Multiple U.S. authorities have confirmed that commercial airline pilots recently saw, well, something, hurtling through America’s southwestern skies.
The lowdown is this: American Airlines Flight 2292 was passing over Clayton, N.M., on Sunday, travelling at 36,000 feet en route to Phoenix from Cincinnati, when the crew witnessed a “long, cylindrical” object. The object shot over the top of the plane, travelling at a very high rate of speed, then disappeared.
Shortly after it occurred, the pilots of 2292 radioed the FAA’s Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Centre to ask what the hell was going on. The transmission associated from the incident was actually recorded by blogger and self-styled “radio interceptor” Steve Douglass, who featured it on his blog Deep Black Horizon. The story was subsequently picked up by The Warzone and other news outlets. The transmission from Sunday reads:
“Do you have any targets up here? We just had something go right over the top of us – I hate to say this but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing – moving really fast right over the top of us.”
The Warzone also got ahold of the actual audio, so you can take a listen yourself:
When queried by Warzone reporters, American Airlines initially claimed to not know what they were talking about, telling them: “At this time, we do not have any indication the radio transmission was from the flight crew on board American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21.” The airline subsequently backtracked and recently released this short statement:
Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21. For any additional questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to the FBI.
More recently, the Federation Aviation Administration also confirmed that the incident had occurred, releasing a curt explanation:
A pilot reported seeing an object over New Mexico shortly after noon local time on Sunday, February 21, 2021. FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.
The FBI, too, knows that something went down: “The FBI is aware of the reported incident,” the feds told the Albuquerque Journal. “While our policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations, the FBI works continuously with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to share intelligence and protect the public.”
Now the speculation has begun as to what it was exactly that the pilots saw. Given the pilot’s “missile” comment, a number of commentators have pointed out that the U.S. Military’s White Sands Missile Range is located in New Mexico — albeit quite a ways out from where the sighting took place (by about 644 km). Could it have been some sort of long-range missile test? The range apparently told The Arizona Republic that they weren’t running any tests that day and never run tests in that area.
Nevertheless, the defence tech angle is interesting. There’s been a significant amount of research to support the idea that a lot of unidentified flying object sightings in prior decades were actually classified military projects. During the Cold War, the U.S. engaged in furious R&D related to clandestine aerial technology (think drones, but in the 1960s), the likes of which had to be kept a secret from the Soviets and China (and, therefore, from the public at large).
Of course, the Cold War is over now — though the U.S. still has a lot of so-called “enemies,” and spends significant time and money developing new military technologies, testing equipment, and so on. It may (or may not) help explain the rash of weird sightings that have popped up over the last few years — though let’s not rule out actual aliens. There’s always that possibility, too.