Japan TodayOne December evening in 1986, reports Shukan Shincho (Dec 7), two Kyodo News journalists presented themselves by appointment at the London hotel room of JAL pilot by the name of Terauchi. He had a story for them – but should he be telling it? Should they be listening? Are UFOs serious?
Journalism is a skeptical trade, and as for pilots, even if they do spot strange lights, objects and movements in the sky for which they can conceive no other explanation, they are expected to keep their suspicions to themselves. Their livelihood depends on passengers' confidence. Talk of UFOs does not encourage it.
So Terauchi, in granting the interview, was stepping out on a limb. He later paid the price.
On Nov 17, 1986, he told the Kyodo journalists, he was chief pilot on JAL flight 1628, Narita-bound from Paris. The first stop was Keflavik, Iceland; the second, Anchorage, Alaska. At 5:10 p.m. local time the plane, a Boeing-747 jumbo, was flying 10,600 meters over Alaska. It was dusk, not quite dark.
"Suddenly," Terauchi said, "600 meters below, I saw what looked like two belts of light. I checked with the Anchorage control tower. They said nothing was showing on their radar."
But something was emitting those lights, and whatever it was seemed interested in the jumbo, for it adjusted its speed to match to match the plane's – "like they were toying with us," said Terauchi.
That went on for seven minutes or so. "Then there was a kind of reverse thrust, and the lights became dazzlingly bright. Our cockpit lit up. The thing was flying as if there was no such thing as gravity. It sped up, then stopped, then flew at our speed, in our direction, so that to us it looked like it was standing still. The next instant it changed course. There's no way a jumbo could fly like that. If we tried, it'd break apart in mid-air. In other words, the flying object had overcome gravity."
Five minutes later, the object vanished in the gathering darkness, but soon another, much larger object, "several tens of times larger than a jumbo jet," which itself is some 70 meters long, appeared, bathed in blue light. Again the control tower radar registered nothing. Terauchi noticed unusual silhouettes over Fairbanks, Alaska. The object vanished. The jumbo landed at 6:24 p.m. and the passengers disembarked, not so much as suspecting what a harrowing experience their pilot had been through.
What to make of this? It's tempting to say Terauchi's imagination got the better of him; but he's an ex-fighter pilot with more than 10,000 flying hours under his belt. He would know, if anyone would, how to keep his imagination in check. Another theory Shukan Shincho hears is that the lights the pilot saw were from Jupiter and Mars, which in fact would have been visible on the jumbo's flight path on the night in question. It's possible, but again – would a man with Terauchi's experience and training be so easily fooled?
There are other possibilities, among them a secret U.S. military operation or development, about which nothing is known precisely because it is secret. Or maybe it really was what Terauchi says it was – a UFO. In any case, Terauchi was shortly afterwards grounded by JAL for talking to the press. He was given a desk job, and only reinstated as a pilot years afterwards. Now 67 and retired, he lives quietly with his wife in a small town in north Kanto, and talks about the adventure as little as possible.
"I spoke to a doctor – he said it was an illusion," he tells Shukan Shincho. "You saw something you weren't meant to see," his wife says consolingly. That, if nothing else, seems certain.
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