The crowded skies: Near hit over Glasgow with an unknown object

It’s UFO week this week, I think. A pilot reports a sighting of an unidentified object on approach to Glasgow airport. The investigation was inconclusive.

BBC News – Airliner ‘had narrow miss with UFO’.

A passenger aircraft had a narrow miss with an unidentified object over Glasgow, a report has revealed.

The Airbus A320 was making its final approach to Glasgow Airport on 2 December when an object passed about 300ft underneath it.

The pilot of the aircraft said the risk of collision with the object, which did not show up on radar, had been “high”.

A report by the UK Airprox Board said investigators were unable to establish what the object had been.

Here is part of the transcript:

A320: “Er not quite sure what it was but it definitely er quite large [1255:40] and it’s blue and yellow”

EGPF: “OK that’s understood er do you have a an estimate for the height”

A320: “Maybe er [1255:50] yeah we were probably about erm four hundred to five hundred feet above it so it’s probably about three and a half thousand feet.”

So, it appeared to have been “blue and yellow or silver in colour with a small frontal area, but “bigger than a balloon”.”

Blue and yellow?

Goodyear blimp. Maximum altitude 5000 ft. http://www.goodyearblimp.com/cfmx/web/blimp/history/faq.cfm

Goodyear blimp. Maximum altitude 5000 ft. http://www.goodyearblimp.com/cfmx/web/blimp/history/faq.cfm

Nah, that couldn’t be it. It didn’t show up on radar. And he would have a flight plan and clearance. Also, it does not seem the description fit.

Now, this is interesting because it could have been LOTS of different things. There are many possibilities. But because all those possibilities have not been disconfirmed, we can’t jump to a conclusion and say a known (spaceship) from an unknown (UFO). Was this a hazard to the craft? We don’t know, we don’t know what it was. Note that the pilot was on approach and kind of busy. He was not paying attention to anything much else so the observational details are not very reliable. Check out this episode of Strange Frequency Radio where Robert Sheaffer talks about just such things.

Also, check out the Board report here (PDF) and see how busy things are in the sky.

Diagram from report

Diagram from report

Members were of the opinion that, in the absence of a primary radar return, it was unlikely that the untraced ac was a fixed-wing or rotary-wing ac or man-carrying balloon. It was considered that a meteorological balloon would be radar significant and unlikely to be released in the area of the Airprox. A glider could not be discounted but it was felt unlikely that one would be operating in that area, both due to the constrained airspace and the lack of thermal activity due to the low temperature. Similarly, The Board considered that a hang-glider or para-motor would be radar significant and that conditions precluded them, as they did para-gliders or parascenders. Members were unable to reach a conclusion as to a likely candidate for the conflicting ac and it was therefore felt that the Board had insufficient information to determine a Cause or Risk.

“Close my eyes and hope that it’s a real smooth flight, this time.”

Tip: Bob Blaskiewicz

  10 comments for “The crowded skies: Near hit over Glasgow with an unknown object

  1. spookyparadigm
    May 1, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    How reliable is ATC radar in this sort of situation. As I at least learned in the wake of 9/11, it seems like a lot of air traffic control relies on transponders, and that once the transponders were turned off by the hijackers in that event, it became much harder to track them using primary radar. In this case, we’re talking something relatively small, with only a brief visual glimpse, that was not being searched for via radar until it was already gone. How reliable are the statements of “it can’t be a paraglider because it would be radar detectible?” Perhaps very accurate, but that shouldn’t be assumed, I think.

  2. Dougie
    May 1, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Baillieston sits on the eastern edge of Glasgow, it’s not exactly the most picturesque area. 3 motorways flank the area and although there are a few golf courses and a country park in the area I’d be surprised if anyone would ever want to take a paraglider up there. Plus it’s restricted flight path apparently.
    Honestly my 1st thought would be a loose advertising balloon, not used often but a possibility. I know in the past I’ve seen balloons of that sort over in that direction just can’t remember who they were for and how far over. When I heard the colour scheme I thought of Kwik Fit, just so happens to be a branch of theirs in the area on Ballieston Rd. I think I’ve solved it already :)
    Apologies for rambling conjecture.

  3. Brian
    May 2, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    Some weird weather condition that caused a mirage?

  4. Dougie
    May 2, 2013 at 6:12 AM

    Glasgow has 3 weather conditions. Raining, dull and about to rain or dull and just stopped raining :)

  5. Chew
    May 4, 2013 at 10:28 PM
    • May 5, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      Another skyshark! Those things are dangerous. :-)

  6. spookyparadigm
    May 5, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    :facepalm

  7. Chew
    May 5, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Sharon is referring to another skyshark attacking an airliner in the previous year: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/airline-pilot-startled-by-flying-shark-20120104-1pk9o.html

  8. spookyparadigm
    May 5, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    I suspect that’s it. It is just depressing that that’s as good as ufology can do these days, sans hoaxing and conspiracy mongering.

  9. May 15, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    Hi – I actually contacted the UK Goodyear blimp team through Facebook to see whether they were in the area at the time as I had exactly the same thought. They tell me that they weren’t. (http://www.weirdisland.co.uk/skies/ufos/glasgow-airport-ufo-near-miss.html) Someone suggested that Kwikfit might have a small dirigible in a similar vein, with similar colours. That sounds like a good suggestion, but they’re generally moored at a much lower height and are a *lot* smaller. Obviously still worth looking at though – far more likely to be along those lines than anything I can think of.

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