1995 – Air Traffic Controller Sights Object from ATC Tower

Date:  Thursday 9 March, 1995

Time:  1.20 pm

Location:  Air Traffic Control Tower, Hamilton International Airport, North Island, NZ

Witness:  G. Opie, Senior Air Traffic Controller


On Thursday March 9 1995, the Air Traffic Control towers at both Hamilton International and Rotorua Airports received reports of sightings of an object in the skies above the Bay of Plenty and Waikato districts.  The Rotorua Airport Air Traffic Control Tower received 3 calls at approximately 1.20pm, re the sighting of an object travelling east to west towards Hamilton city.

At 1.20 pm, the Senior Air Traffic Controller at Hamilton International Airport was looking to the south of the Control Tower when he observed an unusual object trailing a long tail, as it passed east to west. At arms length, the shiny ‘head’ of the object would have been approximately 2mm in diameter. His observation lasted approximately 1 ½ seconds.

The Senior ATC stated, “There were two other staff in the tower at the time, but due to the sighting time being so brief, the UFO was not sighted by them.  I just happened to be looking in the right direction at the right time! Basing a compass rose on the Hamilton Control Tower (in degrees magnetic), I observed the object travel from approximately 160 degrees through to 183 degrees in the space of a second or so, so it was moving very fast.  I could liken it to a jet fighter!”

Auckland ATC Radar Centre reported no aircraft on radar in the area at the time of the March 9 sightings.

The object was some 10 degrees above the horizon in relation to the observer. It maintained level flight and disappeared behind the clouds in a westerly direction. Upon losing sight of the object, the Senior ATC immediately checked with the Auckland Air Traffic Control Radar Centre to see if the unidentified flying object was registering on their radar screens – it was not. He was also advised that there were no aircraft registering on the radar in that area either.

“It was definitely not a fireball or meteor.  It was travelling virtually horizontally. At arms length the sparkling trailing tail would have been three fingers width long, preceded by an extremely bright silver object that glistened similar to sunlight reflecting off a mirror. It had an orange ‘tail’, the edges of which were sparkling like a fireworks sparkler.”

 Using specific details provided by other witnesses to this sighting, as well as his own data, the Senior ATC was able to calculate the height and speed of the object using triangulation:

  1. A meteorological observer fishing off Tauranga, who sighted the object at 1.17 pm, estimated that at arm’s length, the object’s size was similar to a 1-5 cent coin, and was some 15 degrees above the horizon. This put the object at an approximate height of 14,000 feet with an approximate speed of 32,000 kph.
  2. The sighting from the Hamilton Control Tower approximately 2-3 minutes later put the object at approximately 10 degrees above the horizon. The object was further away from the observer.  In this time the object had ascended some 5000 feet and increased speed by some 18,000 kph to around 50,000 kph.
  3. The Senior Air Traffic Controller observed the object for 1 ½ seconds. During this time the object passed from the 160 radial to the 183 radial from Hamilton Control tower (approx 23 degrees of arc).
  4. A Te Kawa farming couple sighted the object at approximately 1.20 pm, while driving south along State Highway 3 approaching the Te Kawa crossroad south of the town of Te Awamutu.  The couple confirmed the exact time and position of the sighting to Ufocus NZ .

Triangulation calculations using the three March 9 daytime sightings (Pudney Rock, Hamilton Control Tower, Te Kawa crossroad) placed the object approximately 37 kms (20 miles) south of Hamilton Airport  and southwest of the township of Te Awamutu, at approximately 19,000 feet, travelling some 26 kms (14 miles) at a speed of approximately 50,000 kph (30,000 mph).

Ufocus NZ concurs with astronomer the late Dr Bateson’s opinion given to us at the time. As the light(s) or object(s) observed by all the witnesses had specific flight characteristics (horizontal path over distance, varying speed and height, seemingly controlled ascent and descent), they do not fit the characteristics of a meteor or fireball.

Ufocus NZ considers that is likely that the red/silver glowing objects with flaming after-tails observed traversing Bay of Plenty and Waikato skies over a period of weeks by many witnesses were in fact one and the same object.

Air Traffic Controller Graeme Opie commented – “I consider that what I saw from the control tower was a UFO (unidentified flying object) – definitely some form of controlled UFO, or a craft of unknown origin and technology.  Very interesting that it did not appear on our radar screens!”


ATC, The late Graeme Opie

Graeme Opie’s painting of the object

Newspaper clipping from the Waikato Times