NOVEMBER 13, 2020………..FLIGHT OVER NORTH CAROLINA
I was the Captain of ((airline and flight # deleted)) on November 13, operating from Charlotte, NC to Harrisburg, PA. That flight departed the gate in CLT at 2017 local time. After takeoff, while climbing through an altitude of roughly 15,000 feet heading north, I saw an object out of the corner of my eye that then moved with very significant relative speed from the top of my field of view to at or below my perceived nighttime horizon, nearly vertically down with slight movement from left to right. It was moving at a speed consistent with a meteor, but white with no tail, and at roughly the horizon, it instantaneously stopped with no deceleration and changed direction, with no curvature of turn, to the north or northeast, roughly a few degrees right of our course. It disappeared away from our aircraft to the north in a fraction, maybe a quarter, of the time it took to move from the top of my field of view to the nearly the bottom. The light’s movement away appeared to me as a rapid dimming with slight movement to the right, which leads me to at the least perceive it as having rapidly moved away outside my range of sight to the north; that is how aircraft look as they disappear out of sight, albeit multiples slower. This entire event was a matter of a couple to a few seconds. The movement of the object from above to the horizon was roughly 1.5-2 seconds, the movement away possibly .5 seconds. This is an estimation based on perception.
With regard to our immediate interpretation of and reaction to the event, as well as my current opinion regarding it, I was immediately puzzled by what I saw. I said to my First Officer “Did you see that?”. His response was “Ya I saw that.” I said “that was not a meteor”, and he echoed that sentiment and said something to the effect of “It turned”. I then said “that wasn’t a plane either”, and my first officer agreed. We bounced ideas off each other for a few moments. During a quick shuffling of possible explanations in my head, an aircraft moving vertically toward earth had momentarily been an alarming one of them. But airplanes accelerate and decelerate, and when they turn, the turn is accomplished with curvature. They also have more lights than just bright white. This object moved across our entire field of view with great speed, instantaneously stopped with no deceleration, and shot off to the north, as if from a cannon. The angular change in direction was almost like a ! pinball bouncing off the bumper of a pinball machine, but with maybe the slightest pause as it made contact. Or a child’s bouncy ball bouncing off an angled surface dropped from above, rapidly changing direction to move laterally. It was not an airplane. We also discussed meteors, to include that we had both seen many meteors from aircraft throughout thousands of hours of flight time. The confident consensus was that the object had not been a meteor, for several reasons. First, and least compelling, was that they usually have a tail. This white, almost bluish white, object had no tail. More importantly, it would have been a meteor moving almost directly downward through our atmosphere with no flickering and no breakup. Beyond that, it would have been a clean, crisp, white meteor with no flickering, no tail, and no breakup, moving downward through our atmosphere to roughly our altitude before making a sudden and instantaneous, deceleration and acceleration-free, 90 degree turn to the north, disappearing faster than it crossed our field! of view It was not a meteor. After ruling out a few possibilities, it became clear that this object did not behave like anything either of us had ever seen while in flight. It showed no signs of being affected by an apparent enormous speed through our atmosphere, and it stopped and changed direction with seemingly no obedience to the Newtonian physics that we have such significant intuition for. Nothing I’ve seen, including fighter jets, change direction that sharply or move at that speed. We asked ATC, I believe Atlanta or Washington Center, if they had picked up an object rapidly descending in front of us. They mentioned an aircraft still above us slowly descending to another altitude above us. This was clearly not related to what we saw.
After several minutes discussing what we had seen, as well as the likelihood of us catching both flack and a drug test for a report of this nature, we both agreed that the right thing to do was to report it to air traffic control. We did that, and by that time, I believe Washington Center took my report. We also notified dispatch via ACARS message. We both possess copies of those messages. After providing that report, I thought to myself that the object’s path of motion had looked very much like a reverse checkmark, and I recall asking my first officer to draw the path he saw before communicating that specific notion to him. Whether I did ask or not, at that time he drew precisely that and handed it to me, the mirror image of a check mark, with the long side on the left, the short side on the right. We spoke about the object a few more times during that flight and trip, but we have not spoken about or corroborated our descriptions of the events we are both separately submitting, in order to not influence our individual recollection. On November 17th, an FAA UFO investigative team member contacted me through a member of company management and spoke with me before asking permission to pass my information to you for your organization’s investigative purposes. This report is submitted upon request from the subsequent contact. NOTE: The above image is real but from another case file.
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