Airliners Puzzled and F15s Scrambled in Bizarre Encounter with Mystery Aircraft

Mystery in the skies as Air Force F-15s were scrambled to intercept an unidentified aircraft picked up flying across Oregon—but didn’t find anything, reports The Drive contributor Tyler Rogoway.

The incident reportedly began around 4:30 p.m. in the vicinity of the California-Oregon border and resulted in multiple pilot eyewitnesses, recorded air traffic control audio, and confirmations from both the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) that it did in fact occur.

The reportedly “white aircraft” flew over Oregon on Oct. 25, with no flight plan, no active identification transponder and was not transmitting collision avoidance signals. Airliner pilots were asked by FAA air traffic controllers to help track and possibly identify the craft, reported to be traveling at flight levels between 35,000 and 40,000 feet.

A NORAD reply to a query by The Drive confirmed the incident, which involved scrambling F-15Cs from the 142nd Fighter Wing based out of Portland to intercept the unidentified aircraft.

While information about the plane or its intended destination remains unknown, one pilot who witnessed some of the commotions around the incident posted an account on Reddit, suggesting the aircraft may have been involved in drug trafficking.

“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, 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, 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. 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.”

The activity seems to have begun in the proximity of Mt. Shasta (Northern California) and continued into Southern Oregon, past Crater Lake and up through the Willamette Valley. (Google Maps)

Another Reddit poster cited by Rogoway, apparently an air traffic controller, posted alleged inside knowledge of the event, suggesting that the “white aircraft” was, in fact, a highly secret U.S. Air Force radar plane, the NT-43A.

“… Was just going to post about this actually. I was working an adjacent sector and was helping to coordinate some of the military stuff. They ended up launching F15s off of PDX to try and find it but no joy … The crazy thing is, we didn’t have a primary target or a mode C intruder, and it was out running 737s abeam it.

Also, (cue conspiracy theory) our QA department was working on this today, and got a call from the commander of the 142FW at PDX and was basically told to knock it off, and we know nothing.

A couple guys at work seem to think it may have have been this plane based of the description, and also the ‘lack’ of military interest. FWIW, I think the FAA is pursuing this at higher levels. From a safety standpoint, if the military is running super secret test stuff in the NAS [National Airspace], that’s bad. If I were one of the pilots that had a sighting, I’d definitely be filing a NASA form and any other official reports that you can …

… If the ‘aircraft’ continued on its presumed heading/course altitude, the F15s were sent the wrong way. The last known position was around the EUG area heading North around 750 kts and the fighters went South when they launched ~25-30 min after the first report in the Shasta area …

… The time of day made it hard. All the guys on the east side couldn’t see it due to the setting sun and the northbound traffic on the west side was pretty sparse. I guess ZOA [Oakland Center] had a good primary/mode C on the guy for a bit in the RBL [Red Bluff Municipal Airport] area. It was initially heading SW and it made a pretty sharp turn to the north. Way harder/faster than what a commercial aircraft could handle at that speed/altitude without ripping the wings off.”

Rogoway wrote about the experimental aircraft here.

The Drive says the publication has not independently confirmed the information provided by these commentators. However, Freedom of Information Act requests have been filed with the FAA, NORAD, and other federal parties involved in the incident and the publication intends to provide updates as new information emerges.

 

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