1995, The Bovine, Texas
"Cactus 564" was a routine America West flight that began in Tampa, Florida. The final leg of the flight was from Dallas/Forth Worth into Las Vegas, the ultimate destination. On the night of May 25, 1995, Flight 564, a Boeing 757 piloted by Captain Eugene Tollefson and First Officer John J. Waller, was passing near Bovine, Texas, just across the state line from Clovis, New Mexico at about 9:25 MST. There were thunderstorms to the northeast, and the lead flight attendant was watching the lightning flashes in the night sky.
This flight attendant was the first to notice a line of regularly flashing lights in the sky to the north and below the airliner. The First Officer then saw them as well, and they observed a horizontal row of eight strobe-like lights, flashing on and off in sequence from left to right.
The lights, which were as bright as aircraft landing lights, were at an altitude of between 30,000 and 35,000 feet, and were bright white with a tinge of blue. Captain Tollefson left his seat to look, and he saw the left to right sequencing lights also. As the lightning flashed behind the lights, it silhouetted something that to the observers appeared to be a large, dark, cigar shaped object between 300 and 500 feet in length, depending on how far away it was.
After about five minutes of observing the object, Flight 564 called Albuquerque Air Traffic Control to report the object. Albuquerque ATC noted that the position of the object was over a restricted military area called "Tieband." The controller also noted that the description sounded similar to that of a tethered aerostat except for the large number of strobes. However, the controller contacted sites that would know if an aerostat or any other military aircraft were in the air that night, and was given negative responses all around. The controller contacted other aircraft in the area, but no one else was able to see what Flight 564 saw.
The controller then contacted NORAD, who at first reported nothing on their radar at that location, then called back and said they had an unidentified return in that area, then called back again and said that the radar return had been a common small airplane with a malfunctioning transponder. An air traffic controller later said that there was yet another call from NORAD reporting that they later did have an unknown at that precise location, but this has never been corroborated.
There is a transcript of the controller's radio conversations at UFO Plaza and there is a Real Audio excerpt of the conversations from the "Sightings" TV program at Cosmic Videos.
No satisfactory explanation has ever been found for the Flight 564 sighting.
This is a transcription of the communication between the crew of the America West flight and the Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control center. It also includes several conversations between the Albuquerque ARTC and other locations, including NORAD, that were contacted in an effort try to identify the object. There are three terms used in the following conversations that I have not yet been able to get adequate explanations for: TIEBAND, BIGFOOT, and HIGH-BALLS. The term 'tieband' is spelled phonetically, but any help with them would be appreciated. The recordings of the ARTC communications obviously include conversations with other aircraft and locations that do not pertain to the object reported by the America West flight. I have only included those conversations that pertained in some possible way to the subject at hand and as such it is important to keep track of the times indicated to follow the progression. As such, this transcription begins with the first words from flight 564 to Albuquerque ARTC at approximately 9:21pm:
AW-564: "Cactus 564 going direct crow, crow 6 arrival Las Vegas."
ABQ: "Cactus 564...Albuquerque Center...good evening"
AW-564: "564 at 39,000'" 9:29pm...
AW-564: "Cactus 564...off to our 3:00, got some strobes out there.
Could you tell us what it is?"
ABQ: "Uh, Uh..I'll tell you what, that's some, uh..right now
...I don't know what it is right now. That is a
restricted area that is used by the military out there
during the day time."
AW-564: "Yeah...it's pretty odd."
ABQ: "Hold on ...let me see if anybody else knows around here." 9:30pm...
AW-564: "Cactus 564..can you paint that object at all on your radar
ABQ: "Cactus 564...No I don't, and in talkin' to 3 or 4 guys
around here no one knows what that is, never heard about
AW-564: "Cactus 564...nobody's painting it at all?"
ABQ: "Cactus 564 say again?"
AW-564: "I said there's nothing on their radars on the other centers
at all on that (garbled) clear area, ...that object that's
up in the air?
ABQ: "Uh?..it's up in the air?"
ABQ: "No...no one knows anything about it." What's the altitude about?"
AW-564: "I don't know, probably right around 30,000 or so. And it's
uh...there's a strobe that starts..um, going on counter-
clockwise, and uh...the length is unbelievable."
(???): "Where's this?" (NOTE: The last question above cannot be readily identified as having come
from the Albuquerque FAA controller. Perhaps it was, however since a conversation
with Cannon AFB began just at this point it could well indicate that the conversation
was being monitored. The very next statement heard is the Albuquerque FAA
controller calling to Cannon AFB.)
ABQ: "Cannon 121?"
CANNON: "Cannon..go ahead"
ABQ: "Do you guys know if there was anything like a tethered
balloon released that should be above 'tieband'?"
CANNON: "Uh, no, we haven't heard nothin' about it."
(BOTH)" "Uh, ok..(some chuckling), uh, ha.."
ABQ: "A guy at 39,000 says he sees something at 30,000 that's as,
..the length is unbelievable and it has a strobe on it."
CANNON: "Uh huh...?"
ABQ: "This is NOT good..(laughing)..okay..."
CANNON: "Uh, wha..what does that mean?:
ABQ: "(laughing)..I don't know, it's a ufo or something, it's that Roswell crap again!"
CANNON: "Where's it at now?"
ABQ: "He says it's right in 'tieband'."
CANNON: "It's right in 'tieband'?"
CANNON: "No, we haven't seen nothin' like that."
ABQ: "Okay, keep your eyes open."
CANNON: "I'll talk to you (mumbled)."
ABQ: "Cactus 564...we checked with Cannon and they don't have
any, uh, weather balloons or anything up tonight. Nobody
up front knows any idea about that. Do you still see it?"
AW-564: "Negative..back where we initially spotted it it was between
the weather and us and when there's lightning you could
see a dark object...and, uh, it was pretty eerie looking.
This 'air coptr..(mumbled)' right here going eastbound...
maybe he'll see it."
AW-564: "First time in 15 years I've ever seen anything like this.
It's probably military in that restricted area."
ABQ: "Cactus 564..you contact Albuquerque Center 132.8,
AW-564: "132.8 contact 564." Just then it sounds like another person in another aircraft breaks
in on the conversation. It is never clear just what type of aircraft this is
but the individual has clearly overheard the recent discussion.
ABQ: "Aircraft calling..try again!"
(?): "Center...uh..got time for a quick question?"
ABQ: "Okay..would the question stand-by one please?...
(?): "(mumbled) 781, what was that cactus guy talking about he
ABQ: "I, I don't know, off your right wing about 15-20 miles.
He's saying he saw a large object with a strobe that looked
like it was at 30,000 feet."
(?): "Ah...it's that secret stuff!" 9:36pm...
AW-564: "Albuquerque...Cactus 564."
ABQ: "Cactus 564..go ahead."
AW-564: "(garbled)..that passed us earlier on the right. He'll be in
the area in a few minutes, is that correct?"
ABQ: "Yeah, he'll be in there in about 3-4 minutes, at 27,000.
I'll ask him what he sees."
AW-564: "..be at his left-hand side between him and the thunder
storm. Thanks alot, we'll just monitor and listen."
AW-564: "Three of us up here saw it!!"
After a minute or so Albuquerque Center starts up a conversation
with another aircraft. Again it is unclear at first what aircraft this is as
there was no identification given and this aircraft does not preface
it's transmissions with any identifier. A bit later a statement is directed
to "Hawk 85" which appears to be the aircraft in question.
ABQ: "I can't find...in the next 2-3 minutes. Be looking off your
right side, if you see anything about 30000 feet, we had
one aircraft reporting simething that wasn't a weather
balloon or anything. It was a long white looking thing with
a strobe on. Let me know if you see anything out there.
(?): "I'll be careful..(garbled)"
ABQ: "He said it was about 30,000'."
(?): "(mumbled) I'm searching for ET." 9:40pm...
ABQ: "Cactus 564...you still up?"
AW-564: "Affirmative! 564"
ABQ: "That was south of your position?"
AW-564: "It was north.."
ABQ: "Hawk 85, let's make it out the left window then."
AW-564: "Albuquerque, can we get a chance..Cactus 564."
ABQ: "You know we're all up here huddled up talking about it. When
it lightning'd you could see the dark object. It was like a cigar shape from the altitude that we could see it..and the
length is what go us, a...sort of confused, because it
looked like it was about 300-400 feet long. So I don't know
if it's a wire with a strobe on it, but the strobe would
start from the left and go right, counter-clockwise...and
it was a pretty eerie looking site, but a, had the strobe..
At this point in the tape copy I received there appeared to have
been some problem as there was a brief approximately 1/3 second
solid tone like a dialtone. Then there was a strong transmission like
another broadcast trying to cut in. The previous conversation continued
briefly and the tone appears again followed by another request to "Albuquerque Radio".
(brief but solid strong tone heard)
(?): "ALBQUERQUE RADIO?...ALBUQUERQUE RADIO?"
AW-564?: "..and it was just in the lightning..."
(?): (solid strong tone heard again)
(?) "ALBUQUERQUE RADIO?"
ABQ: "Yeah...is this one any better?"
ABQ: "Oh good! Ha..hey you guys don't know anything about some
kind of weather balloon or a ufo that's out in the vicinity
of Fort Sumner tonight do you?"
(?) "I don't think so...standby."
(?): "At this point the answer to that question is 'no'."
ABQ: "Okay..yeah, this guy sees it up at Tucumcari, says it looks
like it's 300-400 foot long, cylindrical, some kind of
strobe on it, and everything else."
(?) "Well...I would call it...I don't know what it is..yea."
ABQ: "Yeah, okay...I didn't know if you were a science fiction
buff or anything."
(?) "Yea..no, we don't have, we don't have any published "high
ABQ: "Okay..appreciate it."
(?): "Mmm hmm...bye." 9:42pm...
AW-564: "Albuquerque, 564...last time...just for our notes we're
going to take a message. was that in a restricted area..and
that was just basically south of Tucumcari when we reported
ABQ: "Okay...the way you went through, the only restricted area
was on your south side, nothing to the north side...and
those restricted areas are inactive. There shouldn't be
anything going on." 9:44pm...
AW-564: "Albuquerque Center..Cactus 564. Thanks for your help and,
uh, could we get your call sign?"
ABQ: "Cactus 564...say again?"
AW-564: "Albuquerque Center..Cactus564..We'll talk to you later.
Before we go could we get your call-sign?"
ABQ: "Cactus 564...mine is 'PP'."
AW-564: "Was that 'tango golf'?"
ABQ: "Pappa Pappa."
AW-564: "Pappa Pappa...thanks alot."
(End of Side 1, Tape 1..)
ABQ: "Bigfoot...Albuquerque Sector 87."
BIGFOOT: "Bigfoot's on!"
ABQ: "Yea..I've got a, uh, something unusual and I was wanting
to know if you'all happen to know of anything going on
out here around Tucumcari, New Mexico,...north of Cannon?
I had a couple of aircraft reported something 300-400 foot
long..cylindrical in shape, with a strobe flashing off to
the end of it."
ABQ: "At 30,000 feet."
BIGFOOT: "Okay...hang on a second."
ABQ: "Yeah, I didn't know if you happen to know of anything
going on out there...no balloons in the area, no nothing
BIGFOOT: "Okay, where's this at again?"
ABQ: "It's at, uh, well ya'know where...it's in Tucumcar, New
Mexico, it's about 150 miles to the east of Albuquerque."
BIGFOOT: "Okay, eh...how far from Holloman?"
ABQ: "Eh, Holloman, it looks like it's off the zero-three-zero
of Holloman about 220 miles."
BIGFOOT: "Okay...I think, okay...it's kind'a hard for us to see here.
Okay, they'll be zero for about 200. Um...we don't have
anything going on over there that I know of."
ABQ: "Yeah...I didn't know, we've tried everybody else and
nobody else is...this guy definitely saw it run all the way
down the side of the airplane. Said it was a pretty
interesting thing out there."
BIGFOOT: "Okay, it was at 30,000 feet.."
ABQ: "...30,000 feet."
BIGFOOT: "It was like..long...um.."
ABQ: "Yeah, it's right out of, right out of the X-files. I mean
definite UFO or something like that, I mean."
BIGFOOT: "..and..it..ooohh..ya'll are serious about this (laughing)."
ABQ: "Yeah, he's real serious about that to, and..uh..he looked
at, saw it, no balloons are reported tonight, nothing in
BIGFOOT: "It was strobing off the front he said?"
ABQ: "Uh...I think the strobe was off the tail end of it."
BIGFOOT: "Okay...strobe tail end."
ABQ: "He said it was kinda, well it was dark but..(aside to
someone else)..did he say there was lights in it?"
BIGFOOT: "How long did he say it was?"
ABQ: "He said it was 300-400 foot long."
BIGFOOT: "Holy smoke!!"
ABQ: "..and we don't have any air carriers out here so...that
BIGFOOT: "um..the only thing that I can do is , I wonder if any of
our aerostats cut loose or something 'cause we don't
have any aerostats there."
ABQ: "Yeah...not that far to the north."
BIGFOOT: "I mean...to me it would sound like an aerostat, but..I
don't think ours are that big though."