- OTTAWA (CP) - A Swissair pilot reported his 747 jet was nearly hit by
an unidentified flying object, possibly a missile, near the area off New
York where a TWA airplane crashed in 1996, The Canadian Press has learned.
- Swissair Flight 127 was cruising at 23,000
feet on Aug. 9, 1997, when the pilot interrupted an address to passengers
to report the near miss by a round white object, says a report by the U.S.
National Transportation Safety Board.
- "Sir, I don't know what it was,
but it just flew like a couple of hundred feet above us," he radioed
Boston air traffic control. "I don't know if it was a rocket or whatever,
but incredibly fast, opposite direction."
- "In the opposite direction?"
asked the controller.
- "Yes sir, and the time was 2107
(Greenwich mean time). It was too fast to be an airplane."
- The controller asked another aircraft
if its crew saw anything like a missile in the area. The reply was negative.
He then asked the Swissair pilot again how far above the plane it was.
- "It was right over us, right above,
opposite direction, and, and I don't know, two, three, four hundred feet
above. All that I can tell, 127, is that (we) saw a light object, it was
white, and very fast."
- Investigators interviewed the captain
and first officer on Aug. 10, 1997. The flight engineer hadn't seen the
object and was not interviewed.
- The report, filed under NYC97SA193, said
the flight was opposite John F. Kennedy Airport at 5:07 p.m. Eastern time
- near the area where TWA Flight 800 went down July 17, 1996, after taking
off from JFK; 230 died.
- Some believe a missile caused the midair
explosion of the TWA 747 off Long Island, N.Y. Authorities have reached
no official conclusion but have been leaning toward faulty wiring in the
plane,s fuel tank.
- The transportation safety board report
said the Swissair captain saw the cylindrical object for less than a second.
He did not see any wings and was not sure it was an aircraft.
- "He had never been so close to other
traffic before," said the report. "It passed over the cockpit,
slightly right of centerline. If it had been any lower, it would have hit
- "As the object passed by, there
was no noise, no wake turbulence, and no disruption or anomalies with any
of the flight or engine instruments."
- The plane was flying in clear weather
to Boston from Philadelphia at the time. The sun was at the pilot,s back.
He apparently did not have time to take evasive action.
- "There was no exhaust or smoke,
no fire, and he could not accurately discern its size. The captain reported
his total time as 15,000-plus flight hours. He had never seen a missile
- The first officer, whose flight time
totalled 7,500 hours, said he was bent over to adjust the volume on his
headset when he looked up and saw the object pass overhead "very quickly."
- "It was close enough that he ducked
his head because he thought it would hit them. . . . He thought it passed
about 100 to 200 feet above the airplane and between the right side of
the fuselage and the No. 3 engine."
- The first officer said no markings were
visible and the object appeared to be the size of a thumbnail held at arm's
- He said he had previously encountered
a weather balloon over Italy, and the object did not look like the balloon.
He had witnessed missile launches from the ground previously, the report
- The report said the nearest weather balloons
are launched from Upton, N.Y., 43 nautical miles northeast of JFK twice
daily, at 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. Eastern time and usually take 25 to 28 minutes
to reach 23,000 feet.
- Balloons are light tan or brownish, or
black and red, said the report, adding the wind was blowing from the north,
almost at right angles to the aircraft.
- Investigators also checked radar data
and plotted the plane's flight path.
- "There was no evidence of an opposite
direction target, either beacon or non-beacon," said the report.