Airliners And F-15s Involved In Bizarre Encounter With Mystery Aircraft Over Oregon

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Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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Hopefully, just one of ours on a classified flight...

Airliners And F-15s Involved In Bizarre Encounter With Mystery Aircraft Over Oregon
The FAA, the USAF, and air traffic control recordings all confirm the bizarre event did indeed occur last October.
November 15, 2017


Air traffic control audio recorded over at of Seattle Center Sector 14 is available from the time of the incident and it corroborates much of this information. You can listen to the entire series of exchanges here starting at around the 20 minute mark and through to the first part of the next time interval recording that can be found here.

The audio is fantastic as it illustrates that there were many communications between various jet crews and Seattle Center whose controllers tried to track the aircraft as it made its way north towards the Willamette Valley. The aircraft was not able to be tracked on radar nor did it show up on crews' digital traffic collision avoidance systems (TCAS), but it was clearly there, although never quite close enough to positively identify what its exact type was.

After reading this account and listening to the audio it was clear that the incident was worth looking into on a much deeper level, and that's what we did, inquiring with the 142nd Fighter Wing based at Portland International Airport, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and the FAA about the odd ordeal.

NORAD's reply was quick and clear. An incident involving multiple airline crews, air traffic control, and F-15Cs from the 142nd Fighter Wing based out of Portland did occur. According to the limited information NORAD supplied, airliner pilots were asked by FAA air traffic controllers to help track and possibly identify a "white aircraft" traveling in the flightlevels nearby—roughly between 35,000 and 40,000 feet based on the radio recordings. NORAD also said that the incident did result in F-15s from Portland being scrambled to investigate, but by the time they got up and "looked around" the mystery aircraft couldn't be found.

A quick note on the fighter jet aspect of this story—the 142nd Fighter Wing operates F-15Cs upgraded with the most capable air-to-air radar set in the world (AN/APG-63V3) and Sniper advanced targeting pods for long-rang visual identification. Their pilots are some of the best in the world and are highly trained in the homeland air defense mission. The fact that they "didn't find anything" is surprising to say the least. Maybe this was due to the nature of the aircraft being searched for, or the possibility that they launched long after it was first sighted, or that we simply aren't being told the whole story.

As for the F-15's launch time, it seems that this mystery aircraft was moving fairly fast—at least at the same speed of the airliners around it or greater.

The FAA wasn't as forthcoming as NORAD, taking nearly a week and multiple emails to respond to our initial inquiry, only to say simply that they have nothing further to add to the description of events I provided to them. As such, they did acknowledge that the events occurred, but did not expand upon them. The 142nd Fighter Wing did not respond to our inquiries.

One of the Reddit posters with the handle "The Flying Beard" from the same thread, who supposedly is an air traffic controller, claims to have some inside knowledge of the event, stating:


"...Was just going to post about this actually. I was working an adjacent sector and was helping to coordinate some of the military stuff. They ended up launching F15s off of PDX to try and find it but no joy... [posts one of the audio clips linked above]... The crazy thing is, we didn't have a primary target or a mode C intruder, and it was out running 737s abeam it.

Also, (cue conspiracy theory) our QA department was working on this today, and got a call from the commander of the 142FW at PDX and was basically told to knock it off, and we know nothing.


We have no way of confirming this poster's information, although based on past Reddit posts their occupation description seems accurate, and their account certainly does add to the story if true.

We have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the FAA and NORAD, as well as other federal parties involved in the incident. Hopefully we will find out more eventually as to what really went on that day so we can provide a more complete picture for our readers.