A recent report disclosed to the public following an inquiry by the British Telegraph describes that the pilot of a Thomas Cook A320 plane, flight number TCX24HX, reported a near-collision with a cigar or rugby-ball shaped aircraft last summer. The story had been first discussed late in 2013, following reports investigated and written about by the Telegraph, but new details about the encounter are offer further insight into the near-miss with an unidentified object.
On July 19, 2013, the jet had been en route to Manchester International airport, on return from the Spanish island of Ibiza, when the pilot saw a small, cigar-shaped object approaching at high speed from the left. With no time to respond, he stated he had been prepared for a collision with the object, which seems to have passed “within just a few feet” of his jet.
The story, which appeared recently in The Telegraph, features a number of unique details, with perhaps what is the most relevant portion of the text excerpted below:
[The captain] described [the object] as being “cigar/rugby ball like” in shape, bright silver and apparently “metallic” in construction.
Once it had passed, the captain checked the aircraft’s instruments and contacted air traffic controllers to report the incident. However, there was no sign of the mystery craft.
As part of the inquiry, data recordings were checked to establish what other aircraft were in the area at the time. However, all were eliminated. The investigation also ruled out meteorological balloons, after checking none were released in the vicinity. Toy balloons were also discounted, as they are not large enough to reach such heights. Military radar operators were contacted but were unable to trace the reported object.
The details above make this latest report unlike a number of similar cases where toy balloons and other conventional objects could not be ruled out, such as an encounter over Glasgow in May of 2013, where a helium filled toy balloon was cited as a likely identity for a torpedo-shaped object observed by pilots approaching for landing.
One possible explanation that has been proposed involves the presence of drones. However, as aviation authorities have previously explained, drones are generally piloted along known flight corridors through which they are supposed to be allowed to operate over civilian airspace, so as to prevent the kinds of near-collisions we’re hearing about in cases like this. Furthermore, these drones would likely turn up on radar… which is often contrary to what pilots and ATC operators are reporting in these encounters with “flying rugby balls”.
A number of similar incidents have taken place over the United States as well, which can be found in the records of the Aviation Safety Reporting System, in addition to other aviation safety sites and publications. An exhaustive presentation of these reports can be found in The Ghost Rockets: Mystery Missiles and Phantom Projectiles in Our Skies (click here to view it on Amazon.com).
There are purportedly incidents numbering at least one per month, on average, that involve unidentified flying objects, according to officials with the British National Air Traffic Control Services, according to a statement released in 2012.
Photo Credit: Andrés Nieto Porras, via Wikimedia Commons.