In 1978, strange lights were observed above New Zealand’s South Island. On the surface, this looks to be just another UFO sighting, yet it stands out for a few reasons.
The lights weren’t just lights; they were reported as being the size of a tower, and a professional television crew filmed several minutes of the event. You are warmly welcomed by the Kaikoura mountain ranges…
On the night of December 31st, 1978, TV reporter Quentin Fogarty, cameraman David Crockett, Crockett’s wife, and other members of the news crew boarded a plane bound for the skies south of Christchurch, New Zealand, with the mission of reconstructing sightings from earlier in the month, but when the real thing showed up, they got a lot more than they bargained for.
Quentin Fogarty and his colleagues were attempting to reconstruct sightings that occurred ten days previously, on December 21st, when the crew of a Safe Air Ltd freight plane reported being “tracked” by strange lights on both sides of their ship.
The lights, which ranged in size from tiny glints to the size of a house, remained with the Argosy aircraft for many minutes, giving everyone on board enough opportunity to inspect them. On December 21st, the lights were more than just a visual observation; they were detected by radar and reported to Wellington Air Traffic Control.
On the same evening, hundreds of Cape Campbell residents reported three big lights 45 miles north of Kaikoura, shooting a beam to the ground while moving as though combing the area for anything. Wellington Air Traffic Control’s radar picked up on these as well. On radar, the three objects that created the light appeared to be the size of a commercial airliner, yet they flew at a low height, similar to a helicopter.
Many in the vicinity were terrified as a young pilot named Frederick Valentich was flying towards Cape Otway, Australia, just over the Tasman Sea, when his little Cessna 182L light plane was immediately harassed by another unknown craft, the full tale of which was captured by air traffic control.
In his penultimate disturbing broadcast, he stated, “Ah… Melbourne, that strange airplane is hovering on top of me again…” “It’s hovering, but it’s not an aircraft,” says the narrator. In the blink of an eye, Frederick Valentich and his plane vanished. They were still suffering from his disappearance.
Quentin Fogarty and his crew were flying above the Kaikoura mountain ranges when they first observed the lights. The pilot radioed Wellington Air Traffic Control with an airspace enquiry, which was similar to Frederick Valentich’s response two months prior. Although the ship was confirmed to be a solid object, its movement was reported as erratic, and it vanished from sight and radar.
After repeated exchanges with the lights coming and going, Wellington Air Traffic Control remarked, “There is a powerful target right in formation with you.” It might be on the right or left side. Your target’s size has been boosted by a factor of two.”
To put things in context, the broadcast team’s Argosy that night was an Armstrong Whitworth AW.660, which was built for military use. It was almost 29 feet tall, 86 feet long, and 35 feet broad at the wings.
The bizarre plane, two-thirds the size of an entire American football field and 70 feet longer than any aircraft humanity has ever made, soared beside it in formation, only visible when lit. Even more incredible was the fact that the jet was flying yet completely still on air traffic control radar.
At this point, tensions were fast rising. Wellington ATC notified the tower at the nearby Christchurch airfield, and the decision was made to ground Quentin Fogarty’s aircraft. The landing went off without a hitch, but both radar stations saw three unknown planes “pacing” back and forth across the Argosy’s course for the whole short trip to the runway.
In the hopes of stopping the plane, the New Zealand Air Force activated a Skyhawk jet fighter, but the plane had already taken off. A thorough investigation was launched, which included a near-complete dissection of the radar equipment, however there was no indication of malfunction.
The details of the investigation were classified as top secret by the Royal New Zealand Air Force shortly after, and they are now housed at the National Archives in Wellington.
In a recent interview, Bill Startup, a pilot with 23 years of experience and 14,000 hours of flight time, and pilot of the Argosy that night in 1978, stated, “People may speculate about it, but they weren’t on the airplane.”
No one is satisfied with the explanations given by specialists and government officials.”