May 4, 2021: The last case involving pilots at 36,000 feet
On May 4, a B-757 that had taken off from the Vitoria airport (Spain) bound for Cologne (Germany) starred in the last UFO encounter in flight collected by Spanish researchers. On this occasion, the plane’s commander had time to take out his mobile phone and take five photographs and two videos of the phenomenon. Exceptionally, news of the case reached investigators within hours of its occurrence.
This is the sincere chronicle of an investigation that teaches us a lot about the UFO phenomenon, the witnesses and the ufologists…
The first news of the case reaches us only 24 hours after the sighting, through a flight attendant who knows “my” our interest in the UFO phenomenon.
We contacted Commander Jorge C. through the Internet a few hours after the incident.
The commander kindly gives us his phone number and we have a first conversation (on the phone) about the sighting. Rarely do researchers have the opportunity to carry out a first survey so “hot”.
According to our first conversation these were the facts:
The Boeing 757 had taken off from the Vitoria airport (Spain) at approximately 10:15 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4, bound for Cologne (Germany), and the encounter occurred at approximately 10:45 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. 00.
At the time of the sighting, the B-757 depended on the Bordeaux Flight Control Center (France), so the commander deduces that approximately this is the geographical point where the encounter took place:
“We were going at flight level 360 and that was going much higher. It was crossing us from west to east… It was getting closer and at the end we saw a piece of elongated pileup, as if it were, let’s say, another plane, but it was not a plane … which, right in the middle, caused a very powerful flash of light, which made that circle… and then each one released their idea: if it was the pot that was releasing the satellites, if it was the Chinese satellite, if it was a UFO… I’ve been flying for many years, I’ve been flying since 1990, I’ve crossed the pond, I’ve flown everywhere and I haven’t seen anything like it. Who knows if it wasn’t a military prototype…”.
The most interesting thing is that the commander had time to take out his mobile phone and take 5 photos and two videos during the phenomenon.
The commander agrees to send us a copy of the photos and videos to our email. The images are very spectacular.
In the images, taken through the window of the cabin of the B-757, the commander himself can be seen reflected in the glass, and the phenomenon -of considerable size- on the other side.
In the audio of one of the videos, the pilots can also be clearly heard asking themselves with obvious surprise: “But what is that, man?”
Unfortunately the airline is based in Cologne (Germany) so we have to postpone a first personal interview until the commander returns to Spain.
We agreed on a first personal meeting, in Madrid, on May 10, which was finally moved to May 15. But again, for personal reasons, the commander cancels our meeting.
Meanwhile, we make an appeal through RRSS (both Twitter and Facebook) asking the researchers for any information they may have about a report in the local press or in their personal files, about a UFO incident on the night of May 4 to 5. . Also in the May 9 broadcast of the La Rosa de los Vientos program, we appeal to listeners, in case anyone has any information about the incident… and we are overwhelmed by the response.
We received several dozen cases that allegedly occurred on the same night, the night before or after the sighting from the B-757. Almost all of them are accompanied by photographs or videos of the corresponding phenomena, not only the verbal account of the witness. Today everyone has a mobile phone with a built-in camera and unless the phenomenon is too ephemeral, in general the witness takes photos or videos of what is observed. However, none of the cases (except one) resembled the volume and spectacular nature of what was photographed and filmed by the commander at an altitude of 36,000 feet (about 11,000 meters).
A significant percentage of the reported cases (all described as a succession of white lights that moved in an orderly line) were immediately identified as the “satellite carousels” of the SpaceX company, which on May 5 and 6 were sighted throughout the world, even generating calls from concerned witnesses to police headquarters, airports, etc.
Among the remaining testimonials, some of the most interesting:
-020521. From Calafell, the witness Karin R. observed “like a huge ball of red light” in the direction of Tarragona, with “as if something in its upper part was moving”. The witness compared what was observed with the phenomenon photographed on March 10 in Puerto Rico.
-040521. Two (unidentified) friends who were “at a point near Cervera de Buitrago” claim to have photographed a phenomenon identical to the one photographed by the pilots, heading northeast, “which was approaching at a slow and constant speed.”
-040521. From Igualada (Barcelona), David X. and a friend observe at 11:52 p.m. “in the north and a little to the west, a very large light, like fire, similar to a rocket that enters the clouds, with all the illuminated clouds (…) and at the same time, very close to this light, a luminous point with a very large halo, which came out in the direction of Barcelona”.
-040521. From Sevilla la Nueva, M. P. records with his mobile phone “a strange cloud with a shiny object inside” that moves in the direction of San Martín de Valdeiglesias.
-040505. Between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., Oscar R. photographs “a kind of cloud with a very intense glow behind it, as if the moon were behind the cloud, and at the point of that glow there was another orange one” while He was traveling between Ciudad Real and Alamillo.
-050521. Francisco P., Jorge’s professional aeronautical colleague, claims to have observed the same phenomenon from Barcelona, but a few hours later: “I saw it at five in the morning in the Maresme area, very high and over the sea.”
- 050521. Carlos A. C. sights at 04:28 a group of “lights in formation” from Sabadell (Barcelona)
_ 0521. Ander X. and his girlfriend record a large sphere of light on Mount Umbe with their mobile phone from Eibar (Gipuzkoa). The emotional tension can be seen in the audio of the video.
-070521. Constantino Salgueiro (a recurring witness to several UFO incidents) observes the passage of the Starlink satellites from his terrace in El Puerto de Santa María and shortly after, at 11:15 p.m., he photographs an apparently triangular light phenomenon over the Las Dunas campsite.
-090521. Quique M. photographs from Fuentelsaz (Madrid) a luminous object at approximately 21:00.
-180521. At 22:48 Constantino Salgueiro records, for approximately 10 seconds, with his mobile phone, a “ball of green light” flying over the parking lot on La Puntilla beach, in El Puerto de Santa María.
In France too
Bearing in mind that the pilots of the Boeing 757 starred in the sighting near the Spanish-French border, we went to colleagues in the French ufological community to check if there had also been sightings on French territory that night.
On the one hand, and thanks to José Antonio Galán, we consulted the MUFON-France. On May 10, Janny Charrueau, director of MUFON in France, tells us:
“We had a very credible testimony of a phenomenon that occurred on May 4, 2021 in the west of France, (south of Brittany)
It was probably a triangular object (or several objects!). There were 3 corner flashes, flashing white, including a center dot.
The central point looked like the cockpit of an airplane (without wings), but it was completely luminous.
The distance between the 3 points formed a very large triangle in the sky, (semi cloudy sky) and around the phenomenon
there was what is called a cloud (fog)
The witness is a sailor, so the address and time are very precise: 11:08 p.m.
(see address on the map)
Observation time 5 minutes / very high in the sky, flashing lights as big as two stars.
I attach the address on the map.
THANK YOU for keeping this information at home as the investigation is not over.
To be transferred to Manuel Carballal-
Waiting for news Janny Charrueau
Director of MUFON France.
On the other hand, we contacted other French researchers, such as Thierry Gaulin, president of OVNI Languedoc, who also confirmed that his association was aware of several sightings on the same night from May 4 to 5 in the south of France. Like the one carried out by a 50-year-old man at 22:55 from Brittany, which he described as a “great flying machine”. (13)
There were also observations
similar in Redon (Ille-et-Vilaine) or La Turballe (Loire — Atlantique) the same night, practically at the same time as the Spanish pilots. (14)
We coordinated with Gaulin to travel to France with the intention of interviewing the French witnesses as well. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the border, after traveling almost a thousand kilometers, the restrictions due to Covid-19 prevented us from carrying out those interviews.
Simultaneously and while we continue to insist on having a personal interview with the Spanish pilots, we began the tracking and investigation of the rest of the cases reported in Spain.
Two weeks later we called a new appointment with the commander of the B-757, taking advantage of another visit to Spain by the pilot, for May 26. But once again, for personal reasons of the commander,
the meeting cannot take place neither in Madrid nor in Asturias. Given this setback, we have a new telephone conversation about the incident, longer and more detailed than the above, in which we ask the commander for a first descriptive drawing of the sighting, which he kindly provides us by email.
We keep trying over and over again. And we agreed on a new date, taking advantage of the fact that, despite working for a company based in Cologne (Germany), the commander is a Spanish citizen and has an appointment to be vaccinated against Covid in Spain in mid-June.
We were finally able to meet physically with the commander, on June 13, in Paracuellos del Jarama, very close to the Adolfo Suárez Airport in Madrid. We attended the meeting David Cuevas and a server.
The pilot responds with extreme patience and kindness to all our questions, and authorizes us to publish his experience and his photographs and videos.
In this personal interview, he maintains point by point the version he had given us of the incident in the two previous telephone conversations:
- He calculates that the whole sighting lasted one or two minutes.
-The phenomenon was at a much higher altitude than the B-757 (36,000 feet).
-In all his professional career he had never seen anything like it.
-After the sighting, the pilot, co-pilot and flight mechanic discuss possible explanations for the phenomenon: the lost Chinese satellite, the device that had released Musk’s satellites, a type of secret plane, the space station, a military prototype, etc.
After the first personal meeting with the commander, the first working hypothesis is that of fraud.
Today I am somewhat embarrassed to confess it, but given the attitude of the pilot (unusually collaborative), the spectacular nature of the images, the videos, etc., the case seemed “too good to be true”. So we proceeded to request a technical analysis of the photographs, considering the hypothesis that it was all a joke. It is fair to admit that David Cuevas did not share my distrust, probably excessive…
The expertise was carried out by the professional Javier Domínguez who analyzed both the images taken by the pilots in flight and those taken by other witnesses on the ground (see annex).
The co-pilot version
And while Domínguez concentrated on the technical analysis, a process that lasted several days, we continued the field investigation, focusing now on the 2nd commander and co-pilot of the B-757.
After an initial telephone survey, receiving his testimony of the sighting, we again went through the same process of frustrated attempts to set up a personal meeting with Freddy M., a pilot with the same extensive experience as Jorge and who, even though he was a commander, operated on that flight. as second in command. In fact, in that same company alone, he has been a commander for more than 16 years. And like Jorge, due to scheduling difficulties, we couldn’t meet Freddy in person until June 26. Date on which he was kind enough to receive us at his home.
Freddy M.’s story was extremely interesting from the point of view of the ufological analysis of human testimony.
More enthusiastic than Jorge C. in his description of the events, the second commander:
-Jorge was on my left, I was on the right, in the passenger seat and he was the first to see it: look, look, look! I thought, seeing it in the distance: well, it must be the space station. But as he got closer… It was something I had never seen in my life… Exactly the same as shown in the photos. A thing that has its own luminescence… and then it passes over us… I was seeing quite a starry sky above and when it passed, it covered quite a lot of sky, from below the luminescence was no longer visible, but it looked like a belly that covered everything… let’s say like it was a big aircraft carrier… and a black shadow… It was pretty amazing. I’m glad because I can say that I’ve seen a UFO… or something that I can’t identify… And I also have a photo that some friends took of a firefighter friend of mine, in the Sierra de Madrid, which looks exactly the same. Taken that same night… Jorge asked me if it could be the remains of the Chinese rocket, but I don’t understand how a rocket can have that luminescent effect around it…
Freddy turned out to be just as cooperative and uncharacteristically approachable as his partner Jorge. He met us at his own home and invited us to breakfast. In the personal survey, the co-pilot of the B-757 ratified the version that he had given us in the first telephone interview. But he added many details, of extraordinary value, to understand the emotional dimension of an anomalous experience like this, even in veteran aeronautical professionals:
-It gave me some fear, because of course, in heaven you have everything under control… as I saw something that I had never seen before, and it was getting closer… let’s see if we are going to have to make an (evasion) maneuver. And I told Jorge later: if at that moment everything (the instruments) went black and the plane stopped, I would have believed it…
Commander Eddy M. confirmed all the data that the first commander had previously provided us, regarding takeoff time, location of the plane at the time of the encounter, altitude, etc.
The Boeing 757 Freighter is a very fast aircraft. We were going at 900 km/h. It’s the plane that Thrump had before. In power to weight ratio there is no other plane like it. It is the replacement for the 727 and it is a very fast and very powerful aircraft (…) The 757 is a large aircraft, it is 47 meters long, and that was much larger, as if it were an aircraft carrier…. and what i see is
like a black belly that covers the stars…
-But you didn’t notify Flight Control…
-The truth is that in the face of a strange thing we should have reported it… but Jorge has a lot of experience in many planes, I also have quite a few, but at that time we didn’t see an imminent danger either… Then at NICAS, you see everything, even some military plane that does not have its transponder on, but nothing came out…
-You could draw me in this field notebook the image you remember…
-It was something… like a black rectangle that covered my stars… I felt like at that moment… that nothing happens because a plane is hovering, but come on, if the engine goes off… I said: anything could happen here thing…
Especially revealing is the detail of time. We asked the 2nd flight commander how long the sighting could have lasted. And without hesitation he replies that “5 or 6 minutes…”.
But this time we not only have the verbal testimony of one of the protagonists, but we also have the video recordings recorded by the 1st flight commander, and the photographs, which preserve the metadata that show that they were taken between 22:53: 43 and 22:54:35. I mean, just a minute.
The conclusion is predictable, but irrefutable: the human testimony in a UFO experience differs from the empirical and objective facts, no doubt because of the emotional component of said UFO experience. The perception of time, distorted by this emotional impact, is just one of the things that this extraordinary case will teach us…
When we left Commander Freddy M.’s home we did so with his promise that he would try to put us in personal contact with the witnesses from the Sierra de Madrid, acquaintances of his friend the firefighter. In fact, we insisted that he phone you in our presence to ask for a form of direct contact with the witnesses. He promised that he would raise it with his friends. Unfortunately, according to the co-pilot, later his friend told him that the witnesses did not want to have any personal meeting with us.
During the following weeks, repeatedly, we repeatedly went to Freddy to ask him to insist that his friend insist on our only interest in holding a brief personal meeting with the witnesses to learn the facts, stressing that we are not journalists and that in no case he would reveal his identity if they did not authorize it. All useless. The witnesses did not even agree to have a telephone conversation with us. We only managed to get them to send us, through the fireman and via Freddy, an audio recording recounting the sighting.
Maintaining as the first working hypothesis that of fraud or joke, we consulted other pilots, companions of the witnesses, about the credibility of their story, anticipating that they had a reputation for pranksters. Quite the contrary.
We took advantage of these consultations with other pilots to ask them, in their opinion and based on their flight experience -and if this is not a joke- what could be what Commander Jorge C. photographed, suggesting a possible explanation: the panels of the International Space Station “speaking of the solar panels, since the sun at that time would still be at an angle to hit the ISS and sometimes you are surprised by the effect they create…”.
During the following weeks, and after filtering numerous UFO cases produced on the dates before and after the one involving the B-757, we found several cases that occurred on the same night and at the same time, both in Spain and in France. Which forced us to rethink our first hypothesis of fraud. Those cases suggested that, really, something real and physical had occurred in the Spanish-French skies on the night of May 4 to 5, 2021. But what forced them to definitively abandon the hypothesis of the joke between pilots, was the evidence scientific. The analysis of the metadata of the photographs, carried out by Javier Domínguez, was conclusive: there was no evidence of manipulation or alteration in the images. The photos and videos were authentic.
Looking for other opinions that could contribute new ideas or hypotheses about the origin of the phenomenon, we consulted ufological forums, such as MUFON, EuroUFO or Anomalist.
In the case of the Anomalist mailing list, we must thank our Spanish-speaking colleagues for getting involved in the investigation, providing new perspectives and hypotheses on the case, consulting different sources (Euronews, News Press France, etc.), and establishing a lively debate about the possible origins of the phenomenon photographed by the pilots of the B-757. We personally believe that there was a rare example of collaboration between field researchers, analysts, compilers and cabinet researchers, very hopeful. When discrepancies, egos and rivalries are put aside, and efforts are joined in favor of investigation, we all win…
As a result of this Brainstorming, different analyzes and hypotheses arose that we contrasted and discarded, one by one, until we managed to identify the probable culprit of the phenomenon. Like in a criminal investigation.
Manuel Borraz, like Javier Domínguez, used the astronomical bodies that can be seen in the commander’s photographs to triangulate the exact position of the phenomenon, concluding that “it was to the northwest of the plane (about 320º azimuth) and about 30º angular elevation ( in short, above flight level). The luminous circle has a diameter of the order of 10º, quite considerable. As an orientation, the phenomenon in the photo appears about 10º to the right of the star Capella”.
According to Borraz’s calculations, contrasting the photos taken from the B-757 with the one supposedly taken from Cervera de Buitrago, the phenomenon “was to the south of the British Isles, in the Atlantic area of French Brittany. The intersection on the map attached indicates the approximate position since we do not know the exact position of the plane and the precise time of the Madrid photo)”. In this particular case, we are less enthusiastic than Borraz when it comes to including in the calculations the information of some anonymous witnesses who refused to be interviewed by any colleague. Maintaining a cautious skepticism about that particular case.
Once the hypothesis of fraud has been definitively ruled out (at least in relation to the sighting from the B-757, but still applicable -in our opinion- to some of the cases included in this report), we assume that the phenomenon was real. Now it only remained to try to identify its origin.
Modern applications such as Globe Adsbexchange(15), Flight Radar(16), Esky.Es and a long etcetera, allow you to view the situation on your computer screen, in real time or in the past, practically all planes, helicopters, drones (both civilian and military) who are in the air and have notified a flight plan. But we did not find any aircraft that could correspond to the phenomenon photographed by the Spanish pilots. On the other hand, the aeronautical professionals consulted expressed their skepticism at all times with the hypothesis that the phenomenon that appears in the analyzed images could have a conventional aeronautical origin.
Following the hypothesis suggested by some pilots consulted, we explored the possibility that the solar panels of the International Space Station were responsible for the sighting. Applications such as Heavens Above (18) allow them to be located from any observation point on the planet, marking said point on their website. Again the astronaut records showed that the ISS was not visible from Bordeaux at the time of the sighting. According to Stellarium it was 48º below the horizon. And its brightness increases due to the reflection of the sun on its panels also do not match those photographed by the pilots.
Long March Hypothesis 5B
The Chinese Long March 5B rocket, after completing its mission to put the first module of the Chinese Tianhe space station into orbit on April 29, 2021, had escaped the control of technicians, becoming a threat that captured media attention for days. as it is unknown at what point it could re-enter the atmosphere and fall to earth. With its 33 meters long, five meters wide and weighing more than 20 tons, during the first days of May 2021 it was followed by thousands of observers due to the threat that it could pose if it fell into an inhabited area. It finally re-entered the earth’s atmosphere on May 9, at coordinates 72.47 degrees east longitude and 2.65 degrees north latitude, which correspond to the Indian Ocean, falling harmlessly into the sea. According to the records of the Chinese space agency, at 10:55 p.m. on May 4, the time of the sighting in question, it was in the shadow zone at the height of central Africa, making it impossible for it to have been photographed over Bordeaux.
Falcon 9 hypothesis
At the same time, in the Anómalist list, colleagues such as Julio Plaza, Antonio Salinas or Juan Carlos Victorio, also pointed out the Falcon 9 hypothesis as the most reasonable to apply to the case of May 4. From that moment on, our queries to Starlink to find out if there had been a launch of the Falcon 9 on May 4, 2021, gave the predictable result.
The 25th SpaceX mission actually took off from Florida at 9:01 p.m. on May 4 to put into orbit another of its famous Starlink satellite carousels, which are generating so many UFO sightings. Exactly at 10:55 p.m. (a time at which, according to the metadata of the photos taken by Commander Jorge C.), the second stage of the Falcon 9 releases its cargo over French Brittany, dumping excess fuel (verting) to avoid the risk of explosion and generating the spectacular cloud of gases with the appearance of a luminous halo that appears in the photographs.
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPERTISE
According to the report (of 9 pages) prepared by the photographic analyst Javier Domínguez, the analyzed photographs “were taken from a mobile device (iPhone 11) highlighting the following shooting settings:
ISO 8000 sensitivity
Exposure time 1.1 seconds
Shots taken on 040521 from 22:53:43 to 22:55:35”.
After submitting each of the images to different tests, tracing the trajectory of the phenomenon between one photograph and another, triangulation with astronomical bodies, etc., Domínguez concludes: “Based on the information provided by the metadata and analyzing the image in detail, I can conclude that the photographic series is not the product of photomontage or post-process manipulation”.
Independently, and based on the French casuistry, CNES-GEIPAN reached our same conclusions.(20)
As Vicente Juan Ballester-Olmos points out in his review of the case (21), on May 26 the phenomenon was repeated, exactly the same (22), during the Starlink mission no. 28, although on this occasion -as far as we know- it was not photographed from a vantage point as privileged as a B-757 at 36,000 feet, by pilots who had certainly never seen anything like it.
We consider it opportune to point out that in one of our first conversations with Commander Jorge C., as recorded in the recording, the witnesses themselves came to consider this hypothesis: “: that if it was the pot that was releasing the satellites, that if It was the Chinese satellite, what if it was a UFO…”.
For all the above, the investigation of the UFO incident of May 4, 2021 taught us many things.
-Witnesses don’t lie… but they can be wrong. The veteran pilots of the B-757 were not lying when they told us that they had never seen anything like it. Because it didn’t exist. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are barely a decade old. But they are a great example of how today there are aircraft (rockets, drones, aerostats, etc.) from private companies that did not exist before and that can generate UFO episodes even for highly qualified personnel, but who had never faced these new phenomena.
-Not all ufologists seek the truth. When communicating our conclusion to several ufologist colleagues, the most frequent reaction was one of regret: “Too bad, it seemed like a great case!”. And this reaction seemed very symptomatic to us. pity? Why? In our humble opinion, the mission of the UFO investigation is to try to discover -if possible- the origin of each sighting. Not creating and generating mystery content for specialized media. Getting to solve a case -we believe- should not be considered a failure but quite the opposite. In the same way that solving a crime cannot be considered “a penalty”, although this deprives the crime press and black chronicle of a mystery content. Only by purging the explicable casuistry, we will be able to isolate the true object of study: “the Unidentified”.
-What unites us before what separates us. That field and cabinet investigators can put aside their discrepancies to collaborate in solving a mystery, in our opinion, is one of the most gratifying morals of this investigation. Within the small family that we call the Ufological Community there are all kinds of “relatives”. We can empathize with some more than with others. But there should be more that unites us than divides us.
-The importance of time. It is not usual for us ufologists to be able to start the investigation of such a spectacular case, immediately after it occurs. Normally, this type of case comes to us months or years after the events have occurred. And that immediacy was decisive in avoiding subsequent intoxications.
-The perception of the human witness.
Traditionally, at least until the advent of mobile telephony, the vast majority of UFO cases came to us through a single source: human testimony. And its most fallible tool: memory. Currently, most UFO incidents, like any other human experience, are not limited to the verbal account of the witness, but are accompanied by photos and videos that he has taken with his mobile phone. In this case we have been able to contrast the human testimonies collected in personal surveys, with the objective evidence collected in videos and photographs, being able to verify how human perception alters data such as times, distances, appearances, etc., even when the witnesses are aeronautical professionals from extensive experience.
And also, that before traveling to another country with the intention of surveying UFO witnesses, in times of pandemic, you have to get vaccinated. Or you run the risk of doing hundreds of kilometers in vain…
Our thanks to all colleagues who in one way or another have contributed to this research:
David Cuevas, José Antonio Galán, Javier Domínguez, Rosario Fuentes Liébana, Thierry Gaulin, Janny Charrueau, Julio Plaza, Vicente Juan Ballester Olmos, Javier García Blanco, Juan Carlos Vitorio, Antonio Salinas, Manuel Borraz.