We took a flight course southeast of Greenland direct to Chule, where a U.S. military base is, by crossing the great icy highland midwest of Greenland. The flight above Greenland, under a nearly full moon, which was raising on the right front side of our aircraft, helped visibility for the night flight. The flight was smooth despite the unstable air current that shook the plane for about two hours, but was still a rather stressless flight as compared to a passenger flight. We aimed towards Single Point, on the north coast of Canada, by passing through the Canadian north polar regions and down southwest along an Arctic flight course. It was 4:25 p.m., Alaska time, when we reported our location to Edmonton Center from above Single Point, Canada. It had become pitch dark, perhaps because the moon was directly behind us near the horizon.
We received an order from Edmonton Center that we should contact the Anchorage Center when we reach above Pottat where Alaska Territorial Air begins. Pottat locates approximately 480 miles, North-northeast of Anchorage. We began the communication with the Anchorage Center about 5:05 p.m. The flight course we had acknowledged was Jet 529, direct to Ft. Yukon and Jet 125 via Nenana, Talkeetna, Chaiger and to Anchorage. The Anchorage Center ordered us to fly direct to Talkeetna, provided us transponder codes and placed us on a radar scope at the same time.
The strange phenomenon happened immediately after we began left rotation, following the order of taking the direct flight course. There was an unidentifiable light ahead of the rotation. We set the course toward Talkeetna and began level flight. Then we saw lights that looked like aircraft lights, 30° left front, 2000' below us, moving exactly in the same direction and with the same speed as we were. We were at the altitude of 35,000', flying speed was 560 mph to 565 mph. We ignored the lights, thinking probably they were special missioned aircraft or two fighters because we did not notice the lights while communication with the Anchorage Center or on prior visual inspection. However, the position of the lights had not changed ever after a few minutes and that called our attention.
The First Officer, Tameto(?), called the Anchorage Center and asked to report to us if there were any aircraft other than ours in the area. The Anchorage Center told us that there were no other aircraft in the North area. We immediately reported back that we were seeing aircraft lights. They again reported that there was no military aircraft and the ground radar did not show any aircraft but us. They also asked us several times if there were clouds near our altitudes. We saw thin and spotty clouds near the mountain below us, no clouds in mid-to-upper air, and the air current was steady and conditions were quite pleasant. Perhaps the controllers were concerned that an increased use of improved laser beams using clouds was creating moving images.
We kept observing the lights below us in left front, thinking it was ridiculous to have laser beam testing at the end of a tundra area. Then the two lights began to move in a manner different from ordinary aircraft maneuvers, like two bear cubs playing with each other. We continued the flight south along a straight course since the distance from the lights was far enough from us and their movement was not extreme and we felt no immediate danger.
I thought perhaps it is one of those things called UFO and taking a photo might help to identify the object later. I asked to bring forward my camera bag that was placed in the rear of the cockpit and began to take a picture. The area in which the plane was flying was unchanged, but the lights were still moving strangely. I had ASA 100 film in my camera, mainly to take scenery and had auto-focus on, aimed at the object but the lens kept adjusting and never could set a focus. I changed auto focus to manual focus and pressed the shutter but this time the shutter would not close.
Then our aircraft started to vibrate and I gave up taking a photo. I placed my camera back in the camera bag and concentrated on observing the lights. It was about 7 or so minutes since we began paying attention to the lights. Most unexpectedly two spaceships stopped in front of our face, shooting off lights. The inside cockpit shined brightly and I felt warm in the face. Perhaps the firing of jets was the result to kill inertia of their quick high speed maneuver, but the ships appeared as if they were stopped in one place in front of us.
Then three to seven seconds later a fire like from jet engines stopped and became a small circle of lights as they began to fly in level flight at the same speed as we were, showing numerous numbers of exhaust pipes. However, the center area of the ship where below an engine might be was invisible. The middle of the body of the ship sparked an occasionally stream of lights, like a charcoal fire, from right to left and from left to right. Its shape was a square, flying 500' to 1000' in front of us, very slightly higher in altitude than us, its size was about the same size as the body of a DC-8 jet, and with numerous exhaust pipes. The firing of the exhaust jets varied, perhaps to maintain balance, some became stronger than others and some became weaker than others, but seemed controlled automatically.
We did not feel threatened or in danger because the spaceship moved so suddenly. We probably would have felt more in danger and would have been prepared to escape if the spaceships were shaking unsteadily or were unable to stop themselves. It is impossible for any man made machine to make a sudden appearance in front of a jumbo jet that is flying 565 MPH and to move along in a formation paralleling our aircraft. The ships moved in formation for about 3 to 5 minutes, then two ships moved forward in a line, again slightly higher in altitude as we were, 40° to our left. We did not report this action to the Anchorage Center. Honestly, we were simply breath taken. The VHF communication, both in transmitting and receiving were extremely difficult for 10 or 15 minutes while the little ships came close to us and often interfered with communication from the Anchorage Center, however, communication conditions became just as good as soon as the ships left us. There were no abnormalities in the equipment or the aircraft. I have no idea why they came so close to us.
Then again, there was a pale white flat light on the direction where the ships flew away, moving in a line along with us, in the same direction and same speed and in the same altitude as we were. Again, we began communicating with the Anchorage Center. We said that we could see a light in the 10 O'clock position at the same altitude and wondered if they could see anything in their radar. The Anchorage Center replied that they saw nothing in their radar. I thought it would be impossible to find anything on an aircraft radar if a large ground radar did not show anything, but I judged the distance of the object visually, and it was not very far. I set the digital weather radar distance in 20 miles, radar angle to horizon. There it was, on the screen: a large, green and a round object had appeared in seven or eight miles away, where the direction of the object was. We reported to the Anchorage Center that our aircraft radar caught the object within seven or eight miles in 10 O'clock position. We asked if they could catch it on the ground radar but did not seem they could at all. Normally, it appears in red when an aircraft radar catches another aircraft. I wonder if the metal used in the spaceship is different from ours. While we were communicating with the Anchorage Center, the two pale white lights gradually moved to the left side and to left diagonally back 30° as if they understood our conversation and then when they were beside our aircraft they totally disappeared from our radar.
When they were in front of us, the ships were positioned slightly higher in altitude than we were, but now they placed themselves slightly below the horizon where it was most difficult for us to see. The distance between us was still about seven miles to eight miles visually. When we started to see Ft. Yukon diagonally below us at the right, the sun was setting down in the Southwest, painting the sky in a slightly red stripe, approximately .1 inch, and gave a bit of light but the east side was still pitch dark. Far in front of us there were lights increasing from the U.S. Military Eielson Air Force Base and Fairbanks. The lights were still following us at exactly the same distance, however, it was too dark to identify by only the lights whether or not they were the same two spaceships that appeared in front of us a few minutes ago. It seemed that we were flying in the lighter side and gave them the advantage of being on the dark side.
We had no fears so far but began to worry since we had no idea for their purpose. When the lights from the Eielson Air Force Base and Fairbanks became clear and bright, two very bright lights appeared suddenly from the North from a belt of lights, perhaps four or five mountains away. The extremely bright lights reflected on the snow on the side of the mountains and seemed even brighter. We wondered if they were searching something on the ground surface or to (attract?) lead something. The flight above Alaska territory is generally in the daytime, and it is confusing to identify the kind of lights. It cannot be a base for the spaceship. Is it a move? There was something. Oh, yes, it is the Alaska pipeline. The lights must be a pump station for the pipeline. I got it.
We arrived at the sky above the Eielson Air Force Base and Fairbanks. It was a clear night. The lights were extremely bright to eyes that were used to the dark. How bright it was! We were just above the bright city lights and we checked the pale white light behind us. There was a silhouette of a gigantic spaceship. We must run away quickly! Anchorage Center. This is JL 1628, requesting a change of course to right 45°. It felt like a long time before we received permission. When we checked our rear there was still the ship following us. This is JL 1628. Again requesting for change the course 45°to the right. We had to get away from that object. JL 1628. This is Anchorage Center. We advise you, continue and take 360° degree turn. JL 1628, thank you. We will continue 360° turn.It was too slow to circle in the auto-pilot mode, therefore, we switched to the manual mode and set to turn right on a 30° bank. We looked to our right forward, but did not see any light. We were relieved, thinking the object may have left us and returned to the level flight but when we checked to our rear the object was still there in exactly the same place. Anchorage Center, this is JL 1628. The object follows us in formation. We request a change in altitude, 31,000', yes, 31,000'. This is Anchorage Center, JL 1628, ascend to 31,000'.
The consumption of fuel during this flight was almost as expected but there was only 3,800 pounds left and as such was not enough for extra flying, for running around. We have got to arrive at Anchorage. Anchorage Center, this is JL 1628. We request permission for the direct flight to Talkeetna. JL 1628, this is the Anchorage Center, we authorize the direct flight to Talkeetna. We checked behind us again. The ship was in formation and ascending with us. We wondered and feared as to their purpose. JL 1628, this is the Anchorage Center. Would you like to request scramble for confirmation? The Anchorage Center, this is JL 1628. We would not request scramble. We turned the offer down quickly.
I knew that in the past there was a U.S. military fighter called the mustang that had flown up high for a confirmation and a tragedy had happened to it. Even the F-15 with the newest technology had no guarantee of safety against the creature with an unknown degree of scientific technology. We flew toward Talkeetna at an altitude of 31,000'. The spaceship was still following us, not leaving us at all.
About the same time, a United Airline passenger aircraft which had left Anchorage to Fairbanks flew into the same air zone and began communicating with the Anchorage Center. We heard them transmitting that there was an object near JL 1628 and requesting for confirmation. We heard that the Anchorage Center was saying to the United Airline aircraft that JL 1628 was at an altitude of 31,000', therefore, United Airline should maintain an altitude of 33,000'. It sounded as if Anchorage Center had the United Airline aircraft fly above the spaceship. We were flying the east side of Mt. McKinley. The United Airline aircraft came close to us. The United Airline aircraft requested us to flash landing lights for visual confirmation and we both confirmed our positions visually. The United Airline aircraft was coming close to us. We knew that they were watching us. When the United plane came by our side, the spaceship disappeared suddenly and there was nothing but the light of the moon.The strange encounter ended at 75 miles North of Talkeetna, 150 miles away from Anchorage. It comprised approximately 50 minutes of flight time.
In the end, Captain Terauchi cited in the official Federal Aviation Administration report that the object was a UFO.
In December 1986, Terauchi gave an interview to two Kyodo News journalists. JAL soon grounded him for talking to the press, and moved him to a desk job. He was only reinstated as a pilot years afterwards, and retired eventually in north Kanto, Japan.
Kyodo News contacted Paul Steucke, the FAA public information officer in Anchorage on December 24, and received confirmation of the incident, followed by UPI on the 29th. The FAA's Alaskan Region consulted John Callahan, the FAA Division Chief of the Accidents and Investigations branch, as they wanted to know what to tell the media about the UFO.
John Callahan was unaware of any such incident, considering it a likely early flight of a stealth bomber, then in development.
He asked the Alaskan Region to forward the relevant data to their technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he and his superior played back the radar data and tied it in with the voice tapes by videotaping the concurrent playbacks.
A day later at FAA headquarters they briefed Vice Admiral Donald D. Engen, who watched the whole video of over half an hour, and asked them not to talk to anybody until they were given the OK, and to prepare an encompassing presentation of the data for a group of government officials the next day.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the FBI, CIA and President Reagan’s Scientific Study Team, among others.
Upon completion of the presentation, all present were told that the incident was secret and that their meeting never took place.
According to Callahan, the officials considered the data to represent the first instance of recorded radar data on a UFO, and they took possession of all the presented data. John Callahan however managed to retain the original video, the pilot's report and the FAA's first report in his office.
The forgotten target print outs of the computer data were also rediscovered, from which all targets can be reproduced that were in the sky at the time.
After a three month investigation, the FAA formally released their results at a press conference held on March 5, 1987.
Here Paul Steucke retracted earlier FAA suggestions that their controllers confirmed a UFO, and ascribed it to a split radar image, which appeared with unfortunate timing. He clarified that the FAA did not have enough material to confirm that something was there, and though they were accepting the descriptions by the crew, they were unable to support what they saw.
The McGrath incident was revealed here amongst the ample set of documents supplied to the journalists.
The sighting received special attention from the media, as a supposed instance of the tracking of UFOs on both ground and airborne radar, while being observed by experienced airline pilots, with subsequent confirmation by an FAA Division Chief.