(National Sentinel) Unexplained: A mystery aircraft took to the skies during the day on Oct. 25 along the same flight path as normal airliners traveling in a corridor from south to north, between destinations in California and Nevada along with cities like Portland and Seattle, The Drive reported Thursday.
The site reported that an incident occurred somewhere around 4:30 pm local time near the border of California and Oregon, resulting in several pilot eyewitness accounts, recorded audio between air traffic controllers, and, eventually, confirmations of the incident from the FAA and North American Aerospace Command (NORAD).
“The first inklings of the story came to me shortly after the incident occurred from friends of mine in the aviation world. Sparse on details at the time, it sounded like it was probably just another one of the often misconstrued incidents that happen in the skies around the US everyday—ones where aircraft with inoperable radios or transponders stray into areas they shouldn’t,” writes Tyler Rogoway for The Drive. “And sometimes these occurrences result in local fighter jets paying the wayward aircraft a visit at the direction of NORAD.
“But days after initially blowing off the incident, it later began to seem that there was indeed more to the story than just than another “NORDO” private aircraft or lackadaisical pilot,” he reported.
Upon further investigation, Rogoway says he found an obscure Reddit thread ostensibly from an airline pilot that provided further details:
Just landed in Seattle coming from the bay area. Beginning over Southern Oregon we kept overhearing Seattle Center attempting to track an airplane with no transponder who wasn’t talking. A handful of crews were able to track it visually, best they could tell it was between FL350-370 [35,000-37,000 feet], northbound. Nobody close enough to see the type.
Last we heard it was over the Willamette valley northbound and some fighters, perhaps out of PDX [Portland International Airport], were scrambled to go take a peek. Center had trouble tracking it on primary radar.
Strange! My theory is they were running drugs to Canada. No news yet, not that I could find.
**Update 0500z. Called SEA ARTCC. The gentleman I spoke with said that they initially got alerted to the aircraft from Oakland Center who was painting it on primary [illuminating it with radar, but without transponder information]. For whatever reason they couldn’t track it themselves on primary, and that’s when I overheard them using airline aircraft to track it visually. The last airplane to see it had to descend into Portland and lost sight of it. The fighters were scrambled out of PDX but flew around for a while and did not find it. And that’s that.
Rogoway said that air traffic control audio recorded by LiveATC.com of Seattle sector 14 is available and corroborates much of the Reddit account.
The audio clearly indicates there were several communications between various airliner crews and Seattle Center, where controllers were attempting to track the aircraft as it traveled north toward Willamette Valley.
Thought the aircraft could not be tracked on radar and did not appear on airline crews’ traffic collision avoidance systems, it was clearly there, Rogoway says, though no crews were ever close enough to positively identify it.
Back-and-forth between crews regarding the aircraft lasted for about an hour.
Rogaway said he checked with the 142nd Fighter Wing based at Portland International Airport, NORAD, and the FAA about the incident:
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.
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He added: “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.”
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