Retired TWA Pilot Recounts UFO Encounters
Reprinted from the March 2014 MUFON UFO Journal
by Debbie Ziegelmeyer
Missouri State Director
Commercial airline pilots log thousands of hours of flight time in their careers but we seldom hear of them seeing anything unusual in the skies even though MUFON receives over 600 sighting reports in the United States monthly from the public.
Michael D. is a retired pilot and captain for TWA and American Airlines and decided it was time to tell his stories when he called MUFON in October of 2013. Michael is from a long family line of pilots beginning with his grandfather, who in 1917, flew a bi-plane with his grandmother on the wing as a “wing-walker.” This wasn’t his grandfather’s only flight experience. His grandfather also flew with the Civilian Air Corps in San Juan Valley. Michael’s father was a chief pilot in WWII and spent nine months in the South Pacific. His uncle flew B29s in WWII with Bill Lear and worked for Howard Hughes. This doesn’t stop there. Michael’s son is also a pilot for a private company and if he continues to fly into 2017, this will label them a 100-year-career pilot family.
On October 30, 2013, Missouri MUFON Chief Investigator Joe Palermo and I interviewed Michael D. at his home outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Michael retired from American Airlines as a captain in November of 2001 and spent most of his 35 years of commercial flying with TWA and accumulated over 48 years total as a pilot.
Michael had three stories to tell MUFON. One is second-hand from a family member’s friend, and two are personal experiences while in the air for TWA.
Michael D.’s first account was a second-hand story from 1960 while on a hunting trip in the Sierra Mountains in the Walker River area of California while camping with his Uncle Bill and Bill’s friend, Frank. Michael D. was only 19 years old at the time of the hunting trip but never forgot the story told to him by his uncle’s friend. While by the campfire one night, Michael made a comment about how crisp and clear the sky was and how visible the stars were. He mentioned out loud that if UFOs were real they had a good chance of seeing one that night. His uncle’s friend Frank said that “UFOs are real” and that he had a story to tell them that may change his and his uncle’s lives forever.
In 1954 Frank was working for Hayes Concrete doing work at Edwards AFB. He told Michael that early one afternoon President Eisenhower flew in to Edwards AFB from Palm Springs to meet with several other dignitaries including representatives from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a couple of congressmen, military officers and other dignitaries. Frank, wondering what all the excitement was about, asked an MP on guard at the gate if he knew what was going on. The MP told Frank that he had heard that everyone including President Eisenhower flew in for a meeting with people “not from this world.” The beings had picked the location to make contact because the United States had the atomic bomb. The MP proceeded to tell Frank that the people “not from this world” were negotiating a deal with the United States which was a trade for their technology in exchange for the United States agreeing to become the “caretakers of the world.” Later that afternoon they saw everyone, including the president, come out of the building but they never saw the people from “another world.” Frank and the MP watched President Eisenhower’s plane fly away from a far runway on the base airfield.
Michael D.’s second account was a personal experience in 1988 while flying a TWA commercial airliner from St. Louis to San Francisco.
Michael was flying co-pilot at the time when at approximately 12:45 a.m. the TWA pilots were asked by Air Traffic Control to make a 40-mile course change. The aircraft was flying 31,000 to 35,000 feet high over Coaldale, Nevada, approximately 40 to 50 miles north of Area 51. Shortly after the course correction they noticed what looked like a bluish hologram come up out of the ground straight up vertically in the direction of Area 51. They then saw a lavender hologram cross the blue hologram horizontally forming a cross. Seconds later they watched what looked like several yellowish-white fire flies which came from above and behind them travel down into the blue hologram column at an extremely high rate of speed, enter the opening at the base of the hologram column and disappear.
Michael told us there were more than 10 yellowish-white fire fly-looking objects and maybe as many as 20 or 30. They traveled at such a high rate of speed into the hologram column it was hard for him to accurately determine a number.
When asked about their size, Michael told us they appeared the size of the head of a pencil eraser at a distance. After the objects entered the column the entire hologram just blinked out. The enormity of the hologram object is what can be regarded as amazing. Michael estimated the bluish column rising from the direction of Area 51 to be at least five miles high and one-half mile wide across. If one viewed the object from the side, the “plane” edge would be undefined or virtually invisible. The entire sighting from start to finish was only 20 to 30 seconds. In amazement, Michael looked over at the Captain pilot and asked, “Did you see that?” The Captain answered, “Neither one of us saw that.”
The third incident told to us by Michael occurred 10 years later on October 23, 1998, while he was Captain of a TWA flight from St. Louis to San Diego. The incident occurred at approximately 7 p.m. MT as the passenger airliner was flying 31,000 to 35,000 feet high northeast of Albuquerque near Cimarron, New Mexico.
Michael noticed a very bright white light ahead in the sky in view at the top left corner of the cockpit window. The object size in comparison from his window view was the size of a pencil eraser or “aspirin” size.
Michael called air traffic control for a report on area traffic and was told that the nearest traffic ahead was 360 miles but there was a Continental Airliner behind them about 5 miles. He asked them to look again, that he was viewing an extremely bright white light ahead just above their flight path.
Air Traffic Control radioed back that they had nothing on their screen. The pilot of the Continental Airliner behind them having heard the conversation radioed a comment laughingly asking them if they thought they were seeing UFOs.
Michael asked the other Captain if they could see the light ahead but they replied that they could not. It may have been that the angle they were both flying obstructed the view of the object from the aircraft behind.
Suddenly, the object shot to the right side of the cockpit window view for a minute or so and then back to the left. Then at a high rate of speed the object came straight at the TWA airliner traveling up and over them and gone from their sight.
Over the radio they heard one of the cockpit crew of the Continental Airliner behind them shout, “What in the world was that!”
Air Traffic control radioed to both airliners asking them if they cared to file a report. Michael told us that when commercial pilots filed a UFO report they had to take a psych test. If they stated on the report that they saw a UFO they would be determined to have a mental problem and would be fired. Both airliner crews declined to file an official report of the incident. The entire sighting of this large white object was four to five minutes long.
I determined that the object had to be flying at a speed equal to their aircraft, which was 600 mph, or they would have caught up with it making it appear larger from their cockpit window, or smaller if the object was traveling faster and away from them. The white light had no defined edges, was bright but not too bright to look at it, and obviously not detectible by either ground or commercial aircraft radar. No other crew or passengers were able to see the object because of its angle and I found no reports filed with MUFON or any other UFO reporting site on that date.
After 12 years of retirement Michael D. decided to finally come forward and tell about his experiences. I asked him why he had decided to speak now and why he hadn’t reported any of this before. His answer was that he had just put it out of his mind.
One evening after seeing a TV special which told part of the story from 1954 and President Eisenhower’s trip to Edwards AFB, Michael realized that he had information told to him by his uncle’s friend years before that at a time when no one else knew. Since he was retired and not in fear of losing his job, Michael found our MUFON Web site online and gave Jan Harzan a call.
Jan was in amazement of what Michael D. had described and gave me a call because Michael was still residing in Missouri and not too far from where I live. When I met Michael I could immediately see the demeanor of a pilot with the experience and knowledge of his 48 years of flying and the kindness of a true gentleman.
I was surprised at how much personal flight information he had kept, and when asked, Michael said that one never knows when they may be asked about an incident while in the air no matter how many years prior.
Many of the records he kept were lost in a flooded basement in 2002, but many remain including his flight log from the 1998 incident.
This documentation of the 1998 sighting is there for all of us to see and proof that our skies are a lot more crowded than even the FAA is willing to admit.