Other Missile Incidents before and after Flight 800

Michael Hull

Prior to the downing of TWA 800 in July 1996 a missile was fired at aircraft 
in the vicinity of Long Island in November 1995. Subsequent to the downing 
of TWA 800 a missile was fired at aircraft off Long Island in November 
1996 in a carbon copy incident of the TWA 800 incident. TWA 884 (New York to 
Tel Aviv) was diverted around the problem area. Three weeks prior to TWA 
800's destruction, TWA 884 had another near miss. 

The FBI suggested that the November 1996 event was a meteor observation 
despite the fact that the object climbed out of Long Island Sound and passed 
through the witnessing aircraft's altitude. I have gathered the transcripts 
and audio files of the FAA controller tapes for these three incidents 
obtained by Freedom of Information Act filings. In March 1997 at least three 
aircraft departing out of Newark and LaGuardia observed a missile. The 
government claimed that the pilots in this incident had witnessed a missile 
test off the coast of Florida, which begs the question of why the launch was 
seen by pilots only in the NY metropolitan area. On August 9, 1997 Swissair 
127 reported a near miss with a "rocket" over Long Island.

In November 1995, prior to the TWA 800 downing, a strange very bright, green 
object passed two commercial aircraft in the vicinity of Long Island. The 
following is the text of the radio communications between the FAA and two 
commercial aircraft in the vicinity of Long Island, New York on November 17, 
1995 at 22:20 hrs. EST 

LUFT: Uh, Boston, Lufthansa 405/Heavy.

FAA: Lufthansa 405, go ahead. 

LUFT: Uh, we just passed traffic on the left wing, uh, about 2,000 to 3,000 
feet above us. What traffic was it? 

FAA: Is this Lufthansa 405? 

LUFT: Affirmative, Lufthansa 405. We had opposite traffic on the left wing. 
Can you confirm this? 

FAA: Lufthansa 405, negative. I show no traffic in your area within, uh, 20 
or 30 miles. 

LUFT: It should be now on our tail, about 10 miles. We passed it just one 
minute ago, and it was looking strange. 

BRIT: Speed Bird 226 confirms that. It was just above us on our left-hand 
side about 3 minutes ago. 

FAA What altitude does it appear to be at, Lufthansa 405? 

LUFT: It was only 2 or 3 thousand feet above us. We are now passing (Flight) 
Level 260. That's confirmed, or not? Lufthansa. 

FAA: Lufthansa 405, roger. 

BRIT: Speed Bird 226, we confirm that. We had something go past us about two, 
well...about one to two thousand feet above on the left hand side. Uh, looked 
like a green trail on it, and a very bright light on the front of it. We 
assumed it was an opposite traffic. 

FAA: Speed Bird 226, roger that. 

LUFT: ((Garbled))..Lufthansa 405/Heavy. we are right now about 26 miles east 
of "Hotel Tango Oscar ((Hampton??))." And the Speed Bird is now ahead, or 
behind us ((or where))? 

FAA: Lufthansa 405, the Speed Bird is in your 12:00 o'clock, and about 30 
miles, 40 miles. 

LUFT: That was not our traffic. Lufthansa 405 Heavy. 

FAA: Lufthansa 405, roger. And the heading of the traffic, was it the same 
direction, or opposite direction? 

LUFT: Exactly opposite. Lufthansa 405/Heavy. 

FAA: Roger. Did it pass off your right side? 

LUFT: Uh, left side. 

FAA: Roger. 

BRIT: Yea, Speed Bird 226 confirms that. We saw the same thing. It certainly 
looked like an aircraft initially, but it may not have been one. 

LUFT: ((We can't tell then??)) It was looking very strange, with a long, uh, 
light, in the tail. 

BRIT: Yea, a big bright white light on the front, and a greenish tail coming 
out the back. 

LUFT: Can you confirm this, Lufthansa 405/Heavy. 

FAA: OK, Lufthansa 405, Speed Bird 226. Thanks, we'll look into it. ??? 
((Garbled transmissions)) 

FAA: Speed Bird 226, did it go over...did it go overhead. The traffic go 
overhead you, or was it below you? 

BRIT: It was overhead and off to the left, much the same as ((garbled)). It 
actually looked about...opposite traffic, 2000 feet above. That's what it 
initially looked like. But then it did have a very strong trail to it...a 
vapor trail, which looked more like smoke. And the light on the front was 
very, very bright, and as it went past us, it seemed to ((just?)) disappear 
and ((went)) 5 miles behind us. 

FAA: Speed Bird, 226, roger. Were you level at 29 at that time? 

BRIT: Yea, affirmative. 

FAA: Roger. Lufthansa 405, how far off to your side did that pass, the 
traffic pass? 

LUFT: It was pretty close, and like Speed Bird said, it looked like 
((four??)) or three thousand feet above on the left wing, just one mile and, 
uh, on opposite track... It doesn't have, ...it didn't have any uh, 
lights...((normal)) lights, beacon lights, or red or green lights. Only a 
white light in the front, and with a long green light. It looked like a 

FAA: Lufthansa 405, roger that. Like I said, we had nothing flying in the 
area. You are just north of a military operating area, but the traffic 
shouldn't have varied out that far out,...out of the area. 

LUFT: Must have been a military. Lufthansa 405/Heavy. 

FAA: Roger. Giant Killer, ((garbled)) 59. 

GK: Giant Killer. FAA: Hey, you got anything flying out in the area? 

GK: Negative, ((105 is??)) turned over 0300. 

FAA: Well, I just received a couple of UFO reports. 

GK: Oh, is that right? 

FAA? Yea, I had a couple of guys that reported lights, just moved all over 
their heads. I have no traffic whatsoever in the area. They said it passed 
within a mile of them, like at 2-3 thousand feet above them, opposite 
direction. ((Garbled)) green trail out the back. 

GK: It could have been a meteor, or something. 

FAA: ((Garbled--Yea, it could have been that.....it passed within a mile of 

GK: Who reported that? 

FAA: Well, I got Speed Bird and Lufthansa. 

GK: No, we don't have any aircraft out there. 


Three weeks to the day before TWA 800 was shot down, at the same time in the 
evening, in approximately the same location as the TWA 800 downing, and 
within hours of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the Coast Guard 
received a report of "three red flares" launched 25 miles south of Shinnicock 
Inlet. An air and surface search was carried out which found nothing out of 
ordinary. TWA Flight 848 (New York to Rome) blocked out at exactly 10:00 pm 
on June 26, 1996 and assuming normal handling, Flight 848 would have passed 
about 11 NM South of Shinnecock Inlet at 10:29 p.m. EDT. TWA Flight 884 (New 
York to Tel Aviv) was scheduled to depart before FL 848 but blocked out late 
at 10:19 p.m. EDT. We shall hear from another Flight 884 later but for the 
moment let's note that on June 25, 1996 nineteen Americans were killed by a 
truck bomb at the Khobar Towers in the Dhahran military base in Saudi Arabia. 
Within two days suspicions focused on Saudi dissidents funded by Iran.

June 27, 1996 International News The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic Edition) Issue 415 
Suspicion for the bombing outside Dhahran was pointing towards internal 
enemies of the Saudi monarchy. 

Was TWA 800 brought down by a missile? A pilot spoke about a light 
coming right at him and then it blew.

Eastwind Flight 507 8:31:50: We just saw an explosion out here. 

Eastwind Flight 507 8:32:01: Ah, we just saw an explosion up ahead of us 
... It just went down -- in the water. 

Virgin Atlantic Flight 009 8:32:25: I can confirm that. ... It looked like 
an explosion out there about five miles away, six miles away. 

Controller: ..507 Thanks for that report. New York on 113.05. Good day sir. 

Eastwind 507 8:37:05: Anything we can do for you before we go. 

Controller 8:37:11: Well I just want to confirm that you saw the splash in 
the water approximately 20 south west of Hampton. Is that right? 

Eastwind 507 8:37:20: Ah yes sir it blew up in the air and then we saw two 
fireballs go down to the water and a big smoke plume coming up from it. Also 
there seemed to be a light - I thought it was a landing light - coming right 
at us at about 15,000 feet and I put my landing light as soon as I saw him 
and then it blew. 

Controller 8:37:40: Roger that sir. That was a 747 out there - you had a 
visual on that. Anything else in the area when it happened? 
Eastwind 507 8:37:47: I didn't see anything - seemed to be - I thought he 
had a landing light on - maybe it was a fire - I dunno. 

In November 1996, subsequent to the TWA 800 downing, a missile was again 
fired at commercial aircraft in the vicinity of Long Island. On November 
16, 1996 Pakistan International Airlines Flight 712 left Kennedy at 9:25pm, 
bound for Frankfurt. The pilot, W. Shah, said his co-pilot saw an orange 
light coming from the left hand side to the right hand side of the airplane. 
The object was 3 - 4 miles in front of the aircraft and above it. Boston 
apparently confirmed 'two unidentified blips' on radar. The tapes were turned 
over to the FBI and NTSB since the object(s) rose directly out of Long Island 
Sound and ascended almost vertically. Radio 5 in the U.K. reported that the 
object which crossed the Pakistani aircraft had exploded. On a McNeill - 
Lehrer newshour, when asked about the direction of the object, Mr. Kallstrom 
admitted that it was "ascending".) TWA Flight 884 was following close behind 
the Pakistani flight. Kallstrom told Lehrer on the PBS Newshour of November 
17, 1996 that it was probably a meteorite. 

Lehrer: Now, the latest new public report, was that of a Pakistan airlines 
pilot, who said he saw, quote: "something with lights in the sky" near where 
this TWA plane went down that night. Have you determined what that might have 

Kallstrom: We think it was a meteorite shower, Jim, we're not absolutely 
sure. We've interviewed the pilot. He's a highly experienced pilot. Appears 
to be very competent. Has a good memory of what he saw. We have no doubt that 
he saw what he described; an object he thought ascending from his left to his 
right. We're in the process of looking at radar tapes and other things to 
tell us if we can know for sure there was some other event. But there were 
reports that evening of meteorite showers. They were reported widely 
throughout Suffolk County. 

Lehrer: And the National Weather Service confirmed it, did they not? 

Kallstrom: More than likely, Jim, that's what it is, but we're still looking 
in to it. 

The following is the text of the radio communications between the FAA, 
Pakistan Flight PIA 712, TWA 884 and 1504 FLL in the vicinity of Long Island, 
New York on November 16, 1996 obtained through the filing of a FOIA request 
to the FAA. 

PIA: Boston Pakistan 712 

FAA: Pakistan 712 go ahead 

PIA: Do you have any fireworks going on in this area where we are. We just 
saw a kind of a large something just streak ahead and it went beyond our 

FAA: Ah ... no .. nothing that caused other than that. You said it was some 
large streak? 

PIA: It came up diagonally from left to right and it crossed our altitude 
right in front of us. 

FAA: OK thanks. 

1504 FLL: Boston Center 1504 

FAA: 1504 Go ahead 

1504 FLL: Yea - where about is that aircraft that reported that streak? 

FAA: Ah .. He's about 20 miles south of Hampton 

1504 FLL: 1504 

TWA 884: Boston Center TWA 884 heavy just out of four thousand for one one 

FAA: TWA Flight 884 Boston Center Climb and maintain flight level 190 

TWA 884: Flight level 190 TWA 884 heavy 

FAA: Pakistan 712 Boston 

PIA 712: Boston 712 

FAA: Just to confirm .. you saw like something that was like a white streak 
coming from below and ending up on top of you .. I'm not sure exactly what 
you saw. Could you classify maybe what you saw? 

PIA 712: It was a streak of light like some kind of a large firecracker 
rocket or something like that coming from .... the coast side - left to right 
..... climbing beyond our altitude. At that time we were about 16,000 feet. 

FAA: OK. Thanks very much. 

FAA: Kennedy Departure (unclear) 

Kennedy Departure: Kennedy 

FAA: I'm going to put TWA on a 70 heading. Is that OK? 884 

Kennedy Departure: Ya I'll shove over 

FAA: Thanks 

FAA: TWA 884 Fly heading 070 

TWA 884: 070 TWA 884 heavy 

TWA 884: Boston TWA 884. Where was that fireworks area? 

FAA: 884 I'm kinda ... I'm going to vector you around the area. It's about 
20 miles .... actually 30 miles south of Hampton. 

TWA 884: OK and I understand some type of rocket? 

FAA: Yea ... we had a Pakistan just reported ... looked like a firecracker 
that was passing from left to right about 30 miles south of Hampton. 

TWA 884: 884 heavy thank you. 

TWA 884: Firecrackers don't go past 16,000 

FAA: I hear ya! 

Mr Kallstrom may have heard the expression "meteoric rise" ..... but actually 
they don't! 

On December 12, 1996, subsequent to the TWA 800 downing, a very bright, 
green object streaked past a Saudi Arabian aircraft while on approach to 
Kennedy airport 15 miles south west of East Hampton at about 12,000 feet. The 
crew filed an incident report when they arrived at Washington, their final 
destination. . 

Saudi Arabian 035: Boston Center 035 

Boston Controller: Saudi 035 go ahead 

Saudi Arabian 035: Ah yes, we just observed what appeared to be a green flare 
at our approximately eleven o'clock position and maybe five miles distance 

Boston Controller: Saudi 035 roger 

Boston Controller: It's Saudi (garbled) 

Other Controller: (garbled) 

Boston Controller: I normally don't know what to do with reports like this 
.... but he's going to land at Kennedy 

Other Controller: (garbled) 

Boston Controller: About a minute ago he said he saw what appeared to be a 
green flare at eleven o'clock and five miles so .. 

Other Controller: That puts it like over Spadaro airport (Note: Spadaro is 
located halfway between Brookhaven and Gabreski and about 5 miles south of 
Peconic near Mastic Beach on Long Island. The Calverton VOR is located at 

Boston Controller: Hmmm. Yea, maybe about 8 miles south of that radar 
antenna - it's probably about nine o'clock and six miles from where he is 
now. So he said it appeared to be a green flare? 

Other Controller: How high? You said all the way up to twelve thousand? 

Boston Controller: Yea, let me check with him on that. 

Other Controller: Well do you want to check Kennedy approach? 

Boston Controller: Saudi 035 - that appeared to be at your altitude or above 
or below? 

Saudi Arabian 035: It appeared to be above our altitude - bright green - 
appeared to be a flare - could have been a meteorite but extremely bright. 

Boston Controller: Saudi 035 roger 

Other Controller: (garbled) 

Boston Controller: Yea he said it appeared to be above his altitude - it 
might have been a meteorite but he didn't know. He said "very bright". 

Other Controller: OK, I'll look at it. The guy in charge here knows too. 

Boston Controller: Saudi 035 contact Kennedy approach 125.7. Good day. 

Saudi Arabian 035: 125.7 Good evening. 

Saudi Arabian 035: Kennedy, Saudi 035 heavy. 

NY Controller: Say again. 

Saudi Arabian 035: Saudi 035 - we picked up a target about 6 miles to our 9 
o'clock position. Is that confirmed? 

NY Controller: Ah, you said traffic? 

Saudi Arabian 035: Unintelligible. 

NY Controller: No. There is nothing within 20 miles of you. 

On March 1997, subsequent to the TWA 800 downing, a missile was observed by 
Northwest Airlines 775, US Air 1937, Delta 2517 and Northwest Airlines 361. 
Northwest Airlines Flight 775 was travelling from Newark to Minneapolis and 
Flight 361 from Laguardia to Minneapolis. Both flights departed at 6:55 PM 
and reported the missile about 15 Minutes into their flights. 

NWA 775: Air Center it looks like we see ah - this is Northwest 775 - on a 
southerly heading - a missile or something. Do you know anything about that? 
Controller: Northwest 775 - you see a what? 

NWA 775: It appears to be a missile on the south of our course here - 
straight south of us - off our left - it's climbing and heading south. 

Controller: Due south of your position, heading south? 

NWA 775: Yea, and climbing rapidly. 

Controller: Going through about what altitude now? 

NWA 775: Oh man, it's like over 30,000 and on its way up. It was a rocket or 
a missile and I don't know - it's out of sight now. 

Controller: You think it was a rocket or a missile? 

NWA 775: Affirmative. It was extremely bright. Anybody else in the area I'm 
sure would have seen it. 

Controller: Roger 

Another Pilot: Don't scare us! 

Controller: Say again. 

Other Pilot: Don't scare us .... unintelligible 

Controller: Definitely a missile of some sort. 
Multiple conversations somewhat garbled. 

Controller: 843 west of ?? reported spotting a missile 10 south of his 
position heading south .... 

Other Controller: They're all talking about it. 

USA 1937: Holy ?Mary - (unintelligible) a ?240 heading - Did you see that? 

Controller: What did we miss? 

USA 1937: A rocket going up to the southeast of our ?180 

Controller: From who? 

USA 1937: US Air 1937 

Another pilot: It sure is. 

Controller: How far away do you think? 

USA 1937: ?God only knows. 

Controller: Little Aberdeen is out there that' why I'm asking. It's about 
ninety miles away from you so it could be there they do that rocket testing. 

USA 1937: Yeah it was about 170 degrees from us and I don't know about how far. 
Controller: Yeah that would be about right. 

USA 1937: Yeah it was off our left wing tip. 

Another pilot: Where did that rocket launch from? 

Controller: I didn't know anything about it. The only thing I'm guessing from 
where the US Air told me was the direction was correct for Aberdeen proving 

Other pilot: Unintelligible... Commuter 533 ... 180 heading and about six 
miles from my position. It was definitely a rocket. 

Controller: Yea that would be a little bit to the west of Aberdeen but I 
guess it's hard to be exact. 

Other pilot: Yea I just looked at it and saw a plume coming out of it and 
then it disappeared but the plume is still there. 

Delta 2517: Center, Delta 2517. 

Controller: Go ahead. 

Delta 2517: You guys do you have any missile launches or anything tonight? 

Controller: I believe there is one .... I don't know what the status is. 

Delta 2517: Well it just went up - ... we just lost .. .... pretty awesome off the left side. 

Controller: OK - you could see it. ..... Unintelligible .... We are .... all the traffic for it. 
Delta 2517: Where did that thing come from? 

Controller: I don't know. 

Delta 2517: I was sitting here thinking the comet looks good tonight. Man ... 

Can anyone explain how a missile test off the coast of Florida was observed 
by only these aircraft flying in the NY metropolitan area? 

April 10, 1997 CNN
The Federal Aviation Administration now believes that a missile sighted by 
several commercial airline pilots flying over the northeastern United States 
on March 17 was actually part of a Navy test off the coast of Florida. 

And finally on August 9, 1997, Swissair Flight 127 reported a near miss with 
a "rocket" over Long Island. 

March 5, 1999 www.cbcnews.com Ottawa (CP) 
A Swissair pilot reported his 747 jet was nearly hit by an unidentified 
flying object, possibly a missile, near the area off New York where a TWA 
airplane crashed in 1996, The Canadian Press has learned. Swissair Flight 127 
was cruising at 23,000 feet on Aug. 9, 1997, when the pilot interrupted an 
address to passengers to report the near miss by a round white object, says a 
report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. "Sir, I don't know 
what it was, but it just flew like a couple of hundred feet above us," he 
radioed Boston air traffic control. "I don't know if it was a rocket or 
whatever, but incredibly fast, opposite direction." "In the opposite 
direction?" asked the controller. "Yes sir, and the time was 2107 (Greenwich 
mean time). It was too fast to be an airplane." The controller asked another 
aircraft if its crew saw anything like a missile in the area. The reply was 
negative. He then asked the Swissair pilot again how far above the plane it 
was. "It was right over us, right above, opposite direction, and, and I don't 
know, two, three, four hundred feet above. All that I can tell, 127, is that 
(we) saw a light object, it was white, and very fast." Investigators 
interviewed the captain and first officer on Aug. 10, 1997. The flight 
engineer hadn't seen the object and was not interviewed. The report, filed 
under NYC97SA193, said the flight was opposite John F. Kennedy Airport at 
5:07 p.m. Eastern time - near the area where TWA Flight 800 went down July 
17, 1996..... The transportation safety board report said the Swissair 
captain saw the cylindrical object for less than a second. He did not see any 
wings and was not sure it was an aircraft. "He had never been so close to 
other traffic before," said the report. "It passed over the cockpit, slightly 
right of centerline. If it had been any lower, it would have hit the 
aircraft. "As the object passed by, there was no noise, no wake turbulence, 
and no disruption or anomalies with any of the flight or engine instruments." 
The plane was flying in clear weather to Boston from Philadelphia at the 
time. The sun was at the pilot,s back. He apparently did not have time to 
take evasive action. "There was no exhaust or smoke, no fire, and he could 
not accurately discern its size. The captain reported his total time as 
15,000-plus flight hours. He had never seen a missile in flight." The first 
officer, whose flight time totalled 7,500 hours, said he was bent over to 
adjust the volume on his headset when he looked up and saw the object pass 
overhead "very quickly." "It was close enough that he ducked his head because 
he thought it would hit them. . . . He thought it passed about 100 to 200 
feet above the airplane and between the right side of the fuselage and the 
No. 3 engine." The first officer said no markings were visible and the object 
appeared to be the size of a thumbnail held at arm's length. He said he had 
previously encountered a weather balloon over Italy, and the object did not 
look like the balloon. He had witnessed missile launches from the ground 
previously, the report said. The report said the nearest weather balloons are 
launched from Upton, N.Y., 43 nautical miles northeast of JFK twice daily, at 
7 p.m. and 3 a.m. Eastern time and usually take 25 to 28 minutes to reach 
23,000 feet. Balloons are light tan or brownish, or black and red, said the 
report, adding the wind was blowing from the north, almost at right angles to 
the aircraft. Investigators also checked radar data and plotted the plane's 
flight path. "There was no evidence of an opposite direction target, either 
beacon or non-beacon," said the report. 

SWR 127: Center - Swissair 127 

Controller -1: Swissair 127 - go ahead. 

SWR 127: Yes sir. I don't know what it was but it just overflew like .. like 
a couple of hundred feet above us .. I don't know if it was a rocket or 
whatever but incredibly fast in the opposite direction. 

Controller -1: In the opposite direction? 

SWR 127: Yes sir. And the time was 2107. It was too fast to be an airplane. 

Controller -1: OK. Thank you. 

Controller-1: US Air 986 - Did you see anything like a missile in your area - 
perhaps off to your right? 

US Air: I'll take a good look but if it's goin' that fast I probably won't 
get a chance. We just saw Swissair go by .. 

Controller-1: OK. Thanks 

SWR 127: Swissair 127. We had no TCAS (collision avoidance) warning. It was 
way too fast I guess. 

Controller -1: Swissair 127 - Thank you. 

Controller -1: Swissair 127 - How far above you was it? 

SWR 127: It was right over us - right above .. opposite direction ... and 
... I don't know two, three, four hundred feet above us. 

Controller-1: OK. Thank you 

SWR 127: All I can say, 127, is that the three of us saw a white object - it 
was white and very fast. 

Controller -1: Swissair 127 - Thank you. 

Controller -1: Northwest 550. Did you see anything similar to a missile or a 
UFO in your vicinity - maybe about three minutes ago? 

NW 550: We heard that report but we haven't seen anything - Northwest 550. 

Controller -1: USAir 8900 you didn't see anything either? 

USAir: We saw nothing ... 

Controller -1: Hey Chris. Swissair 127... he had a UFO or a rocket or 
something almost hit him in my airspace. 

Controller -2: A UFO or a rocket almost hit the Swissair 127??? 

Controller -1: Yea, it went right above him - two or three hundred feet he 
says. Some kind of white object. They're checking into it here but if he says 
anything to you .... just to let you know. 

Controller -2: OK. Thank you.