A CLOSE encounter with a mystery object in the skies near Birmingham was among dozens of baffling near misses reported by pilots in UK airspace, a Newsquest data investigation has revealed.

Investigations carried out by the UK Airprox Board show 36 such near misses involving aircraft and ‘unknown objects’ have been reported in UK skies since May 2017 – and nearly a quarter involved a high risk of collision.

One of the reports tells how the pilot of a BE90 small propeller aircraft saw a “rectangle or elliptical object pass 500 to 1,000-ft below” the plane as he was cruising at around 16,000-ft about 10 nautical miles north of Birmingham.

The incident happened on July 5, 2018, at around 9.30am, and the report states the pilot estimated the object to be 50-100cm long and it was “either hovering or travelling in the opposite direction” but “he only saw it for about 2 seconds before it passed underneath the aircraft”.

The Board, which monitors close calls between aircraft and other objects in the skies such as drones and balloons, determined the risk of collision was low but the report stated: “There was no time to take any avoiding action.”

Another incident involving an ‘unknown object’ was listed as a category A high risk of collision event and the report says the pilot of an Airbus A321 was flying at around 900-ft on final approach to Birmingham Airport “when he saw an object pass directly beneath the aircraft”.

Droitwich Advertiser: Birmingham International Airport. Pic - Google Street ViewBirmingham International Airport. Pic - Google Street View

It says the reported separation between the aircraft and the unidentified object was just 25-ft vertically and it adds that the pilot “thought it was either some sort of balloon or drone”.

The Board concluded there had been a definite risk of collision but it was not able to ascertain whether the object was a drone or a balloon so it was listed as ‘unknown’.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it was likely the vast majority of reports involved drones, model aircraft or balloons – although it is against the law to fly drones above 400-ft and close to airports.

However - real life X Files investigator Nick Pope, who investigated UFO sightings for the Ministry of Defence in the 1990s, says the authorities may be “missing a trick by being too quick to blame drones”.

Our investigation revealed the most unidentified and mysterious objects were sighted at, in the majority of cases, altitudes much higher than drones would typically or can legally be flown at.

Droitwich Advertiser: UFO expert Nick Pope, who investigated UFO sightings for the MoD in the 1990sUFO expert Nick Pope, who investigated UFO sightings for the MoD in the 1990s

Mr Pope described the data unit findings as “fascinating and disturbing” and he said: “Pilots frequently see things in the skies that they can't identify. The UK Airprox Board has a significant number of such accounts and there are numerous reports in the MoD's UFO files.

“In most cases, sightings turn out to be birds, weather balloons, plastic bags or bin liners, or Chinese lanterns, while some are indeed attributable to drones.

“However, other cases remain unexplained even after thorough investigation, and this is of concern."

He said the investigation of UFOs had been under-resourced since the 2009 termination of the MoD's UFO programme and he added: “While I'm aware that the MoD continues to study such matters - being careful to avoid using the term 'UFO' - more should be done.

“I can confirm that whatever the true nature of the phenomenon, it raises important defence, national security and - as we see here - air safety issues.”

Droitwich Advertiser: Dr David Clarke - pic courtesy of Sheffield Hallam UniversityDr David Clarke - pic courtesy of Sheffield Hallam University

Journalist, author and university lecturer Dr David Clarke, from the Centre for Contemporary Legend at Sheffield Hallam University, is not convinced the sightings are of intergalactic spacecraft and he added: “Things that are unexplained are likely to be natural phenomenon – not aliens from other planets.

“I’ve not seen any evidence,” he said. But he was quick to add: “That’s not to say those reports are of no interest.

"Some of the incidents sound very familiar to the stories I collected from the MoD/CAA files during my work for The National Archives 2008-13. Someone should be sitting down and collating it and looking for information for flight safety and for scientific purposes.

"There’s a lot that could be learned if we got away from the ridicule.”

Droitwich Advertiser: PixabayPixabay

Halesowen based paranormal and UFO researcher David Taylor, a member of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena ASSAP), believes we should be cautious about witness testimonies of strange objects in the sky “regardless of who the witness is” and he said: “The thing to remember with these reports is that unidentified does not mean unidentifiable.

"The majority of all anomalous reports - I would say around 95 per cent - are explainable in rational terms, either with known phenomena (misidentification, drones, birds, military tests etc) and currently little understood phenomena (ball lightning, earthquake lights etc).”

But he stressed: “This isn't to say that all reported anomalies are easily explainable, and we must resist the temptation to dismiss them all out of hand.”

Have you ever reported seeing an unidentified object in the skies? Tell us in the comments section below.