On Monday the 2nd of February 1998, in the early evening a large number of observers from the Manchester and West Yorkshire area witnessed two bright lights moving slowly. The objects flew over Manchester town center and then onto the Pennines in West and on towards the York area of the East. The sightings were highlighted after Look North, a BBC TV Leeds program, covered the incident and showed footage from a video recording provided by a Mr. George Hickinson, a security officer. Around 17.35 hrs, George and a colleague had been seated in their security cabin just off Coal Road, Leeds when they noticed two very bright lights to their West. At first George thought they were an approaching aircraft being familiar with over-flights on their way into Leeds / Bradford International Airport. After three or four minutes he decided to pan the infra-red security camera at the strange lights. The camera was situated about 75 yards South of their cabin. The next ten minutes were recorded on video tape with date / time aspects and the two lights were tracked as they made their way from the West and gradually came over George’s location and continued towards the East.
The impression given by the security men was that they remained stationary for several minutes over Leeds and then began to move closer to their position whilst keeping steady formation, with the southern-most light higher than its partner and, at intervals, the two lights seemed to move apart, then together again, confirming what several other witnesses had seen. The brightness of the lights was fairly constant, even in retreat, which would ruin the theory that these lights were in any way associated to aircraft landing lamps. The lights were described as two singular objects with a darkened segment of sky between them. The altitudes of the lights can only be speculated as the sky was clear but dark, to be fair, we estimated them to be a few hundred feet to even a few thousand feet.
Mr. Andrew Rackman, Airfield Services Manager of Leeds / Bradford International Airport, responsible for Air Traffic Control was heard on BBC’s ‘Look North’ program to state that they had picked nothing up on radar during the particular time which could identify the objects, also that ‘if the objects were extra-terrestrial in origin they may not be able to pick them up on radar’ or words to that effect. The objects seemed to manifest in the skies over Stretford, Manchester and made their way slowly towards Leeds, passing over Manchester town center and onwards to the Pennines. Some witnesses described how the objects had white or blue coloured strobing lights attached to the over-all light source. What ever the objects were they never acted unusual. No high speed maneuvers, no strange sounds and no E.Ts seen. It was feasible to presume that these objects may have been terrestrial in origin. Remember... not everything unidentified is extra-terrestrial.
The main theme is two very bright, formation keeping, soundless (or turboprop driven) lights with strobe effect at times associated with at least one helicopter during part of the journey across the country. The witness reports, timings and description suggest that some may have reported alternative objects, and may have been mistaken about timing, or there may have even been more than one pair of objects in the skies on the evening of February 2nd 1998. The West Yorkshire Police helicopter establishment, The Air Support Unit, reported that neither the West Yorkshire nor South Yorkshire helicopters were only flying between 12.15 hrs and 19.45 hrs that day. Also that Manchester’s Police helicopter was not in the air until 18.50 hrs and that it was immediately on operations over the Cheadle area of Manchester. As for the possible helicopter seen not far from the strange objects is also a mystery.
Letters were sent to the Ministry of Defence, The Civil Aviation Authority and Greater Manchester Police Force. Of course, we obtained a standard letter from the MOD, which stated no UFO’s were reported on that particular evening, hammered home by the usual comment about how they consider UFO’s not to be of national security. The CAA stated that no UFO’s had been reported to them from members of the public or pilots, also that no radar detection of any UFO was recorded. Finally GMP stated that their police helicopter could not have been responsible for such sightings as they were only operating in the Cheadle area of Manchester at a different time than when the UFOs were seen. The objects were first seen around 17.22 hrs and last seen leaving Manchester around 18.45 hrs. The root taken took them over the housing districts of Manchester and then the town center and onto higher Manchester; through to West Yorkshire and Leeds. This root did violate several air corridors to leading airports.
The main theme is two very bright, formation keeping, soundless (or turboprop driven) lights with strobe effect at times associated with at least one helicopter during part of the journey across West Yorkshire. The witness reports, timings and description suggest that some may have reported alternative objects, and may have been mistaken about timing, or there may have been more than one pair of objects in the skies on the evening of February 2nd 1998. The West Yorkshire Police helicopter establishment, The Air Support Unit, reported that neither the West Yorkshire nor South Yorkshire helicopters were flying between 12.15 hrs and 19.45 hrs that day. Also that Manchester's Police helicopter was not in the air until 18.50 hrs and that it was immediately on operations over the Cheadle area of Greater Manchester. Neither have any information about the possible military flights but are aware that military flights take place over Leeds and Yorkshire as their aircraft fly towards the North Sea decompression chamber, on these occasions they tend to fly below 1000 feet and do not need to inform the police of their presence. One possibility is that the objects are military. This is probable from lack of public information, despite Leeds 1 Bradford Airport (LBA) radar and TV publication of the events, and the close formation the objects kept for many miles in the dark at times being associated with a helicopter and passing over the Leeds flight path and Manchester International Airports (MIA) flight path without comment from neither facility. It is possible that the objects may be helicopters of some sort, some other designation with hover capabilities such as Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) or Uninhabitable Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
It is also that these objects could have been of a design which reduces or denies radar detection such as (stealthy). The Lack of a radar trace from either Leeds / Bradford Airport or Manchester International Airport. The mysterious lack of photographic record despite other's video filming successfully and developing. Coincidentally, a similar sighting took place at the White River, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Again, two bright white objects which were seen by two American pilots. The extraordinary features of testimony which do not suggest 'fixed wing' are the descriptions of 'stationary' 'hovering for several minutes' and the quarry house 'static (LITS) strobing before moving off slowly Northwards'; and the Middleton report of 'top speed movement of two (LITS) between points within 10 minutes, hovering over a school field', (although this latter report bears timings and lack of directional / descriptive data that may exclude it from the main theme.
1. RAF Fylingdales : Our early warning system supposed to defend us against all manner of airborne threats, especially ICBMs and the inquiry probably describes aircraft of some description, fixed wing or helicopter under visual flight rules due to lighting and not ATC control. Satellites are ruled out and the radar ignores all ground returns and objects flying 'slowly', (any aircraft which might appear above the radar's horizon would therefore be lost in the ground returns). Civilian ATC and military air radar's would have been monitoring airspace over Manchester and Leeds but would have ignored any aircraft not under positive control, unless it posed a possible impact hazard on any aircraft under positive control, then they would have turned their own aircraft away.
2. RAF Linton-on-Ouse : Tells us that its radar coverage of the area and military flight schedules offer no explanation; their speculation is that what was seen was a civilian aircraft possibly routing in Leeds / Bradford Airport (LBA), that had been positioning for landing when viewed by the witnesses; having asked if they had any Provosts or Tucanos out at that time with trainees, the answer was affirmative but that they are unlikely to have impinged on (LBA) airspace without prior warning.
3. Leeds / Bradford Airport (LBA) : Tells us that they have not received any official report on the sighting. No aircraft or ATC staff reported anything out of the ordinary and their radar did not indicate any concerns, They are unable to assist any further.
4. Manchester International Airport (MIA) : Tells us a very similar story. They did not receive any reports from the staff at the ATC Block Tower, nor any reported sightings of anything unusual on that particular evening, and that they could not assist us further.
5. West Yorkshire Police : Tells us that neither the West Yorkshire nor South Yorkshire helicopters were flying between the 12.15hrs and 19.45 hrs on February 2nd 1998. They are aware that the military overfly the Leeds area such as Leeds air space to the North sea decompression chambers at intervals and not alerted to these. Those flights can take place at below 1000 feet they stated.
6. Greater Manchester Police : Tells us that their helicopter was not flying between 14.00-16.20 hrs and that the helicopter was first dispatch to the Cheadle area of Manchester. They too stated the possibility of military jets, but were quick to point out the local light aircraft field at Barton, Manchester.
7. Barton Airfield: Tells us they no nothing of reported UFOs nor a military fly-by. They also stated that their was one light aircraft that flew in from the West, to land at the airfield at approximately 16.30 hrs and a second at 20.15 hrs. They appologised for not being able to assist further.
8. RAF West Drayton : Tells us that they had not received any reports of UFO nor any staff reports and that it would be best to talk with RAF Linton-on-Ouse.
9. Ministry Of Defence : Stated that for the night in question, there were no reports of UFO activity in the Manchester or Leeds Area.
10. A friend of Mr. John Heptonstall (BUFORA RIC Leeds) 'who has a long experience piloting private aircraft, viewed Mr. George Flickenson's video recording of the two strange (LITS) and could not explain the light configuration in aircraft terms; points he made included :- A.That navigation lights could not be seen. B. The brightness of the visible lights would possibly destroy night vision of any pilot controlling an aircraft and they would hardly be used except for landing purposes. C. They looked like no craft he has experience of and could not be readily described as aircraft lights.
The following possible explanations for the (LITS) on February 2nd 1998 are here discussed :
1. A Light Aircraft : Would have to be turboprop / propeller driven according to descriptions but could not hover silently, nor fly so slowly (probably stalling below approximately 70 knots), nor avoid radar, nor avoid and no navigation lights. Only if military specially designed for anti-radar, low engine noise, perhaps pilot-less remote-controlled. (Conclusion = Low Probability).
2. Helicopters : Could hover, low noise if specially constructed military (as 'the Quiet One'), fights configuration not normal and may interfere with night vision, one was seen near-by the two lights in the sky (LITS). France does have a helicopter Uninhabitable Aerial Vehicle (UAV) but 1 have no information on this at present. (Conclusion = Medium Probability).
3. Airships : Could hover, can hold formation but perhaps not so close and same speed, tight turn unlikely, light formation unlikely, dark skies not wise. (Conclusion = Unlikely).
4. Microlights : Humming / small engine sound, could appear to hover, could fly in close formation but unlikely to maintain this in dark conditions over such a great distance, should not cross Manchester or Leeds flight path nor fly so high over built up areas, nor in the dark.; they would have jeopardised night vision and compromised themselves with authorities with such bright lights. (Conclusion = likely).
5. Celestial Objects : The charts that we have looked at show clearly that no celestial objects are likely to have been n-mistaken for the majority of sightings which involved movements not possible by celestial objects. The planet Jupiter was too low over the horizon, Sirius (the Dog Star) was quite low in the Southern sky, the planet Saturn was higher in the Southern sky and may have been identified as the possible 'evening star'. A witness in Hipperholm described the 'evening star' as the (LITS) passed over-head towards Scammonden. (Conclusion = Highly Unlikely).
6. Satellites 1 Space Stations / Only NM with Kyant : Could almost rival the brightness, but perhaps not really the brightness most witnesses describe, nor the movement or brightness both video recordings show with accompanying strobe effect. Also they were not available for viewing in our skies at the time. MIR was at about 4.5 degrees elevation in the South moving approximately Eastwards, therefore out of view at the times in question. (Conclusion = Not Possible).
7. Balloons 1 Kites 1 Birds etc : Could be seen during daylight periods. However, the (LITS) were seen during in the dark sky. (LITS) were seen during in the dark sky. Lights would not normally be attached to balloons or kites and a flock of birds would not be seen as to hover motionlessly or to have lights on them. (Conclusion = Not Possible).
8. Unexplained Atmospheric Phenomena (UAP) : Ball lightning can be seen as bright balls of light, however, they do not seem to hover nor travel in pairs and in a formation. They are not normally associated with a humming sound. Weather conditions for that evening, suggest clear skies or a possible scattered cloud. Not the ideal conditions for such phenomena to manifest. (Conclusion = Highly Unlikely).
9. Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) / Uninhabitable Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) : Can hover via rotor system, can have sport fight configurations which are unconventional, are under military control and outside remit of the public Air Traffic Control (ATC), can fly in the dark, no pilot to lose night-sight; bright lights provide test / follow / tracking capabilities by vehicle / aircraft / helicopter; usually driven by small engine with propellers which can be two-stroke. Can move very slowly, can turn tight and move faster as required; can be computer-guided, have infra-red facilities and thermal imaging equipment. Can climb to several thousands of feet in altitude, are relatively small and may not be resolved easily by camera or video camera over several thousand feet in dark sides, may also have exoradar avoidance systems, camera / visual avoidance systems as well. (Conclusion = Highly Likely).
10. Extra-Terrestrial or other Exotic Objects : Of course these cannot be ruled out; any specification could be speculated on but we need to rule out the terrestrial probabilities first; these have not been exhausted and none of the descriptions of sightings directly suggest such exotic explanation. e.g. (No Alien entities or Paranormal, or Physical-law contraventions confirmed). No high speed maneuvers and two-stroke engine sound, do indicate a terrestrial based object.
(Conclusion : Cannot be ruled out).
11. Hoax 1 Fraud : Out of 47 witnesses, most if not all give mention to, two bright lights, which were seen to travel slowly across the sky, in formation. Some of these witnesses live miles apart from each other and would have not known each other to verify stories. Also the video films and photographs do not show any tampering or super-imposing techniques. Therefore 1 can only suggest that the reports were significantly unique and documented separate incidents that took place on the evening of February 2nd 1998. (Conclusion = Not Possible).
The sightings of (LITS) over Manchester and Leeds on the evening of February 2nd 1998 may very well have been some type of RPV or UAV. Below is a fist of possibilities.
1. The Phoenix: Made by GEC-Marconi, it has been under Royal Artillery control for a couple of years and would make a good candidate for our 'UF0s'; it is all-weather, day or night real-time surveillance and target acquisition system datalinked to a ground station which in-turn transmits gathered information direct to Artillery Command posts; it has a two-stroke engine, and can be controlled in pairs from the same location, works to a radius of about 50 Kgms, can reach 9,000 feet maximum, it is made from kevIar, glass fiber, carbon reinforced plastic and Nomex honeycomb. Its wing span is 5.5 m, maximum launch weight is 177 Kgms. Although this kit costs a lot of money, it has been deemed virtually obsolete as it took far too long to develop, yet that may be a good reason, without better alternative, to haul them out of storage for the impending 'Gulf' use and test them in an 'urban' setting to see how they perform, can they be handled consistently, and what kind of results are possible with them; the public reaction to seeing them would also allow the military to evaluate how an enemy populace may view them tracking silently across their sides at night - Manchester and Leeds folk were perhaps the unwitting pawns.
2. The Freewing Scorpion : This is currently involved in the USA FLIGHT test program; the results of the initial tests of smaller scale versions of the Scorpion previously built and tested by 'scaled' are promising.
3. The Eagle Eye : This is possible as two video films recorded by witnesses suggest a tilt on the twinned lights which altered from Mr. Ken Field's video recording MINUTES before Mr. George Flickenson's, the former tilt being top right to bottom left and the latter top left to bottom right. Tilt-wing could explain this phenomenon if twin lights were mounted on the central tilting fuselage. The rotors provide an easy conversion from small light aircraft propulsion to a hovering heli-type of propulsion.
New generations of UAV are being developed after the 1996 MOD statement that they were to spend 2.2 Billion pounds on the project and to be developed by 'DERA' and 'AWRO', designed to be operational in the next decade; these will supersede the already almost obsolete Phoenix.
Documented Conclusion : Unknown!
Compiled by Steve Mera & John Heptonstall.