Tag Archives: Australian Transport Safety Bureau

UFO Encountered by Two Australian Aircraft – That’s Official

Airservices Australia (ASA) UFO Reports

Paul Dean By Paul Dean

     Some of you may know that there are actually two Australian government agencies who are equipped to, and indeed do, accept UFO reports from flight crews. They are the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and Airservices Australia (ASA). Of the two, ASA describes itself as “. . . a government owned corporation providing safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible services to the aviation industry.” Earlier this year I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for any UFO, or UFO-like, reports submitted to ASA by flight crews, with the date range of 2008 to 2015. I published the results of that effort in January, 2015, and my findings can be looked at here.

You will note that my FOI request then only stipulated that ASA search their “Electronically Submitted Incident Report” (ESIR) database and the newer Corporate Integrated Reporting and Risk Information System (CIRRIS) for UFO events dating from 2008 onwards, when, in fact, I know that their databases of UFO events (and all air safety incidences) go back much further than that. The reason for me not asking for all material dating back to, say, the 1980’s, is because an FOI requestor can be knocked back if their request is to broad, or, will cause an especially large workload for staff. So, one often breaks these requests for data up into smaller date range blocks. Needless to say, as soon as the last FOI request was furnished, I submitted another one. One the 30th of January, 2015 I submitted a new FOI request to ASA for all UFO or UFO-like cases dated between 1992 and 2008. Specifically, my request stated:

“….any incidences where flight crews have reported any:

1) Unusual, Unknown, or Unidentifiable Aircraft or Objects;

2) Suspected Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles;

3) Meteoric Events, fireballs and the like;

4) Especially unusual weather phenomenon;

which are held on ESIR database(s).”

On the 18th of February, 2015 Sasha Pesic, ASA’s very helpful Freedom of Information & Privacy Contact Officer/Legal Inquiries Coordinator, asked me if I would grant them an extension of time in searching their database(s) and preparing any found material, which, despite not being famous for my patience, I agreed to. On the 7 May, 2015, I received the results of my request. At one page, in PDF form, ASA supplied me with 3 UFO or related events in table form, which is imaged above, top.

It doesn’t take a genius to see which one jumps out. In June, 1999 two airplanes experienced what, by anyone’s measure, must be considered a pretty serious UFO event. In ASA’s “Executive Summary” column it is dryly stated:

“Pilots of AJP and AJK enroute for Alice Springs sighted an unidentified green object in their vicinity. No details of any other traffic held by Brisbane Sector 11.”

In the “Description” column it is stated:

“At 1015 the pilot of AJP Tindal for Alice Springs reported sighting a green object climbing and descending vertically and paralleling his track for some time. The pilot of AJK Darwin for Alice Springs reported sighting this green object as well. No details of any other traffic were held by Brisbane Sector 11.”

Sounds quite interesting, does it not? It is one thing for a single flight crew to report a UFO event. But when two flight crews report the same thing, the story is much hard to brush aside. But, one must look at the data before speculating too much; and the provided data is as follows:

Year: 1999
Report No: 2054

UTC Date/Time: 199906231015


Attribution: OTHER

Occurrence Unit: TOPS

The first problem here is that the case is 16 years old, which make it much harder to investigate. Which brings me to another matter. On the 30th of May, 2012, researcher Keith Basterfield submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Airservices Australia for:

“…any documents held by Air Services Australia, on the subject of “unidentified flying objects”.”

On the 18th of June, 2012, Keith was furnished with internal ASA material containing a number of media enquiries to ASA, enquiries to ASA from the general public, etc, but not the details of the case I speak of here, despite the fact that it should have been located and released in response to his FOI request. I mean, sure, in my FOI request I was more specific in my search demands, but they must have known what Keith was looking for, and no amount of semantics or trickery can change that fact. Put simply: This UFO case – and it is a UFO case, as we shall see – occurred in 1999. Keith’s FOI was in 2012. By rights, Keith or I should be asking ASA what went on and why. But that is for another time. Anyway, I digress.

Our UFO case here at hand occurred at UTC Date/Time: 199906231015, which is Coordinated Universal Time (the old Greenwich Mean Time), and, is simply 1999, 23erd of June, at 10:15am.. As the event occurred while both aircraft were enroute to Alice Springs, if anyone noticed, I would like to say that this incident happened somewhere over central Australia. Now, 199906231015 happens to be 1945hrs in central Australia, or, 7:45pm. At that time the sky is dark, so, one may presume that any object that is be described as “green” was almost definitely luminous. As for the planes involved (AJP and AJK), well, they are both business jets built by Israeli Aircraft Industries, model Westwind, type IAI 1124 according to online Australian aircraft registration records. They carry two crew, and operate at a maximum speed of 865km/hr at 29,000 feet, but cruise at 725km/hr at 39-41,000 feet. Seeing as the Executive Summary states “Pilots of AJP and AJK enroute for Alice Springs”, there is every chance that the aircraft were travelling at a pretty high velocity. Which means the UFO was too.

Whatever the speed, wherever the locale, even the admittedly limited data presented this one page ASA document raises some awkward questions. Firstly, what can dip up and down in the atmosphere, and then decide to track with a jet “for some time”? We can’t rule out another aircraft, but it would mean, one would assume, a very bright green light(s) aboard; as well as a desire to joyride along with no flight plan submitted, and no effort to communicate: The ASA material does state “No details of any other traffic were held by Brisbane Sector 11.” If it was likely another aircraft, did ASA or the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigate? If not, why? Secondly, one could go down the military ordinance path, and assume a fire-and-forget missile was involved. Does the Australian Defence Force actually employ such missile systems near known flight paths, which glow green? Thirdly, probably most importantly, what related material is ASA, or the ATSB, sitting on in regards to this event? We may soon find out. I have submitted an FOI request to both ASA and the ATSB for any associated records that could even remotely be attached to this event. If there are none, I can assure you, I will be asking why. This case is nearly as new to me as it is to you, the reader. For example, I need to find out what airlines were operating the two planes involved. And, when that is achieved, I will be kindly asking them to furnish me with the contact details of the pilots who were witness to the event. It may not be even possible though. I would also like to use this opportunity to ask any pilots, or other persons linked to the aviation industry, to contact me. History tells us there will be a great deal more cases such as this one.

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Huge Release Of UFO / UAP Information From The Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Paul Dean By Paul Dean
The UFO Chronicles

     On the 1 December 2014, I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) FOI branch stating:

“I wish to have searched your Aviation Accident or Incident Notifications database(s) for any reported incidences or events which contain any of the following attributes: Unusual or Unidentifiable Aircraft and/or Objects; ie UFO’s; Suspected (but not confirmed) Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. As stated, I would like the searches performed on files/databases dating back to May, 2003.

The next day, the ATSB sent me their mandatory acknowledgement of receipt of my request, and thus I waited for some four weeks for some progress.

On the 24th of December, 2014, the ATSB’s FOI branch sent me an initial decision stating they had indeed found material in their Aviation Accident or Incident Notifications database(s) which was responsive to my request. Also, the ATSB had furnished me, in the same correspondence, an “estimate of charges”:

“In accordance with arrangements made by Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner of ATSB, I am authorised to make a decision under section 29 of the FOI Act. Accordingly, I have decided that you are liable to pay a charge for the processing of your request. The preliminary estimate for processing this request is $2010.63.”

$2010.63?? For material they already have accessible at the touch of a mouse button?? Well, I was having none of it. None of it, see! On the 5th of January I sent the ATSB a request for a waiving of charges, backed up by my assertion that $2010.63 seemed a rather high figure – indeed far higher than any other FOI request I have submitted to other agencies and departments; plus, the little fact that UFO’s, unknown or unusual craft, drones, etc were of an air safety significance, sometimes in the extreme, and that the public would be better served knowing a bit more about what seems to be flying around in our airspace. The very next day I received a surprising and much appreciated response from the ATSB:

“Thank you for your email of 5 January 2015. The ATSB has decided to waive the charges applicable for processing your request.”

On the 19th of March, 2015, after nearly three months of waiting, I received three PDF files containing a formidable 158 pages of ATSB Aviation Accident or Incident Notification reports, plus other internal ATSB correspondence, as well as inter-agency correspondence between the ATSB and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Upon studying this material, I was able to ascertain that there were, dated back to 2004, twenty-four individual air safety incidences involving near misses, or “air proximity” events, between aircraft and unknown, or at least, hard to identify bodies in Australian skies. Now, five of these events were already known to us from previous FOIs to Air Services Australia (ASA) and general information publically available, usually from online ATSB systems.

Now, before you get to excited, of the twenty-four events furnished to me most are clearly explainable as sightings of groups of balloons, low flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), remote controlled model aircraft, etc. But, just as I had hoped, there are three events that jumped out at me, and a few others which seem borderline. Researcher Keith Basterfield went through the data too, and he agreed with me that the same three events worth looking into further. I have detailed below these three cases, with actual images of the paperwork, and I start off with the most concerning event from an air safety perspective, as well as, in some ways, being the most perplexing.

The raw data states that at 0956hrs local time (EST) on 26 April 2005, an airprox event occurred near Mount Sandon, New South Wales, at latitude 31deg 19mins south, and longitude 151deg 24mins east. The aircraft involved was a Beech aircraft B200C turboprop belonging to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, which had left the ground and was cruising at an altitude of about 20,000 feet. Its SSR code was A1055. The ATSB narrative of the event reads as follows:

“4NM north of Mount Sandon the pilot of [redacted] thought they saw traffic just below them coming towards them. They commenced a turn to the right to avoid the object then turned back to the left to see behind and attempt to identify what it was. The pilot subsequently reported that it was a red and white object travelling very fast but it could not be identified for certain as an aircraft. There was no other known traffic to the ATS system within 12NM of the aircraft and there was no cloud. The sun at the time was high and to the rear left of the direction of travel. Air situation playback (ASPB) confirmed there were no other Mode-C SSR returns. The area is outside of primary radar coverage. The object passed at an estimated distance of less than 500 feet below the aircraft.”

20,000 feet hey? What, I ask, other than another airplane, does a pilot need to turn to avoid? A missile or UAV? We are currently, and somewhat urgently, looking into what sort of body could achieve this sort of altitude; and some of you may remember the fiasco that has occurred over Perth in recent times involving potential rocket firings near passenger planes. If not, read my previous blogs:

Below is an image of some of the actual ATSB material:

UFO Occurence Detail Report (FOI 200502046 Via Paul Dean)
– click on image(s) to enlarge –

The second unusual incident relates to abnormal primary radar returns at Williamtown, NSW. The ATSB data, some five pages of it, tells us that at 0610hrs local time (EST) on 21 March 2014, the Williamtown Department of Defence primary radar experienced what they referred to as “abnormal radar returns”. The ATSB documentation states:

“Please note that this occurrence is a notification only and has not yet been investigated. After being issued departure instructions and a take-off clearance [redacted] take-off clearance was cancelled due to multiple unidentified system tracks that appeared on the Australian Defence Air Traffic System (ADATS) Situational Data Displays (SDD). The tracks presented as primary radar returns only, with no associated secondary surveillance radar (SSR) data. These tracks appeared at approximately 30NM south of WLM and disappeared from all SDD screens at approximately 8NM south of WLM. No further returns were observed and [redacted] was subsequently departed without further incident.”

Now, I wish to stress that this event could be related to primary radar glitches involving interference and such, but, as the paperwork tells us, an Air Safety Occurrence Report (ASOR) was raised because of the event. ASOR’s are a RAAF report, so someone considered the event serious enough to not ignore it. Maybe soon we will find out. I have already sent an FOI Request to the Department of Defence in which I described the event and its pertinent data, and I finished by stating:

“I wish to ask for any material held by the Department of Defence, regarding the above matter. The material may well be held at the Directorate of Defence Aviation and Air Force Safety (DDAAFS) and/or at Williamtown RAAF. Specifically, I wish to obtain ASOR material; any internal Defence emails, or emails to and/or from external agencies (the ATSB for example); any investigative reports; any material held on the Defence Aviation Hazard Reporting and Tracking System (DAHRTS); any material held on the Closed Loop Hazard/ASOR Review and Tracking System; imagery from the actual Situational Data Displays (SSD); primary radar system test results; general opinions and conclusions of RAAF officers; logs of phone calls made regarding the incident; etc.”

Below is an image of the paperwork for this puzzling event:

UFO Occurence Detail Report (FOI 201402471 Via Paul Dean)
– click on image9s) to enlarge –

The third case in the ATSB release we find unusual involves, at 1000hrs EST on 5 May 2012, a Boeing 737-838 aircraft that was on a landing course for Sydney, at latitude 33deg 57.77mins south and longitude 151deg 11.63mins east. The pilot reported seeing:

A large (approx. double size of a soccer ball) cylindrical shiny object passed by aircraft by our right hand side. Its colour was brown/orange. It caught my eye in the 1230 position and I watched it pass by our right hand side at our level and missed our right hand wing tip by about 5 metres. Reported to ATC (Sydney approach). It happened very quickly and I was the only known witness. It might have been a balloon but it was not round.”

An image of the ATSB documentation is below:

UFO Occurence Detail Report (FOI 201204538 Via Paul Dean)
– click on image(s) to enlarge –

So, to sum up, it is quite clear that pilots are still reporting serious UFO events – whatever they may be – to civil aviation authorities. The ATSB and ASA obviously get the lions share of such reports through various reporting channels such as the Aviation Accident or Incident Notification report system. One wonders how many pilot reports have been filed, or are held, with other systems like Defence’s ASOR system, or their Defence Aviation Hazard Reporting and Tracking System (DAHRTS), or their Closed Loop Hazard/ASOR Review and Tracking System. One wonders about foreign civilian pilots who report events to agencies in their home nations even when such events occur over Australia. One wonders, also, how many UFO-style events go unreported altogether.

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Rockets Launched at Passenger Planes Over Perth? Second Incident Comes To Light!

Rockets Launched at Passenger Planes Over Perth? Second Incident Comes To Light!

Paul Dean By Paul Dean
The UFO Chronicles

     On the 19th of March, 2014 a passenger plane had a “near miss” incident with a long, green or grey, cylindrical shaped object while on its merry way to landing at Perth Airport. Researcher Keith Bastefield and I studied this case for months, which included interviewing the pilot, securing combined radar imaging, looking at local weather data, etc. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) final report, at just 4 pages, was simply titled “Near Collision Between An Unknown Object And A De Havilland DHC-8”. Our own final report can be seen here:

I had always suspected that the object was some sort of high-end consumer rocket or toy missile; and, if so, my fear was that someone had deliberately launched it at the oncoming passenger plane. But without more information I didn’t think we would ever know. That now may have changed. And it doesn’t look good.

On the 24th of November, 2014 I submitted an FOI request to Airservices Australia (ASA) specifically asking for:

. . . any incidences where flight crews have reported any:

1) Unusual, Unknown, or Unidentifiable Aircraft or Objects;

2) Suspected Drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles;

3) Meteoric Events, fireballs and the like;

4) Especially unusual weather phenomenon;

which are held on ESIR or CIRRIS database(s).

Less than a month later – on the 10th of December – along comes the reply:

“Please find attached an FOI access decision, table of documents and documents being released under the access decision re your request dated 25 November 2014.”

Attached was a 3 page PDF file titled “Documents Being Released Under The Access Decision”. It contained tabulated pilot reports of UFO-like events over Australia spanning back 7 years.

I had focused on the more unusual cases in the document. Had I have been a bit more thorough I would have noticed that case number ATS-0118570, occurring at 9.20am on the 4th of January 2013, detailed a troubling event over, like the 2014 case, Perth. It took Keith Basterfield’s keen eye to see the link just tonight. The summary states:

“XKI (DH8C) reported a foreign object of approximate size (1 metre) within close proximity (50ft) of the aircraft causing them to level out briefly as the object passed left hand side. The rocket like object (shaft) was observed to be attached to a parachute. Pilot reported observation at 6800 ft.”

“XKI (DH8C) reported a foreign object of approximate size (1 metre) within close proximity (50ft) of the aircraft causing them to level out briefly as the object passed left hand side. The rocket like object (shaft) was observed to be attached to a parachute. Pilot reported observation at 6800 ft.”

Note the similarities between this 2013 event, and the much studied 2014 case! For starters, both planes are registered to Skippers Aviation.. Both events occurred slightly after 9:00am on weekdays.. Both reports indicated objects similar to rockets or missiles, specifically, “pencil or cigarette like” in dimension (the 2014 case) and “rocket like object (shaft)” (2013 case).. Both events caused the pilots to make efforts to avoid the objects.. And obviously both events happened over Perth.. The big difference between the two cases is, from the information we have, is that in the 2014 case the object went past the plane at 3800 feet altitude and still climbing. In the 2013 case the object was “attached to a parachute” and was seen at 6800 feet altitude. Sounds like some sort of rocket with a parachute no? How cute – until it happens again and strikes the guts of a 300 passenger capacity airliner.

So what is going on here? Has not the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Airservices Australia seen the link? Certainly the 2014 event was reported by Skippers Aviation pilots to the ATSB, while the 2013 case was reported to Airservices Australia. But both share information on safety issues, and I have that in writing. Did not the ATSB, in writing their measly 4 page report on the 2014 event, feel fit to include the similar nature of the 2013 case? I am submitting an urgent Freedom of Information request to Airservices Australia for details of the 2013 event. If I find out that it occurred over a similar location above Perth, and the authorities are brushing this extraordinary issue aside, then it they really are not doing the job they are mandated to; and it will be absurd of them to pretend otherwise when they try.

Once again, Keith Basterfield linked the two events from my FOI-obtained documents. There may be dozens more incidents like this. Give us two or three months and we’ll find more.

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Two Commercial Flights Have Been Buzzed By UFOs Over Perth

Two Commercial Flights Have Been Buzzed By UFOs Over Perth

UFO or secret rocket base? Unknown object in Perth’s skies

By Paul Entwistle

     Aviation experts and ufologists are puzzled by an object that forced a Perth-bound flight to take evasive measures last year to avoid a collision.

On March 19, a Skippers Aviation flight was forced to change it’s approach to Perth airport after the crew spotted a “bright strobe light” directly in front of the aircraft.

The De Havilland DHC-8 aircraft was about 25 kilometres north-east of Perth at an altitude of around 4000 feet when the object passed within 20 metres of the flight, according to an incident report lodged with the Australian Transport Safety Authority.

The pilot’s testimony in the report described the object as “cylindrical in shape and grey in colour.” . . .

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Near Collision Between Passenger Plane and UFO | Final Report

Paul Dean By Paul Dean
The UFO Chronicles

      In Australia, according to the website of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), they are “…Australia’s national transport safety investigator…The ATSB is Australia’s prime agency for the independent investigation of civil aviation, rail and maritime accidents, incidents and safety deficiencies.” On the ATSB website is a listing of “Aviation Safety Investigations & Reports”. The listing provides details of incidents such as near collisions between aircraft. In April, 2014, I noted, after some searching, that a March 2014 report involved a near collision between a passenger plane and an “unknown object.”

The ATSB report number AO-2014-052 read as follows:

“The ATSB has commenced an investigation into a near collision with an unknown object involving a De Havilland DHC-8, VH-XFX near Perth Airport, Western Australia on 19 March 2014. Whilst passing 4,000ft on descent the crew observed an unknown object tracking directly towards the aircraft. The crew manoeuvred the aircraft to maintain separation. As part of the investigation the ATSB will interview the aircrew. A report will be released within several months.”

This ATSB preliminary report goes on to provide general details as follows:

Date: 19 Mar 2014
Time: 0913 WST
Location: Perth Airport, NNE 23km
Investigation type: Occurrence investigation
Occurrence class: Operational
Occurrence category: Serious incident
Report status: Pending
Expected completion: June 2014
Aircraft details: de Havilland Canada
Model: DHC-8-314
Registration: VH-XFX
Serial number: 313
Type of operation: Charter
Sector: Turbo prop
Damage to aircraft: Nil
Departure point: Kambalda, WA

Destination: Perth, WA.

On 26 May 2014 the ATSB released their four page report on the incident. The first page was simply a cover sheet, below:

Near collision between an unknown object and a De Havilland DHC-8 (Report Cover) 3-19-14

Page two (not imaged here) is merely ATSB information, and Page three, headed “Near collision between an unknown object and a De Havilland DHC-8”, contains further details of the event, imaged below:

Near collision between an unknown object and a De Havilland DHC-8 (Report Pg 3) 3-19-14

For clarity, the above page reads:

“On 19 March 2014, at about 0913 Western Standard Time (WST) a de Havilland DHC-8, registered VH-XFX was on approach to Perth Airport from Kambalda, Western Australia. When about 23km north-north-east of Perth, at about 3,800ft above mean sea level (AMSL), the crew sighted a bright strobe light in front of the aircraft. The light appeared to track toward the aircraft and the crew realised that the light was on an unknown object, possibly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV.) The pilot took evasive action turning towards the west to avoid a collision with the object. The object passed about 20m horizontally and 100ft vertically from the aircraft.

The pilot reported that the object was cylindrical in shape and grey in colour. It was at about 3,700ft AMSL and in controlled airspace. The crew did not receive a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) alert. The airspace below 3,500ft AMSL was military restricted airspace and the Australian Defence Force was not operating UAVs and was not aware of any UAV operations in the area at the time of the incident. The ATSB was not able to confirm the details of the object or identify any UAV operator in the area at that time.”

General details:

Occurrence details
Date and time: 19 March 2014 – 0913WST
Occurrence category: Serious incident
Primary occurrence type: Interference from the ground
Location: 23km NNE Perth Airport, Western Australia
Latitude 31 deg 44.62min S

Aircraft details:
Manufacturer and model: De Havilland Canada DHC-8-314
Registration: VH-XFX
Serial number: 313
Type of operation: Charter-passenger
Persons on board: Crew-4 passengers-unknown
Injuries: Crew – nil. Passengers – nil
Damage: Nil.
About the ATSB:

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is an independent Commonwealth Government Statutory Agency. The ATSB is governed by a Commission and is entirely separate from transport regulatory, policy makers and service providers. The ATSB’s function is to improve safety and public confidence in the aviation, maritime and rail modes of transport through excellence in independent investigations of transport accidents and other safety occurrences; safety data recording, analysis and research, and fostering safety awareness, knowledge and action.”

The ATSB is responsible for investigating accidents and other transport safety matters involving civil aviation, marine and rail operations in Australia that fall within Commonwealth jurisdiction, as well as participating in overseas investigations involving Australia registered aircraft and ships. A primary concern is the safety of commercial transport, with particular regard to fare-paying passenger operations.

The ATSB performs its functions in accordance with the provision of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and regulations and, where appropriate, relevant international agreements.

The object of a safety investigation is to identify and reduce safety-related risk. ATSB investigations determine and communicate the safety factors related to the transport safety matter being investigated.

It is not a function of the ATSB to apportion blame or determine liability. At the same time, an investigation report must include factual material of sufficient weight to support the analysis and findings. At all times the ATSB endeavours to balance the use of material that could imply adverse comment with the need to properly explain what happened, and why, in a fair and unbiased manner.

About this report:

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, a limited-scope, fact- gathering investigation was conducted in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.”

The Investigation:

The Authors:

1. Secured secondary radar data on the event.
2. Secured primary radar data on the event.
3. Obtained weather details.
4. Interviewed the command pilot.
5. Located similar events of this type in this area.
6. Obtained additional information from the ATSB.
7. Checked previous ATSB reports involving UAV.

1. Secondary Radar Data:

The “Webtrak” website is run by Air Services Australia and allows a view of secondary radar data superimposed over a ground map. It shows the location of aircraft near major Australian airports. You can view an area up to 50 kilometres from selected airports. Only aircraft carrying transponders show on the screen. For each aircraft you can find details such as its flight number; originating and destination airports; an aircraft’s moment to moment height (AMSL), plus the type of plane. Time wise, you can check from 40 minutes to three months into the past.

Keith went to the “Webtrak” website and set the system for 19 March 2014 beginning at 0904WST. At 0909WST a DHC-8 aircraft , shown as flying from YKBL appears on the radar replay, near the locality of Chidlow. This was the aircraft described in the ATSB report.

The following screen capture is from Webtrak at about 0913WST on 19 March 2014. The DHC-8 aircraft is the smaller red aircraft middle top of the screen:

Capture is from Webtrak

The DHC-8 aircraft is shown following flight VOZ1432, registration VH-YIU, a B738 flying Darwin to Perth. Some 20 kilometres behind the DHC-8 plane was flight QFA485 Melbourne to Perth, an A332 at 6243 feet. The crew of this aircraft would have had the DHC-8 to the front of them. Close to QFA485 was a general aviation aircraft, a C82R at 8186 feet. However, the direction of flight of this aircraft was facing away from the DHC-8 plane.

The radar replay shows VOZ1432 landing at 0916 WST, the DHC-8 landed at 0919WST and the QFA485 at 0920WST.

Zooming in on the secondary radar image reveals that at about 0913WST, the DHC-8 aircraft was shown at a height of 4124ft. Looking at the track of this aircraft as displayed, there does indeed seem to be a slight direction change at the reported time of the near collision with the “unknown” object. There are absolutely no other aircraft shown, near the DHC-8 on the radar replay. However, it should be remembered that secondary radar only shows returns on the display when an aircraft is carrying a transponder which provides identification to air traffic controllers. If the object was an aircraft not using a transponder, then it would not show up on this type of radar.

2. Primary Radar Data:

Primary radar shows returns of any kind. In theory it should show only objects reflecting the generated radar waves. Perth international airport shares a primary radar system with the RAAF’s Pearce Air Force Base. We therefore sought copies of primary radar data from both the Department of Defence (Keith Basterfield) and Air Services Australia (Myself), using the Freedom of Information Act.

The length of the DOD FOI process exceeded the length of time that the RAAF holds its radar data for (apparently 30 days) and thus this was unsuccessful. However, ASA did provide us with a DVD with a replay of radar data for that location, date and time. An air traffic controller who looked at this DVD for us, confirmed that it showed both primary and secondary radar data. What did it show? It showed all the aircraft which Webtrak had shown, but absolutely nothing near the DHC-8. Whatever, was seen visually by the pilot, did not appear on radar.

3. Weather Details:

The Bureau of Meteorology’s website provided the following weather information for Perth international airport. Daily minimum temperature 18deg C; daily maximum 32.4degC. Nil rain. Evaporation 6.6mm. Sun 11.0hrs. Maximum wind gust south-west 37km/hr at 1445hrs. At 9am temperature was 24.5degC; relative humidity 51; nil cloud; wind from the north-east at 13km/hr. MSLP 1021.0.

4. Interview With Pilot In Command:

We both independently communicated with Skippers Aviation, the company who owned VH-XFX and sought their permission to interview the main pilot. I also spoke by telephone to a number of Skippers’ employees to achieve the same aim. After several months, I was advised that he had permission to speak to the pilot, and did so on 2 and 3 July 2014. The following dot points were recorded, from the conversation:

* The pilot, male, age 26 utterly ruled out the possibility of the object being a weather balloon
• The object was travelling in the opposite direction to him, not merely hovering or floating

• He and the co-pilot registered “complete shock”

• Air Services Australia confirmed that no other flight crew reported seeing the object (via ground radio when he landed)

• When he thought the object might collide with his plane, he sought a heading change from ATC, but this was denied. He therefore changed course himself

• The object was still going “up,” as well as travelling horizontally when it passed his aircraft

• He estimated it was only 100m from his aircraft at most, he said it could have been as close as 30m

• It had the ratio dimension wise of a cigarette, i.e. long and thin

• He said it was green in colour, military green actually, even though the ATSB report cites the colour as grey

• The strobe light on front had a flash frequency of a second interval at most. It was whitish in colour, and not red, or blue, or any other colour

• The total duration of the event did not exceed 15 seconds

• A very rough estimate of the speed of the aircraft at the time was perhaps 450km/hr, despite being on a landing approach

• No other aircraft crew reported seeing anything. There was no radar image of the object. ASA staff saw nothing on radar

• It definitely went past the aircraft on the left hand side

• The pilot undertook a voluntary drug, urine test upon landing

• He has no idea what it was, and didn’t want it to happen again

• There were 53 passengers on board at the time

• No one told him, not to discuss the incident.

Perhaps the single most important difference between the pilot’s account and the ATSB report is that the ATSB said the object was grey in colour, whereas the pilot said it was green, military green, in colour.

5. Similar Events In The Area:

A check was made for similar events from this area. Two were found:

a. In 1998, as part of a response to an FOI request to the ATSB, Keith received the details of a 1998 incident. At 1515hrs on 8 November 1998, an aircraft was 28kms NW of Perth airport. The pilot reported that an unidentified flying object, bright red/orange in colour, passed 30 meters below his aircraft. It was travelling very fast, as the aircraft passed 9,000 feet. The object was estimated to be approximately 2 metres across. The pilot said he believed that the object might have been a model aircraft.

b. The “West Australian” newspaper of Saturday, 18 April 2009, on page 7, ran the headline “Toy plane crashes into jet.” The story was that a radio controlled model aircraft had collided with a jet, either a Virgin Blue or Qantas aircraft. Two young men had been observed operating the model, some 500 metres from the runway thresh hold. A more detailed account appeared on page 9 of the Tuesday 21 April 2009 issue of the same paper. At 0800hrs on 17 April 2009 a model aircraft “…came within seconds of colliding with the 160 seat 737 aircraft…” The model plane was said to be 88cm long with a one metre wingspan and weighed 850g. A video taken by the operator is available for viewing on You Tube.

6. Additional Information From the ATSB:

I communicated with the ATSB seeking additional information. Part of the ATSB’s email response read:

“In this incident, the primary source of factual information was the flight crew of the aircraft involved. The aircraft had tracked from IFR waypoint ROLOB to WOORA, a heading of about 285 degrees, or WNW. After the aircraft passed WOORA, the next intended waypoint was HAIGH, a track of about 234 degrees (south-west). As the pilot in command commenced the turn, the crew sighted a strobe light tracking directly towards the aircraft. The pilot elected to turn onto a heading of 270 (or west), rather than continue the turn to the SW, to avoid the object which was on a reciprocal track. The object then passed down the left side of the aircraft.

The ATSB attempted to identify the object and its operator. However, as stated in the report, was unable to verify what the object was, where it had been launched from, or the identity of the operator. The incident was reported to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Defence Force.”

7. ATSB Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Reports:

A check of the ATSB’s database located two previous reports involving UAV.

a. AO-2014-056. Near collision between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a Bell 412 helicopter, VH-WSB, near Newcastle Westpac base (HLS) NSW on 22 March 2014. 2200hrs and climbing to 1200 feet, observed a steady white light. Helicopter then descended. Pilot noted the light made an abrupt right turn and tracked towards the helicopter. The object’s rate and radius of turn indicated it was not an aircraft. “…more likely to be a small unmanned aerial vehicle…” The UAV was seen as close as 100m away and level with the helicopter.

b. AO-2013-167. Aircraft separation issue involving an Ayres S2B VH-WBK and an unmanned aerial vehicle 37km SSW of Horsham aerodrome, Victoria on 12 September 2013. At about 0930hrs EST aerial agricultural operation was occurring on a property. An operator of a UAV Sensefly EBee 178 was conducting aerial photography. The operator radioed his intention to launch a UAV. Flight of UAV was at 390 feet AGL. The UAV came near to the aircraft.

Discussion and Analysis:

1. The “unknown” object was not picked up on primary or secondary radar from the ground. It also did not activate the aircraft’s TCAS. This all suggests that the object was not an aircraft. The pilot’s visual observation confirms this.

2. Was it an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as suggested in the ATSB report? Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Australia Advisory circular AC101-1 provides that UAVs are permitted only up to a height not exceeding 400 feet AGL, and there are tight controls if flown in controlled airspace. Recall that the aircraft at the time was near 4,000 feet. Recall also that the Department of Defence is cited as saying that it was not operating UAVs at the time itself, and was not aware of any UAV operations at that time. In addition, the ATSB was not able to identify any UAV operator in the area. Thus if it was a UAV, it was an illegal operation.

I contacted two Perth based UAV operators, namely “Coptercam” and “Altitude Imaging.” Neither company was aware of any current UAVs shaped like “cigarettes” i.e. pencil shaped. In addition, one should also note the pilot’s description of the object. It was not of a multi rotor, circular UAV, nor of a fixed wing model aircraft, but of a military green coloured, cylindrical object of dimensions ratio similar to a cigarette, i.e. long and thin. Note also, that the pilot did not report seeing any wings, tail, or propulsion system on the object, even though he had a close visual observation. In our opinion, the probability of the unknown object being a conventional UAV, is extremely low.

3. So, what was it? By any definition it was an “unknown object,” an unidentified flying object if you will, or an example of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP.)

Could there still be a conventional explanation, if it was not an aircraft or a UAV? Perhaps the colour and ratio of its dimensions provide a clue? Could it have been a rocket or a missile, of some kind? If so, why would such a thing have a strobe light on it? Apparent lack of wings, tail or a propulsion system would all fit this conjecture. If it was a rocket or missile, where did it come from and who launched it? And, frighteningly, was it a deliberate act against the aircraft?


At this point, with no definite explanation, Keith and I consider the report should be regarded as an example of UAP.

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