Identifying Landing Lights Reported as UFOs

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member

Source: https://www.facebook.com/NashuaPatch/posts/711620088916085

UPDATE: the light pattern exactly matches the landing and nav lights of a Boeing 727



The Nashua image [UPDATE: actually not taken in Nashua, just used as illustration] was presented as a "Boomerang shaped UFO", yet it appears to be the landing lights and navigation lights of an ordinary plane. The most obvious indicator of this is the red and green lights that are at the airplane wing tips. Green on the plane's right (starboard) wing (viewer's left), and red on the left (port) wing. Here, for comparison, is the landing and nav lights of an A380:


This set me thinking, there must be many instances in which landing lights are mistaken for UFOs. A plane approaching the viewer from nearly head on can appear to be moving very slowly in the sky, and then then suddenly speed up as it passes. With it being dark, it's hard to see much beyond the lights, so the brain fills in the gaps, and you get a "triangle" or "boomerang" shape.

Perhaps it might be useful to try to gather images of the landing light configurations of various jets, so they could be more quickly identified? What plane, for example, has four landing lights like in the first image?

There are surprising few images that are easily findable, so by collecting them in one place, it might save a lot of time, and misunderstanding.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/birdlike/154809689/sizes/z/





Landing lights are always on when landing, so the photo need not be at night. A collection of photos taken from a good viewpoint at a bust airport would quickly give a good reference base.

Here's a good video showing several planes passing very low overhead. Because it's low, over bright city lights, and misty, you see a lot more of the plane than you would on a dark clear night away from the city.

Here's a plane flying nearly directly towards the camera, seems to be hovering for a while.

And more planes landing

Interesting perfect triangle here appearing as a reflection.


These landing vides are maybe not the perfect reference though, ideally you'd have a shot zoomed in on the plane while it's still at quite a distance. Maybe something like this, where at night, through a zoom lens or binoculars, a triangle shaped UFO might be seen to slowly sink below the trees and vanish.

 
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NoParty

Senior Member
Seriously?

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 10.53.12 AM.png
"'Boomerang' objected (sic) spotted..." ?!?

God, it's like they're not even trying anymore.



When I was kid, we had decent UFO sightings...now, you kids, get off of my lawn!!!

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 10.07.51 AM.png
 
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Rico

Active Member


The above image was presented as a "Boomerang shaped UFO", yet it appears to be the landing lights and navigation lights of an ordinary plane. The most obvious indicator of this is the red and green lights that are at the airplane wing tips. Green on the plane's right (starboard) wing (viewer's left), and red on the left (port) wing....
It's a UFO. The aliens are just complying with civil air regulations (safety first!)
 

Chew

Senior Member
It's a UFO. The aliens are just complying with civil air regulations (safety first!)
What are the odds aliens who see a different color spectrum would choose the same lighting standards (red on the left, green on the right) as humans?
 

Rico

Active Member
What are the odds aliens who see a different color spectrum would choose the same lighting standards (red on the left, green on the right) as humans?
Slim to none. But then they won't be complying and they'll be even more busted when an F-18 pulls up beside them. ;)
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
This set me thinking, there must be many instances in which landing lights are mistaken for UFOs.
Actually, this brings back a memory of mine, from an old ATS ('Above Top Secret') thread regarding a YT video in the Chicago area, posted by a gent claiming they were "alien spacecraft".

Was simple enough to identify his location relative to the O'Hare Airport (KORD) and check the date, and find that due to prevailing winds that evening and night, the airplanes were landing on a runway (in a direction) that was outside the "normal" pattern, as is "normally" the case at O'Hare.

IIRC this was back in 2011, and I am having trouble finding the original YT video, and the ATS thead (so many YT videos are uploaded every second, nowadays!!!)


ETA: Occurred to me that the image that is the topic of the OP is a still photo, of poor resolution. Yes of course, it is just an airliner landing light configuration. (As pointed out, the navigation lights on the wingtips can also be seen).

In "real-life", or a real time video clip, we would also see the white wingtip strobes...and depending on the angle at least one red flashing beacon light ("beacon" is a common term.."Anti-Collision" for the pedantic)....there are usually two, on the fuselage centerline, top and bottom.

As to:
What plane, for example, has four landing lights like in the first image?
My thoughts first jumped to the B737-300. Since Nashua is near the airport Manchester (KMHT) I looked it up on Flight Aware...for the hours after dark, on Sunday the 23rd November. (For arrivals...since I can just make out that the Taxi light is on, on the nose gear. A common technique that I used was, when receiving a clearance to land from the Tower, was to then turn it on....as a memory aid).

Here's a handy diagram of the B737-300 {**}...(what we now call a "classic", as compared to the "Next Generation" beginning with the -700 series....slightly different landing light configuration):

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wbaiv/4085635596/



{**}...and sure enough, SouthWest Airlines does still operate the -300...identified for ATC purposes as "B733". Compared to "B737", which denotes a -700, "Next Gen". ("B738" is a -800, etc).

Note that for these models (which include the original "classics"...few, if any, still flying...the -100 and -200) the Landing Light configuration is the same. Two Landing Lights in the wing leading edge, at the root where the wing meets the fuselage. The outboard lights are motorized....they retract flush, or extend as commanded. (Much like the wingtip, outboard Landing Lights on the MD-80/DC- series of airliners).
The B737-300 Lights are located in a wing flap track fairing, one each side.

They are usually not deployed until at lower speeds, and after flaps have been selected to at least 1°.

PS: Tried to find a close-up image of the Forward Overhead Panel, showing the external lighting control switches. No joy, yet.

The OutBoard Landing Light switches have three positions: "OFF", "EXTEND" and "ON".
( Just FYI ;) ).[/URL]
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Is it just camera angle, or does that runway have a really undulating surface?? Looks like it could double for dune races during down time..
Just perspective foreshortening. It does undulate, but very gradual. Similar problems of perspective apply to people's perceptions of the lights.
 

occams rusty scissor

Senior Member
Fair enough, I figured it might be that as it just looked a bit severe. I could imagine a few complaints coming otherwise - As if wind shear is not enough to deal with, a jet pulling bunny hops down the runway might make it interesting for the passengers.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
BTW, RE: SWA flights....this is (possibly? EDIT...no, wrong date**) a likely "suspect", from Sunday, 23 November 2014:
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/SWA357/history/20141123/2235Z/KBWI/KMHT

{**ooops}.....MORE (ETA): From the OP--- it was kindly pointed out to me that the date of the original post (which I missed.....I took my "cues" from the date of your OP) was last month. I do not have access in FlightAware back to October 7. However, I'm sure that someone does. I see that 7 October was a Tuesday, so this person's post refers, I guess, to the previous Sunday, 5 October 2014?

Sorry for any confusion on my part. I'm sure it's possible to link a local time (of the OP's photo) and date with historic air traffic schedules and flight information. Should note, in case my explanation seems unclear: I selected the Manchester, NH airport as the likely major metropolitan airport that would accommodate airliners in the vicinity of Nashua, NH (where the "sighting" is alleged to have occurred).


Also, inRE: the light switches/controls in the cockpit, found this:
http://www.b737.org.uk/aircraft_general.htm#Lights

Note that the "Next Gen" B737s also have flush, extendable Landing Lights...but are not out on the wings, they are near the bottom of the fuselage. The wing-root lights, as on the "Classic", are still same location.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
My thoughts first jumped to the B737-300.
Something very similar, but the "UFO" layout does not match the diagram of a 737-300




The wing root lights match perfectly, but the mid-wing landing lights are much closer in, near the inner flap fairing, not the outer.
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member
The OP photo is a frame from the Boomerang UFO Virginia video on youtube:
Edit:
Perhaps, it was landing at Langley AFB?
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Found a matching plane. The Boeing 727 has extra lights on the leading edge slats in exactly the right place.




 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The OP photo is a frame from the Boomerang UFO Virginia video on youtube:
The actual Nashua story only has an artists impression:


That would match an MD-80. The wingtip lights largely obscuring the nav lights.


That's a very common commuter aircraft.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
On the given date of Sunday Oct 5th, there's a potential flights in Delta 1079, crossing the freeway at a relatively low 3000 feet, it could have appeared as a strangely moving triangle of lights to someone driving at a right angles to the direction of motion.


More extreme examples, showing the triangle formation of the lights:

So, this type of thing, but at 3000 feet:
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Here's an excellent night video of an MD-80 landing, showing the triangle UFO it makes the with landing lights:

 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
The Boeing 727
D'Oh!! (Smacks forehead!). I discounted that jet because I didn't think any were still flying in the U.S. I was fixated ( somewhat similar to UFO enthusiasts? ;) ) on currently operating airlines' fleets. And yes, the B727 had (has?) a landing light in each #3 outboard Leading Edge Flap ("Krueger" flaps as they are referred to, as opposed to the Slats, which extend differently).

I suppose there are still a few B727s equipped with "hush kits" on the engines still operating, possibly owned privately or by research companies.

Also, another "derp" moment for me....the B727 has a much greater degree of wing sweepback, compared to the B737. The "UFO" photo tends to illustrate this, by position of the wingtip Nav Lights.
 
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Trailspotter

Senior Member
Found a matching plane. The Boeing 727 has extra lights on the leading edge slats in exactly the right place.
I discounted that jet because I didn't think any were still flying in the U.S.
The video from which the 'original' of OP picture came from was taken in 2002, perhaps Boeing 727 was in use at the time:
Also, I found a video of DHL 727-200F NIGHT LANDING 16R SYDNEY AIRPORT:

The front lights of planes in both videos look similar, but the rear ones (after they had flown over the cameramen) are different. Perhaps, the 'UFO' plane filmed in 2002 was a 'specialised' variant. Or was it an original design?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The front lights of planes in both videos look similar, but the rear ones are different. Perhaps, the 'UFO' plane filmed in 2002 was a 'specialised' variant. Or was it an original design?
I think they are the same, just a different angle. The landing plane is viewed nearly end on, but the "UFO" plane is still quite high.
 

TEEJ

Senior Member
Actually, this brings back a memory of mine, from an old ATS ('Above Top Secret') thread regarding a YT video in the Chicago area, posted by a gent claiming they were "alien spacecraft".

Was simple enough to identify his location relative to the O'Hare Airport (KORD) and check the date, and find that due to prevailing winds that evening and night, the airplanes were landing on a runway (in a direction) that was outside the "normal" pattern, as is "normally" the case at O'Hare.

IIRC this was back in 2011, and I am having trouble finding the original YT video, and the ATS thead (so many YT videos are uploaded every second, nowadays!!!)
See from 2:22 for the original footage which was taken down by the Father and Son after they were informed that they were filming aircraft lining up to land over the lake.

The initial footage on the following is from a poster "Maverick" who filmed the stack from his house.


Amazing how many people couldn't understand how far away these aircraft actually were when forming up over the lake.

ATS thread from 2011.

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread664580/pg1
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
In the night the lights all seem to be the same distance away, when really each plane miles behind the other. What seems like a formation of lights is just the planes lining up to land.

Watch this amazing video of planes on approach, by image all you can see are the lights. It looks like planes quickly fly into formation, then stop, then make a right angle turn towards the camera, then fly up in the air.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
It really is all about the perspective, and perception.

Would be nice if we had a member here who was a "Local" Air Traffic Controller ("local" refers to those in ATC who work in airport towers).

They see this all the time, from their vantage points. (Gee, bonus if we could get more laypersons up there too? But, that is extremely difficult...getting permission, nowadays is next to impossible).

Slightly OT, but the issue of 'civilians' in a Control Tower has been made ever more difficult due to the actions a while back (2010) of a Local controller at JFK:
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I was just looking at this image:


And I noticed the track was lined up for Londonderry, so I did a search for "Londonderry, NH, UFO", and sure enough there's some more obvious landing lights being identified as strange shape-shifting alien crafts: (or in this case "demonic").
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
What does the graph represent, are those peaks turbulence?
There's two graphs overlaid, speed and altitude. I chopped off the first digit of the altitude scale on the left, it goes up to 32999 feet (i.e. FL330).

The peaks are peaks in speed. It think they are possibly just misreporting.
 

TEEJ

Senior Member
Sadly there are lots of individuals out there exploiting aviation lights. It is amazing how many people get sucked into this hoax? This guy lives some 60km east of me in the UK and exploits it to the full with the old donation scam in order to get better cameras.

http://thejsb007.com/UFO_s.html

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheJSB007

I've marked his filming location with at star (Kings Lynn). He lives in a target rich environment within the East Anglian Military Training Area. All he has to do is monitor the aviation enthusiast websites, Notices to Airmen, or simply plug in a radio scanner to find out the military night flying activity. Sadly his followers believe that he lives in some sort of UFO hot spot! During quiet periods civilian aircraft are permitted to transit over the Military Training Areas and he also exploits this to the max. In addition he also exploits the upper air routes some 20 miles to his north over the North Sea.



Another high profile aviation light exploiter is Alison Kruse in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/user/seeingUFOsPA
 

Sagittarius

Member
In the night the lights all seem to be the same distance away, when really each plane miles behind the other. What seems like a formation of lights is just the planes lining up to land.

Watch this amazing video of planes on approach, by image all you can see are the lights. It looks like planes quickly fly into formation, then stop, then make a right angle turn towards the camera, then fly up in the air.
I love that video, Mick! It never fails to amaze me how light and graceful airplanes look, and the ease with which they apparently manoeuvre, despite their immense weight.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
and the ease with which they apparently manoeuvre, despite their immense weight.
The film is sped up...almost as a time-lapse.

I was appalled (no, too strong a word)...concerned...(?)...puzzled that a few....quite a few actually, did not have their landing lights on. It is a common practice amongst U.S.-based commercial pilots to have as many lights on as possible when below 18,000 feet. This is our "transition altitude" in U.S. airspace, and on descent for arrivals where the "In Range" checklist is conducted.

These airplanes were filmed maneuvering to, and on Final Approach, as you see the landing gear being extended. (This generally occurs at roughly 1,500 above the ground. The airplane must be completely configured, and stable prior to 1,000 AGL).
 
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