The JAL Flight 1628 Incident: Unidentified Objects over Alaska’s Skies

    On November 17, 1986, the crew of Japan Airlines (JAL) Flight 1628 experienced a series of extraordinary events that would forever be etched in the annals of aviation history. While en route from Paris to Tokyo, the Boeing 747 cargo jet carrying three crew members became the center of attention when the flight crew reported encountering unidentified flying objects (UFOs) over the skies of Alaska. The JAL Flight 1628 Incident has since become one of the most well-documented and intriguing UFO encounters, captivating researchers, skeptics, and aviation enthusiasts worldwide. In this article, we delve into the detailed accounts of the JAL Flight 1628 Incident, examining the sightings, investigations, and enduring mysteries that continue to surround this enigmatic aerial phenomenon.

    The Flight Crew’s Encounter

    On the evening of November 17, 1986, JAL Flight 1628 was on its way to Tokyo-Narita International Airport, with a scheduled stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. The aircraft was captained by veteran pilot Kenju Terauchi, who had accumulated over 10,000 flight hours, and was assisted by co-pilot Takanori Tamefuji and flight engineer Yoshio Tsukuba.

    While cruising at an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet over the wilderness of Alaska, the flight crew noticed three unidentified objects in the distance. The objects appeared as a series of lights and seemed to be flying in formation.

    The Initial Sighting

    As the objects drew closer, the crew members began to see a structured craft with lights. Capt. Terauchi estimated that the objects were each about the size of a Boeing 747. Concerned about the potential danger to the aircraft and its passengers, Capt. Terauchi immediately contacted air traffic control at Anchorage Center to report the sighting.

    Air traffic controllers responded to the crew’s call and quickly checked their radar to determine if there were any known aircraft in the vicinity. The radar did not show any other aircraft nearby, leading the controllers to speculate that the objects might be military aircraft.

    The Object’s Maneuvers

    As Flight 1628 continued on its course, the objects began displaying bizarre and unconventional flight patterns. They seemed to maintain a fixed position relative to the aircraft, leading the crew to believe that the objects were specifically tracking them.

    During the encounter, the objects maneuvered around the aircraft in a coordinated and seemingly purposeful manner. They moved up and down, changing positions relative to the Boeing 747, at times appearing to maintain a triangular formation.

    Air Traffic Control Involvement

    Air traffic control contacted military radar stations to request further information about any known aircraft in the area. However, the military radar systems did not detect any objects in the vicinity of JAL Flight 1628.

    The controllers kept a close eye on the flight and provided updates to the crew, who continued to observe the objects throughout the encounter. The objects remained visible to the naked eye for an extended period, with the flight crew and air traffic controllers witnessing their movements.

    The Second Encounter

    Approximately 30 minutes after the initial encounter, a second flight crew from another aircraft, United Airlines Flight 69, reported seeing the same or similar objects. The United Airlines pilots corroborated the description of structured craft with lights, and their sighting occurred in the same general area as the JAL Flight 1628 incident.

    This second confirmation by a separate aircraft added credibility to the JAL crew’s account and sparked further attention and interest in the incident.

    The Military Involvement

    As the events unfolded, the U.S. military became involved in the investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) were notified about the unidentified objects.

    NORAD scrambled fighter jets to intercept and visually confirm the presence of the unidentified objects. However, the fighter jets could not detect the objects on their radar systems, nor could they visually spot them.

    End of the Encounter

    As JAL Flight 1628 continued on its course and entered the airspace controlled by the Soviet Union (now Russia), the unidentified objects abruptly vanished from sight and radar. The crew no longer observed any signs of the objects, and air traffic control no longer detected them on their radar.

    Investigation and Media Coverage

    Following the incident, both JAL and UAL (United Airlines) conducted their respective internal investigations. The crew members of Flight 1628 were interviewed, and their accounts of the encounter were consistent and detailed.

    Despite the crew’s statements, there were no official explanations from the U.S. government or military regarding the nature of the unidentified objects. The incident remained unexplained, leaving the public and the aviation community curious about what had transpired over the Alaskan skies.

    Media coverage of the JAL Flight 1628 Incident was extensive, with major news outlets reporting on the encounter and its subsequent investigation. The sighting garnered international attention, leading to discussions about UFO encounters, government secrecy, and the potential for extraterrestrial contact.

    Possible Explanations and Theories

    Over the years, several explanations and theories have been put forth to account for the JAL Flight 1628 Incident:

    Weather Phenomena: Some skeptics propose that the objects observed by the flight crew were atmospheric phenomena, such as reflections of celestial objects or temperature inversions. However, this theory does not account for the objects’ structured appearance and coordinated movements.

    Top-Secret Military Aircraft: Conspiracy theorists suggest that the objects were classified military aircraft undergoing experimental tests. However, the lack of any military acknowledgment or official explanation contradicts this theory.

    Extraterrestrial Craft: UFO enthusiasts maintain that the objects encountered by the flight crew were evidence of extraterrestrial visitation. They point to the objects’ advanced flight capabilities and apparent tracking of the aircraft as evidence of an intelligent presence.

    Legacy and Impact

    The JAL Flight 1628 Incident remains one of the most compelling and well-documented UFO encounters in aviation history. The credibility of the witnesses, the corroborating sighting by another flight crew, and the involvement of air traffic control and the military have kept the incident alive in the world of ufology.

    The lack of a definitive explanation from official sources has fueled ongoing debates and speculation among researchers, UFO enthusiasts, and skeptics. The encounter has become a focal point in discussions about the existence of extraterrestrial life and the potential for UFO encounters in the skies.


    The JAL Flight 1628 Incident of November 17, 1986, continues to be a captivating and mysterious chapter in the history of UFO encounters. The detailed and consistent accounts provided by the flight crew, as well as the corroborating sighting by another aircraft, add weight to the credibility of the encounter.

    Despite extensive media coverage and investigations, the nature and origin of the unidentified objects remain unexplained. The encounter stands as a testament to the enduring mysteries that lie beyond our current understanding of the universe and the unknown phenomena that may exist in the skies above. As long as questions remain unanswered, the JAL Flight 1628 Incident will continue to spark curiosity and intrigue among those seeking to unravel the truth behind one of aviation’s most intriguing UFO encounters.

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