Probably one of the most interesting cases presented recently has to be the one of pilot Neil Daniels, who was an airline pilot flying for United Airlines in 1977.
The DC-10 airplane was under the control of autopilot system #2 and was flying at 37,000' altitude. The entire sky was dark and clear ahead and above the airplane, except for a partial under cast with small clouds extending to about 20 miles ahead. The aircraft was flying at an indicated air speed of true air speed 610 mph. The aircraft was over Syracuse, NY, and had just changed from contact with the FROM VOR, Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Bearing, signal emanating from Buffalo to the TO signal from Albany. The aircraft was just south of Syracuse, NY.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the airplane began to turn to the left, making a 15º bank. Within a few seconds, the First Officer and the Captain looked to the left side of their plane and saw an extremely bright white light at about their own altitude. Subsequently, the Flight Engineer also looked and saw the light source. It appeared to be perfectly round and its apparent diameter was about 3º of arc.
However, the Captain estimated the object to be about 3,000' away and to be about 100' in size, that corresponds to an angular size of 2º.
Its intensity was remarkable, about the intensity of a flashbulb, Captain Daniels remarked.
Boston ATC radioed to ask:
United 94, where are you going?
The Captain replied:
Well, let me figure this out. I will let you know.
He then noticed that the 3 cockpit compasses, that use sensors in different parts of the plane, were all giving different readings.
At this point, the Copilot turned off the autopilot and took manual control of the airplane.
Based upon the fact that the object did not move laterally in the cockpit window during the 45º left heading change and from knowledge of the turn radius of this airplane at its stated velocity, Haines calculated the approximate distance to the object to be about 11½ miles.
If the pilot's angular size estimate for the object is accurate, this suggests that the light source was about 2100' across. The object appeared to stay with the airplane for 4 to 5 minutes, after which it departed very rapidly, disappearing within about 15 seconds behind them to the west. The Captain asked ATC if they had any radar traffic in that area and received a negative reply.
The scientist presenting the case was Dr. Richard Haines, who has spent many years chasing down UFO cases associated with aircraft.
However, we are not presented any data regarding an incident report or maintenance records regarding the flight. Haines indicates that the UFO must have affected the port side gyrocompass more than the starboard causing the aircraft to bank to the port in a northerly direction. What is confusing with this theory is that the UFO only became visible when the aircraft began its bank to the northeast because it was in the west. So, how could the UFO affect one side of the plane if it was directly behind an eastern bound aircraft?
Perhaps this is why the panel of scientists reviewing the case stated:
In responding to this presentation, the panel took the position that evidence of interference with aircraft equipment is interesting but, in the absence of corroborative data from flight recorders and other mechanical or electrical recording equipment, the evidence presented must be regarded as anecdotal. It is quite possible that the persons making the report summarized above did indeed see unusual and striking phenomena.
It does appear that the airplane departed from its normal flight path, but this could have happened for a variety of reasons. As with reports related to other categories of physical evidence, the evidence summarized in this section should be regarded as suggestive but far from sufficient to establish any actual physical linkage between the reported luminous phenomenon and the airplane's flight deviation. In order to improve our understanding of these phenomena, it will be necessary to establish more definite facts from the case work.
To this end, there should be strong efforts to quantify the observations and to obtain multiple measurements of the same event, and investigators should bring a critical attitude to the compilation and analysis of the data.