Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Massive UFO Flyover of Arizona, March 13, 1997 (AKA The Phoenix Lights): For Those of You Who Did Not Come Forward

Bookmark and Share

Mike Fortson By Mike Fortson
The UFO Chronicles
© 2-13-12

This is being written for those in mind who may have witnessed something “unusual at the very least” and or “life-changing” at the top of the WOW! meter, on Thursday, March 13, 1997. (This could have been anytime from about 5:00 pm March 13, 1997 through 4 am., March 14, 1997). This is for you if you saw something and decided to keep it to yourself.

     I have always preferred “The Massive UFO Flyover of Arizona, March 13, 1997,” over the term, “The Phoenix Lights” as the former is by far the most descriptive title regarding the true events state-wide, not just lights at or near the city. The term, “Phoenix Lights” is simply not accurate. The name came into being as 2 of the 5, “10 pm videos” (Rairdon & Kitei) of "mysterious lights" that slowly appeared and then disappeared, were aired on local news stations beginning the following day (Friday March 14th) and were erroneously depicted as being over Phoenix proper. These night-time video’s were shot by residents living in mountain-side homes; the respective cameras were
pointed in a southwest direction with the Phoenix metro area in the foreground and the Estrella Mountain Range as the backdrop. The lights recorded were later proven to be flares dropped at (unusually) high altitude some 45-60 miles away by the Maryland Air National Guard. Thus, the name “Phoenix Lights” was born and by the same token confusion (which still exists today) between the flare drop footage and the “real, remarkable UFO events” which occurred on that date.

Speaking as a witness, it’s safe to say that those of you who were privileged to have observed the massive UFO—did tell someone! If not, how did you do it?! How did you vent the emotion? How could you keep it to yourself?! Having gone through the experience (myself) . . . seeing something that does not compute; that goes against the grain of how one was raised, and or what falls outside of that which society dictates is normal—the natural desire is to share the experience with folks, or seek out others who experienced the same phenomenon.

After 15 years we now know, given the area the UFO(s) traversed; the weather conditions, as well as the fact that people were sky-watching for the Hale Bopp comet that evening—only a fraction of the actual witnesses went public. So what did you do? Did you write about your sighting in a log, or sketch what you saw on paper and keep it private? Do you still see it in your memories? Do you still think about it and what it possibly was or where it was from? Did you take a snapshot or record a video? If you did, would you share it now? Would you be willing to tell your story now? It’s been 15 years . . . isn’t it time to talk?

If you still don’t want to do this, I do understand.

I really don’t pass blame on anyone who failed to come forward. All too many of you have said over and over, “I don’t like the way the media is treating witnesses”—and you are right! The media did their best to simplify the sighting and belittle the witnesses. I don’t blame you for not coming forward.

It still occurs today! That is when a witness is recounting seeing the massive craft in the 8 o’clock hour; they (the media) will show the 10 pm flare videos in the background, thus confusing everyone. This is done intentionally, not just because of the lack of videos in the 8 o’clock hour. The media and the “medium” they employ to present the news is forever evolving; however, the emphasis then (in ’97) as it is today is centered on the “visual”; seemingly, news organizations feel obligated to show “something” that is illustrative (if “actual” images aren’t in hand) along with their respective topics even if it’s detrimental to the facts of the matter—the reporting of the “so-called” Phoenix Lights is the prime example of this confusing practice.

I Chose To Talk.

Our sighting (my wife and I) was at 8:30 pm Thursday evening, March 13, 1997 from our home in Chandler, AZ. It was intense to say the least. Total sighting in duration was approximately 2-3 minutes. We were looking to our northwest horizon from the western edge of our patio. The lights from the Phoenix-metro area gave us a grey background looking low to the northwest sky. And in that grey background light was a solid black chevron shaped craft of unbelievable length. We watched this massive craft pass by in front of us. It was incredibly low to the surface and it made no noise. From nose to the end of the left wing was over 30” at arm’s length. I’ve always said, “that-son-of-a-bitch is a mile long!”

I also remember telling myself not to blink. We wondered then, if anyone else had seen this massive, silent V-shaped craft as it passed through the area. (The term chevron, V-shaped or boomerang would all be accurate as to the shape of the craft). We never considered fetching a camera or yelling for a neighbor; we were truly “frozen” in our tracks! We were doing our best to take it all in. It was as if we knew immediately that this was indeed a very special event that was slowly passing in front of us.

Please keep in mind this was in 1997. There were very few cell phones and none with a camera feature. Very few video cameras worked in the dark night sky. Sony was the only one with a "0 LUX" feature. So, please give witnesses a break for not running to get a camera. I think it would be fair to say that most, if not all who did not film their sighting are satisfied by staying with the sighting and not leaving the once-in-a-lifetime-experience to get said camera.

I’ve been involved now for almost 15 years. Not as an investigator, but as a very active witness. I still enjoy meeting or reading reports from new witnesses coming forward to tell their story. I know there are still hundreds and maybe even thousands more who have yet to tell their respective stories. There has to be!

What If

Just think how much the “Phoenix Lights” case would have been better investigated if former Governor Fife Symington had come forward on March 14th, and told publicly what he had seen on March 13, 1997, instead of coming out of the closet some 10 years after the fact. As Governor, he had contacts with civilian and military leaders. He could have made a difference; however, I understand why he waited—it’s called political suicide!

There were at least two other Arizona politicians involved that also chose not to speak up; both were state legislators. Each saw the massive craft in the 8 o’clock hour, and sadly decided not to speak openly and publicly about their respective experiences.

The only politician to do anything about the mass sightings was Frances Emma Barwood. She was not a witness to the mass sighting, but an active Phoenix city councilwoman who had the common sense to ask during a city council meeting, “why aren’t we investigating reported violations in our protected airspace (Sky Harbor International Airport)?” She was immediately attacked by the media. She lost her next election. Now, here’s some good news about this wonderful lady. Because she did come forward . . . hundreds of witnesses called her office to report their sighting on March 13—thank you Frances for your valuable contribution!

Then we have the police and firefighters who were practicing search and rescue drills in the north valley near Cave Creek. They witnessed the massive V shaped craft as it passed over their location. They chose to remain silent as well. One very interesting fact was that—there was also a helicopter and pilot present. The pilot refused to go up and get a better look.

What a difference that would have been if he had chosen to approach the craft and film it from his helicopter! I understand why they did not come forward. They all knew reporting something of this nature would have negative results on their careers. For this fact . . . I do understand.

Consider what might have transpired to the investigation if the above groups and or individuals would have come forward and revealed their sightings. The governor of Arizona, two state legislators and a group of mountain rescue police and firefighters, with an operational helicopter! What a difference this would have added to the investigation had they chosen to step up and take action! Yet, they all chose not to do so. Admittedly, I do understand why . . . it’s the media, and the powers-that-be controlling the media.

Since coming forward, I have encountered many types of media coverage. Live talk radio is by far the best: uninterrupted, uncut, and unedited; live discussion is the unbeatable way to communicate. Cable network documentaries have yet to get it right; they (also) deem it necessary to use “visual aids” (i.e., flare footage) in their videos; acting as if it’s a possible UFO, already knowing it’s flares.

Because of the actions or inactions of the media, the true story of what happened on the evening of March 13, 1997, throughout the great state of Arizona, will not be told . . . not completely.

There are still too many missing pieces to this grand puzzle. These pieces are those of you who failed to report your sighting. It is still very important. Where were you? What time was it? What direction were you looking? How long did it last? Did you feel threatened by the experience? Did you feel the craft you were observing was not of this Earth?

It’s still not too late to open up and tell your story. But, if you chose not to…it’s ok. I truly do understand.


  1. Hi Mike,

    For the actual information concerning the altitudes of the witnesses see

    I myself was only 42 ft. above the altitude listed for Phoenix which is 1150ft. Montezuma's Head which is the line of sight for my Lights is 2,110 ft. CR's altitude was 1,218 ft and he had no mountain obstruction. MK was the highest at 1,641 ft but he was also looking over the highest peak (well just next to it) which is 4,107 Feet. My mountains blocking me were 2,000 feet below his. So much for his other lights being obscured by the range.

  2. Correction - CR's altitude was 1,873. The 1,218 number was the height of the area south of the range which corresponds to Dr. M's revised line of sight from his location.

  3. I'd like to comment about my sighting and my family's sighting. I was, however, NOT in or even close to Phoenix the night of the light sighting in 1997. I was, however, a witness to lights. But, NOT these lights.

    Our lights were NOT a V shape. They were kind of a jumbled pattern. Kind of like an F sideways. The lights were flashing SLOWLY. There weren't tons of them. They were of hues of red, blue, and white. The white ones stayed lit. But the blue/red ones slowly flashed. They were basically aligned in this way:

    Here's the F. Turn it onto its side with the forks pointing down. Put 2 lights on the forks; one on each end. These are the flashing ones. Put about four or five lights on the lengthy part of it. These are the white ones.

    My family and I lived in Kingman Arizona. I was 8 at the time. My mother, my father, my grandmother, my little sister who was about 3, my other sister who was 7; and my cousins' family all lived in the same house at the time. My cousin was 6, the twins were 2 and they had their parents with them.

    It was really dark when we saw the lights. I have no idea of the time, considering I was a child. But, what I do know was, it WAS NOT miles away from us like most other people's sightings.

    There was this area right across from the house we lived in at 3549 Northern Avenue. It was a corner of two roads with a big empty sand field behind the street sign. (You can look for yourself on Google Maps). Anyway, the sky seemed so close here; as if you could touch it.

    When the lights showed up, my grandma recruited us all outside. We watched them, along with a few neighbors, as they just slowly sat there in the sky. We weren't located near the airport and there were no "street lights" that would have been what we saw. All we know is, we sat there for over 30-40 minutes just watching them. They never went away. Eventually, we got creeped out and went inside.

    We know what we saw. And, despite being laughed at, we will always stick to what we saw. We know they were different than the Phoenix lights. And, I know we called the police who told us to calm down and that we weren't the only ones and they didn't know what it was.

    For more information, feel free to contact me at:

  4. I to had a bizarre experience during this event in Kingman. missing time from approx 945 pm till 130 am , found myself standing on property on northern ave,just off Castlerock rd. enclosed with tall chain link fencing,3 strands barbwire, locked gates, rottweiler guard dogs who apparently were put in some trance until long after i climbed over fence. was 2 miles from my truck,which i don't recall leaving it where i found it the following day in perfect running order. Several bizarre things that morning,besides my gf packing an left me for good within hours, thinking i was crazy, one reason why id take so long to tell my story.I still recall every detail before and after, but nothing at all during the time frame above, and i didn't see anything in the sky that night, nor did i hear or read anything about this event for 2 weeks after it happened, at that time i read the Arizona republic every day like clock work,I now know this was headline news,and a very interesting topic to me, but i saw no headlines whatsoever, no tv news stories,like as if my mind was in some fog. very very strange and without a doubt, a life changing event for me, ..and i was not on drugs or drunk.this really happened


Dear Contributor,

Your comments are greatly appreciated, and coveted; however, blatant mis-use of this site's bandwidth will not be tolerated (e.g., SPAM etc).

Additionally, healthy debate is invited; however, ad hominem and or vitriolic attacks will not be published, nor will "anonymous" criticisms. Please keep your arguments "to the issues" and present them with civility and proper decorum. -FW