Pilots Reveal The Strangest Things They've Seen While Flying
If you're flying 25,000 feet in the air you may as well be in a completely different world. Your perspective of the Earth is so skewed that you cannot see the world the same as everyone else. You're soaring high. Things get different. Things get...crazy. Airline and fighter pilots from all over shared the most insane things they've witnessed in the skies above when they answered Reddit user, u/WalterWhiteRabbit, who asked:
[Serious] Pilots of Reddit - what is the strangest or most unexplainable thing you have seen in the sky while flying?
Something's Keeping Pace With Us
I was a first officer at a regional airline, and we were flying Halifax to NYC. Over the ocean, I looked out my captain's window and saw this greenish looking object a couple miles off *seemingly keeping pace with us. It like metallic green, like the unfinished metal you see on a plane before it is painted. It also had a contrail, but it looked weird, almost like it was on fire. It was small like a fighter jet, and outpacing us
Then before our eyes it started to break apart. I realized then that it must have been a decent sized meteor, with pieces breaking apart and flames shooting out the back
Edit to add: by keeping pace I mean it didn't shoot across the nose or anything, it definitely had some speed on us, but there were no external queues to give an idea how much faster, though it didn't seem like a lot. It was also in a shallow descent
What Kind Of Triangle Did You Fly In?
Pilot here: once had my engine sputter and die for no reason in a small Cessna... refused to start back up.
glided into a landing in a nearby field ..checked fluids...checked mix...
everything was fine so i turned the key...it roared up, and I cautiously flew back home.
Had a mechanic tear it apart later that week and couldn't find anything...
I guess sometimes engines just...don't
Flying A Little Too Close To Home
Was flying in a Grob 109 and I usually just turn off the engine and let it glide. Anyways, I'm flying in Southern Arizona and I feel my aircraft shaking and a thundering noise. I look up and this a10 warthog flys by very fast and way too close. This causes my plane to shake a lot and sends my plane all over the place. This was very strange because what that a10 pilot did was very dangerous and illegal, also the closest air Force Base was like 80 miles away. That pilot also made no attempt to communicate with me and I wasn't in any flight paths or no-fly zones.
Very strange encounter indeed
...When you fly through heavy precipitation or areas of high electrical charge (like a thunderstorm) at high speed, the airplane will build up an electrical charge with will discharge in cool (totally harmless) lightning bolts across the windscreen. If you get really lucky though it will cause the metal parts (like exposed metal on the windshield wipers) on the outside of the plane to glow blue with electrical discharge. The best I've seen it though was one night as we picked our way through a line of thunderstorms over the Dakotas.
Pretty much whole plane was glowing, with a large blue jet of electric discharge coming off the nose. It looked like we were flying with a blue-ish landing light on in a rainstorm, only we didn't have our landing lights on.
"Under Human Control"
I spent nearly ten years as a Navigator operating fighters, on one occasion we tracked an object that initially was about thirty miles out and rapidly accelerating, turning and jinking in a way that would have put G forces on its pilot that would have G-LOC'd them.
When it jinked away we would turn in to get the nose on him, it would jink away again in a very rapid manner. It reacted to our maneouvres.
So it was under intelligent control and impressing my pilot with its direction changes and speed. When we lit the burners and went supersonic it ran away from us rapidly and within ten seconds I had lost radar contact.
When you're at Mach 1.1 and the contact accelerates like you're standing still it gets your attention.
Could have been little green men, could have been an [experimental] aircraft. Pretty impressive whatever it was.
Blowaway Construction Site
Soaring over the Mojave Desert, I saw a blink, blink, blink... in the near distance at about 3000 feet. I flew over to see what it was. It looked like a 4x8 sheet of plywood or paneling that was light on one side and dark on the other. It was flipping over and over in a thermal. Once I figured out it was solid, I didn't try to get close.
I presume a really strong dust devil went through a construction site and something unlikely happened.
Portal To Another Place
Not unexplainable at all, but it was creepy AF when I was trying to fly home...
We were in quickly forming convective activity and lightning struck between my plane and the runway. It looked like reality cracked. For a moment I thought something was going to seep into our world.
I Know What I Saw
Flying a Cessna 172 I saw a man in an orange jumpsuit with a jetpack fly over me while I was at an airfield, about 300 ft or so.
My instructor didn't believe me and I couldn't find him when I turned around but I know what a saw dammit.
The Biggest Flat Balloon Ever?
I was in the air over Southern California/Arizona near Yuma last summer. I was flying at about 8,000 feet in a small prop airplane around noon. I noticed this shiny object off our left wing. It looked similar to a metallic magic carpet, so I assumed it was a Mylar balloon that had popped and was floating around. As I got closer to it I realized it was HUGE! this thing was at least as big as our aircraft was, and it was keeping pace with us (about 160 mph) with zero form of propulsion anywhere on it.
We continued to get closer to observe it, got within about 300 feet and called air traffic control to let them know and ask if there were any military drones in the area. They responded negative and I got the chills, didn't dare get any close. Still boggles my mind trying to think about what it could have been.
Flying Among The Falling Stars
Corporate pilot. I fly at 45,000 feet a lot. Anything over 43,000 and it just gets creepy. The wind noise gets really quiet and the airplane starts to make strange noises. Passengers never seem to notice though.
The noises are really the result of the bulkheads and aircraft skin expanding/stretching because of the pressurization. It's still creepy.
When I flew freight, most of my flying was done at night and in Canada we saw quite a few meteors that appeared to be really close to us.
Satellites As Friends
Military helicopter pilot here (MV-22s, USMC). I fly with night vision goggles a lot. Away from cities (think like middle of the ocean), you see an INSANE number of meteorites in the night sky.
I also see what I can only assume are satellites-- fast moving single point light sources with no strobe (flashing light; an airplane would have a flashing light) constantly. Again, this is all under the aid of NVGs.
No Drone Can Go That High...
Happened a few months ago. Was cruising along at 24,000 ft and spot something out of the corner of my eye. Look up and there was something small and drone like to the left of our flight path.
By the time I grabbed the controls to decide if I was going to kick off the auto pilot, we zoomed past it like it was stationary. It just passed our left wingtip. Both myself and FO were WTF? Neither of us were certain but we were pretty sure such a small drone couldn't make it to that altitude with the thin atmosphere and -30c temperatures.
Googled it later and they can go nowhere near that high.
I used to fly a Hawker 748 up in uncontrolled airspace in Northern Ontario and Manitoba. In the summer the polar bears come off the ice of the Hudsons Bay and stay on the mainland.
We would follow the coast 50 ft off the deck and on a good day you could see a hundred of them or so. They did not appreciate it. They would look up at you for a glance and then start running!
Oh Yeah...Meteors Can Hit Us
Flying Cessna 182 from Arizona to California at night.
Big ass meteorite shot past us at about 100ft in front of our plane. It was a really neat to see.
Then I realized it could of hit us. Kind of freaked me out.
Going Nowhere Fast
This one isn't really unexplained, but funny.
It was a rather windy day. I was on the ground in a Cessna 152 just after my pre-flight checks, running the engine up. To my left, about 10 meters away was a bird frantically trying to fly forward against a headwind. It had zero airspeed. It tried for about 1 minute to hopelessly fly forward before giving up and letting the wind carry it across the taxiway and out of my view.
Saw a cigar shaped object at about my 2 o'clock once during my student solo a few years back. Multiple others were reporting it too, it looked like a submarine in the sky.
Scared the sh-t out of 16 year old me, and haven't seen anything like it since. It was moving in very odd directions and was not communicating with anyone. The several others that saw it had no idea what it was either. Reported it to ATC and they advised us to steer clear because they were unsure of what it was.
Wasn't a blimp or anything else I've ever seen in the sky.
Sounds Like A Kubrick Movie
When I was about 7, I was sitting next to my father in the glider he was flying. We flew past a mountain, and I could see a lake at the top of it. There was another glider, completely vertical, nose down, hovering above the lake. Its only movement was to slowly spin about its axis, like it was dangling from a string in the sky.
Being a dumb kid, I didn't understand the impossibility of this sight, so I didn't point it out to my father. Still have no idea what the f-ck I saw.
The Desert Sun Is A Trickster
I used to fly small airliners in the grand canyon. We would regularly see sundogs, false reflections, mirages of las vegas in the air, and double suns. The reflectivity of rising hot air and of rainy weather creates really crazy visual illusions at times.
Come On, Man. Gross.
Some idiot on the old San Mateo bridge waving his d-ck at us.
Falling For It...
One time I was flying a Cessna 152 by myself on the coast of Florida and saw an oval shaped thing flying in the distance in front of me so I got closer and closer and started to freak out because it looked like it wasn't moving then eventually I saw fins sticking out of it and "Goodyear" on the side and felt like an idiot.
...and Getting The Heck Out Of The Sky
On one particularly sweltering summer in Michigan, the temperature was approaching triple-digits with lots of humidity. I decided to hop in a 172, climb up to 10,000 feet, open up the windows, and fly around for awhile to cool off.
I eventually got up to altitude, opened the vents up, and was enjoying the nice cold blast of fresh air. After about 10-15 minutes, I witnessed a large, swollen, disfigured clown's head fly past the right side of the airplane.
After determining I was in fact not suffering from hypoxia, I turned around to see what the hell had flown past my airplane.
My eyes had not deceived me. It was indeed a large, swollen, disfigured clown's head.
Apparently, someone had let go of their helium-filled party balloon. The pressure differential between the inside of the balloon and the outside atmosphere at 10,000 feet caused it to stretch and distort into an unholy clown mutant from hell.