Reader Submitted ReportLet's see if I can relate my experience to you as it was 35 years ago (1973) when this happened. When I returned from Vietnam in early 1972 after two years, I got assigned to Vandenburg AFB which is located on the California Coast by Lompoc (Point Conception). I was an Air Traffic Control Supervisor in the tower.
My crew and I were working the graveyard shift. It was almost 3 in the morning and I was on the local control position. I was the only one awake since the other two on the crew were fully rated and didn't need any training. We had no traffic scheduled to arrive or depart. All I was waiting for was time to pass so I could go to sleep too.
I then noticed a beam of light shining down on the water right off the coast from about 500 feet high. It was about two miles from the tower, directly across the runway, due west. I looked through my binoculars but couldn't see the source of the light. It was extremely bright. It didn't appear to flare out in an "A" shape. It did a little but mostly it seemed to beam straight down on the water. I could see the surface of the water and where the beam touched it. I broadcasted on my local frequency to see if I could get a response.
At this point I'm assuming it is a hilocopter doing some manuvers there but failed to asvise the tower. No response. That's when it bedgan to move to the north slowly up the coast. I called down to the RAPCON (Radar Approach Control) which closed every night at 11:00 pm. I contacted the maintenance supervisor, who was this no-nonsense E-9, and asked him if he had a target within 5 mile to the west. He did not. He stepped out of the radar trailer and told me he could see it as it was moving north. He went back to the scope but said there weren't any "blind spots" in the area he saw the light but he still didn't have a raw target. I could hear the rest of the maintenance crew freaking out in the background.
By this time the other two controllers were awake and on the land lines to try and find who or what was out there. It continued up the coast till it got to the the northern boundry of the base. Then it started back to the south along the coast. It got back to the position directly abeam the tower and just sat there again. All three of us were trying to get a look at this thing through binoculars but no one could decipher a craft of any type. The maintrenance crew was outside about a mile closer than the tower but couldn't hear anything like what you would expect from a hilocopter. It sat there stationary for another five minutes and went out. It was gone. The whole event took about 20 minutes from beginning to end.
We stood there stunned looking out the tower cab to the west. No one said anything for a whole minute and then we all started chattering, talking about what to do next, all talking at once. I mention this because it was like I could tell we didn't have control of ourselves but I couldn't, and I'm sure the other two couldn 't, do anthing about it. I finally took a deep breath and yelled, "STOP!" I told them there's nothing more we could do. I'll put it in the log and maybe the tower chief will handle this.
When the day shift crew came on, their supervisor read my log but said nothing. He gave me a couple of concerned looks and filed the log into the Chief's folder. He didn't allow the rest of his crew to read it which was standard procedure. I left, glad it was over.
I went home but couldn't sleep. I didn't feel any different other than not being able to sleep. But my wife, who was a school teacher, called in sick because she was so concerned about me. I couldn't perceive any difference in my behavior or deminor, but my wife told me years later that I looked like I was on the verge of tears, my voice sounded a couple of octives higher and I was chattering about nothing incecently.
At 11:00 am, when I'm supposed to be asleep, the Tower Chief calls me and wants me to come to his office. Great! I figured we're going to get to the bottom of this. When I got there he said he re-typed my log and wanted me to sign it. I picked it up and there were two lines on it: We signed in, and we signed out. He never mentioned the light. I signed it. He said thanks, see you in a couple of days, and I left. I don't know, but I figure the rest of the witnesses were treated the same way.