Note: Photos used in this article should be considered “illustrative” only. Although widely used to represent the Chicago O’Hare UFO sighting, none have been successfully authenticated and at least one (the one above) is believed by most to have been digitally manipulated.
The 2006 Chicago O’Hare UFO sighting is regarded as one of the most well-documented and widely witnessed UFO sightings in modern history. Officials insisted on labelling the sighting a weather anomaly but witnesses, including over a dozen O’Hare International Airport employees, say the object was as clear as day – a metallic disc-shaped craft hovering over gate C-17 of the O’Hare International Airport.
A United Airlines employee sees something strange in the air
On November 7, 2006, at approximately 4:15 PM, an airport ramp employee was “pushing back” United Airlines Flight 456 when he looked up and spotted a strange object hovering over O’Hare’s Gate C-17. Described as a spinning, metallic, disc-shaped aircraft, the employee immediately notified the pilot and co-pilot of Flight 456 and radioed the airline’s operation control center. It has been reported that both pilots also witnessed the object, but the captain refused to be interviewed.
The co-pilot (First Officer) was later interviewed and admitted that he and the captain had opened the side window to view the object. They described the UAP as “dirty aluminum color, very stable, without any optical distortions near it”. He added that their flight had even been delayed as airport personnel sorted out the event. It was at this time that the FAA’s ground controller notified incoming Flight 5668 to “use caution for the, ahhh, UFO”. This was the first official FAA mention of the UFO (they would later deny any knowledge of the event).
Aviation mechanics see oval-shaped object above O’Hare terminal
Two United Airlines aviation mechanics were the next to report the strange object in the sky. Both were inside an airplane about to taxi to a hanger when they overheard a message from a “flight crew” talking about a “circle or saucer-shaped object hovering over the gate” (this was likely the pilot and co-pilot mentioned by the first witness). The two mechanics laughed about it at first but continued listening as radio chatter lit up with discussion of the unusual object.
The mechanics say they leaned forward to look through the windshield of the airplane and saw the object hovering about 100 to 200 feet below the cloud base. They described the object as oval-shaped and “definitely not a blimp or an airplane as we know it”. One of the mechanics continued taxiing the airplane while the other “watched the object go up into the clouds” where it left a clean, well-defined, round hole.
An office worker goes to the gate window for a better view
Around the same time, an office worker was in his office when he heard the radio chatter about the UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena). He walked from his office to a nearby gate to get a better view.
“I stood outside in the gate area not knowing what to think, just trying to figure out what it was. I knew no one would make a false call like that.”
The office worker, who was joined by another employee that had arrived at the gate to check out the craft, described the appearance of the unknown object as “elliptical sphere-like, dark metal”. He noted that the object rose “almost instantaneously”, departing so fast he “thought he could see a kind of blurred effect” from the object’s rapid movement. He then called the operations center to report the sighting. By this time, United Airlines had also notified TSA and the United WHG Operations Center while more airport employees hurried around the airport to get a better view of the object.
Dozens of United employees report object – management says keep quiet
Nearly a dozen more O’Hare employees witnessed the unusual sight that day. The object remained visible for several minutes before it suddenly bolted through thick clouds leaving a gaping clear hole in the cloud layer through which it passed. Witnesses described the object as being about thirty feet in diameter and hovering at around 1,900 feet (just below the cloud base). Several employees pointed out that United Airlines management had instructed them to write reports and draw pictures of what they had observed while stressing the importance of not talking about what they saw with anyone.
One employee told reporters:
“I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don’t understand why aliens would hover over a busy airport, but I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an earthly aircraft.”
In the days that followed, news of the sighting leaked to the public by employees who were frustrated that their supervisors ignored their reports and insisted that they keep quiet about the event. According to one witness:
“Some of us are getting angry with this being hushed up with all the terrorism and TSA idiots hanging around. If we see a funny looking bag all hell breaks loose but park a funny silver thing a few hundred feet above a busy airport and everyone tries to hush it up. It just doesn’t make sense.”
UA and FAA deny event – FOIA request refreshes their memory
Both United Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) denied anything unusual had happened at O’Hare that day. A few weeks after the incident, NPR reported:
“Officials at the airline say they have no knowledge of the incident, and the Federal Aviation Administration is not investigating.”
Their claims of ignorance would soon change. After the Chicago Tribune began an investigation and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the FAA ordered an internal review of air-traffic tapes to comply with the Tribune’s request. The tapes revealed a call by a United Airlines supervisor to an FAA manager, reporting the mysterious elliptical-shaped craft “sitting motionless over Concourse C of the United Airlines terminal”. In addition, the Daily Record of Facility Operation for November 7, 2006, contained this note:
“Sue from united ramp tower called to inquire if we had seen a flying disc over the United terminal in the vicinity of Gate C17 at about one thousand feet.”
Control tower recordings
Deeper investigation into the incident revealed that, contrary to United Airlines and FAA claims, there had actually been much official and recorded talk about the event. The following is the first recorded instance of the sighting.
4:30 PM United Zone Controller to FAA Area Supervisor in O’Hare Tower
O’Hare Tower: “Tower, this is Dave.”
United Controller: “Hey Dave, this is Sue in the United tower.”
O’Hare Tower: “Hey Sue”
United Controller: “Hey, did you see a flying disc out by C17?”
O’Hare Tower: “Oh, it starts Sue… A flying… you’re seeing flying discs?”
United Controller: “Well, that’s what a pilot in the ramp area at C17 told us. They saw some flying disc above them…
O’Hare Tower: “Come on Sue”
United Controller: “You didn’t see it?”
O’Hare Tower: “Hey, you guys been celebrating the holidays or anything like that? I haven’t seen anything Sue and if I did I wouldn’t admit to it…”
4:47 PM United Zone Controller to FAA Area Supervisor in O’Hare Tower
This conversation revealed that pictures had been taken of the object (no authenticated pictures have ever surfaced).
United Controller: “… There *was* a disc out there flying around”
O’Hare Tower: “There was a what?”
United Controller: “A disc”
O’Hare Tower: “A disc?”
United Controller: “Yeah”
O’Hare Tower: “OK, I’m sorry. What can I do for you?”
United Controller: “I’m sorry, there was… I told Dave there was a disc flying outside above Charley 17 and he thought I was pretty much high. But, um, I’m not high and I’m not drinking.”
O’Hare Tower: “Yeah”
United Controller: “So, someone got a picture of it. So if you guys see it out there…”
O’Hare Tower: “A disc, like a Frisbee?”
United Controller: “Like a UFO type thing”
O’Hare Tower: “Yeah, OK”
United Controller: “He got a picture of it.”
O’Hare Tower: “How, how, how high above Charley 17?”
United Controller: “Well, it was above our tower. So…”
More official recorded conversation about the UFO that United and FAA denied hearing anything about.
And this recording confirmed the sighting once again.
United Controller: “Some of our employees, I don’t know if you know anything about this, some of our pilots on the ground are reporting a UFO sighting at a thousand feet to the east side of the airport. Do you guys know anything about this?”
O’Hare Tower: “You know, the ramp tower called me I want to say about ten, fifteen minutes ago. We have not seen anything up here.”
United Controller: “OK”
O’Hare Tower: “And I guess she said it was around gate C17.”
And more witnesses come forward
Soon after the sighting, many more credible witnesses came forward and told their account of the strange object. One former news anchor reported:
“I was picking up a friend, an American Airline cockpit officer who was flying in from Charles de Gaulle International Airport. His plane, scheduled for a 4:55 PM arrival time, was delayed because of the object… When I saw it from Mannheim, it appeared much paler, but as I moved closer to underneath it, it darkened. My impression is that it was highly reflective, with the upper part mirroring the lighter sky above it… I saw a fair number of people, even several on Mannheim, take photos with their cell phones or digital cameras… It was definitely an object, not a lenticular cloud or any other weather phenomenon… This was nothing conventional, and I frankly doubt whether it was something manmade. At its closest, it was no more than a quarter of a mile from me, and I saw it fly off. It was very clearly a controlled aircraft of some sort. I’m not willing to give my name [but] for the record, I’m a 52-year-old woman, former radio news anchor and reporter with an ABC affiliate, former chef and restaurant owner, with many hours in the air and experience with many types of aircraft.”
She later confirmed that many people around her had taken photos of the object:
“Granted, I was paying more attention to the sky than to the parking lot but there were easily several dozen people watching it at various points. I watched it in the parking lot for about ten minutes and pointed it out to a few people who stood with us and watched until the object left. I did see a number of people taking photos, both with cell phones and with digital cameras, of the object.
Another witness sighted the mysterious object near a runway observation area and made note of its unusual exit:
“There was a sudden and marked difference in the number of planes coming in. I did see it leave. It didn’t go quite straight up and from my angle I couldn’t see blue sky at the top of the hole… but it surely did leave a hole and it went from no movement to incredible speed in a split second.”
A bag loader (likely the initial witness) spoke about what he had witnessed:
“We were readying a load lf late bags for a 727 when I saw what I thought was a widebody running off course out of the corner of my eye. When I looked up there, it was just sitting there, a gray, shiny thing pretty high up (more than 1,000 feet)… I looked up at the 727 cockpit and pointed to it. Then the crew saw it and was staring at it too. The pilot got on his radio and was waving his arms like he was going nuts over what he was seeing. We figured it was a fat disc, like an M&M, about 20 feet wide but it was hard to tell for sure because it was almost the same color as the clouds. If you looked away it was hard to find and focus again. One of our crew ran to his locker to get his cell phone to take a picture. It hung there moving really slightly from side to side for about another minute when we all felt our hair stand on end. It just shot straight into the clouds faster than anything we ever seen. It disturbed the clouds, like it made a big shockwave and we could see sunlight for a while… Everyone was talking about it for a few days and then the supervisors came and talked to all of us and said we can’t talk about this to anyone or we’d be fired. They said something about federal regulations and unauthorized reporting of false airspace breeches.
FAA conclusion – nothing to see her folks, it was just a weather event
The FAA concluded that the sighting was caused by a weather phenomenon and no further investigation was conducted. O’Hare airport went on record saying the unusual sighting was lights reflecting off the clouds. Meanwhile, O’Hare employees and dozens of other off-site witnesses say they know the difference between clouds and light reflection. As one mechanic noted in his official report:
“I am still in absolute wonder and amazement at what I saw that afternoon.”