Phoenix Lights

Mitch Stanley, an amateur astronomer, stated that he resolved the Phoenix lights (or rather the first event, at 20:00 hrs) into individual planes using a telescope. He says that each plane had at least two lights.

https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/the-great-ufo-cover-up-6422930
Since the lights seemed to be moving so slowly, Mitch attempted to capture them in the scope. He succeeded, and the leading three lights fit in his field of vision. Linda asked what they were.
"Planes," Mitch said.
It was plain to see, he says. What looked like individual lights to the naked eye actually split into two under the resolving power of the telescope. The lights were located on the undersides of squarish wings, Mitch says. And the planes themselves seemed small, like light private planes.
Stanley watched them for about a minute, and then turned away. It was the last thing the amateur astronomer wanted to look at.
 
We should be aware that the Phoenix lights event was in fact two separate events, one at 20:00 in the evening (actually starting at about 19:55) which was probably planes flying in formation, and a second event at about 22:00 that was probably distant flares.

These two events may or may not have been connected ,since no-one has identified the planes concerned definitively.

(edit) From Vattic's link upthread:
https://web.archive.org/web/20180313235324/https://mufon.com/phoenix-lights---1997.html
The United States Air Force identified the second group of lights as flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft that were on training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona.
So only the planes in the 20:00 event remain unidentified.
 
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So are you saying they were flying in formation at night without position lights? Not only is that against FAA regulations, it's both dangerous and stupid. Were any of the pilots who allegedly did this identified?
Military. The theory is they were A-10s returning to Davis-Monthan from Vegas. This would match up to what Mitch Stanley reported while looking through his telescope and seeing planes in a formation with squarish wings.

(Part 1) The Phoenix Lights - Laying To Rest The Myth


"It was plain to see. What looked like individual lights to the naked eye actually split into two under the resolving power of the telescope. The lights were located on the undersides of squarish wings."

"They were planes. There's no way I could have mistaken that."

As such, retired Air Force Major and UFO researcher James McGaha reconstructs what likely occurred on the night of March 13:

Five A-10 jets from Operation Snowbird had flown from Tucson to Nellis Air force Base near Las Vegas several days earlier, and were now returning.

The A-10 jets were flying VFR (visual flight rules), so there was no need for them to check in with airports along the route. They were following the main air corridor for air traffic traveling that route, the “highway in the sky.”

Because they were flying in formation mode they did not have on their familiar blinking collision lights, but instead their formation lights. In any case, FAA rules concerning aircraft lights and flight altitudes, etc. do not apply to military aircraft. The A-10s flew over the Phoenix area, flew on to Tucson, and landed at Davis-Monthan.
 
Military. The theory is they were A-10s returning to Davis-Monthan from Vegas. This would match up to what Mitch Stanley reported while looking through his telescope and seeing planes in a formation with squarish wings.

(Part 1) The Phoenix Lights - Laying To Rest The Myth




As such, retired Air Force Major and UFO researcher James McGaha reconstructs what likely occurred on the night of March 13:

Military. The theory is they were A-10s returning to Davis-Monthan from Vegas. This would match up to what Mitch Stanley reported while looking through his telescope and seeing planes in a formation with squarish wings.

(Part 1) The Phoenix Lights - Laying To Rest The Myth




As such, retired Air Force Major and UFO researcher James McGaha reconstructs what likely occurred on the night of March 13:
FAA lighting requirements do apply to US military aircraft if they are in public airspace, but not if they are in restricted airspace like military ranges and designated exercise areas. Doesn't really matter here, however, if McGaha is correct in saying they had on their formation (position) lights. Your previous statement said they were flying in formation with "only their landing lights on." That made zero sense.
 
So are you saying they were flying in formation at night without position lights? Not only is that against FAA regulations, it's both dangerous and stupid.
That's untrue.
On January 24, 2003, the USAF was granted an exemption by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to Title 14 CFR Part 91.209(a)(1) and (b), in order to conduct "lights-out" training utilizing NVGs without lighted aircraft position lights in select MOAs [military operations areas].

"Lights-out" training operations are conducted within restricted airspace, warning areas, and, most recently, select MOAs. As a result, nonparticipating general aviation (GA) aircraft share airspace with unlit, high-speed military aircraft conducting training sorties.


However, the Phoenix aircraft were said to have their landing lights on, they were not unlit. It's possible that the position lights were on, but underexposed and invisible in the cloud/fog/haze. Or maybe observers mischaracterized formation lights as landing lights, though that seems unlikely to me.
 
That's untrue.
On January 24, 2003, the USAF was granted an exemption by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to Title 14 CFR Part 91.209(a)(1) and (b), in order to conduct "lights-out" training utilizing NVGs without lighted aircraft position lights in select MOAs [military operations areas].

"Lights-out" training operations are conducted within restricted airspace, warning areas, and, most recently, select MOAs. As a result, nonparticipating general aviation (GA) aircraft share airspace with unlit, high-speed military aircraft conducting training sorties.
This is what I saying in post #44 above....."FAA lighting requirements do apply to US military aircraft if they are in public airspace, but not if they are in restricted airspace like military ranges and designated exercise areas."

However, the Phoenix aircraft were said to have their landing lights on, they were not unlit.
@JAFO said landing lights  only, that's what I questioned. He further cited McGaha in post #43 as saying "they were flying in formation mode they did not have on their familiar blinking collision lights, but instead their formation lights." He didn't mention landing lights.

It's possible that the position lights were on, but underexposed and invisible in the cloud/fog/haze. Or maybe observers mischaracterized lights as landing lights, though that seems unlikely to me.
Speculation, but again my original post was in reference to @JAFO saying landing lights "only."
 
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This is what I saying in post #44 above....."FAA lighting requirements do apply to US military aircraft if they are in public airspace, but not if they are in restricted airspace like military ranges and designated exercise areas."
Warning areas and MOAs are public airspace.
 
Warning areas and MOAs are public airspace.
Yes, civilian aircraft may transit MOAs. I should have explained that better. The point remains the same, however, in that McGaha's blanket comment about FAA rules concerning a/c lighting not applying to military a/c is incorrect. As you pointed out in, even the exemption granting military a/c authority to fly "lights-out" in designated airspace came from the FAA.

Worth noting the original comment by @JAFO about "landing lights only" did not mention military aircraft. I thought he was referring to a situation similar to what occurred in the Hudson Valley in the 80s when those jokers were night flying private a/c in formation to perpetrate a hoax. They apparently did so legally/safely, however, as I don't recall any punishment or mishaps resulting from those joyrides.
 
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So are you saying they were flying in formation at night without position lights? Not only is that against FAA regulations, it's both dangerous and stupid. Were any of the pilots who allegedly did this identified?
It's irrelevant as to whether or not it's "against FAA regulations" or "both dangerous and stupid."
 
So are you saying they were flying in formation at night without position lights? Not only is that against FAA regulations, it's both dangerous and stupid. Were any of the pilots who allegedly did this identified?
When the landing lights are on, they are so much brighter than the safety lights that it's easy for it to be the case that only the landing light is visible, it just totally drowns out the smaller blinking lights. Especially when relatively far away (the glare is larger relative to the actual light bulb size at far distances than it is at closer distances). If the plane gets a lot closer it can become easier to see both the landing light and the blinking safety lights because more detail is resolvable and the glares are smaller relative to the plane and the distances between the landing light and the blinking lights.

Here's an example of some planes both departing and approaching the Boston airport, on a clear night last weekend. (Got some "rotating triangles" at a few parts). When planes are facing away from the camera but still have their landing light on, it's also easier to see the blinking lights because the bright landing light is facing away and so not drowning out the other ones as much as when a plane with landing light on is facing the camera.


Source: https://youtu.be/dSz0iRrSdyM


Here's another one really making use of the Samsung s23 Ultra's zoom capabilities to look farther out on the approach path for planes coming into the airport to get one right before it turns its landing light on. If Flightradar24's map is to be trusted precisely then the plane (flight EI137) is almost exactly 7 miles away from the camera at the start of this video. The blinking lights aren't visible at this distance, at least not from the ground where there's much more light pollution. The plane only becomes visible to the camera when it turns the landing light on.


Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYuwAWDguF8
 
When the landing lights are on, they are so much brighter than the safety lights that it's easy for it to be the case that only the landing light is visible, it just totally drowns out the smaller blinking lights. Especially when relatively far away (the glare is larger relative to the actual light bulb size at far distances than it is at closer distances). If the plane gets a lot closer it can become easier to see both the landing light and the blinking safety lights because more detail is resolvable and the glares are smaller relative to the plane and the distances between the landing light and the blinking lights.

Here's an example of some planes both departing and approaching the Boston airport, on a clear night last weekend. (Got some "rotating triangles" at a few parts). When planes are facing away from the camera but still have their landing light on, it's also easier to see the blinking lights because the bright landing light is facing away and so not drowning out the other ones as much as when a plane with landing light on is facing the camera.


Source: https://youtu.be/dSz0iRrSdyM


Here's another one really making use of the Samsung s23 Ultra's zoom capabilities to look farther out on the approach path for planes coming into the airport to get one right before it turns its landing light on. If Flightradar24's map is to be trusted precisely then the plane (flight EI137) is almost exactly 7 miles away from the camera at the start of this video. The blinking lights aren't visible at this distance, at least not from the ground where there's much more light pollution. The plane only becomes visible to the camera when it turns the landing light on.


Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYuwAWDguF8

The original post (#36 above) by @JAFO didn't say the landing lights drown out the position lights, he said the claim was aircraft were flying "in formation with only their landing lights on." You're proving something that wasn't stated or claimed.
 
Lived for a few years directly under the landing path for a military airfield. At night if you looked directly away from the airfield you would see white lights "hovering" in the air, not moving. If you continued to watch you would see them start to slowly move upward. Then after many seconds they would start to move more quickly then all of a sudden they would get close enough for the lights of the city to illuminate the underside of the aircraft. Then the plane would pass rapidly overhead and that bright white light would be revealed as a landing light attached to the front landing gear of an A-7 Corsair II jet. Never really noticed the wing-tip navigation lights until those last seconds before it passed overhead.

Watching this on many nights is why whenever some says they saw hovering lights I want to stand up and scream. "NO, you saw lights that were heading directly toward you!"
 
The original post (#36 above) by @JAFO didn't say the landing lights drown out the position lights, he said the claim was aircraft were flying "in formation with only their landing lights on." You're proving something that wasn't stated or claimed.
I wonder if @JAFO would accept a "friendly amendment to "in formation with their landing lights on?" This would accord with the testimony of astronomer Mitch Stanley in post https://www.metabunk.org/threads/phoenix-lights.11938/post-311617 above, where the bright light on each plane visible at a distance resolved into two lights (see picture below, seems to match up pretty well), with no mention as to whether additional smaller blinking lights were observed (in the part quoted here, at least.)
805157016.jpg


Some video of A-10 with landing light on in flight, for reference:


Source: https://youtu.be/brnlN8pj9tI?t=344


To me, it looks as if the flashers would be visible easily if there was enough magnification to see the plane. It is less clear whether they'd be mentioned in a statement about the single bright light resolving into two lights.

Edit to add:
Also note that when actually landing, at least, there is a third light (see around 6:04). Somebody with more knowing of airplane lights might clarify the terminology on which of the various lights are termed landing lights, or if they all are.
 
I recall seeing, some years ago, a documentary on the Phoenix lights...part of which made the claim that the object had been 'triangulated' from various positions and thus the object's height and size and distance had been determined. Others may recall seeing the same. BUT....they never gave more details and I've long forgotten who made the claim.

Google does not provide any hint of any triangulation having been done. So I'd love to know who did it, what were the results, and so on. If possible I'll try to find the original video where the claim was made.
 
There is actual video of the lights that traveled north to south over Phoenix as well. Trying to find it again. You can tell they are not fixed in space and bolster the theory that they were airplanes in formation with only their landing lights on.
Amending to change landing lights to say it was reported/suggested they were flying with only formation lights. These were military A-10s.
 
I recall seeing, some years ago, a documentary on the Phoenix lights...part of which made the claim that the object had been 'triangulated' from various positions and thus the object's height and size and distance had been determined. Others may recall seeing the same. BUT....they never gave more details and I've long forgotten who made the claim.
The well-known UFO proponent Bruce Maccabee did some triangulation work on the 10:00 pm event on March 13,1997, and came to the conclusion that they were flares, more than 30 miles away, perhaps more than 60 miles away.
In fact, the most parsominous explanation for these lights is that they were flares (as so stated for the March 13, 1997 lights by the Maryland National Guard). This analysis is therefore consistent with that of the Cognitech Corporation (Dr. Leonid Rudin) done for the Discovery Channel documentary (November, 1997). It is also consistent with the analysis of Dr. Paul Scowen, professor of astronomy at ASU, as reported by author Tony Ortega in the Phoenix "New Times" newspaper, March 5-11, 1998, which showed that the lights were farther away than the mountain peaks in the K video. In that newspaper article the author also reported that an "Arizona National Guard public information officer, Captain Eileen Benz, had determined that the flares had been dropped at 10 P.M. over the North Tac Range 30 miles southwest of Phoenix at an unusually high altitude of 15,000 ft." Except for the stated distance, which should be more like 60 miles (and up to 100 miles away) this statement is consistent with the analysis presented here.

https://web.archive.org/web/20160120094414/http://brumac.8k.com/phoenixlights4.html
(note, that link also discusses triangulation for a different event on Jan 14, 1998, which is an entirely separate event).

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I'm not aware that Maccabee, or anyone else, has performed triangulation on the earlier 8:00 pm event on March 13, 1997; since the lights were moving, this would have been difficult without precise timings on the videos. The explanation for the earlier 8:00 pm event remains a flight of planes.
 
I'm not aware that Maccabee, or anyone else, has performed triangulation on the earlier 8:00 pm event on March 13, 1997; since the lights were moving, this would have been difficult without precise timings on the videos. The explanation for the earlier 8:00 pm event remains a flight of planes.

Yes, it was precisely the earlier 8pm event for which there was a claim of triangulation. Which, given the allegedly slow moving craft and the supposed 2000 witnesses, I'd expect someone to have done. You only need two of those witnesses angular size and craft direction at close to the same time....to get a much better estimate of object size. I've seen several claims that triangulation was done, and even that one of the video simulations of the event was based on such, but nowhere can I find more details.

The later 10pm event was pretty much proven to be flares when the lights were overlapped with the shape of distant mountains. However I have never accepted the 'flight of planes' explanation for the 8pm events....it strikes me as absurd to place so much emphasis on the testimony of one witness and ignore the other several thousand.

The greater absurdity is that in all this time, and with so much witness testimony, here's a case ripe for precisely the sort of triangulation that would once and for all prove or disprove the 'mile wide craft' claims.
 
Very few video clips of the 8:00 pm event have surfaced; people were not prepared for this event, so they didn't get round to film it. This is before good cameras on smartphones. This is one reason I don't believe everybody who claimed to see it; there was no warning. In particular, I doubt Fife Symington's story - he claimed to have advanced warning of the event - something no-one else seems to have had.

There are other pieces of evidence that indicate that it was a flight of planes. The lights moved independently of one another, so they were not fixed to a solid object. These frames from Terry Proctor's video seem to prove that.

89815883_10100750209741962_3097087658581557248_n.jpg
 
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Another witness who identified these objects as planes was Rich Contry;
http://www.astronomyufo.com/UFO/azconc.htm
I was on my way from Flagstaff to Laughin Thursday when I saw the light formation reported on the radio the other night. I'm a pilot and was in the u.s. air force 4 years. Being in the mountains on highway 40, the night was clear and still. As the formation came towards me I stopped my car and got out with my binocs to check out what this was. As it came towards me, I saw 5 aircraft with there running lights (red and green) and the landing lights (white) on. They were also flying fairly slow and in the delta formation. As they went over me I could see stars going between the aircraft so it could not have been one large ship. The flying was like that of the Blue Angels or the thunderbirds demo team. Also as they went buy their jets were not very loud because of the low throttle setting for flying slow but I did hear the jets as they went away towards the south. (Contry)
Two thousand witnesses who didn't know what they were looking at, versus two witnesses who did, plus a movie that seems to confirm that identification. The 'formation of planes' theory looks pretty good on that evidence.

Anyhoo, I'm not sure what 'triangulation' would have proved in this case. A huge solid craft flying over Arizona would triangulate exactly the same as a flight of planes at the same height and distance.
 
Two thousand witnesses who didn't know what they were looking at, versus two witnesses who did, plus a movie that seems to confirm that identification. The 'formation of planes' theory looks pretty good on that evidence.

Erm, no....your witness actually disagrees with Mitch Stanley, the original ' they were planes' witness...who does not describe jets at all...

"What looked like individual lights to the naked eye actually split into two under the resolving power of the telescope. The lights were located on the undersides of squarish wings, Mitch says. And the planes themselves seemed small, like light private planes."

https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/the-great-ufo-cover-up-6422930

What's more...it is clear from Stanley's own words that each craft he saw had TWO lights....i,e the lights were in pairs...which is not at all what the other witnesses describe ( a V shape made of 5 or 7 individual orange...not white...lights ).

I'm all for skepticism, but good skepticism doesn't just ignore what the vast majority of witnesses claim they saw.

It's also worth adding that the field of view of Mitch Stanley's telescope ( very similar to one that I myself have ) is just one degree. He managed to fit the 'front three' craft within the field of view. Well, at 20,000 feet a degree is just 350 feet....which is far less than the 1000 to 3000 feet claimed separation in some versions. We have a dichotomy here, for in order to fit the planes into Stanley's field of view we have to make them pretty close together and not some formation a mile across. One cannot have it both ways. Stanley's entire formation would have been 2 degrees across. Even if it came down to just 5000 feet at one point, that means it would be just 8 degrees across. That's a far cry from witness descriptions of something covering half the sky.
 
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Anyhoo, I'm not sure what 'triangulation' would have proved in this case. A huge solid craft flying over Arizona would triangulate exactly the same as a flight of planes at the same height and distance.
Triangulating a moving object or group of objects would be a pretty tricky business unless we knew the exact positions of the observers, the exact direction and elevation, and the exact time of the observation. I suspect that very few people could do that if they unexpectedly saw a mysterious object, and even fewer if they were busy staring in amazement. As pointed out before, this was at a time when not everyone had a camera in their pocket.
 
good skepticism doesn't just ignore what the vast majority of witnesses claim they saw.
Wellll...

Witness claims are notoriously unreliable. I wouldn't ignore it, but I think it is fair to wonder if the conclusions drawn from what they saw (a triangle of lights) might be in error, given whatelse we know.

We have little harder evidence in this particular case, but what little we have supports the "each light was on a distinct vehicle" hypothesis (HERE, for example) and the witness who got a telescope on them could see that they were planes. Two bright lights on a Warthog very close together would look like A light from a distance, but would resolve into two if you had a scope. We know that a formation of 5 Warthogs flew over the area as part of Operation Snowbird (HERE.)
1711845664061.jpeg


The vast majority saw a triangle of lights fly by, which is consistent with the known formation of planes, which is consistent with the witnesses who could see better and saw that they were planes, and is consistent with the known planes that flew over.
 
Witness claims are notoriously unreliable.

Indeed they are. So why place 1998 witnesses in the 'unreliable' category and 2 witnesses in the 'reliable' category. Confirmation bias is just as prevalent among skeptics.

I'm a skeptic, but also a skeptic sometimes annoyed by the tendency to just pigeon hole everything that fits and just ignore anything that doesn't. For example how does one explain the orange lights seen by most witnesses.....no commercial or military plane has orange lights. How does one explain that the majority of witnesses do not say they saw 5 or 7 'pairs' of lights, as in lights on each wing of a craft, but distinct and large individual orange lights. Why was some alleged formation a mile wide flying over downtown Scottsdale and Phoenix...and yet Sky Harbor airport was seemingly oblivious of this. Why was the Governor, who did investigate, unable to simply come forward and say 'yup...this was just a formation of Warthogs ' ?
 
Triangulating a moving object or group of objects would be a pretty tricky business unless we knew the exact positions of the observers, the exact direction and elevation, and the exact time of the observation.

But the object allegedly moved slowly. With several thousand alleged witnesses we don't need exact split second accuracy of time. We can draw a flight path and deviation from that path would itself lead to a more accurate time...so we could say 'observer X can't have seen the object at the exact time they claim as that conflicts with the general flight path laid out by the average of observations '. Plus we're not aiming for an exact height or distance or size of the object...but something more like a good estimate.

This is an exercise I'd love to undertake myself. The question being, what source has all the witness report data.
 
Why was some alleged formation a mile wide flying over downtown Scottsdale and Phoenix...and yet Sky Harbor airport was seemingly oblivious of this.
(1) Perhaps there was no "formation", but rather several different planes flying in roughly the same direction. Pareidolia explains the description of them as being part of a single item or single formation. I have seen the huge number of planes coming in and out of Phoenix, and there's an impressive amount of traffic.
(2) Alternatively, if they are military aircraft, they may well have been unknown to a civilian airport.

You are feeling frustrated that we skeptics look for the mundane explanations. But be honest, they are MUCH more likely to be the case than any esoteric cause for sightings. After all, the flares dropping behind the mountain were eventually shown to be mundane, no matter how much breathless excitement accompanied the sightings to start with.

I can't answer the specifics of your post (concerning the color of the lights, for example), but being unable to explain everything does not lead one to a decision that there's a mysterious entity. You are looking for a source file of witness data, but if you don't have it, your estimate of the number of witnesses and the particulars of "how many counted different numbers of lights" and "how many saw each color of light" are, at the moment, unknown. Before you can explain something, you have to ask if there is really anything to be explained, and before you can claim what the witnesses saw, you have to ask how many really saw that. I suspect the news reports of the incident (then, as now) emphasized (or exaggerated) the sensational aspects of the story. I agree, it would be nice if we had a file of reports, but there may not be one.
 
(2) Alternatively, if they are military aircraft, they may well have been unknown to a civilian airport.
A formation of military craft would typically look to ATC like one craft; to avoid clutter, only the leader would transmit their position, which is sufficient to deconflict the whole group with other traffic in the area: if the leader is safe, so are the other aircraft close by in the formation.


He managed to fit the 'front three' craft within the field of view. Well, at 20,000 feet a degree is just 350 feet....which is far less than the 1000 to 3000 feet claimed separation in some versions.
For 3000 ft. width to occupy an angle of 1⁰, with sin 1⁰=0.017, the distance would be 170,000 ft. If the vertical distance is 20,000 ft (why?), then the horizontal distance is 168,819 ft or 30 miles at 8⁰ above the horizon, ±curvature. If it's 1000 ft width, 10 miles.
 
The distance would not be identical to the height, unless the planes flew directly overhead. If they were seen at a lower angle, the front three planes would look considerably closer to each other, and be smaller fractions of a degree apart.

For instance. the planes in Terry Proctor's video are obviously seen from the side, and the front three planes appear quite close together (as well as moving considerably with relation to each other).
89815883_10100750209741962_3097087658581557248_n.jpg


Even if Stanley's recollections are not quite accurate, the Proctor clip demonstrates that this was not a solid object.
 
So why place 1998 witnesses in the 'unreliable' category and 2 witnesses in the 'reliable' category. Confirmation bias is just as prevalent among skeptics.
Because what little actual evidence we have supports the two who saw planes, and is also consistent with the "I saw a triangle of lights" reports from many of the others being lights on planes. If there is corroborating evidence for a huge solid craft bearing the triangle of lights, I am not aware of it. The actual evidence here is not conclusive and pretty sparse. But it all points the same way -- towards a flight of planes from Operation Snowbird.

Objections to the "it was the flight of airplanes from Snowbird, known to have overflown the area" are based on witness estimates of size/distance, color, and other factors that are subject to observer error, especially judging size and distance at night, and to stories converging as people read or hear of each other's reports in the media or talk to each other about what they saw.

Finally, we know airplanes exist and were there -- we do not know of any huge triangular flying... something.
How does one explain that the majority of witnesses do not say they saw 5 or 7 'pairs' of lights, as in lights on each wing of a craft, but distinct and large individual orange lights.
As to the number of lights:
Two bright lights on a Warthog very close together would look like A light from a distance,

External Quote:
In the first incident, something described as a large “flying triangle” was sighted during the eight o’clock hour. Five A-10 jets from Operation Snowbird had flown from Tucson to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas several days earlier, and because this was the final night of the operation, they were now returning. The A-10 jets were flying under VFR (visual flight rules), so there was no need for them to check in with airports along the route. They were following the main air corridor for air traffic traveling that route, the “highway in the sky.” (Why a UFO would follow U.S. air traffic corridors is a mystery.) Because they were flying in formation mode, they did not have on their familiar blinking collision lights but instead their formation lights, which look like landing lights (in any case, Federal Aviation Administration rules concerning private and commercial aircraft lights, flight altitudes, etc., do not apply to military aircraft). The A-10s flew over the Phoenix area and flew on to Tucson, landing at Davis-Monthan about 8:45 pm. Some witnesses claim that it was a single huge solid object, but the sole video existing of the objects shows them moving with respect to each other, and hence were separate objects.
(Source: https://skepticalinquirer.org/2016/11/the-phoenix-lights-become-an-incident/ Second paragraph.)

As to the color of lights, possible explanations would include atmospheric haze, memories converging on reports of an "orange" color or something anomalous about the planes. I do not KNOW the reason, but there are possible explanations that do not require positing a huge unknown craft or something of unknown origin -- which, come to think of it, would have been a pretty substantial hazard to navigation for the planes known to be flying through the area!

Speaking of, does anybody know if any of the Operation Snowbird Warthog pilots were asked or reported whether they saw a giant triangular UFO? They would have been in a great position to see it!
 
The distance would not be identical to the height, unless the planes flew directly overhead. If they were seen at a lower angle, the front three planes would look considerably closer to each other, and be smaller fractions of a degree apart.

The place where Stanley saw the UFO was, amazingly, just a few hundred yards from the head office of the US company I worked for a year later and which I visited for a few weeks in June 1999. I'd always thought he'd viewed from much further to the north and seen the UFO at a much lower angle. But...the report quoted https://www.astronomyufo.com/UFO/azconc.htm says he viewed the UFO at 60 degrees elevation to the west.

That raises all manner of problems, as most of the witnesses the Astronomy article quotes were really not actually that far from the flight path of the object, which passed over Glendale and downtown Phoenix and then pretty much followed the I10 interstate. So Stanley did not see the UFO ( through his telescope ) at a low angle but quite high up in the sky. Yet Stanley claims he got all three of the front lights in the field of view of his telescope...which is just one degree. How on earth do we then get witness reports from places close by stating that the UFO covered half the sky, or even the lesser reports of 10 degrees or 20 degrees...when Stanley's entire object would have been a pretty unremarkable 2 degrees or so across ?

The Astronomy article is internally contradictory in numerous places. The author tries to place the UFO high enough for no sound to be heard, and he tries to place the objects at or above 20,000 feet. Well....we then have a simple 4, 5, 6 triangle....with the 6 being the actual miles distance to the UFO. Well...at 6 miles an entire degree is 552 feet. As most witnesses agree the lights were symmetric, that means the 'wing' of the UFO would have been 1104 feet long.....and NOT the 'mile wide' the article claims.

Stanley contradicts himself by saying that he observed the object at 5 degrees across a little later, but that is after he's said he'd already lost interest in it. And if the front 3 lights were all within one degree at 60 degrees elevation there's no way the entire craft ( on which most observers describe the positioning of the lights as symmetric ) could be 5 degrees across even if the object had passed right overhead...which Stanley never said it did.

If we take Stanley's report at face value then the entire craft was just 2 degrees across at most. How in earth could this have possibly led to widespread reports of a 'huge' craft blotting out the stars and half the sky ? I live right below the flight path into Gatwick airport. and I regularly have lights in the sky forming a larger size than 2 degrees. I regularly even see 'triangles' larger than that size as planes fly round in holding patterns. Such a sight is not remarkable at all.
 
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Yet Stanley claims he got all three of the front lights in the field of view of his telescope...which is just one degree. How on earth do we then get witness reports from places close by stating that the UFO covered half the sky, or even the lesser reports of 10 degrees or 20 degrees...when Stanley's entire object would have been a pretty unremarkable 2 degrees or so across ?
It was a formation of 5 such aircraft in a rough V-formation, as shown in Terry Proctor's video of the event.

 
Speaking of, does anybody know if any of the Operation Snowbird Warthog pilots were asked or reported whether they saw a giant triangular UFO? They would have been in a great position to see it!

There's a problem with Snowbird....

"A flight schedule from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, shows that a squadron of planes from Operation Snowbird left at 8:15 p.m. on March 13 and returned at 10:30 p.m"

https://www.newspapers.com/article/arizona-republic-phoenix-lights-flare-ex/19368586/

Davis-Monthan AFB is in Tuscon. How does a flight taking off from Tuscon at 8.15 get to be the first sighting of the 'UFO' also at 8.15 almost 220 miles north on the I40 between Flagstaff and Laughin ?
 
As to the color of lights, possible explanations would include atmospheric haze, memories converging on reports of an "orange" color or something anomalous about the planes. I do not KNOW the reason

I'm not saying there was some huge craft from Beta Reticuli. Especially as I'm of the ( unpopular ) view that there are no aliens within detectable range and we are to all extents and purposes alone. I'm questioning why there is disparaging and playing down and 'unreliability' of some reports, and playing up and 'reliable' of others whilst all the time saying that witness reports are unreliable. After all...Stanley's report is just as anecdotal as every other report. I am more interested in why people latch on to specific 'gotcha' items....like the lighthouse in the infamous Rendlesham case....and then proceed to ignore every contrary piece of statement or try to stretch it to fit that hypothesis.

Oh....and another interesting point. The 300mph claimed in the article, well that is 440 feet per second. That's pretty close to the width of Stanley's 1 degree field of view at 6 miles. He may well have had an equatorial mount, but that does not make it any easier to follow an object following a non-celestial path. So Stanley would have had the 'UFO' zoom past the field of view in a second or less.....and have to continuously adjust to keep up. Bear that in mind when considering how 'accurately' he described what he saw.
 
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As most witnesses agree the lights were symmetric, that means the 'wing' of the UFO would have been 1104 feet long.....and NOT the 'mile wide' the article claims.
They don't look symmetric to me, in the Proctor video. At least one of the planes - the closest one - is much further away from the others.

From Tim Printy's informative site;
http://web.archive.org/web/20080102174259/http://members.aol.com/tprinty/azconc.html
Mitch Stanley almost fit three (he told me that the third aircraft was just outside the FOV) of the five planes into his field of about a degree from Scottsdale. He also stated to me that the formation was about 5 degrees across at best. This computes to about one mile across. The Fortson and Stanley observations are from an odd angle and perspective could be a problem.
Printy communicated with Stanley by email after the event and cleared up many of the inconsistencies - but of course, this sort of questioning often induces the witness to elaborate on their account and change their story.
 
Another quote from Printy's site

I personally communicated with Mitch via email and he had several interesting things to point out that were omitted in the article. He states that in addition to the lights on the wings, he also saw one underneath the fuselage, "3 lights! I saw 3. One on each wing and one on the fuselage"(Stanley). This confirms Rich's description to me that one of the lights was illuminating the front landing gear. Peter Davenport also confirms that the lights were possibly composed of two or more lights as Mitch states, "Mitch is correct that each of the larger lights was, by at least two good observers, reported to consist of two or three individual lights" (Davenport Update).

http://web.archive.org/web/20080102174259/http://members.aol.com/tprinty/azconc.html
 
From Tim Printy's informative site;

Except the claim of ' a mile across' does not add up if the author also claims the craft were at 20,000 feet or so. We're talking about 4 miles west of Stanley, 60 degrees up. Thats roughly a 4, 5, 6 triangle and means that 'one degree' is 552 feet. If the front 3 lights were separated by no more than 552 feet and that is one degree.....it means 5 degrees would be half a mile, not a mile. Also, 60 degrees is not really what I'd call an 'odd angle'.
 
As I've pointed out before, the middle three planes in Proctor's video were much closer together than the two outer ones. Only two lights were in the FOV of the telescope at any one time.

Calculating the trigonometry for a 60 degree angle at 20,000 feet, I get 0.465 miles, which is roughly the same as your estimate. Printy estimates that the planes may have been at 35-40,000 feet, and that makes the formation bigger (a mile across, approx, which is probably where Printy got his figure from), but it would still appear small from the ground.
 
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Directly overhead, this formation would appear about 8 degrees across, assuming Stanley's estimates are all correct. I notice that he first saw the formation at an angle of 20 degrees or so above the horizon, so we don't really know at which angle he made his observation. (20 degrees or 60 degrees, or somewhere in between).
 
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Calculating the trigonometry for a 60 degree angle at 20,000 feet, I get 0.465 miles, which is roughly the same as your estimate

I did a little reverse maths to get some size estimates....

A Boeing 747 at 2500 feet has a wing span of 5 degrees. At 5000 feet ( which is pretty much the height they fly over my house ) it is 2.5 degrees. It really helps to be able to compare with something the sky size of which most people are familiar with.

One thus has to ask....why did so many witnesses describe the craft as 'huge' ?

Witness Trig Johnston ( an airline captain ), in the James Fox documentary, describes 'something the size of Camelback Mountain...floating down Scottsdale Road'. Well...even from the north of Scottsdale, Camelback Mountain is some 15 degrees in width, so we are likely talking larger. Is an airline pilot really going to describe something 5 degrees or less across as 'intense' ? Residents within a few miles of Sky Harbor or the airport in Scottsdale would see stuff 2 to 5 degrees across every day of the week......ordinary planes. This is just one example of a witness describing something seemingly much larger . Am I to doubt every witness who describes the phenomenon as massive ?

Are some of the object sizes inflated ? Probably. In fact estimates of it covering half the sky must be wrong, as then it would have flown right across the Moon, which nobody described. So...we have Stanley with his 1 degree wide telescope aperture covering 3 of the 5 lights....vs something at least 15 to 20 degrees across as some witnesses described.

Something does not add up....especially if one is going to argue that witnesses estimated the phenomenon as much closer than it actually was due to its size. If a witness estimates an object as merely a few hundred feet up, well, I'm sure even the least smart of witnesses would grasp that something 5 degrees across at a few hundred feet is actually quite a SMALL object.
 
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My calculation suggest the flight of planes would have been eight degrees across from directly underneath, and that assumes that Stanley was making his 'five degree' estimate at 60 degrees, and not at some lower angle above the horizon. He watched it from twenty degrees to sixty degrees.

There are too many 'degrees of freedom' here to make an accurate estimate.
 
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