As many as
twenty UFOs were seen and tracked by ground
radar and at least six airplanes during the night of May 19, 1986 over
several states in southeastern Brazil.
Unidentified radar returns were tracked by
airports in São Paulo and the Integrated Air Defense & Air Traffic
Control Center (CINDACTA) in Brasilia.
F-5E and three Mirage
jet fighter were scrambled from
Cruz AFB in Rio de Janeiro
State, and Anápolis AFB in
The case was discussed openly by high ranking government officials.
It was first reported by Colonel
, president of the
state-owned oil company Petrobrás
who was flying on an executive Xingu turbo-prop
, when he and the pilot saw and pursued
unidentified objects for about 25 minutes. The incident was covered
widely in the Brazilian media
, leading to
a press conference
at the Ministry
of Aeronautics in Brasilia on May 23
controllers and air force
involved in the scramble
General Otávio Moreira
, was very outspoken:
Between 20:00 hrs.
(5/19) and 01:00 hrs.
(5/20) at least 20 objects were detected by Brazilian
They saturated the radars and interrupted traffic in
Each time that radar detected unidentified objects,
fighters took off for intercept.
Radar detects only solid metallic bodies and heavy
There were no clouds nor conventional aircraft in the
The sky was clear.
Radar doesn't have optical illusions.
We can only give technical explanations and we don't have them. It
would be very difficult for us to talk about the hypothesis of an
. It's very remote and
it's not the case here in Brazil. It's fantastic. The signals on
the radar were quite clear.
The Minister also announced that a commission would study the
incident. Air Force Major Ney Cerqueira
, in charge of the Air Defense
Operations Center (CODA), was equally candid:
We don't have technical operational conditions to
The appearance and disappearance of these objects on
the radar screens are
They are Unidentified Aerial
The technical instruments used for the identification
of the lights had problems in registering them.
CODA activated two F-5E and three Mirages to identify
One F-5E and one Mirage remained grounded on
A similar case occurred four years ago (1982
Commander Brito VASP airliner radar-visual
The lights were moving at a speed ranging between 250
and 1,500 km./hr.
[150 to 1,000 mph] The Air Force has not closed the
Aeronautics Commission report was not released. However, the
accounts of air force pilots and radar controllers were published
widely in the press and later studied by Brazilian researchers. A
comprehensive report was made by Basílio Baranoff
, an airline captain,
member of the Aerospace
, and consultant for the Brazilian UFO
. Baranoff provided a
chronology of events for the night of May 19, 1986:
*6:30 p.m. local time - First visual
sightings by control tower personnel at the São José dos
Campos airport in São Paulo State.
Controllers notice two intense lights aligned with the
runway axis at 330 degrees azimuth and approximately 15
[10 m.] distance from the tower.
- 7:00 p.m. - The control towers in São Paulo and Brazilia
confirm to São José that they have three primary targets on their
screens, and that there are no scheduled aircraft in those
- 8:00 p.m. - CINDACTA (Brasilia) detects up to eight targets
(echoes) on its screens.
- 8:30 p.m. - A new object is observed with binoculars at the São
José tower; it shows defined edges and red-orange color; it
approaches the tower and then retreats.
- 9:00 p.m. - The oil company Xingu
executive turbo-prop with Col. Silva
requests landing conditions at São José. Both Silva and Commander
Alcir Pereira, the Xingu pilot,
confirm visually the luminous objects at 330 degrees azimuth. The
Xingu turbo-prop attempts to follow the UFOs for 10 minutes.
- 9:10 p.m. - The Xingu turbo-prop returns for landing when a
new, large luminous object heads toward the aircraft. The São Paulo
tower confirms two echoes: the Xingu and an unknown, which
disappears from the screen 15 minutes later.
- 9:20 p.m. - The Air Control Center in Brasilia (ACC-BR) informs the Brazilian Air Defense Command
about the situation.
- 9:25 p.m. - The Xingu returns for a second landing attempt when
the São Paulo tower reports yet another object at 180 degrees
south, which is observed and followed by Commander Pereira.
- 9:30 p.m. - The Xingu returns for a third landing attempt when
ACC-BR reports the appearance of new objects. The Xingu, now at
3,000 meters [10,000 ft.] of altitude, makes visual contact with
three luminous objects flying low over Petrobrás refineries and
heading towards Serra do Mar. The Xingu
finally lands in São José dos Campos.
- 9:40 p.m. - More visual sightings of a round object at 320
- 9:50 p.m. - A luminous yellow object surrounded by smaller
lights is observed at 110 degrees azimuth.
- 10:55 p.m. - Anápolis AFB detects the objects on radar. The
Mirage piloted by Captain
Viriato does not make visual contact with the UFO, but a target is
detected on its onboard radar... Captain Viriato later explained at
the press conference in Brasilia that he was chasing the UFO 'at 1,350 km./hr. [850 mph], approaching the object
up to a distance of 6 miles [9.5 km.]. The object was heading up
front and moving from one side to the other (zig-zagging) on my radar scope. Suddenly, the
blip disappeared from my radar scope.'
- 11:00 p.m - The second Mirage F-103 is scrambled from
- 11:15 p.m. - Lt. Kleber's F-5E makes visual contact with a ball
of light and chases the UFO at Mach 1.1 (1,320 km./hr. or 850
mph)... Kleber later declared at the press conference: 'I had one
visual contact and one contact with my aircraft radar of something
that looked like a luminous point, which was 12 miles [19 km.] in
front of me, a distance confirmed by ground radar. The object was
moving from left to right and then began to climb... [it] was at 10
km [6 mi.] of altitude and flying over 1,000 km./hr. [600 mph].
it up to 200 miles [320 km.] over the Atlantic Ocean [limit of Brazil's territorial waters]. I
wasn't afraid because I like the unknown.'
- 11:17 p.m. - The third Mirage jet is scrambled from Anápolis
- 11:20 p.m. - Captain Jordão's F-5E establishes radar contact...
At the press conference a few days later, he stated: 'Near to São
José dos Campos, radar detected several targets, 10 to 13 targets,
at a distance of 20 miles [32 km.]. The sky was clear but I didn't
see anything. Ground radar informed me that the objects were
closing in: 20 miles, 15, 10, 5, suddenly there were 13 objects
behind my aircraft, 6 on one side and 7 on the other, during
several minutes. After I maneuvered the aircraft, the objects had
disappeared.' [Captain Jordão flew for 1 hour 20 minutes.]
- 11:36 p.m. - The third Mirage is scrambled from Anápolis
- 1:00 a.m. (May 20) - By this time all jet fighters have
returned to their bases."
These are the basic known facts surrounding the multiple UFO jet
scramble incidents over southeastern Brazil on the night of
. It is
noteworthy that Captain Baranoff added that "two nights after, ten
to eleven unidentified luminous objects returned for a new round
over São José dos Campos; they were observed visually and detected
by the São Paulo, ACC-BR and by CINDACTA 1 radars." This time there
was no official confirmation from Air Force authorities.
Lacking the final Ministry
report with all the pertinent data, it is difficult
to make a final conclusion about this case. Many hypotheses were
offered in the Brazilian media by skeptical astronomers
, ranging from a meteor shower
, a reflection of the full moon
, to radar malfunction
space debris and spy planes. Most of these explanations seem quite
insufficient to explain the events of May 19. One of the more
plausible was offered by British space researcher Geoffrey Perry. According to Perry,
the Soviet space station Salyut-7
ejected several boxes of debris on that
night, which re-entered the Earth's atmosphere around central-western Brazil.
re-entry of NASA's Solarwind satellite was
also discussed in the Brazilian press.
However, Brigadier José
from Brazil's Air Defense Command
was not impressed with the Salyut-7 and Solarwind explanations. He
told the weekly magazine Veja
It could have been space debris, but it wasn't only
A metallic box with space debris can be detected by
radar, but it will always fall in the same direction and at
That was not the case of what was seen in Brazil, where
the objects detected by radar had speeds that varied from very slow
to extremely high.
Another interesting view is the final comment in a short message
from the USDAO
(U.S. Defense Attaché Office)
in Rio to DIA
(Defense Intelligence Agency) on
the subject, entitled "BAF (Brazilian Air Force
) has a Close Encounter of the First
COMMENT: [Censored] While RO [Reporting Officer] does
not believe in UFO's or all the hoopla that surrounds previous
reporting, there is too much here to be ignored.
Three visual sightings and positive radar contact from
three different types of radar systems, leads one to believe that
something arrived over Brazil the night of 19 May."
Claudeir, "Maio de 86 - A Mobilizaçao No Céu Brasileiro" o
assunto é... UFOLOGIA, No. 14, Editora Três, Sao Paulo, 1986; contains
transcripts of all the statements by military officers at the May
23, 1986 press conference.
- Baranoff, Basílio, "Casuistica UFO - OVNIs em Maio de 1986",
PSI-UFO, No. 4,
CBPDV, Campo Grande, Jan./Feb.
1987. CBPDV stands for Centro Brasileiro para Pesquisas de Discos
- Huneeus, Antonio, "UFO Alert in Brazil"
New York, 1986.
- Veja, "Lixo espacial -
Surgem novas explicações para os OVNIs da FAB" September 10, 1986;
English translation in Huneeus, A., ibid.
- Department of Defense
JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff]
Message Center, "Info Report", "Subject: BAF has a Close
Encounter of the First Kind," May 1986.
- Press Conference of Brazilian Air Force Pilots Video