This is a true story about a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane being chased by a gigantic UFO over eastern Alaska on November 17, 1986.
In my previous article, I introduced one of the skeptical opinions about the JAL 1628 incident, the “Jupiter misidentification theory” by the American journalist and UFO researcher Philip J. Klass.
In this article, I would like to present Captain Terauchi’s second UFO sighting over Alaska and another skeptical opinion about the JAL 1628 incident.
Captain Terauchi’s 2nd UFO sighting over Alaska and Another Skeptical Opinion About the JAL 1628 Incident
Captain Terauchi Was a “UFO Repeater”
Captain Terauchi’s UFO sighting on November 17, 1986, was not the first UFO sighting.
According to Captain Terauchi, on a flight carrying eels from Taiwan in 1981, he once saw a large mother ship on his leftover Kaohsiung while climbing after taking off at 2 a.m. However, he was so creeped out that he turned away from the mother ship.
And the second time, during a well-sunlit daytime, Terauchi witnessed a bright light cluster for 10 minutes from his home, probably about 1,000 feet high.
The third time was the JAL 1628 incident, and less than two months later, on January 11, 1987, Terauchi experienced another UFO sighting over Alaska.
Regarding these multiple UFO sightings of Captain Terauchi, Phillip J. Klass wrote in a letter dated March 21, 1987, to Paul Steucke, Public Affairs Officer of the Anchorage Aviation Department, as follows:
Especially that Capt. Terauchi had two previous UFO sightings, which makes him a “UFO Repeater” and which automatically makes any of his UFO reports suspect to an experienced UFO investigator–even many of the “believers”.
Multiple UFO sightings (by one person) are sort of like multiple divorces. One is OK. (Even Jimmy Carter had one which turned out to be Venus.) Two makes one a bit cautious. But three or more–as in baseball–you’re “out.” (And, as we both know, Terauchi reported two more UFO sightings on Jan. 11, giving him a grand total of five–unless he has added to that figure since Jan. 11.) (And unless JAL has chastened him severely, I would predict that Terauchi will see many, many more UFOs in the coming years, while most folks are not privileged to see even one.)
This fact may lead many people to believe that Captain Terauchi was a hardcore “UFO repeater” who associated all planetary lights and natural optical phenomena with UFOs.
Captain Terauchi’s Second UFO Sighting Over Alaska
Incidentally, on January 11, 1987, less than two months after this incident, Captain Terauchi experienced his second UFO sighting over Alaska while flying on JAL 628.
At that time, co-pilot Hiratsuka and engineer Okudaira were on board JAL 628.
The following is the report.
(2) On January 11, 1987, at approximately 7:30 am (Sunday), Captain Kenjyu Terauchi, piloting Japan Airlines flight #628, a Boeing 747 aircraft from Iceland to Japan via Anchorage, Alaska, reported to the FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center in Anchorage, that he was seeing a group of unusual lights in front of his aircraft.
The Captain requested tile Center to record his description: “Ah, would you please, ah, record my voice, ah, ah, ah•..this is Japanese. Futeikina raito ga mieteriru. Choodo ookina kuroi katamari ga mae ni iru. Kyorinishite go nrairu. Dooyara uchuusen no moyoo.” English translation: “We see irregular pulsating lights just there is a large black chunk just in front of us distance is five miles it seems to be a spaceship. Ah, it likes, ah, UFO, please, ah, check on your radar. Over.”
The cargo aircraft was about 240 nautical miles north of Nenana, Alaska, at 37,000 feet elevation. The weather was clear with a temperature inversion reported at 23,500 feet.
Captain Terauchi reported the lights appeared in front of the aircraft, about 2,000 feet below, moved below the aircraft, and then disappeared behind the aircraft. The phenomenon then occurred again at approximately 151 nautical miles north of Nenana. It was noted at the FAA interview of the flight crew, which was conducted when they landed at Anchorage, that the aircraft flight path was north of and directly over the town of Arctic Village, Alaska, at the time of the first sighting and 45 nautical miles northwest and west of the village of Fort Yukon during the second sighting.
Captain Terauchi said at the FAA interview that he thought the unusual lights he saw were those village lights that had been obscured or changed by ice crystals present in the atmosphere (the temperature inversion).
The FAA has concluded its inquiry into this report and agrees with the Captain that the phenomena were most likely caused by ice crystals created by the reported temperature inversion.
In addition, LeoRoy J. Stratman, Area Superintendent, Anchorage Aviation Authority, stated as follows:
I arrived a few minutes early for my assigned 8 o’clock shift and upon my arrival at Anchorage ARTCC the JL628 incident was already in progress. I watched the Facility Coordination Officer’s scope and observed weather clutter just ahead of JL628. In my experience at Anchorage ARTCC working R/D 15 it appeared as it always does, as weather clutter when cold and clear. By depressing the weather outline button I could make it disappear and reappear on the PVD.
Light Pillar Misidentification Theory
It has been suggested that this second UFO sighting over Alaska was actually Captain Terauchi’s misidentification of the Arctic Village lights caused by ice crystals in the temperature inversion layer as a UFO, and Terauchi accepts this explanation.
A light pillar is an atmospheric optical phenomenon in which a vertical beam of light appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect is created by the reflection of light from tiny ice crystals that are suspended in the atmosphere or that comprise high-altitude clouds. (Partial quotation from “Light pillar” in Wikipedia)
When there are hexagonal plate-like ice crystals in clouds and winds are weak, these ice crystals float nearly horizontally to the ground due to air resistance (drag) in their fall. Rays of light from the sun, moon, or distant ground-based streetlights are reflected off the surface of these nearly horizontal floating plate-shaped ice crystals, and the presence of flakes at a spread of altitudes causes the reflection to be elongated vertically into a column.
Similarly, in the first UFO sighting over Alaska, the WX radar of JAL 1628 captured a green radar echo image (weak reflectivity), leading some skeptics to suggest that the light refracted by the ice crystals in the thin cloud cover was seen as a giant UFO.
For example, Phillip J. Klass, in his article “Special Reports FAA Data Sheds New Light On JAL Pilot’s UFO Report” in THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, Vol. 11, points out that the green echo image captured by JAL 1628’s weather radar.
All three crew members agreed that the 747’s weather radar displayed an echo at a bearing that roughly corresponded to that of the initial lights at a range of about eight miles. The radar display uses color to show the strength of the echo to alert the crew to the potential intensity of thunderstorm turbulence ahead. A red-colored echo indicates an especially strong radar echo and a green color shows the weakest. All three crew members agree that the “UFO blip” was green.
This is especially curious if the visual UFO was a giant craft only a few miles a head, which should have produced an extremely strong (red) return. Flight engineer Tsukuba characterized it as “not a dot, but streamlike.” This is confirmed by a sketch drawn by the pilot after land- ing on November 17. It suggests that the green “blip/stream” was an echo from thin clouds of ice crystals like those that prompted Terauchi to mistake village lights for UFOs on January 11.
On the night of November 17, there was a nearly full moon that would have been approximately 12 degrees above the horizon at the time of the initial UFO sighting and almost directly behind the JAL 747’s direction of flight. This raises the possibility that bright moonlight reflecting off turbulent clouds of ice crystals could have generated the undulating flame-colored lights that Terauchi described.
It would also explain why the undulating lights would periodically and suddenly disappear and then reappear as cloud conditions ahead changed. When the aircraft finally outf1ew the ice clouds and the initial “UFO” disappeared for good, Terauchi would search the sky for it, spot Jupiter further to the left, and conclude it was the original UFO.
Is Klass’ Moon Pillar Misidentification Theory Valid?
The principle of the generation of light pillars has been scientifically clarified to some extent, e.g., Richard Hamblyn “Extraordinary Clouds; Skies of the Unexpected from the Beautiful to the Bizarre,” 2009), it has been found as follows:
Because light pillars are produced by simple reflection without refraction, their light is not spectroscopic and shines in the color of the sun or other light source (e.g., orange for sunsets).
This is the same principle as the fact that light reflected in a mirror is the same color as the light source, and the surface of ice crystals corresponds to this mirror.
The figure below is a reproduction of what the moon looked like over Alaska using the high-precision celestial simulation software Stellar Navigator 12.
As shown above, the silvery white moon is visible from northeast to slightly east.
Therefore, if the Moon Pillar was generated by the reflection of this Moonlight onto ice crystals in the cloud, it should be observed as a single column of light of the same color as the Moon. From this, we can see that Klass’s explanation above, “bright moonlight reflecting off turbulent clouds of ice crystals could have generated the undulating flame-colored lights” is complete and utter bullshit from a scientific point of view.
It is also known that when there are multiple light sources, as many light pillars are created as there are light sources.
For example, the figure below shows the two light pillars created above two uncovered work lights.
Also, as shown in the figure below, when there are multiple light sources, such as streetlights in a city, as many light pillars are created as there are light sources, and their colors also reflect the colors of the light sources.
However, the number of small UFOs reported by Captain Terauchi is two, and if this is due to reflections from ice crystals, then moonlight alone is one light source short, and streetlights on the ground would be too many light sources.
In addition, the colorful light emitted by these two UFOs, like Christmas decorations as pointed out by co-pilot Tamefuji, cannot be explained by light pillars caused by reflections of ice crystals from moonlight or street lights as the light source.
Onboard WX Radar Does NOT Detect Ice Crystals
Also, Klass states that “It suggests that the green “blip/stream” was an echo from thin clouds of ice crystals,” which is incorrect.
In fact, the WX radar equipped on the nose of a Boeing 747 transmits a beam from a transmitter in the nose of the aircraft to detect weather conditions based on the reflectance of water droplets. The weather echoes are displayed on the navigation display (ND) on a color scale from red (high reflectivity) to green (low reflectivity).
It is important to note that the function of the WX radar on the aircraft is limited in that it only indicates the presence of liquid water due to its principle of detecting weather conditions based on the reflectance of water droplets.
The table below, taken from the article “Optimum use of weather radar” in “The Airbus Safety first magazine”, lists “ice crystals” as the first item in “The weather radar does not detect:”.
In addition, the “Aviation Serious Incident Investigation Report” issued by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Transportation Safety Board explains in the “DETECTION OF ICE CRYSTAL” section as follows.
Ice crystals are difficult to detect with the weather radar, because their reflectivity is very low due to both their small size and solid state.
However, areas of ice crystals are usually associated with visible moisture.
Ice crystals can be indicated by one or more of the following:
- Appearance of rain on the windshield at temperatures too low for rain to exist. This “rain” is usually associated with a “Shhhh” noise.
- Small accumulation of ice particles on wipers
- Smell of ozon or Saint Elmo’s fire.
- Aircraft TAT indication that remains near 0℃ (due to freezing of the TAT probe)
- Light to moderate turbulence in IMC at high altitude
- No significant radar echo at high aircraft altitude, combind with:
・High-intensity precipitation that appears below the aircraft, or
・Aircraft position downwind of a very active convective cloud.
However, the three crewmembers of JAL 1628 did not observe any of the above-listed indications of the presence of Ice Crystals, such as visible moisture, “rain” with “shhhh” noise, or the St. Elmo fire.
From this, we can see that Klass’s explanation above that the green echo on JAL1628’s WX radar suggests the presence of a thin cloud containing Ice Crystals is scientific bullshit.
Did the crew of JAL 1628 see only “light”?
By the way, in “PSYCHIC VIBRATIONS” in the November 2014 Skeptical Inquire, UFO skeptic Robert Sheaffer states that “[t]he bottom line is, Terauchi’s own flight crew saw only ‘lights.'”
But this is not accurate, because at least two crew members, Captain Terauchi and First Officer Tamefuji, also confirmed a green echo image on the aircraft’s onboard WX radar, and confirmed that this green echo image was behaving strangely and differently from normal clouds.
Actually, in an FAA interview on January 5, 1987, Co-Pilot Tamefuji, based on his own long experience, asserted that the green radar blip captured by the WX radar of JAL 1628 was caused by some flying object.
T. Tamefuji: ah, I – I have many experience ah, ah, aircraft, echo or radar screen … , echo…
P. Beckner: Right
T. Tamefuji: yeah, ah, so I could identify that is … ah aircraft echo … I have many experiences before in checking oncoming aircrafts on a radar.
S. Mimoto: I experienced often in checking oncoming aircraft on radar before.
T. Tamefuji: Just like ah traffic.
P. Beckner: Okay …
P. Beckner: Okay, okay. Well sir, that’s all I can think to ask you. Is there anything you’d like ta – to further add – and give us some more understanding to what you folks saw up there?
T. Tamefuji: Humm, no well, I am certain that I saw something.
S. Mimoto: Well I’m – I’m sure I saw something.
T. Tamefuji: It was clear enough to make me believe taht there was an oncoming aircraft.
S. Mimoto: This is clearly enough to make me believe it was an oncoming airplane.
P. Beckner: Okay
T. Tamefuji: That’s the starting point of this story.
S. Mimoto: That’s the beginning of this story.
T. Tamefuji: And ah, the interview said military, some kind of commander I don’t remember, but, ah, some military …
P. Beckner: Military – military ah, commander?
T. Tamefuji: Ah, how should I say, but some personnel from military said this was a weather interference.
S. Mimoto: And this military commander said it was a weather interfere … interference.
P. Beckner: (unintelligible)
T. Tamefuji: Ah, on the radar
S. Mimoto: On the radar
P. Beckner: Okay, that I – that I don’t know, um …
T. Tamefuji: But ah, it was clear sky, so …
P. Beckner: Right.
T. Tamefuji: … there’s no possibility of weather interference.
P. Beckner: On the weather, interference, okay.
Flight engineer Yoshio Tsukuda also described the UFO he saw in Sunday Mainichi (January 25, 1987 issue) as follows.
I’ve never seen a flying object like that before. I still feel weird, I don’t know if it was a so-called spaceship or just a physical phenomenon … Anyway, I can’t explain that it was like this. I could see the lights of the city of Fairbanks just fine, so it was clearly different from that. I can only say it was some kind of flying object.
Thus, all three crew members of JAL 1628 clearly stated that they had seen some sort of flying object.
Green Echo Image Instantly Disappeared
A further odd fact about the green echo image captured by JAL 1628’s onboard radar was revealed by Captain Terauchi in an interview in Japan. This interview was conducted by Junichiro Nirasawa, president and editor-in-chief of Tama Publishing, in November or December 1986 (probably immediately after the incident, although no clear date is given).
Captain Terauchi described what happened when the aircraft’s onboard radar captured a green echo image ahead of the aircraft as follows.
I didn’t like how it felt, so I asked Fairbanks Airport below. They seemed to believe me to some extent, but said they didn’t see anything, although I kept telling them to check on the radar because I was seeing those lights.
I hinted upon using our (the Jumbo Jet’s) weather radar. We directed the angle of the radar horizontally, and switched it to 20 miles, the shortest distance, since it was not so far.
(1 mile is 1.6 kilometers.*1)
20 miles is indicated with four lines, and one line suggests 5 miles (see drawing : below).
As a result, a very large green circular mark appeared 7 to 8 miles away from us at 60 degrees in the advancing direction.
Other than that there were no clouds – just the object. If it had been a regular airplane, it would be shown on the radar as a red mark. However, what we saw was a green disk on the radar. I told below (Fairbanks Airport*2) what we had captured on our radar, and asked them again to detect it immediately.
Then, at that moment, the disk had shifted instantly to the hind of our jet, and disappeared from the radar. The position of the width between the two lights on both ends (left and right) however, was still the same.
Thus, according to Captain Terauchi, the green echo image on the WX radar of JAL 1628 (which was monitoring the front of the aircraft) disappeared from the radar screen together with the instantaneous backward shift of the giant UFO in front of the aircraft.
In this interview, the following description of the onboard radar screen of JAL 1628 was also provided as follows:
(The drawing shows that the size of the mark is half the size of the 5-mile range, proving the size of the UFO to be about 2000 meters.
In addition, a regular airplane, if it were a metallic object, would appear “red” on the radar. The fact that the mark is “green” signifies that the object is “half translucent”.)
If the green echoes were “clouds,” as Mr. Klass claims, then the entire cloud, which had a diameter of 2,000 meters, instantly disappeared from the radar screen. Furthermore, the disappearance was in conjunction with the instantaneous shift of the giant UFO in front of the aircraft.
Not only Captain Terauchi, but also Co-Captain Tamefuji saw two geometric flying objects emitting multicolored lights, and these two flying objects were flying in close formation like baby bears playing with each other, moving instantly closer and farther apart in various directions around JAL 1628.
Encounter with the Future Technology
In a written statement titled “Encounter with the Future,” Captain Terauchi described how an ancient man encountered a TV set on a mountain, and even if he described what he saw to his companions, no one would understand him and they would treat him as a lunatic.
Similarly, in the days before the invention of special stealth technology, if a man were to explain that a huge flying object in front of him could only be seen on radar as a “cloud,” as he saw it, the people of the time would probably snicker and say,
How could such an unscientific thing be?
and the man would be treated as a lunatic.
But the truth is that those who laughed at the man were more ignorant of the technology of the future. Are we not making the same mistake?
Twenty years after the incident, in an interview in the December 7, 2006 issue of Shukan Shincho, Captain Terauchi stated as follows:
The doctor told me that I didn’t see a UFO, that it was a hallucination. I could’t get what that UFO was, but I just described what I saw, as I saw it.
Did Captain Terauchi see a hallucination of UFOs? Or did he really encounter future technology?
You, the armchair detective, are the final judge!
Published on May 24, 2023
Updated on May 31, 2023
Written by OTAKUPAPA
1. THE BLACK VAULT: Japanese Airlines JAL 1628 UFO Encounter, November 17, 1986, John Greenewald, September 21, 2018.
2. Phillip J. Klass, March 21, 1987, a letter to Paul Steucke, Public Affairs Officer of the Anchorage Aviation Department.
3. “JAL captain tells of 2nd UFO sighting,” January 12, 1987, The Anchorage Times
4. THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, Vol. 11, “Special Reports FAA Data Sheds New Light On JAL Pilot’s UFO Report” by Phillip J. Klass.
5. Light pillar in Wikipedia.
6. Richard Hamblyn, June 2009, Extraordinary Clouds; Skies of the Unexpected from the Beautiful to the Bizarre, David & Charles.
7. “Optimum use of weather radar” published on July 2016 in The Airbus Safety first magazine.
8. “Aviation Serious Incident Investigation Report” issued on August 30, 2018, by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Transportation Safety Board
9. Robert Sheaffer, November 2014, “JAL 1628: Capt. Terauchi’s Marvelous ’Spaceship’,” PSYCHIC VIBRATIONS.
10. Record of Interview With JAL First Officer Takanori Tamefuji at the Federal Building, Anchorage, Alaska on January 5, 1987, by Inspector Peter E. Beckner and Japanese Interpreter Sayoko Mimoto, FAA Airways Facilities.
11. Sunday Mainichi, January 25, 1987 issue, Mainichi Newspaper Publishing Co.
12. Interview with Captain Terauchi by Junichiro Nirasawa, published by Tama Publishing in 1986. http://www.tamabook.com/j_nirasawa/alaska_UFO/E_01.html
13. “Mirai Tono Deai (Encounters with the Future)”, Written Statement by Capt. Terauchi [In Japanese]
14. Shukan Shincho, December 7, 2006 issue, Shinchosha.