The Flight JK297 UFO Incident – The Manises Case

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
February 7, 2020
Last Updated
October 12, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
7 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Cover-Ups

Largely regarded as Spain’s most famous UFO incident, the case of Flight JK-297 is also the first time that a commercial airliner had to make an emergency landing as a direct result of a UFO encounter. And with 109 passengers on board, it is easy to see why the incident captured the country, as well as, albeit on a smaller level, the rest of the world.

A picture of a plane coming into land with two superimposed UFOs in the background

Many commercial airline pilots witness UFOs

What is perhaps also interesting is the discreet efforts by the Spanish government and military to downplay the incident, offering a whole host of explanations that simply didn’t stand up to scrutiny. And what’s more, these were rejected universally by the witnesses involved. As well as by most of those who have investigated the case.

The incident is another that features witnesses who, for the most part, have expertise in aviation. They would surely, then, be best placed to identify such strange objects and lights than most other people. Despite this, and the less than satisfactory answers offered up by the Spanish authorities, the case remains unsolved, and the sighing unexplained.

As we shall see, there was a United States military presence in the region on the night in question. Might they have some involvement in these strange events? And if so, in what capacity? The journey of Flight JK-297 remains one of the most authentic and intriguing incidents on record.

“Something To The Left” Of The Plane!

On the evening of 11th November 1979, after a four-hour delay, [1] the TAE Super Caravelle airliner, Flight JK-297 left Salzburg in Austria on its way to Las Palmas. After refueling in Mallorca, the plane retook to the skies on its way to its final destination.

However, at around 11 pm, the crew would receive a transmission from the Barcelona control tower. They would request that the plane switch to their emergency frequency as they had detected an emergency signal in the area. Realizing something out of the ordinary must have occurred, the captain, Javier Lerdo de Tejada switched to the requested frequency. As he was doing so, the navigator of the plane claimed there looked to be “something to the left” of the plane.

Depiction of a cockpit view of two strange lights approaching the plane

Depiction of two strange lights in front of the plane

The rest of the crew turned their attention to their left-hand side. Immediately they noticed two strange red lights in the sky with them. And what’s more, they appeared to be heading in their direction.

Tejada would immediately request information from the control tower concerning the rapidly approaching objects. However, they would reply that they could see nothing at all on the radar systems apart from their plane.

With the tower unable to see the approaching glowing objects, Tejada made the decision to take the situation into his own hands.

An Emergency Landing Due To The Pursuit Of A UFO

After several moments, Tejada would change the course of the plane so as to avoid the oncoming lights. He would also begin to bring the plane down slightly. As he did so, he would radio the control tower at the nearby airport in Manises, Valencia and request permission to make an emergency landing.

All the while, the crew of Flight JK-297 maintained visual contact with the red lights. To their concern, the light also changed their direction and was continuing in pursuit of the aircraft. They would maintain this pursuit to around 50 kilometers of the Manises runway before suddenly changing direction again and breaking away from the chase.

A dark picture with an alleged UFO in the sky

Just what was witnessed by the crew of Flight JK-297?

At around 11:45 pm, over half an hour before the lights were first viewed, the plane touched down at its impromptu destination. However, while the two lights had indeed broken away from the chase, the plane’s radar immediately picked up three other anomalous signals.

What’s more, several other witnesses would report seeing the lights with their own eyes. These would include several airport employees who would light up the emergency runway thinking another plane was about to make an emergency landing.

Shortly after JK-Flight 297 came to a stop on the runway at Manises the passengers would leave the plane. Their journey would continue the following day. The Spanish Air Force, meanwhile, had become aware of the mysterious activity. And what’s more, they were preparing to take matters into their own hands.

A “Truncated-Cone Shaped” Object!

A little after midnight, from the Los Llanos Airbase, a Mirage F1 would head out into the night skies in search of these strange glowing crafts. Captain Fernando Camara was the pilot. And the flight he would undertake was certainly one he will likely not forget.

Although he would have to reach speeds of Mach 1.4, he would eventually announce visual confirmation of the lights. What’s more, the lights appeared to be part of a “truncated cone shape” which featured an extremely bright changing color. However, before Camara could get close enough to reveal any other details, the object disappeared out of sight proving much too fast for the Mirage F1.

A short time later, however, he would receive another radar signal. Once more, he would obtain visual confirmation of the same or similar object. This time, however, as he approached it, he would find that his flight systems were locked and out of control. Once more the strange object vanished into the distance. As it did so, the fighter jet’s systems returned to normal.

Camara would stay airborne for around 90 minutes before finally giving up the chase and heading back to base. The last confirmed location of the object was somewhere off the Spanish coast. It was heading toward the north coast of the African continent.

What the objects were, remains a mystery? As does what the purpose of their visit was. The account and ensuing investigation, however, would certainly throw up a mountain of possibilities.

It Wasn’t An Airplane!

The aftermath of the sighting was perhaps as interesting (and possibly telling) as the incident itself. Despite attempts to maintain a low profile over the strange events of 11th November 1979, including asking all airline staff not to speak about the incident publicly, it became increasingly harder to do so. So much so, that less than a year later in September 1980, the Spanish Parliament would publicly demand an investigation and explanation of the incident.

Journalist and eventual author of the book Incidente en Manises, J J Benitez would eventually speak with Captain Tejada. He would later claim that the pilot looked “very tired”, obviously a result of the bizarre incident.

A picture of a plane's wing with a superimposed UFO at the side

Why do UFOs appear to approach so many planes?

He would state to Benitez that he wasn’t sure what the object was. However, he knew it wasn’t a conventional plane. Tejada would draw attention to the fact that he had over 8,000 hours in the air. And consequently had a good knowledge of aircraft. The fact their plane captured the lights on the radar suggested to Tejada that it “should have been some kind of metal”.

Ultimately, the captain would state, “the first thing we take into account is flight safety”.

And while Tejada himself made the decision to land the plane, it was the Spanish Air Force who suspected something untoward was in the skies over Manises. So much so, they would keep Flight JK-297 grounded until the following day.

The second pilot on the flight, Ramon Zuazo, would corroborate Tejada’s version of events. He would claim “we saw some unknown flying object”.

A Distinct Feel Of A Cover-Up

The previously mentioned book by Benitez is a great dissection of the case. And also cuts through the attempts to downplay (at best) and cover-up (at worst) the incident. The writer would state that the whole of Valencia was akin to a media circus such was the interest.

What’s more, the journalist also quickly picked up how the local and national newspapers would put any news regarding the incident across in completely different ways. This would depend on whether the source of the information was from a civilian or a military person.

What perhaps made matters even worse, certainly in the immediate aftermath, was that many of the passengers began to publicly doubt the reason the plane landed. Their suspicions were that after the original delay another (or perhaps the same) fault came to light.

A picture of a plane flying into the distance with a superimposed UFO over the top

Was the sighting covered up by authorities?

This forced them to land and delay again. This would have surely put the company at risk of being liable for compensation. It was the suspicion so many of the passengers at the time that the UFO encounter was concocted. And was done so to avoid just such a scenario. Interestingly or not, not one of the passengers would come forward to claim they had witnessed anything strange.

The aviation authorities would quickly dismiss the passengers’ claims. They would ultimately praise the crew for their decisive action in such an unusual situation.

Explanations That Don’t Hold Water!

The full report on the bizarre activity over Manises was not declassified until the summer of 1994 – almost 15 years after the incident took place. And as we might expect, the findings and conclusions were dismissive from the outset.

For example, they would insist that Captain Tejada – a highly experienced airline pilot, remember – and the Air Force pilot, Camara, was “mistaken” concerning what they saw that evening. They would offer that perhaps it was the “stars and planets”. Or that he had seen “flashes from a distant chemical industry complex”. Both men, incidentally, reject entirely the claims of the official investigation.

A newspaper clipping detailing the incident

A newspaper clipping detailing the incident

Perhaps even more ludicrous are the claims to explain the interference experienced by Camara. It is perhaps interesting that this did not feature in the original report. There are suggestions, however, that the interference experienced by the Spanish Air Force pilot could be due to the United States Sixth Fleet. They were stationed off the Spanish coast utilizing “powerful electronic warfare equipment”. Once more, Camara would dismiss these assertions, claiming that the Sixth Fleet was much too far away. Furthermore, the jamming of his systems appeared to coincide with him preparing to launch a missile against the target.

We should perhaps recall that only three years earlier over the Canary Islands, another incident occurred that was witnessed by “thousands of people”. While there is no clear evidence to connect the incidents, it is certainly worth taking note of.

It might also be worth recalling an incident that occurred during the summer of 2006 in the skies of Tenerife. Several witnesses report seeing strange objects in the sky. There were also multiple reports of electronic equipment suddenly malfunctioning across the island.

Why The Concern For Something That Officially Doesn’t Exist?

That there was an attempt to cover over the events of the 11th November 1979 would appear to be relatively obvious to most. Although, as Benitez would state during his investigation, why would the Spanish authorities put so much effort into covering up an event that didn’t happen, involving craft that they claimed (at least officially) didn’t exist?

Perhaps we should also look a little closer at the claims of the United States Sixth Fleet causing the systems malfunction on the Mirage F1 jet? Might they have been the result of some kind of experimental electronic weapons? And, if so, was there a test on the unwitting Spanish Air Force pilot that November evening?

Perhaps we should even consider that the entire incident might have been some kind of military experiment? While it is a stretch of the imagination to think that even a clandestine military project would put the lives of over 100 air passengers at risk, it is not completely beyond possibility.

Whatever the truth of the situation proves to be, and if any further evidence surfaces or witnesses come forward, it would appear that the incident over Manises is one of the more credible UFO encounters on record. And one that still fascinates UFO researchers and enthusiasts around the world. And it looks set to do for some time to come.

Check out the video below. It is a UFO documentary from 1979 – the same year that the incident above occurred.  It certainly makes for interesting viewing.

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

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 including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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