Phoenix Lights 1997


March 1997 between Sedona, Arizona to Phoenix Arizona more than 2,000 people reported seeing an unknown grouping of lights in the sky.  It is the largest mass sighting of an unidentified flying object in modern history.  

The event started in the early evening hours in Sedona, Arizona where a formation of lights were seen to be moving southwest through the sky.  The formation was five lights in a V-pattern.  It moved slowly and it was reported by sheriff’s deputies as well as the everyday people living around Sedona.  

This first appearance of the lights happened just after it got dark, it is of interest to note that Phoenix is southeast of Sedona.  There were multiple reports of the lights by people living between Sedona and Phoenix.  However, it would be 10 pm or so when the first reports came in from Phoenix residents about the formation.  Initial reports had five lights in a V-formation, but as the lights hovered over Phoenix, more lights popped on and reports went from five lights to 10 lights hovering over the heavily populated city.

Interestingly, several air traffic controllers reported seeing the lights from where they sat in their tower, but the object did not appear on radar.  This along with statements given by several retired air force pilots lends some validity to the sighting.  Again, it was seen by first responders as well as the general public and at one point, Phoenix 911 was overwhelmed with calls reporting the lights.  

It would be three months after the sighting before it was reported in national news.  USA Today carried the first national news story about the Phoenix lights which remained visible for several hours over the city of Phoenix.  A couple of things happened in those 3 months that are worthy of a good head scratch.  The military announced the UFO were flares and the military had announced before that night that they would be doing a practice flare drop that night.  And a few men in the Air Force retired.

Both of these things are important, because they directly impact the mysterious sighting.  Flares and the lights over Phoenix.  While the event has been dubbed the Phoenix lights, it could have just as easily been dubbed the Mexico Lights, the Sedona Lights, the Sonora Lights, and any hundreds of others.  The first report came from Sedona, Arizona.  The last report came from Sonora, Mexico.  While it is possible a flare drop was responsible for some of the sightings, the flare drop happened just north of Phoenix, but the lights when they stopped hovering over Phoenix, began moving southeast again entering the Sonora region of Mexico.  The Air Force was absolutely not practicing flare drops there. 

There were no breaking news reports interrupting TV in Phoenix to show the lights and in 1997, news wasn’t available online yet.  It wouldn’t be until the following morning that any news shows would broadcast footage they captured of the Phoenix Lights.  This means the people in Sonora, Mexico that reported seeing the lights, didn’t know they had hovered for several hours over Phoenix earlier that night.  And flares dropped near Phoenix, wouldn’t have been visible in Sedona, Arizona or Sonora, Mexico.  I feel this somewhat discredits the idea that it was a flare drop.

Now for the retired military personnel.  One of the reasons USA Today finally ran the story, is they interviewed an anonymous source who was working on an Air Force base in Arizona the night of the flare drop and the night of the lights over Phoenix.  He reported that when the first reports came in from Sedona, the Air Force scrambled two F-16s to investigate.  If it was a flare drop done by the Air Force, why scramble jets to investigate?  

As many before me have pointed out flares dropped from jets, look like bright red falling stars.  They do not hover and they do not move in a formation, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.  They are affected by wind currents and there have been instances when a grouping of flares have moved in different directions because of upper air disturbances.  Flares would not have hovered over Phoenix for an extended period of time, they burn out in 10 to 15 minutes.  Even if the citizens of Phoenix had all been outside on their front porches watching for them, the event would have been over in less than 30 minutes, it would not have lasted most of the night.  Also, the flare drop was scheduled for just after dusk, which is when the lights showed up in Sedona.  It is 117 miles from Sedona to Phoenix and 509 miles from Sedona, Arizona to Sonora, Mexico.  

If flares were dropped outside of Phoenix around 9 pm, they would not have been visible in Sedona at the same time and they would not have been visible in Phoenix at just after 10 pm, nearly an hour after the drop and when the first report of the lights was called into 911.  And they certainly wouldn’t have been visible in the Sonora region of Mexico at 3 am when the last report came into Mexican officials regarding the lights.  

Flares might have accounted for some of the happenings however.  The flare drop ended up being late.  According to the anonymous Air Force source, because 2 F16’s were scrambled to investigate the lights in Sedona, the F16s doing the flare drop was late.  Phoenix 911 operators did receive about a dozen calls proclaiming they could see the flares to the north of their location and the V-formation of lights to the south of their location around 11 pm.

All of those calls came from the same neighborhood and police were sent to investigate.  However, one responding officer who would not go on record except anonymously reported the flares had gone out by the time he arrived in the neighborhood, but he talked to several residents, one of whom had a digital camera and digital video of the flare drop (for the youngsters that might read this, digital cameras were a new item in 1997, they were expensive and most people didn’t own one, cell phones were still those giant  boxy things that looked like ET could have used them to phone home and didn’t have cameras in them).  

And more than a handful of retired Air Force personnel living in the area went on record to say that the lights they saw that night looked nothing like flares.  Also, if you want to see the lights for yourself, there are dozens of videos of it on the internet.  The mass sighting wasn’t just documented by eyewitness accounts, it was videoed by dozens of people.

In what might be the biggest coincidence ever and helped with the documentation of the incident, the military announced on March 6, 1997 through news stations and papers about the flare drop happening on March 13, 1997.  The illumination flares dropped are normally only visible from less than a mile away.  Their job is to illuminate the ground, not the sky and they are yellow due to the chemicals used in them.  

I have seen illumination flare drop practice runs, I live less than 2 hours (by car) from Whiteman Air Force base, which for a long time was home to most of the Air Force’s fleet of stealth bombers.  And I agree with many others, military flares of any kind do not behave the way the Phoenix Lights did.  

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