A UFO IN ACTION: UTAH HAM OPERATOR LISTENS
Case Study By William Pucket
A brief background of the sighting: On Jan 14, 2016 a Utah Ham radio
operator (Pat Daniels) heard a conversation between a commercial
airline and the FAA about the sighting of a large square of orange light.
There are 2 separate conversations between the crew and the FAA spaced about
1 minute apart. The second communication was around 12:13 AM MST.
Subsequent analysis revealed that the aircraft was American Airlines
Flight number 434 (Airbus 321) on a flight from San Francisco, CA to
Philadelphia, PA. The conversation was heard on 127.95 MHZ. I learned
of the case thru Erica Lukes (MUFON director of Utah). Erica requested
assistance and I did some preliminary analysis. I then made a request
to the FAA for voice tapes, tower logs and radar data. I received the
information that I requested with exceptions noted below.
The more that I analyze this case the more intriguing that it becomes.
So far I cannot explain the radar returns. The returns are highly
correlated temporally and spatially with what the pilot reported.
I have the following additional comments:
1. There is good evidence that the FAA redacted a portion of the
conversation with AA434. I say this because Pat Daniels and I were on a
radio show on the MUFON network last week. Pat clearly stated that he
heard the aircraft crew radio the FAA about sighting a large object and
> they inquired about radar verification. The FAA stated that the object
was not on radar. I have looked at the visual signature of the tape and
found a conversation was started at the time, but was almost
completely redacted. Why did the FAA do this? Pat stated that the crew originally
did not announce themselves (as AA 434). The FAA then requested the
flight identification. Perhaps the FAA redacted it for that reason,
but I doubt it. In the nearly one minute of conversation that we do have
the crew again mentions the object as a large square of orange light. The
FAA then states: "Off to your right?" How did FAA know that? They knew
it because the object was on radar as is shown by the radar maps. There
was a clear delineation between Nephi and the location of the light.
(See Figure 1 in the above report link.)
Pat Daniels detected a "degree of concern" by the flight in their first
transmission. However, radar does not show any course or altitude
correction in the time period of the sighting.
2. I performed an atmospheric refraction analysis to determine the
probability of anomalous radar propagation which can paint echoes in
the wrong range and can paint returns that are not there. The radar
refraction gradients were between 0 and -15. Normal propagation is
between 0 and -24. Also both radars (Cedar City, UT and Francis Peak,
UT) were at very high elevation. The Cedar City radar was well over
10,000 feet ASL and the Francis Peak radar was around 9,400 feet ASL.
The sighting area was around 5,000 to 5,200 feet ASL. Radars at high
elevation would be well above ground based radiation inversions which
are predominant in the winter months. The inversions would not have
been high enough to bend the radar waves. (See Figures 10 and 11 in the
above report link.)
3. Photos were taken of the sighting area by the Assistant State Utah
MUFON director. I prepared a slide show of these photos at the following
The area is fairly flat and remote there is nothing to indicate any
reason for anomalous radar returns. Figure 8 in my report shows the
returns on a Google Earth relief plot. Clearly the returns are not
outlining surrounding high terrain. Even if they were that wouldn't
explain the returns. The radar moving target indicator (MTI) filters
out stationary returns in aviation radar. Doppler (weather) radar does
4. Some will say that the radar picked up drones or military flares.
This is not true. The area is well outside of military operations
areas (MOA's) and there were no military aircraft in the area. Utah does
have several MOA's, but they are far away from the Nephi area. Figure 9 in
my report shows the location of MOA's.
5. I created an animation of radar returns on a Google Earth Map for
12:08 AM to 12:15 PM which is the time window when the crew sighted
the object. The animation shows 0 to 3 returns for each 12 second rotation
of the radar. The returns jump around and there is no pattern of
movement. Why the variation in number of returns? Perhaps the object
was rotating and the radar cross sectional area was varied? I suspect that
the object was quite large given the long distance from each radar.
(The area was 155 miles from Cedar City and about 90 miles from Francis
Peak.) The 3 returns could represent one object?
The radar animation can be viewed on YouTube
Each 12 second radar frame has been sped up to 1 second. Also note
that radar returns were present in the sighting area from 12 AM to 12:30 AM
MST which is the time period of my radar request. These returns were
isolated in this area. There were 106 radar returns for the entire
period. Figure 8 in my report displays the entire primary returns for
the 30 minute period. The returns were widely dispersed and covered
around a 9 square mile area.
6. Weather reports showed no precipitation in the area at the time of
sighting. Therefore the radar returns were not due to weather.
7. Perhaps this sighting will never be explained? I don't know what
the object was, but I know what it wasn't. It wasn't drones, weather,
anomalous propagation, birds, insects, ground targets, or military
Where do we go from here? Another sighting report filed away? I plan
to revisit the Air Traffic Control web site that contains archived
recordings. Perhaps the missing transmission noted above can be
retrieved? Also Erica Lukes has ran an ad in the local Nephi newspaper
to see if there were more witnesses. Erica has made some calls to
acquaintances in the area and people have stated that UFO's are
frequently sighted. I received one comment from a person who regularly
sees UFO's in the area.
Click here for more information and radar readings on this case.
P.O. Box 4926
Helena, MT 59604-4926