Time: 0200 Local time
Location: Los Angeles to Tahiti track, near the Equator
Aircraft: Boeing 747-200
Witness: Captain George Richardson & co-pilot, and Captain Neil Pullem & co-pilot of another company aircraft over the Pacific.
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. He has 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.
This sighting of an anomalous light phenomenon, a huge area of extremely bright light, occurred after moon set on a clear night. The duration of the lighting was about 5 minutes.
Captain Richardson was flying the KLAX-NTTT track (Los Angeles to Tahiti) and was near the Equator. The DC10 was at an altitude of 33-35,000 feet. Captain Pullem’s aircraft was on the PHNL-NFFN track (Honolulu to Nadi) roughly on a parallel path some 1,000 miles apart from Captain Richardson.
The pilots were chatting on VHF radio when Captain Richardson heard the other pilots exclaim, “What in Hell is that?” The pilots on both aircraft suddenly found themselves flying on the edge of what Captain Richardson described as “a huge dome of bright sparkly light – extreme bright white light that lit up the ocean 80 – 100 miles ahead, so much so that it was like day. All the low-level cumulous cloud was clearly visible, and even the surface sea conditions could be clearly seen.”
The most confusing, yet intriguing aspect of the lighting was that there was no visible source; the light did not form a beam emanating from any one area or point. It did not appear to shine up or down, or to have any of the characteristics of known artificial or natural lighting. Captain Richardson commented that he had never seen light quite like it. It was like a ‘bubble’ of light producing its own energy. The light was extremely white and intense and seemed to radiate in all directions within the area, while maintaining a distinct ‘boundary’.
Captain Richardson could see the phenomenon on his starboard bow, while the other aircraft observed it from their port bow. While observing the light phenomenon, the pilots felt alarmed and afraid, and concerned for the safety of their aircraft, and what action they should take. They even considered that the light could be from a nuclear explosion, although there was no other evidence of one taking place, nor any shock waves or turbulence. They continued to fly on their courses and to discuss their next actions, when just as suddenly as it had occurred, the massive area of light “went out” and the two aircraft were once again plunged into darkness.
The pilots did not report the incident at the time. They concluded that they would be, “met by men in white coats if we made any public reference to this incident. We all decided to keep quiet as the OM (Operations Manager) of Air New Zealand was a ‘non-understanding’ man and did not need to be aroused by this type of info!”
Read a similar account of an extensive bright area of light:
‘The Tokomaru Bay Illuminated Valley’