17 YEARS after being told the documents relating to this event were destroyed — I finally found them!
by John Greenewald, Jr.
The following is a description of the event, as archived by Wikipedia, to give a bit of background the case:
Japan Air Lines flight 1628 was a UFO incident that occurred on November 17, 1986 involving a Japanese Boeing 747-200F cargo aircraft. The aircraft was en route from Paris to Narita International Airport, near Tokyo, with a cargo of Beaujolais wine. On the Reykjavík to Anchorage section of the flight, at 17:11 over eastern Alaska, the crew first witnessed two unidentified objects to their left. These abruptly rose from below and closed in to escort their aircraft. Each had two rectangular arrays of what appeared to be glowing nozzles or thrusters, though their bodies remained obscured by darkness. When closest, the aircraft’s cabin was lit up and the captain could feel their heat on his face. These two craft departed before a third, much larger disk-shaped object started trailing them. Anchorage Air Traffic Control obliged and requested an oncoming United Airlines flight to confirm the unidentified traffic, but when it and a military craft sighted JAL 1628 at about 17:51, no other craft could be distinguished. The sighting lasted 50 minutes.
I first filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents from the FAA back in 2001. Throughout the processing, they determined that I was a “commercial” requester, and they were going to charge me excessive fees for the search and duplication of responsive records, which totaled a little more than 100 pages. This was one of hundreds of examples of game play by our U.S. Government and Military agencies while processing my FOIA requests. When you file, you fit into one of three “fee categories.” The basic definition of categories is commercial, non-commercial, or all other.
What you pay for the request and records is dependent on which category you fit into. Commercial is the most expensive, wherein you pay for everything; search, document review and duplication. Their search fees can range from $45-$85 an hour, so if they want to send you a large bill, they certainly can! After a telephone conversation with Jean Mahoney on June 5, 2001, I was told I could withdraw my request and the documents would be sent to me free of charge. Although I do not have record of it since it was sent on a crashed computer which lost its data, I know I sent an email withdrawing my request in hopes to receive the package.
The package never came. Unfortunately, I received a letter in the mail that stated:
“On June 5, 2001, I contacted you to by telephone and discussed the fees for search, review, and duplication of documents pertaining to your May 9, 2001, request for UFO sightings in or around Alaska between 1981 and 1988. We have determined that you would be considered a commercial requester and would be charged for all search, review, and duplication of the records. I advised you that approximately 107 pages of documents could be made available to you outside of the FOlA without fees. These documents do not include radar tracking data and simulated radar data for JL1628. It was agreed that you would withdraw your request by either fax (907-271-2800) or E-Mail ([email protected]) and l would forward the 107 pages to you on receipt of your withdrawal.
As of this date, I have not received your withdrawal. If I have not heard from you by July 12, 2001, we will consider your request cancelled. In addition, all documents pertaining to this UFO citing [sic] will be destroyed in 30 days from the date of this letter.”
Due to irrelevant circumstances, I did not read this letter until the thirty day deadline had come and gone. Of course, I feared the worst; that the documents were destroyed. They were — each page according to them. In a later request in 2009, when I attempted to rekindle the search for records, I was told again, that the records were destroyed. I have told this story many times, as this is a really unfortunate state of events that resulted in the loss of valuable history.
Fast forward more than 17 years after my initial request. I believe I found the records. I discovered them in Record Group 237: Records of the Federal Aviation Administration, 1922 – 2008. Holding National Archives Identifier number 733667, and local identifier number 1203, I found more than 1,500 pages regarding the JAL1628 UFO encounter. I believe, but this is only a guess as of the writing of this article, that the FAA must have transferred a copy to the National Archives, but either did not keep a record of the transfer (which they should have) or they attempted to mislead me that the records had been destroyed, when in fact, they were not. Plus, this is more than 1,400 pages than the FAA’s original estimate, and more than 1,200 pages archived by NICAP’s original JAL1628 files.
I believe based on the folder they were discovered in, the time frame of the documents and the contents within, the below contain the records I sought in 2001, but was told they were destroyed.
In a bizarre twist to this story, I offer you the complete set of 1,569 pages, titled by their official file designation headers, listed in the order they were found.
Discovered 41 Documents Previously Thought Destroyed
The following records were scanned at a very high resolution size for clarity.
Statement of course for records (NTIS) and Content of Package [8 Pages, 5.8MB]
Klass and Haines inquires and responses [40 Pages, 35.4MB]
Written Statement by Capt. Terauchi [In Japanese] [18 Pages, 17.2MB]
Transcript: Interview with Capt. Terauchi by Dick Gordon, 1/2/87 [19 Pages, 11MB]
Transcript of interview with First Officer Tamefugi by Peter Beckner 1/5/87 [23 Pages, 14.7MB]
Modified Package for FAA Managers [121 Pages, 94.5MB]
Chronology of Events [4 Pages, 2.9MB]
Flight Path Chart [17 Pages, 17MB]
Selected portions of voice transcripts of JAL 1628 and controllers [9 Pages, 7.1MB]
Transcript of Communications between air traffic control and JAL 1628 [24 Pages, 13.6MB]
FAA form 7230-10 Position logs [2 Pages, 2.3MB]
Personnel Statement (Air Traffic Control Specialists) [16 Pages, 11.9MB]
Color photos of simulated radar data [18 Pages, 25.8MB]
Color photos of simulated radar data with captions [5 Pages, 5.25MB]
Black and white photos of simulated radar data [13 Pages, 7.1MB]
Explanation of split beacon target [4 Pages, 3.7MB]
News releases, FAA public affairs [9 Pages, 7.8MB]
Cassette tapes of interviews (Audio not digitized) [4 Pages, 4.76MB]
ATC transcripts; flight path chart; personnel statements [13 Pages, 14.3MB]
News media contacts to FAA [43 Pages, 46.3MB]
News clippings [50 Pages, 4.61MB]
Miscellaneous [17 Pages, 15.8MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 1) [88 Pages, 38.3MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 2) [59 Pages, 27MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 3) [81 Pages, 31.1MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 4) [136 Pages, 81.6MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 5) [86 Pages, 39.6MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 6 and 7) [147 Pages, 52.8MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 8 and 9) [144 Pages, 64.9MB]
Letters about UFO (folder 10) [96 Pages, 35.6MB]