The “Night Of UFOs” – The 1986 Brazilian Air Force Chase

First Published: January 30, 2019 Last updated: February 9th, 2019 Written by: Marcus Lowth Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes Posted in: UFOs
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What many researchers believe to be one of, if not the most credible UFO encounter in history would unfold over the skies of southeastern Brazil during the evening of 19th May 1986. At least twenty separate UFOs would appear that evening on military radar, with several Brazilian military jets confirming their presence visually. Furthermore, several of these jets would engage in a chase of these mystery objects in an encounter that would last almost seven hours. As well as the military and aviation witnesses, there were also multiple residents on the ground stretching from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro.

1986 Brazil Night of UFOs

It is a case that has fascinated researchers for over thirty years since, and while it doesn’t offer solid proof that the crafts were of extraterrestrial origin, the feats they achieved were, like many sightings, apparently beyond the capabilities of our finest terrestrially made aircraft. That something was in the skies over Brazil’s south east region is beyond doubt. Perhaps the words of Minister of Aeronautics, Brigadier General Otavio Moreira Lima are worth including here. He would state that “radar doesn’t have optical illusions”. Even blunter were the words of Air Force Major Ney Cerqueira, who would state that the “appearance and disappearance” of these strange objects was very much unexplained. And what’s more, the “technical instruments used for identification of these lights had problems in registering them”.

The Slow-Burning Beginnings Of A Night Of Strange Glowing Objects

Although the first radar confirmation of the upcoming strange activity of 19th May 1986 didn’t occur until 7 pm, the first visual sightings took place half an hour earlier at 6:30 pm. There, control tower staff at the Sao Jose dos Campos airport in Sao Paulo, witnessed “two intense lights” apparently in line with the runway. They would estimate them to be around ten miles away. When radar confirmation came from the San Jose airport tower, there were three “targets” – none of which should have been there.

An hour later, the Integrated Center of Defense and the Control of the Air Traffic (CINDACTA) would announce it had eight unknown targets on its screens. Thirty minutes later, another employee from the Sao Jose airport witnessed an object with “defined edges and (a) red-orange color”.  The witness would view the object through binoculars, watching it approach and then backing away again.

By 9 pm came the first visual confirmation from the air when the pilot of a jet owned by the oil company, Xingu, confirmed he could see several “luminous objects”. After attempting to follow one of them, he would request permission to land at Sao Paulo airport which was granted. Ten minutes later he would attempt to bring his plane down on the runway. As he did so, one of the luminous crafts set out in his direction, moving away again before contact, but delaying the landing, nonetheless. The control tower would confirm two targets on their radar screen. One was the Xingu jet. And the other, the mysterious glowing object.

With the Xingu jet circling the airport and the unknown craft remaining on the radar screen for several minutes before disappearing, at 9:20 pm, a decision was made to inform Air Defense Command.

The Multiple Landing Attempts Of Alcir Pereira

Five minutes after the high-ranking decision makers of the Brazilian military and more specifically its air force was made aware of the situation, the Xingu jet would make a second attempt to land at Sao Paulo airport. However, as it did so, another object appeared close by. The pilot, Commander Alcir Pereira abandoned his landing and instead chose to follow the object once again.

Pereira would ultimately break off his pursuit and attempt to bring his plane into land a third time. He was currently at around 10,000 feet and about to descend when the Air Control Centre announced the appearance of three new objects in the jet’s vicinity. At the same time, Pereira confirmed the sightings, stating he had visual contact with “three luminous objects”. They were lower than his plane and flying over Petrobras refineries. They appeared to be heading towards Serra do Mar. Now concerned about the possibility of fuel, or lack thereof, he would finally manage to land the Xingu jet at Sao Paulo on his fourth attempt shortly before 9:40 pm.

At around the same time, as he was bringing his plane to a stop on the runway, more visual sightings were coming. All of a “solid round object”. Ten minutes later at 9:50 pm, according to the official report, a “luminous yellow object surrounded by smaller lights” was visible in the skies above Sau Paulo airport.

With the incident rolling past its third hour and with the control towers and the Air Defense Command none the wiser as to what these strange objects were, the scrambling of military jets increasingly became a likely option.

1986 Brazil UFO Picture

Picture from 19th May 1986, Brazil

Scrambling Of Military Jets!

It was 10:23 pm, almost four hours after the first visual sighting when the first of several F-5E jets, piloted by Kleber Caldas Marinho, left the runway of Santa Cruz Air Force Base. Just over twenty minutes later at 10:45 pm a second F-5E jet, this time piloted by Brisola Jordao, left the Santa Cruz base. At the same time, at Anapolis Air Force Base in Goias State, a Mirage F-103 jet, piloted by Captain Viriato, would leave the runway. The Mirage jet fighter carried with it Sidewinder and Matra missiles.

By 10:55 pm, only ten minutes after the Mirage had left, radar operators at Anapolis Air Force Base noticed several strange objects on their radar screens. At the same time, the on-board radar of Viriato’s Mirage jet also detected an anomaly. He couldn’t, however, physically see anything. Instead, he began to follow the object using the radar for his eyes while traveling at 850 miles per hour. By the time he approached and should have been able to see it, the object vanished from the radar screens. Five minutes later, a second Mirage jet also left the base at Anapolis.

At 11;15 pm, Kleber in his F-5E would report a visual sighting of a “ball of light”. He would begin to pursue the strange craft. He would later state:

I had one visual contact and one contact with my aircraft radar of something that looked like a luminous point, which was 12 miles in front of me, a distance confirmed by ground radar. The object was moving from left to right and then began to climb!

Kleber would follow the aircraft for several minutes out towards the Atlantic Ocean. Two minutes later, a third Mirage jet would leave Anapolis Air Force Base.

Multiple Witness Statements!

The jets would remain in the skies until 1 am before returning to their respective bases. All pilots involved had bizarre and intriguing accounts to tell. Perhaps one of the most fascinating was that of Brisola Jordao, who after seeing the objects on his jet’s on-board radar was informed by the control tower that several of the strange crafts “were closing in”. However, even at ten miles he was unable to see them. Then, suddenly, thirteen of the objects appeared behind his plane “six on one side and seven on the other”.

Jordao would maintain his altitude and flight direction for several minutes. The objects would eventually disappear as quickly and as mysteriously as they had arrived.

Despite the overwhelming number of witnesses, many of whom were experienced and respected Brazilian Air Force pilots, as well confirmation of another radar sighting of multiple objects only two days later, the case would attract many “official” skeptics. The official line was the pilots – and the multiple residents of south Brazil – witnessed a meteorological event. They would claim that when comets enter the atmosphere of the planet, they “heat up and emit light”. This would explain the sudden sightings, both visually, and on radar. It would also explain why, the official report would insist, the objects would appear to simply vanish.

As you might expect, those involved, the traffic controllers and the pilots, if only privately, didn’t accept the official story. Three decades later, many of them would begin to speak publicly of the bizarre incident.

1986 Brazil UFO Newspaper

Local newspaper report of the incident, 1986

Thirty Years Later – Still Missing Answers!

In 2016, thirty years after that strange night in May 1986, further information regarding the case would find its way into the public arena. Some, the result of successful Freedom of Information requests. And some, from the mouths of some of the pilots and radar operators involved, who now free of their employers hold over them, could speak of the incident without fear of reprisal.

For example, the first person to spot the bright lights thirty minutes before the first radar sightings was flight controller Sergio Mota de Silva. It was he who informed the pilot of the Xingu airplane to both warn him of the strange lights and to request if he could see them also. The pilot of the Xingu plane, Alcir Pereira would state decades later:

I’ve been a pilot for many years and I’ve never seen anything like it. It was too agile, impossible that there was a human inside it. I do not know if it was disc, but it was a very strong glow!

Mota, who was 59-years-old at the time of speaking publicly of the incident in 2016 would claim that he, like others at the airport, received strict instructions that they were not to give interviews or elaborate on the official findings of the incident. Privately, employees and pilots were told the sightings were part of an “electronic war”, insinuating that they were terrestrial developments or experimental crafts. However, Mota would state that these are to confuse aircraft systems only, and as such were not visible to humans. While Mota certainly doesn’t subscribe to the official version of events, he is not certain that it was “aliens” that were behind the encounter that evening. At least until one “introduces himself” to him, that is.

The 1982 Flight 169 Incident

Interestingly or not, a very similar incident occurred in Brazil just over four years earlier. In the early hours of 8th February 1982, commercial Boeing 727 Flight 169 made its way through dark but clear skies over the small town of Petrolina. There, 33 minutes into their flight, the pilot, Commander Gerson Marciel de Britto witnessed a strange glowing light on his left side heading towards their position. Once it was a short distance away it would fly alongside them in unison. At this stage, the previously unaware co-pilot also saw this strange luminous orb.

Britto would contact air traffic control – which was the Integrated Center of Defense and the Control of the Air Traffic (CINDACTA). He would request information on any other aircraft in his vicinity. The reply was that no other aircraft should be anywhere near his position.

Thinking it might be a small, private plane, Britto would turn off the signal and fuselage lighting. He was hoping this would give him a clearer look at the craft. As he did so, both he and the co-pilot could see a central white-blue glow which appeared to be surrounded by a secondary glow which constantly changed from yellow to orange. Furthermore, the maneuvers of the craft as well as how it appeared to move with the air extinguished any notions in Britto’s mind that it was a conventional one.

Just to be certain his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him Britto made sure he could identify both Venus and the Moon in the clear, night sky. Both were where they should be. And neither was the object that continued to fly alongside their plane.

1986 Brazil UFO

Does this picture show a UFO over Brazil?

A Sudden Bright Flash Of Blue Light At 30,000 Feet!

CINDACTA claimed no confirmation of the anomaly on their radar systems. Other planes listening to the exchanges, however, would offer their own sightings of the object. An Aerolines Argentinas and the Transbrasil TR177 both corroborated Flight 169’s sighting.

By now he could sense he would likely receive little assistance from the control tower. Britto made the decision to try to communicate with the mysterious glowing craft. He began to flash the landing lights hoping to elicit a response. However, the craft would continue to follow them as it had for the last few minutes. Either unaware or unconcerned with Britto’s attempts at communication.

The two aircraft continued to tear through the night skies at an altitude of just over 30,000 feet. After several minutes of Britto’s attempts at communication, with the region of Belo Horizonte below, CINDACTA confirmed radar sighting of this anomalous craft. Then, a bright blue light emanated from the object. This would penetrate the plane and left all in its glow under a bright blue wash. It also allowed the crew to see more detail of the strange craft. It appeared disc-like or saucer-shaped. And very much solid, although it “shone like a mercury street lamp”.

Realizing that not only could the crew, all of whom were now staring in awe at the craft outside, but the passengers would also be able to see events taking place outside the plane, Britto calmly announced the passengers the situation. Furthermore, not wanting to cause a panic, he suggested they move to the windows and see it for themselves. Many of them did. The glowing disc followed their craft for the remainder of its journey to Rio de Janeiro.

Investigation Finds No Reason Not To Accept The Account!

Perhaps because of the number of passengers who witnessed the incident, the media would leap on the case. Several of the passengers would corroborate Britto’s version of events entirely. And most of the others, including several minor celebrities of their day, saw at least part of the incident. Interestingly, and perhaps an insight into the mindset of the Catholic Church particularly at the time, the only passengers who would claim to “know nothing of these things” were a group of priests and bishops. They were on their way the General Assembly of the National Confederation of the Bishops of Brazil.

Furthermore, VASP, the company who owned the plane involved would conduct their own separate investigation. This would result in them issuing public statements saying they could find no reason to not accept Britto’s account. As well as the many other witnesses’ statements. Essentially, according to their investigation, the encounter was genuine.

However, after several days when things had settled a little more, higher-ranking officials in the Brazilian aviation fields began to publicly doubt the sighting. And Britto’s statements. It remains an unsolved case. But only in terms of what the obviously solid object was that journeyed with them for close to an hour.

Solid Crafts That Reflect Intelligence!

Whether the two incidents share a connection regarding the intelligence being behind both of them is open to debate. However, it would certainly seem that something, capable of aerial maneuvers that are beyond the limit and capability of even what we have today took a particular interest in the terrestrial aircraft flying in the skies over the eastern coastline of Brazil. As we have speculated before, perhaps the Atlantic Ocean is of importance. And the many rumors and conspiracies of underwater alien bases that reside there. Might they prove to be the reason for the increased number of sightings in this region of the world?

Or might the most mysterious icy terrain of Antarctica, relatively speaking, near to the South American continent be a reason for these persistent UFO encounters, not only in Brazil, but across South America in general? It is certainly another location on Earth that is awash with conspiracy and rumor, many of which are UFO related.

Whatever it may or may not prove to be, we have two cases in the same location. Separated by barely four years. Where a strange craft has seemingly intentionally “toyed” with commercial and military aircraft. All while conducting some kind of secret surveillance mission. As the official report would eventually conclude “the phenomena were solid and reflect in a certain way, intelligence”. Particularly, it would finish, their “ability to follow and keep distances from observers”.

1986 Night Of UFOs Brazil

The “Astonishing” Claims Of Socrates Monteiro

Perhaps when thinking of the wider UFO activity and how these two cases might fit into that picture it is worth examining briefly an interview with a Brazilian UFO magazine conducted with one-time Brazilian Air Force Minister, Socrates Monteiro, who would serve in the position from 1990 to 1992 but has a long and distinguished career in the Brazilian Air Force. Although he is now retired, he still “stays close” to the Air Force through various ties and projects.

Some of the revelations in the interview were both bizarre and fascinating. For example, he would claim to have had access to top-secret information. Details regarding “the interaction of other cosmic species in our country”. He would also state that radar sightings of strange targets, both of the military and CINDACTA, were a regular occurrence. Although the vast majority of sightings remained within the respective organizations’ walls. Some cases were even subject to private investigation by the Brazilian Air Force.

Perhaps one of the most chilling encounters he would speak about is of a “disc-type object of great proportions”. This would fly over a radar station in Gama. The incident would cause such panic in security at the facility that they opened fire on the strange craft. He would issue urgent orders for them to cease firing immediately. He would state “They have a technology far more advanced than ours. And we don’t know how they would react to our action”.

It is a point perhaps worth pondering once again.

Clear We Are Being Visited By Other Cosmic Species

Then, the conversation turned to the evening of 19th May 1986. He would state that the pilots would repeatedly try to get close to the strange “electronic abnormalities”. But after only a brief second, they would move away at “extremely high speed”. Furthermore, the whole incident was recorded on the video tapes of the radar facilities. Where those tapes might be now, though, he wasn’t sure. It is most likely, they were erased and taped over as per standard use every 30 days.

As the interview progressed, he would reveal even more startling information. Once again touching on the incident in Gama and how “their reaction could be tragic for us”. He then hinted that such a reaction was responsible for the Mantell incident. Monteiro would claim that their pilots (instead) approached these crafts “with caution”. He would state that it is a relatively open secret behind the closed doors of high-ranking military officers and officials. That we are “being visited by other cosmic species”.

His comments, particularly when viewed alongside several other similarly high-ranking government and military officials who have said similar things in recent years, has led some researchers to suggest that the country is moving, albeit slowly, towards some kind of disclosure of information. That is most likely a little bit of a reach. Still, Monteiro’s close ties to the Brazilian Air Force suggests they are happy for him to speak of such incidents. Even if they choose to deny them in an official capacity.

Check out the short video below. It goes over the basics of the infamous 1986 incident once more. The “Night of UFOs”, which for researchers and investigators, is a case still very much open.

About Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for anything interesting, from UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies and unsolved mysteries. He also has a passion for film, music, and the NFL. Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows discussing these topics.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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1 Comment

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  • D J says:

    Hi Marcus,
    Both you and I know the video tapes were not
    Erased regarding the May 19th encounters over Brazil. The time line between the actual
    Events and the disclaimers group show a real truth in what is being manipulated.
    Enjoyed your thoughts

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