Pilots report close encounters with UFO over Arizona: 'Something just passed over us'
Two pilots on different aircraft reported having close encounters with a UFO.
Two pilots on different aircraft reported having close encounters with a mysterious object flying high above Arizona last month, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The sightings occurred within minutes of each other on the afternoon of Feb. 24, some 40,000 feet above southern Arizona near the New Mexico border. ABC News obtained the audio recording of the conversation between the pilots and the Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center, released by the FAA. The audio recording was first reported by The War Zone, part of Time Inc.'s The Drive.
The news comes amid a series of reports of military pilots coming into contact with what they believed to be UFOs and the disclosure of a secret, but now-defunct Pentagon program to track such incidents.
The pilot of a Learjet 36 belonging to Phoenix Air, with the tail number N71PG, reported the initial sighting. He asks the controller: "Was anybody above us that passed us like 30 seconds ago?
"Negative," the controller responds.
"OK. Something did," the Learjet pilot says.
"It's a UFO," another pilot chimes in.
"Yeah," the Learjet pilot laughs.
A few minutes later, the controller radios to American Airlines Flight 1095, an Airbus A321. He asks the pilot, "Let me know if you see anything pass over you here in the next 15 miles."
The pilot seems puzzled and responds, "If anything passes over us?"
"Affirmative. We had an aircraft in front of you at 37 [thousand feet] that reported something pass over him and we didn't have any [radar] targets, so just let me know if you see anything pass over you," the controller says.
"All right," the pilot says.
The Learjet pilot joins the conversation, saying, "I don't know what it was, it wasn't an airplane but it was -- the path was going in the opposite direction."
About a minute later, the American Airlines Flight 1095 pilot radios back to the controller to report a bizarre sighting in Arizona's airspace.
"Yeah, something just passed over us, like a -- I don't know what it was. But it was at least two, three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us," the pilot says.
"OK, American 1095, thank you," the controller responds.
The controller later asks, "American 1095, can you tell if it was in motion or just hovering?"
"Couldn't make it out whether it was a balloon or whatnot. But it was just really beaming light or could have had a big reflection and was several thousand feet above us going opposite direction," the pilot says.
"Roger," the controller responds.
The American Airlines pilot later radios to the controller again, asking if the unidentified object was a "Google balloon."
"Doubtful," another pilot chimes in.
The voice of another pilot adds, "UFO."
The controller was unable to verify that any other aircraft was in the area at the time of the reported sightings, according to a spokesperson for the FAA.
"We have a close working relationship with a number of other agencies and safely handle military aircraft and civilian aircraft of all types in that area every day, including high-altitude weather balloons," the spokesperson told ABC News in an email Wednesday.
Royal Canadian Navy Lt. Marco Chouinard, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told ABC News in an email Wednesday that NORAD assets were not involved in the Feb. 24 incident.
Phoenix Air Group vice president Bob Tracey told ABC News he recently spoke with the captain of the Learjet after reading about the Feb. 24 sightings in a local newspaper. The captain said he was flying at about 37,000 feet when the unidentified object flew several thousand feet over his aircraft at a speed that appeared similar to what a commercial airline would travel. The captain said he often sees balloons or airships at these flight levels, but a beam of light shining off the object was so bright that he couldn't decipher whether that's what it was, according to Tracey.
"He said the only thing that was different about this was that it was just so bright," Tracey said in a phone interview Wednesday. "The glare was so intense, they couldn't make it out."
Tracey said the captain described the sighting as "rather uneventful," but he notified air traffic control because he was concerned the object could hit other aircraft.
"He said when he landed, he didn't give it much thought," Tracey added.
A spokesperson for X, the innovation lab of Google parent company Alphabet, confirmed to ABC News in an email Thursday that the object seen in Arizona's airspace on Feb. 24 was not one of its "Project Loon" balloons.
American Airlines referred ABC News’ request for comment to the FAA.
ABC News' Anthony McMahon, Rex Sakamoto and Daniel Steinberger contributed to this report.