When he arrived at work, on May 19, 1986, at the Professor Urbano Ernesto Stumpf International Airport, in Sao José dos Campos, in the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil, air traffic controller Sergio Mota da Silva did not imagine that this day would be remembered in the history of ufology as “The Official Night of the UFOs”.
That Monday night, 21 unidentified flying objects, some of them up to 100 meters in diameter , were seen by dozens of witnesses, both civilians and military, in four states: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Goiás. Only in the interior of the state of São Paulo were sightings recorded in Caçapava, Taubaté and Mogi das Cruzes.
In Guaratinguetá, also in the state of Sao Paulo, the sighting was collective, according to ufologist Edison Boaventura Júnior, president of the Guarujá Ufological Group (GUG).
“Around 20, about two thousand soldiers, between cadets and officers, from the School of Aeronautical Specialists (EEAR), witnessed the phenomenon, with the naked eye or with binoculars,” he says.
The UFOs, an acronym used to designate “unidentified flying objects”, were detected by radars from the Integrated Center for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control (Cindacta). Which means, in other words, that such objects were solid .
The Air Defense Operations Center (CODA) deployed five combat aircraft from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) to intercept the suspected invaders.
According to the pilots, the multicolored dots managed, among other maneuvers, to hover statically in the sky, fly in a zigzag, turn at right angles, change color, trajectory and altitude, and reach speeds of up to 15 times the speed of sound .
“The number of objects seen that night was much higher than 21,” believes air traffic controller Sergio da Silva Mota.
“Sometimes the pilots had visual contact with the objects, but the radars did not register anything. Other times, the radars even detected the presence of objects, but the pilots could not see them. The Air Force considered only sightings where there was simultaneous confirmation. The rest were discarded,” he says.
In Sao José dos Campos, in the state of Sao Paulo, the “Official UFO Night” began around 8:00 p.m., when Sergeant Sergio Mota da Silva began managing the takeoff of flight 703 of the extinct airline. Rio Sul, bound for Rio de Janeiro.
It was then that he saw a strange light, similar to a lighthouse standing in the sky .
Intrigued, he called the Guarulhos International Airport tower to check if any plane was heading to Sao José dos Campos. The answer was negative.
While they were talking the object disappeared and after a while it reappeared with an even more intense brightness. Sergio took out some binoculars to observe it better. It was bright and multicolored , he remembers.
At one point, the sergeant dimmed the airport runway lights and the artifacts moved closer. When the brightness rose, they moved away.
“If they were trying to interact with me, I don’t know. What I do know is that they behaved intelligently , ”she observes.
Panic on board
At least three planes reported sightings that night. The first was a Bandeirante model, from the TAM airline, which was on the route from Londrina, in the state of Paraná, to the city of São Paulo.
The pilot even informed the Brasilia Area Control Center (ACC-BS) that there was an artifact approaching him, on an apparent collision course.
The second, from Transbrasil, also detected a UFO over the Araxá region, in the interior of Minas Gerais.
The flight was from Guarulhos to Brasilia.
The third and last was a twin-engined Xingu, prefix PT-MBZ, returning from Brasilia to Sao José dos Campos.
On board was Colonel Ozires Silva, who was returning from a meeting with the President of the Republic, José Sarney, and his co-pilot, Alcir Pereira da Silva.
At 9:04 p.m. Sergio contacted the pilot of the twin engine and asked him if he had seen “something strange in the air”. By radar, the controller had detected three UFOs over Sao José dos Campos.
When he warned that he would try to carry out a maneuver to get closer to the target, described as a “luminous point” and “very huge”, Ozires heard Alcir say, visibly terrified: ” Do you know that everyone who tries something like that ends up disappearing?”
This time, who disappeared, to the relief of the co-pilot, was the mysterious light. She vanished as soon as the pilot began to maneuver the aircraft.
The next day, Ozires Silva took office as the new president of Petrobras, the state oil company. At the press conference, no journalist remembered to ask anything about oil. Everyone wanted to know only about flying saucers.
But Ozires Silva refused to comment on the episode.
“The Official UFO Night is one of the most important cases in world ufology. It is the case with the largest number of witnesses on the entire planet ”, explains ufologist Jackson Luiz Camargo, author of the book “The Official Night of UFOs in Brazil”, published in 2021.
“I would not define what happened as an invasion. At no time was there hostile behavior on the part of the intelligences that operated these devices,” he clarifies.
The truth is out there
Photojournalist Adenir Britto was also working that night. Around 9:00 p.m., he answered a call in the office of his newspaper, the now-defunct Vale Paraibano.
“There is a flying saucer over the newspaper” said a male voice. Britto assumed it was a joke. But just in case, he and reporter Iara de Carvalho decided to investigate.
In the courtyard of the newspaper they saw multicolored lights moving in all directions . Armed with a Nikon, 500mm telephoto lens and ASA 6400 film, he took some pictures.
“Between surprise and emotion, I recorded that moment. I never saw anything like it again. That apparition will never be erased from my memory,” says Britto.
A month later, two officers from the Aerospace Technical Center (CTA), accompanied by the American ufologist James J. Hurtak, went to the newsroom and asked the chief editor for the negatives of the photos.
The material, Hurtak explained, would be analyzed by NASA , the US space agency. Thirty-six years later, it was never returned.
“What conclusion did I come to? Well, I think those objects were really from ‘outer space’ . And, in my opinion, they were monitoring military and industrial installations in Brazil”, observes Hurtak.
playing cat and mouse
The risk of an air disaster was imminent. Such objects, in addition to an intense luminosity, were capable of performing maneuvers impossible for any aircraft.
To make matters worse, they flew over strategic air defense facilities, such as the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the Aerospace Technical Center (CTA) in Sao José dos Campos, as well as the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Pirassununga. , in the state of São Paulo.
For these and other reasons, the then Minister of Aeronautics, Brigadier Octávio Júlio Moreira Lima (1926-2011), was soon notified of what was happening. Within moments, three FAB fighter planes, two F-5s and a Mirage, went into action .
The first of them, an F-5, prefix FAB-4848, piloted by Lieutenant Kleber Caldas Marinho, left the Santa Cruz Air Base in Rio de Janeiro at 22:34.
The second fighter, a Mirage F-103, prefix-4913, commanded by Captain Armindo Sousa Viriato de Freitas, took off at 10:48 p.m. from Anápolis Air Base in the state of Goiás.
The third, an F-5, prefix FAB-4849, piloted by Captain Márcio Brisolla Jordão, left the Santa Cruz Air Base at 10:50 p.m.
All three fighter jets were given the same mission: non-aggressive interception.That is, even if they were armed with heavy weapons, they would try to make a peaceful approach. They couldn’t do it.
As the planes attempted to close in on the targets, they disappeared from the military’s sight and from radar screens. And after a while, they reappeared in another place .
“Everything was very curious and unusual. From the size of the objects —the largest of them, probably the mothership of the fleet, was 11 kilometers long— to their technology, which was vastly superior to ours ”, analyzes the journalist and ufologist Ademar José. Gevaerd, editor of UFO magazine.
“ At no time did they try to attack us. They played ‘cat and mouse’ with us ,” he added.
Either way, the pilots were instructed to maneuver the aircraft with the navigation lights off and the weapons system activated.
“Over the years I had the opportunity to interview high-ranking military officers who, among other things, told me: ‘In Brazil, UFOs are not shot at because they do not represent a threat. I don’t know how they would react if they were attacked,’” reports ufologist Marco Antonio Petit.
“Contrary to what is officially reported, they know very well what they are facing,” he adds.
Beyond the speed of sound
One of the operators of the Military Operations Center (COpM) even considered the hypothesis that the artifacts observed by Lieutenant Marinho were, in fact, spy planes. In a report, the pilot requested that it be investigated whether there were foreign-flagged aircraft carriers off the Brazilian coast. Nothing found.
Captain Jordao was conducting visual searches in the Sao José dos Campos region when, at 10:59 p.m., his flight controller, Sergeant Nelson, informed him that there was “numerous traffic within six hours of his aircraft.” In military language, this means that the objects were flying behind him.
The pilot made a 180° maneuver in an attempt to visualize his pursuers, but could not see anything. According to radar images, 13 UFOs, seven on one side and six on the other, “escorted” Captain Jordao’s F-5 .
Some 800 kilometers away, in Goiás, Captain Viriato continued his intercept mission. At 11:09 p.m., an unidentified signal appeared 22 kilometers away on his on-board radar. Immediately, the pilot framed his target and prepared to fire at the suspected enemy.
Captain Viriato’s Mirage soon reached Mach 1.3, something like 1,600 km/h. When it was nine kilometers from the target, something unthinkable happened: the device accelerated sharply.According to the pilot’s calculations, it reached an incredible Mach 15, the equivalent of 18,375 km/h .
“If there is an airplane that can develop that speed, I don’t know it,” said Captain Viriato in an interview with the Globo Repórter program on TV Globo in 1993.
For comparison, the fastest aircraft in history is the North American X-15. In October 1967 it reached its top speed: 7,274 km/h.
“To this day, we don’t know who they were, where they came from or what they wanted. But we know that, in addition to being real, those planes were controlled by some kind of intelligence , ”observes ufologist Thiago Luiz Ticchetti, president of the Brazilian Commission of Ufologists (CBU).
During the night, two more Mirage fighters were activated: one, prefix FAB-4918, piloted by Captain Rodolfo Silva e Souza, and another, FAB-4917, commanded by Captain Júlio Cézar Rozemberg.
The first took off at 11:17 p.m. and the second at 11:46 p.m., both from the Anápolis Air Base, in Goiás, without either of them having contact, visually or by on-board radar, with any flying object.
We are not alone
On May 23, 1986, at 4:30 p.m., the then Minister of Aeronautics, Brigadier Octávio Júlio Moreira Lima, called a press conference to report that five FAB fighter planes had chased 21 UFOs.
“It’s not about believing or not (in aliens or flying saucers). We can only give technical information. There are several assumptions. Technically, I would say that we have no explanation”, declared the brigadier at the time.
At the end of the press conference, which was attended by the five FAB pilots and the flight controllers who were on duty that night, the Minister of Aeronautics declared that the episode would be investigated and that, within 30 days, a full report would be published.
Only 23 years later, on September 25, 2009, a report on the case was released, signed by the Interim Commander of the Air Force (COMDA), José Pessoa Cavalcanti de Albuquerque, and dated June 2, 1986.
“As a conclusion of the constant facts observed in almost all the presentations, this Command is of the opinion that the phenomena are solid and reflect, in a certain way, intelligence , by the ability to follow and maintain distance from observers, as well as to fly in formation, not necessarily manned,” the document said.
Reports on the case are generally inconclusive. Nobody can say for sure what happened on the night of May 19, 1986. Certainly, nobody rules out the hypothesis of intelligent life on other planets .
“Human beings are very presumptuous. We believe we own the universe,” Colonel Ozires Silva declared to the 95 On-Line program, on Curitiba radio 95.7 FM, in 2014.
In a statement, the Air Force reported that all available material on UFOs has already been sent to the National Archives. The Archive does not have specialized professionals to carry out scientific research or issue an opinion on this type of aerial phenomenon.
Currently, the collection of UFO documents is the second most visited in the National Archives. It is only surpassed by the archives of the military dictatorship.
The material covers a period of 64 years and goes from 1952, when two reporters from the defunct magazine O Cruzeiro detected a UFO flying over Barra da Tijuca, in Rio de Janeiro, to 2016, when a FAB pilot reported an alleged sighting.
Apparently, the truth is still out there.