1978 – Air New Zealand DC 10-30 Near-Collision with Cylindrical Object

Date:  September 1978

Time:  0130 Local time

Location/position:  Just North of Samoa

Aircraft:  DC 10-30

Witness:  Co-pilot George Richardson, and pilot. 

Witness details:

George Richardson

Capt. Richardson is a retired NZ airline pilot who flew DC 10-30 and Boeing 747-200.   He has an Airline Transport Pilot License and Recreational Pilot License, with a total of approx. 18,000 flying hours.  Capt. Richardson was involved with commercial aviation from 1961 to 1991, and was also a NZ Air Traffic Controller from 1961 to 1965. He was co-pilot at the time of this event.

Duration of sighting:

The duration of the sighting was approximately 10 seconds, and involved the positive sighting of a UAP (object).

Astronomical/weather data:

The air conditions were stable with some flat stratus cloud.  Some stars were visible, but no moon.  Capt. Richardson described the night as “pitch black, very dark”, but recalls they may have had the small aircraft nose light on.

Aircraft location:

The DC 10-30 aircraft was at cruise flight level of 33,000 feet, on a northerly heading just north of Samoa on the NZAA-PHNL track (Auckland to Honolulu)

Incident description:

Captain Richardson stated the aircraft was “skipping along over the strata-form”.  He was looking directly ahead out the cockpit window when he noticed a very bright white light rapidly approaching above the clouds and stated, “Traffic on our left,” to the Captain.

The light was moving west to east from 270 to 090 degrees magnetic and crossed the DC10’s track from left to right.  The aircraft was on a northerly heading of roughly 010M, and the UAP was tracking east at the same level.  The UAP crossed their path at close proximity directly in front of them – around 150 feet apart.  For a few seconds, the pilots believed they were going to collide with it.

UAP description:

When in close proximity the pilots observed an actual object (as opposed to the approaching light) for approximately 3 to 4 seconds as it crossed in front of them.

They observed a large cylindrical object around 150 feet long.  The object had large oval windows around 3 feet wide evenly spaced along the length of it, which were emitting harsh bright white light.

There were no appendages such as wings, tail, or rudder, and it appeared to be a solid metallic structure.  The object was roughly the size and shape of a DC10-30 fuselage, without the wings and tail.  The front had a rounded point, while the rear 1/3 of the object tapered off to a narrow end.  It is significant that the UAP left no turbulent wake.


The pilots estimated the UAP was travelling in excess of 500 knots (575 mph, or 926 kmh), and it disappeared out on the starboard side behind them.

Action taken:

The first action taken by the pilots immediately after the incident was to establish if any aircraft were in their vicinity.  Co-pilot Richardson contacted Nadi Airport radio and asked if there was any eastbound traffic, the response being negative.  He then called Tahiti Airport radio and asked if they had any inbound traffic from the west, and their reply was also negative.  He finally called Honolulu Airport radio with the same question, and also enquired whether Honolulu had any military activity at or near their flight position.  The response was, “Negative.  You guys are the only traffic in the South Pacific.”

General Comments:

This is an historic account of an aviation incident involving a near-collision with a UAP.

In an interview with Suzanne Hansen, Director of UFOCUS NZ in 2009, Capt. Richardson stated the pilots did not report this near-collision event to their airline (Air New Zealand) at the time because of concern about the ridicule or disbelief they may be subjected to.  He stated they were concerned about the possibility they could lose their positions and registrations as pilots.

Capt. Richardson is very clear to this day about the UAP he observed during this event.

He spoke about this event in a New Zealand TV3 60 Minutes television documentary in 2009, entitled, “The Truth is out there.”


The pilots had minimal time (fewer than 10 seconds) to decide whether to alter their heading and altitude to avoid collision.  At the time the UAP was sighted, because of the speed it approached and close proximity of the object as it passed in front of their aircraft, both pilots were certain a collision would occur and no evasive action was taken.


The object was within normal flight altitudes, had mass, and was highly visible.  It was of a similar size to the aircraft itself.  The UAP crossed a scheduled international flight route/track, posing a hazard to the aircraft.