Strange lights were seen above New Zealand’s South Island in 1978. Although this appears to be simply another UFO sighting on the surface, it stands out for a few reasons.
These weren’t simply lights; they were described as being the size of a skyscraper, and a professional television team captured several minutes of the phenomena. The Kaikoura mountain ranges welcome you…
On the night of December 31st, 1978, TV reporter Quentin Fogarty, cameraman David Crockett, Crockett’s wife, and other members of the news crew boarded a plane bound for the skies south of Christchurch, New Zealand, with the mission of reconstructing sightings from earlier in the month, but they got a lot more than they bargained for when the real thing showed up.
The sightings that Quentin Fogarty and his team were attempting to reconstruct occurred ten days prior, on December 21st, when the crew of a Safe Air Ltd freight jet reported being “tracked” by odd lights on both sides of their ship.
The lights, which fluctuated in size from little glints to the size of a house, remained with the Argosy aircraft for many minutes, allowing everyone on board plenty of opportunities to examine them. The lights on December 21st were more than simply a visual observation; they showed on radar and were reported by Wellington Air Traffic Control.
Hundreds of Cape Campbell locals reported three large lights 45 miles north of Kaikoura on the same evening, sending a beam to the ground while moving as if scouring the terrain for anything. These were also picked up by Wellington Air Traffic Control’s radar. The three objects that caused the light seemed on the radar to be the size of a commercial aircraft, yet they traveled at a low altitude like a helicopter.
These sightings were terrifying to many in the area because two months earlier, on October 21st, a young pilot named Frederick Valentich was flying into Cape Otway, Australia, just across the Tasman Sea, when his small Cessna 182L light plane was directly harassed by another mysterious craft, the entire account of which was recorded by air traffic control.
“Ah… Melbourne, that odd airplane is hovering on top of me again…,” he said in his final unsettling broadcast. It’s hovering, but it’s not a plane.” Frederick Valentich and his jet vanished in the blink of an eye. They were still reeling from the news of his absence.
When Quentin Fogarty and his crew first noticed the lights, they were flying over the Kaikoura mountain ranges. The pilot radioed Wellington Air Traffic Control with an airspace query, similar to Frederick Valentich’s original reply two months before. The craft was verified to be a solid object, although its movement was described as irregular, and it suddenly vanished from sight and radar.
“There is a strong target right in formation with you,” Wellington Air Traffic Control said after many exchanges back and forth with the lights coming and vanishing. It might be either right or left. The size of your target has been increased by a factor of two.”
To put things in perspective, the Argosy used by the broadcast team that night was an Armstrong Whitworth AW.660, which was designed for military usage. It was 86 feet long, 35 feet wide at the wings, and over 29 feet tall.
The strange plane, which was two-thirds the size of a whole American football field and 70 feet longer than any aircraft humanity has ever produced, flew in formation beside it, only visible when lighted. The fact that the plane was flying but totally immobile according to air traffic control radar was even more astonishing.
Tensions were rapidly building at this moment. The tower at adjacent Christchurch airfield had been contacted by Wellington ATC, and the decision was made to ground Quentin Fogarty’s flight. The landing went off without a hitch, but for the entire short trip to the runway, both radar stations watched three mysterious planes “pacing” back and forth across the Argosy’s route.
The New Zealand Air Force activated a Skyhawk jet fighter in the hopes of intercepting the plane, but they had already departed. A comprehensive inquiry was begun, which included a near-complete dissection of the radar equipment, but no evidence of malfunction was discovered.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force classified the facts of the inquiry as top secret shortly after, and they are currently kept at the National Archives in Wellington.
“People can think about it, but they weren’t on the airplane,” Bill Startup, a pilot with 23 years of experience and 14,000 hours of flying time, and pilot of the Argosy that night in 1978, said in a recent interview.
No one engaged is pleased with the explanations provided by experts and government authorities.”