Last night just before my live broadcast of The Gralien Report Podcast, I came across an interesting news item describing a “UFO” that shut down a Chinese airport. The article, written by my friend Paul Seaburn, a fellow writer for Mysterious Universe, was accompanied by an equally interesting piece of footage that showed glimpses of the purported “mystery craft” in question, as it was filmed from above gliding over the city below. 

Paul noted in his MU article that, “There’s no indication of which airport it is (at least for non-Chinese speakers). At the beginning, it shows a round object passing over the airport. The object appears to change forms and become elongated to a cigar shape. The video shows military personnel apparently watching the UFO but no one seems to be mobilizing or panicking. Could it be because they’ve been through this before?”

For reference, here is the video in question:

Regarding the object “changing form”, by looking at the video, it actually seems to depict the aircraft in question (obviously very blimp-like) moving toward the camera initially, and then banking and turning. That, or perhaps the angle of approach of the camera itself changes in relation to the aircraft’s flight path; perhaps a bit of both, but the end result is a foreshortened perspective of the object initially as it approaches the camera head-on, later to be revealed more fully as seen from the side.

The notion that the object had been “shape shifting” had actually been inferred by the title of the video appearing on YouTube, which uploader Michael Cohen dubbed, “Strange Shape shifting object closes down airport in China.” However, rather than shape-shifting, we can see that the effect is merely a perspective trick due to the changing proximity between the camera and the aircraft as it was being filmed. 

Previous Chinese UFO incidents along those lines have been widely reported elsewhere (including in Paul’s MU article, which revisits some of the previous airport shut-downs). However, in this case the incident in question has seen only limited coverage; in fact, my friend Paul’s article appears to be one of the only sources, other than the video itself, that discusses the object as being a “UFO” that accompanied the alleged shutdown of a Chinese airport. 

That said, the video leaves an awful lot to the imagination: despite the footage of the aircraft being fairly good (and almost undeniably of a dirigible of some kind), the language barrier it presents has likely only encouraged further speculation about what the mysterious “craft” may really be. What might really help the situation would be for someone fluent in Chinese (Cantonese?) that could simply tell us more about what the report is actually saying here, and whether an airport shutdown even really occurred.

Then again, maybe we don’t really need to go to such lengths for a solution to this one. After all, this video — and what appears to be happening in it — bears an undeniable similarity to another Chinese aviation incident that occurred four years ago. 

On October 19, 2011, The UK’s Daily Star reported on a “UFO scare” involving a remote-controlled airship prototype that purportedly caused quite a stir as its operators lost control of the craft:

The remote control prototype finally landed hundreds of miles off target in a paddy field in Hauyan village, Shandong province, eastern China, amid baffled farmers.

“We had many calls along its route from people wondering what it was. Most thought it was a UFO of some sort until it landed and we could identify it,” said a police spokesman.

A spokesman for Datian Aviation said: “We apologise for any inconvenience but the airship is completely harmless. It just flew out of range of the remote control unit.”

From the looks of the 2011 airship, it’s hard to dismiss the similarities it bears with the more recent “shape shifter” filmed over China:


And once again for comparison, the dirigible in the footage Michael Cohen uploaded:



Has our naughty lighter-than-air “prototype” been making the rounds again, maybe after seeing a few improvements over the last four years? Perhaps so… and if nothing else, the photos above would have us believe something akin to this was at least most likely the case.

Granted, if a remote control blimp had once again drifted away from its operators and managed to pass above an airport, this could easily have caused a shutdown similar to those which have been reported in previous years in China. However, the knowledge that it was a blimp, and perhaps one quite similar to that from the earlier incident, also might help explain the nonchalant attitudes among the Chinese military featured in the video, as Paul Seaburn pointed out in his article.

On an interesting side note, while news related to an airport closing in China had managed to garner headlines within the last 24 hours, that story, as reported by CH Aviationhad nothing to do with any UFO reports or dirigible sightings:

Huangyan airport, located in the eastern coastal town of Taizhou in China’s Zhejiang Province, has reopened to commercial traffic after the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) ordered it closed in late July citing significant security loopholes.

In July, a knife-wielding male passenger attempted to set fire to a curtain and newspaper during aShenzhen Airlines (ZH, Shenzhen) flight from Huangyan to Guangzhou. Flaws in the airport’s security procedures during a subsequent review led to the dismissal of a number of officials.

As a final point of interest, just for good measure I decided to run the “shape shifting” UFO footage by a friend of mine with a background in aerospace engineering, who had this to say:

Funny! That looks like an out of control balloon. It obviously has fins trying to get it to have controlled flight. It has a gondola. Its shapeshifting is due to turning.  A cigar looks like a sphere when seen edge on. Too much chaff out there (and distractions or click bait, especially ISS UFO stories). 

So whether or not any airports were indeed shut down as a result of this incident, we can almost certainly say we know what our “UFO” was in this instance… which, in fact, was hardly any UFO at all.

Special thanks to Paul Seaburn and Mark Brady for bringing this story to my attention. Image by Yaoleilei via Wikimedia Commons.

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