:35 AARTCC - JAL1628, roger. Would you like us to do that?
5:40:44 TOTEM - Anchorage Center, you have TOTEM 71 up here. We might be able to get close to him.
5:40:48 AARTCC - JAL1628, you were broken. Say again.
5:40:55 JAL1628 - Ah, say again?
5:40:59 AARTCC - JAL1628 Your transmission was broken, sir. We do have military aircraft in your vicinity that we can, ah, check on the, ah, traffic with you.
5:41:07 JAL1628 - Ah, JAL1628. No radar traffic above.
5:42:04 JAL1628 - Anchorage Center, JAL1628. Confirm direct to Talkeetna three one zero.
5:42:09 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy. Affirmative. Direct to Talkeetna and descend at pilot's discretion. Maintain flight level two five zero.
5:42:16 JAL1628 - Ah, pilot's discretion. Two five zero.
5:41:51 AARTCC (To EROCC) - Where's that, ah, are you still painting a primary, ah, by that JAL flight?
5:41:56 EROCC - OK. Let me look at my other....
5:41:59 AARTCC - If so, where's the position of it?
5:42:00 EROCC - OK. Standby.
5:42:24 EROCC - It looks like, ah, offset left and then possibility fell back in trail. However, I can't see him now. I can't pick him out.
5:42:35 JAL1628 - Ah, we have...Anchorage Center, JAL1628. We have in sight same position, over.
5:42:42 AARTCC - JAL1628, understand. In sight, same position.
5:44:07 AARTCC - JAL1628, sir, do you still have the traffic?
5:44:12 JAL1628 - Ah, say again please.
5:44:13 ARTCC - JAL1628 heavy.. Do you still have the traffic?
5:44:17 JAL1628 - Ah, affirmative, ah, nine o'clock.
5:46:48 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy. Maintain flight level three one zero.
5:46:54 JAL1628 - maintain three one zero.
5:46:59 AARTCC - JAL1628, roger. I'm gonna have a United aircraft get close to you and take a look, ah, to see if he can identify your traffic.
5:47:06 JAL1628 - Thank you.
5:48:16 UNITED 69 - Can you please point the traffic out again please?
5:48:19 AARTCC - United 69 heavy, affirmative. The, ah, Japan Air is in your eleven o'clock position and five zero miles, southbound.
5:48:28 UNITED 69 - Ah, roger. Thank you.
5:48:31 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, sir, Say the position of your traffic.
5:48:34 JAL1628 - Ah, now, ah, ah, moving to, ah, around 10 miles now, ah, ah, position, ah seven, ah, eight o'clock, 10 miles.
5:48:36 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, roger.
The "Mothership" disappears somewhere in this period of time
5:50:35 UA69 - UA69 heavy. We've got the Japan Airliner in sight. I don't see anybody around him. He's at his seven o'clock position, huh?
5:50:46 AARTCC - UA69, that's what he says. JAL1628 heavy, say the position of your traffic now.
5:50:52 JAL1628 - Ah, now, extinguishing, but, ah, ah, your, I guess, ah, 12 o'clock below you.
5:51:02 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, say again. You're broken.
5:51:06 JAL1628 - Just ahead of United, ah..(unintelligible)
5:51:32: JAL 1628 and UNITED 69 pass each other
5:53:10 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, descend at pilot discretion. Maintain flight level two five zero.
5:53:13 JAL1628 - JAL1628, ah, pilot's discretion maintain, ah, two five zero, so, ah, ah, I cannot, I couldn't see, ah, UFO, over.
5:53:27 AARTCC - JAL1628 heavy, understand. You do not see the traffic any longer.
5:53:31 JAL1628 - Affirmative.
The FAA immediately interviewed the crew, who all collaborated the same story, recounting it several times in detail. The interviewers concluded that the crew had indeed seen something, and an investigation into potential radar returns ensued. It was also determined that the crew decided to decline military intervention due to their knowledge of the 1948 Mantell UFO incident, in which the pilot of a P-51D Mustang inadvertently passed out from oxygen deprivation at high altitude whilst in pursuit of a 'UFO', leading to the subsequent crash of the aircraft and death of the pilot.
Captain Terauchi went public about the encounter and began speaking to the press about his encounter in December of 1986, and was shortly after grounded by Japan Airlines. Some speculate that this was punishment for going public, but Japan Airlines claimed that it was part of a routine rotation. Eventually, Terauchi stopped talking about the events, and directed the airline to respond to inquiries by stating that he stood by his account and didn’t want to repeat it again. Terauchi and the rest of the flight crew would eventually cease most talking about the incident altogether.
Surprisingly, John Callahan, the Chief of the Accidents, Evaluations, and Investigations Division of the FAA, believed the crew, and supported a full and thorough investigation. The CIA would investigate, but surprisingly, not much (though later declassified documents hint that the CIA was much more involved than led to initially believe). Callahan would ask all relevant data to be forwarded to the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where audio and video was played back and tied together into a video over half an hour long. The next day, Callahan and his superior briefed Donald D. Engen, the FAA Administrator and and former vice naval admiral, who then watched the whole video and asked them not to talk to anybody until they were given the OK, and to prepare a presentation of the data for a group of government officials the next day. Supposedly, the meeting was attended by representatives of the FBI, CIA, President Ronald Reagan's Scientific Study Team, and others. Upon completion of the presentation, all present were strictly told that the incident was a secret and that their meeting "never took place".
Chief of the FAA Accidents, Evaluations, and Investigations Division, John Callahan, at a Congressional Citizens Hearing in 2013
FAA Admin. Donald D. Engen
The case gained wide media attention and theories were made debunking the siting as high altitude ice crystals reflecting light, split radar returns, or the pilots seeing the planets Venus or Jupiter in the night sky, though the crew adamantly denied these. The final FAA report was released on March 5th, 1987. It concluded that the radar returns had been the result of an “uncorrelated primary and beacon target” that somehow coincided with the maneuvers reported by the flight crew. Alaska’s air traffic manager, Hank Elias, responded to inquiries about the incident, stating that the FAA could “neither confirm nor deny" that the anomalous radar return was due to a split beacon, where two adjacent targets appear from the same aircraft. Elias said that the erratic behavior of the radar returns “wasn't unheard of, but it wasn't usual either.” The FAA Public Informant, Paul Steucke, said that the FAA accepted the descriptions of the UFOs from the crew.
Japan Airlines Flight 1628 was not the first commercial flight to reportedly encounter a UFO and certainly will not be the last, and is perhaps the reason that if commercial pilots do indeed see UFOs, they rarely speak out about it for fear of consequences given that Captain Terauchi was grounded for several years. The FAA paper trail and the sheer amount of technical data makes JAL 1628 one of the best documented UFO cases on record. Whether it is true or not is up to you. Can this incident just be a case of an over exaggeration over light reflected off ice crystals and split radar returns, or did the crew of Japan Airlines Cargo 1628 truly encounter something not of this world high over the mountains of Alaska? Declassified documents such as radar data, crew interview and ATC transcripts, and other goodies will be linked below. With all that said, Happy Halloween!
JAL 1628 Wiki Page
Declassified FOI Act Documents
Video on Incident
December 1986 Newspaper Article
More ATC Transcript & Crew Exerpts
Testimony of John Callahan and USAF Major George Filer at a Congressional Citizens Hearing in 2013
- Predecessor XJ-40-200
- Created On Windows
- Wingspan 192.6ft (58.7m)
- Length 225.5ft (68.7m)
- Height 62.2ft (19.0m)
- Empty Weight N/A
- Loaded Weight 245,565lbs (111,386kg)
- Power/Weight Ratio 1.372
- Wing Loading 19.3lbs/ft2 (94.4kg/m2)
- Wing Area 12,699.7ft2 (1,179.8m2)
- Drag Points 43624
- Number of Parts 646
- Control Surfaces 7
- Performance Cost 3,126