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Swissair UFO Near Miss

  • Case Number: #0119
  • Date: 09 August 1997
  • Time: 5:07 pm.
  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • Witness(es): Phillip Bobet, Kurt Grunder
  • Classification: Pilot Sightings
In 1997, Pilot Phillip Bobet and his first officer Kurt Grunder, of the Swiss Air flight 127, which had just departed from Philadelphia on route to Zurich, would have a UFO sighting and near miss with an unidentified flying object that would be one of great significant due to the black box recording that captured the worried conversation of the crew to the air traffic controls.

near flight collision

What also makes this case one of credibility, is that the witnesses, who were both extremely experienced flyers, with the captain Phillip Bobet having 15,000 hours of flying time and the first officer, Grunder, having over 7,000 hours of fly time. It is also worth noting that pilots, who hold such a vital position that is determined by trust, common sense and reliability, would have to be very certain of something before they claim to have witnessed a UFO and go public about it, as it could easily put, not only their credibility at jeopardy, but also their future employment with an airline.
The flight began as normal, with the plane travelling on its planned route. Then about sixteen minutes into the flight, as the plane was over New York’s Kennedy Airport, they began to turn north westerly to the direction of Boston. As they continued on this route, captain Bobet said that he handed over the controls momentarily as he began to give a public announcement to the passengers on board. It was as he returned to the controls that he, and first officer Grunder, both in unison witnessed the UFO as it entered their airspace.
Bobet, after regaining composure, immediately contacted Boston air traffic control and the following is a transcript of the exchange between the flight 127 and the ATC:
Boston ATC: Swiss Air 127, go ahead.
Swiss127: Yes sir, I don’t know what is was, but it just overflew like a couple of hundred feet above us. I don’t know if it was a rocket or whatever, but it was incredibly fast and heading in the opposite direction, it was too fast to be a plane.
As soon as the ATC received this, he contacted another flight Eastern 986 and asked them if they could see anything in the area. They replied that they would take a look, but due to how fast they were travelling it was unlikely that they would now see anything, as they had seen the flight 127 go past them a short while before.
In later interviews and reports, the crew of flight 127 would describe in more detail the event and what it was that they saw. Bobet would claim that what he witnessed was a bright white cylindrical object with no wings, appearing like a white shark. He claims that he only saw it for a split second and the only movement he could make out was its direction, going quickly in an opposite direction to the plane. It had no wings and was not like any aircraft he had ever seen. The craft appeared to make no sound and left no smoke vapor in its wake, there was also no turbulence from the craft, which would have been a usual accordance, and the object had not interfered with the electrical equipment onboard the plane in any way.
Later on after the news of the incident had become known, aviation writer, Don Berliner, would take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act to request the flight audio and the written records from that incident. He also discovered a small conversation that was recorded between Boston ATC and the controller who would be taking over the plane as it continued on its route. What follows is this brief conversation:
BATC: Hey Chris, that Swiss Air 127, he had a UFO or a rocket or something almost hit him in my air space.
PATC: A UFO or a rocket almost hit the flight 127?
BATC: It went right above him, about two to three hundred feet.
When the pilot’s official report was published, the object was officially classified as a UFO. However it did not take long before official authorities began to come up with other conclusions as to what it was. The National Transportation Safety Board and the FFA both claimed that it was a weather balloon that the military had launched some time before, however, weather balloons are something that pilots regularly see over the course of their career and are in one of the best positions to be able to differentiate between them and unexplained objects. They are objects that are not hard to mistake for something else, especially the object that both crew members claimed they had seen that day. While they are usually dark in colour, what Bobet claimed to see was a bright white object.

weather balloons again?

Bobet, with his years of flying time would have easily been able to tell if the object was unidentified or if it was a weather balloon. Bobet would also say later that it was the closest an object had ever come to a plane he was flying and the first officer would later say in interview, that he had once seen a weather balloon while flying in Italy and the object looked nothing like what he saw that day.
Investigators would check radar data and the plotted flight path and both showed no evidence of an opposite target which may have even been a simple as being a beacon of some sort. They also discovered that the weather balloon that the military claim to have released was set free approximately ten hours before the flight 127 took off. It is estimated that weather balloons fly for approximately one hour.
The Swiss Air flight 127 incident was so significant and the encounter such a big deal for the American authorities, that the crew were met off the plane by an FFA officer, a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a member of the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB). The day after the UFO sighting incident, Phillip Bobet and his first officer, Kurt Grunder, were interviewed separately by four government agents.
Eventually after forty-eight days, on the 26th September, the FAA officially released a report in which they claimed that the object witnessed by the Swiss Air flight 127 was a weather balloon and that it had also been witnessed by another United Air Lines plane that was in the area at the time.
The authorities would stick to this report despite the comments made by the crew of the plane and their dismissal of it being such an object and this was confirmed by a commercial airline pilot, Bob Durant, who interviewed Bobet about what he had witnessed and his thoughts on the outcomes of investigations by the authorities. He said that Bobet, when asked about the weather balloon scenario, replied that the idea was completely preposterous and he dismissed it idea entirely.
With the crew being so certain of what they saw despite the insistence of the authorities, it is hard to discount the credibility of such a long serving airline pilot. It is also questionable as to why the FBI would have wanted to get involved in the incident if it was, as they say, only a trivial matter of a man-made object being spotted by the crew.
The incident featured highly in Swiss newspapers, with most articles highlighting that the plane had reported a UFO sighting, but that these witnesses’ testimonies were put into disrepute by the American government, who claimed that the whole thing had been a case of mistaken identity of a weather balloon.

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