Phantoms of the Sky: Ethereal Aicraft Hovering Under Our Radar

Image: John Charlton

When people talk about UFOs, one tends to think of flying saucers, and the prospect of little green men coming our way. But there are plenty of equally uncanny if at first sight less otherworldly aerial phenomena out there – and while they may receive less press, phantom planes have got to be right up there. Myriad sightings attest to the ethereal existence of ghostly aircraft traveling under our radars. Weird certainly – but at least these flying phantoms are one addition to our crowded skies that might genuinely claim to be emission free.

Just plane vanishing? AC-130 Hercules Spectre
Image: Jamesdale10

One particularly haunted hotspot for the strange phenomenon of phantom planes is the airspace over North Wales, as the BBC has reported. According to the files of ufolofgist Margaret Fry, since 1987 there have been multiple sightings of a decrepit-looking plane that appears from nowhere, flying abnormally low overhead, before disappearing without trace. Neither local airfields nor the RAF could shed light on an early sighting of what people described as a large, unmarked Hercules-type transporter plane. In a later instance, officials even stated that the paint-less plane beheld by several mothers – who were sent running for cover – would not have been allowed to fly in such a condition.

The ghosts of Hercules? YC-130 prototypes in formation
Image: Logawi

This report invoked a slew of responses from readers claiming to have witnessed incidents that eerily echo those mentioned here, both in North Wales and beyond. Common to virtually all the various accounts is the fact that the plane seen is low flying and generally seems to make no engine noise. Often the plane looks destined to crash into the ground – not to mention the spooked onlookers – and invariably it is mysteriously lost from sight, or just plain vanishes. As a rule, the plane is propeller-driven and perceived to be an old wartime model – frequently big like the Hercules but sometimes smaller – and typically it’s either shady grey-black in colour or appears to be rusty.

Arenig Fawr, N Wales, site of a WWII Flying Fortress bomber crash
Image: Alan E Taylor

But are all these reports blown up by the imaginations of eyewitnesses – rusty brains as one commenter had it – or is there a case for the apparitions being real? Those of the paranormal persuasion have pointed to the extensive history of plane crashes in North Wales, chiefly involving WWII aircraft; signs perhaps of ghostly souls reliving their early departure from this world.

Others swerving towards scepticism have highlighted the amount of British and US military aircraft activity there is in the areas where sightings have occurred. Hercules C-130s are routinely flown low to the ground in training, and some are grey, appear to have no markings, and can look rusty in the sun or shadowy at night. What’s more, these hulks do seem to come from nowhere and disappear into thin air, both because of their camouflaging and because of the sound they make: a low drone that could be mistaken for an old WWII type aircraft – if it’s even heard at all.

However, this still doesn’t explain the authorities’ apparent inability to throw light on some of the key sightings. Perhaps they’re just as much in the dark as we are; perhaps there’s a security issue of some sort at stake.

Alleged foo fighter photo from WWII
Image: Cool Cat

This isn’t the first time wartime aircraft have been associated with UFOs, and plausible explanations for earlier reported flying phenomena have been even harder to come by.

During WWII, night pilots told of seeing fast-moving glowing objects of varying descriptions and sizes – though often rounded – tracking and sometimes toying with their aircraft. Servicemen stated that these “foo-fighters” behaved as if under intelligent control, and while they were never hostile, neither could they be outmanoeuvred or gunned down. The fact that forces on either side reported this freaky phenomenon seems to rule out a military weapon, secret or otherwise, as the baffling bogey. Other explanations have ranged from ball lightning and electrical discharge from airplane wings, to optical illusions linked to long-distance reflections and the afterimages of flak bursts.

Then there’s the extraterrestrial hypothesis – which will do nothing to exorcise the ghosts of the UFO-crazed crowd. And so we come full circle, flying saucer style. Spectres or alien spacecraft? What can we say? Watch the skies.

Sources: 1, 2, 3