Irish Sea-17th November 1967

Location of Sighting: Irish Sea
Date of Sighting: 17 November 1967
Time: 0045
Witness Name: Ian McGrath

Witness Statement: On 16th/17th November 1967, I was the copilot of a British European Airways Vanguard aircraft flying from London Heathrow to Belfast?s Aldergrove airport. It was a clear night and we made our descent through a starlit sky. At about 00.45 just after we had descended into some light stratiform cloud, Air Traffic Control (ATC) asked if we could see a bright light on our right hand side. We eased the aircraft up out of the cloud and, amongst the mass of stars, noticed a particularly bright one apparently slightly above our altitude. After several seconds we (three pilots) realised that this ?star? was in fact moving quite rapidly across the right side windscreen (whereas of course the stars were stationary in the windscreen); in other words we were moving past it, meaning that it must have been only a matter of a few miles from us. During this time, the aircraft was on a constant heading. As we were nearing Belfast, we had to resume our descent so went back into cloud. Either later during the descent, or after landing, ATC informed us that a nearby military height-finder radar had located a radar return from the area of this bright light at an exact altitude that I recall as 9500 feet.
The next day?s newspaper reported that a large crowd, including the police, had gathered beneath the bright light and had watched it for several hours, before it suddenly sped away.
I subsequently read that two aircraft departing Belfast airport had reported magnetic compass problems around the same time.


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Updated: December 8, 2012 — 8:06 pm


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  1. Hi Ian, interesting account. I am assuming you have pulled details from a flying log as you have the exact date/time ?
    I am just wondering how ATC knew you would need to look for a bright light, as opposed to a target, on right of aircraft.

  2. A very interesting sighting

  3. What I fail to understand is why, when this light had been observed for several hours, the RAF weren’t scrambled to intercept and also why you were allowed to fly so close to it? Why weren’t you diverted? Given the fact that previous flights had experienced compass malfunction, it is even more surprising! Well-written account,but something isn’t quite right here. Sorry, I’m naturally sceptical.

  4. Sightings by pilots carry a lot of credibility. ATC were probably aware of the visual sightings, hence asking Ian to look for the bright light

    The sighting from the ground is corroborated by this historic sightings database (towards the bottom):

    Ian has probably only decided to speak out now as he is probably retired given that this sighting was 45 years ago. I’ve read that commercial pilots are reluctant to discuss UFOs whilst they’re still working for fear of harming their careers.

  5. I find pilot accounts amazing as you guys are used to seeing the totaly mundane objects we usually mistake for ufo’s. And the fact that there were three of you who did’nt recognise it makes it that more interesting

  6. The 1967 database doesn’t corroborate the sighting. It refers to a ‘flying disc’ (not a bright light, though it may well have been) seen at 2330 – ie, almost 24 hours later. I’ve heard many times that commercial pilots are reluctant to report sightings, but is there any evidence for this? Many have done so over the years, apparently without consequences – the main problem is not disbelief or ridicule, but the fact that no-one can do a damn thing about it.

  7. Hi Northernstar,

    I don’t see it in your link. Which wild card word should I use?
    Nothing in that area for 17/9/67 at any rate, unless I’m missing something?

  8. Gary you were looking at the wrong date. Look for 17/10/67 not 17/9/67 it is in Northernstars original link. To me Ians witness statement sounds plausible. Active flying pilots can be reluctant to mention unexplained sighting for fear of ridicule. A commercial pilot friend l know, says he has seen things he can’t explain and said it is commonly known amongst other pilots.

  9. Stephen – I take your point about the time. My mistake.

    Gary – It is towards the bottom if you scroll down, but as Stephen correctly points out it cannot be the same sighting due to the timing.

  10. Oops. Don’t know my September from my November. Embarrassing 🙂

  11. As I said in my first post it does sound interesting, although with a few odd bits of info. Ian states the sighting took place over the Irish Sea and then says “The next day’s newspaper reported that a large crowd, including the police, had gathered beneath the bright light and had watched it for several hours”
    How do you gather under an object which is over the sea? So you would have to think this was something else being seen and not an independent observation of the same object?
    If this is the case then it could not have been this info which the tower had been using to ask the aircraft to look for a bright light? Which brings me back to my original point, how ATC new the pilot would have to look for a bright light as opposed to having a target on radar. I’m assuming the tower would not see an object over the Irish Sea and above cloud from their location?

  12. Andrew, I think it would be quite possible for a crowd to gather to watch a object/ light that may be some distance away and over sea seeing as Belfast is on the coast? Perhaps your translation of beneath is too literal.

  13. Hi Peter,if you consider the approximate distance from the aircraft to the airport, and that the object was seen to the right (N.E) or opposite side of the aircraft to Belfast and
    it was at a height of 9500ft (less than 2 miles) I would
    expect this object to appear quite low on the horizon, as viewed from Belfast? I cant see why people would describe being under an object if it was as I describe. But you might be

  14. Just visited this site for the first time since writing my report.
    ATC asked us to look for a bright light because that is what they heard people on the ground were seeing.
    Yes, the details were from my logbook.
    I only became aware of the two compass failures (one Viscount, one Trident) months later in an internal Air Safety publication.
    I did not say we were over the sea at the time we saw it. Our route was from the IOM VOR on the south of the Isle of Man and the sighting was clearly after we crossed the coast
    I also wondered why the RAF did not send an aircraft to take a look, particularly since they had it on their height-finder radar – maybe they did, but didn’t admit it.
    There was no particular unwillingness for commercial pilots to report UFO’s as I recall. There were lots of incidents in those days, maybe the captain did put in a report, I can’t remember. We tended to only report things or events which required some action; in this instance clearly ATC were aware of it.

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