My sighting occurred on, or about, April 19, 1979 and involved both my visual sighting and visual and radar sighting from the Memphis International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT). My story begins with a phone call from my best friend on Sunday morning April 14 as I recall. He was excited and related the sighting that he had witnessed the previous night while at the Southwest Twin Drive-in Theater. He said he had noticed people getting out of their cars at one point during the movie and looking up at the sky. He did likewise and saw 4 red lights moving over the drive in in a square or diamond formation. After the UFOs hovered silently over the drive in for a few minutes they suddenly departed at great speed in four different directions. I believe this sighting was reported in the local newspaper.
At that time I was employed by the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority as the Senior Airfield Electrician for Memphis International Airport. At that time I had been working on the airfield for about 3 years and was very familiar with aircraft, on the ground and in the air, both during the day and at night. I also had a close relationship with the controllers in the ATCT as I interacted with them on a daily basis in the course of maintaining the runway and taxiway lighting systems. For clarification of the story I also need to point out that my wife had just given birth to our first daughter on April 4th and was at home recuperating. At the time we lived about 3 miles southwest of the airport. It was advantageous for me to live close to the airport as I was on call 24 hours in case of any airfield lighting problems.
On the afternoon of April 19 I had arrived home from work about 4:00 PM and shortly thereafter my wife put the baby down for a nap and ask me to be sure to not let anything wake the baby up as she was going to take a well-deserved soak in the tub. I should also point out that I am a licensed amateur radio operator and therefore decided to do a bit of listening to one of my radios to pass the time. I had an air-band VHF radio in the spare bedroom and I turned it on and tuned around the band to listen to the airport tower and local air traffic. I happened upon the west approach frequency for the airport and immediately heard a conversation between the Memphis ATCT and a small Beechcraft airplane that was on approach to the airport. The controller on frequency called the pilot of the aircraft and ask if they could see anything off their right wing, which would be to the south. The controller stated that they had received some UFO reports from that direction. The pilot immediately responded that yes, he could see something that appeared as 4 red lights hovering in the distance. The controller responded that they could not see them from the tower but they had requested the Memphis Police helicopter to check it out and they were in route. He also stated that they were painting something on radar but could not tell what it was.
At this time I tuned the radio to the ���local��� or ���tower��� frequency which is the frequency used for aircraft on final approach to a runway, as I knew that because of their usual low altitude flight, this was the frequency that the police helicopter monitored. I immediately heard the police helicopter pilot in conversation with another controller in the tower cab regarding the UFO (the previous controller was downstairs in the TRACON looking at a radar screen). The pilot stated that they had the UFOs in sight and were in position underneath them and making an attempt to get closer by ascending. However, he said that the UFOs appeared to be ascending at the same rate as they could not get any closer to them. At this point the tower cab supervisor whom I knew well came up on the frequency and said that they could now see the objects from the tower. As I was located only about 3 miles away to the southwest I thought perhaps if I went out in my driveway I could also see them. This meant however that I could no longer monitor the radio conversation.
I ran out the screen door onto my carport and out to the driveway and looked to the west and could see three red lights and the police helicopter a distance underneath. The weather conditions were a relatively solid overcast that I would estimate at about 2-3000 ft., perhaps lower. I retrieved my binoculars from my truck and proceeded to stand up on the tailgate of the truck and observe the objects. They appeared as glowing red lights similar to the obstruction lights on a radio tower. The first thing I noticed was the helicopter depart the area, to this day, I still don���t know why, perhaps an emergency call of some sort. I continued observing the objects and noticed the one to my right seemed to me changing color or ���strobing��� from red to white. It was almost imperceptible at the time but over the course of a few moments it became more pronounced and rapid. Suddenly the craft shot off to the right (north) and disappeared at incredible speed. I jerked the binoculars down from my eyes just in time to see it disappear. I cannot say if it disappeared into the clouds or just went out of sight.
Now if you recall my 1 �� week old daughter that I was supposed to be listening for was still asleep in the house���.At that moment the phone just inside the screen door began ringing and I knew this might wake up the baby and invoke the wrath of my wife so I immediately ran to the door and answered the phone and promptly hung up on the telemarketer on the other end of the line. I ran out to the driveway and looked in the direction of the objects but much to my disappointment, the remaining two were gone. I know this sighting was reported by several people and was covered by the local newspaper. I learned some time later from a MUFON investigator that the National Enquirer had done a story on it and interviewed the ATCT supervisor.
Not a visually incredible sighting but one with good elements of radar confirmation and visual sighting by ATCT personnel and pilots as well as myself.
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