American West Flight 564 had left Temper in Florida on its way to Las Vegas in Nevada on the 25th May in what was an uneventful and standard take-off and cross-country flight. However, at around 9:20 pm as Captain Eugene Tollefson guided the commercial airliner over Bovina, Texas at an altitude of 39,000 feet, the evening was about to take a drastic turn.

It was First Officer John J. Waller who first noticed a strange row of lights in the near vicinity. He would stand slightly in his seat in order to get a better view, prompting the rest of the crew in the cockpit to look out into the night sky also. As they did so, they would witness a “row of bright white lights” seemingly part of a solid object.

When a sudden flash of lightning lit up the clouds, the crew could clearly make out the distinct outline of a cigar-shaped object. They would estimate the object, of which it was also clear the row of lights were a part of, was around 300-to-400 feet long.

All amazed by what they were seeing but professional in the calm, the crew continued to watch and monitor the object. As they did Tollefson reached for the radio to contact the control tower at Albuquerque in New Mexico. He would inform them of the object while also stating that although they could see the anomaly, their radars were not picking up the craft. Tollefson would describe the flashing lights as:

…There is a strobe on it and it starts from going counterclockwise. And the length is unbelievable!

Albuquerque control tower, however, maintained that they had no detection of the apparent anomalous craft.

Perhaps one of the most interesting details of the conversation between the control tower in Albuquerque and the pilots was the initial response from the tower regarding the location of the flashing lights. The tower would respond:

That is a restricted area that is used by the military out there during the daytime!

Tollefson would state a short time later in the conversation that despite 15 years’ experience flying such planes this was the first time he had ever witnessed anything so bizarre. He would also add that “it’s probably military in that restricted area”.

It was also around this point in the timeline of events that the control tower would contact Cannon Air Force Base in nearby Clovis. Following a quick conversation between the control tower and the military base, the crew onboard Flight 564 were informed that no other traffic was in their vicinity and that “nobody up front knows any idea about that”.

However, in the minutes following this, a mystery voice appears in the conversation. It is possible this is the pilot of the plane that was already on routine patrols in the area. But as is highlighted in the NICAP report on the incident, it is “never clear just what type of aircraft this is”. Or who the mystery person might be. It is clear, however, as the report also notes, that “the individual clearly overheard the recent discussion”.

What is interesting, though, is the response following the control tower informing the individual that the pilot (Tollefson) had witnessed a “large object with a strobe”. To this, this mystery pilot would state:

Ah…the secret stuff!

Whether extraterrestrial or top-secret military, at least some high-ranking people appeared very much in-the-know.

As the commercial airliner continued on its course, the strange object appeared to fall behind them. This caused Tollefson to inform the mystery pilot, as well as another plane that enters the conversation – later identified as Hawk 85 – that they should be able to see them very shortly.

The control tower would inform the Hawk 85 to “be looking off your right side” for anything strange or unidentified. He would inform him of the estimated altitude and that the object was long, cigar-shaped and with a strobe along the side. Perhaps interestingly the pilot responded that he is “…searching for ET”.

While this is most likely a loose jargon term, it is certainly something that many UFO researchers and enthusiasts picked up on. Is it nothing to be concerned about? Or is the use of the phrase “ET” a slip of the tongue?

Whatever the answer to those questions might be, the object would disappear from sight shortly after. Whether it simply became lost in the crowd or whether it vacated the area at speed is unknown.

As would come to light during the subsequent investigation into the sighting – both official and independent – the actions of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) would come under scrutiny from some corners. And what’s more, those actions would prove to be suspicious at best.

NORAD – First They Did, Then They Didn’t!

There were also several confusing statements from NORAD in the initial aftermath to the incident. For example, on the night in question, the Albuquerque control tower would contact NORAD. They would enquire if they had any further information regarding the strange craft the American Airlines aircraft had reported.

The initial response was that they were indeed tracking an unknown object. And it was in the same region as that reported by the commercial airliner. What’s more, upon communication with NORAD the following day, they would confirm the tracking of the unknown object. And offer that it was stationary to begin with before great bursts of speed around a blistering 1,000 to 1,400 miles per hour, in several stop-start motions.

However, in the weeks and months that would follow the incident, particularly as independent investigations began to take place and the incident became public knowledge, NORAD would, at first, claim the object was nothing but a “small plane”, and then simply deny tracking an anomalous craft altogether.

Ultimately, their public U-turn on tracking the bizarre craft, one that moved in excess of 1,000 miles per hour no less, would make more people suspicious than not that the organization was not being entirely truthful in the public light. Essentially, their complete turn on the events of 25th May would appear to have lent the incident even more credibility than it already had.

No Evidence To Suggest Military Involvement!

One of the leading investigators of the Flight 564 sighting was Walter Webb. He would not only examine the reports and conduct extensive interviews but would also set about filing several Freedom of Information Acts. All in an effort to unveil any out of the ordinary incidents on the night in question.

Ultimately, though, no evidence to suggest any military vehicles – secret or otherwise – were in the vicinity on the evening of 25th May 1995. Nor were there any records or any outside aircraft in the area, meaning that whatever the strange object was, it would appear the military – a NORAD – were as blindsided by the sudden aerial anomaly as the crew of Flight 564. Perhaps this explains the initial, and from their perspective regrettable response in the original communications between themselves and the control tower in Albuquerque. NOTE: The above image is CGI.