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Investigators ponder UK jets' encounter with high-speed objects

Investigators are probing the origin of high-speed objects encountered by two UK transatlantic flights as they approach south-west Ireland on 9 November.

Voice communications for high-altitude traffic overseen by Shannon show the sighting was reported by crews of at least two aircraft, provisionally identified as a British Airways Boeing 787-8, bound for London Heathrow, and a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 heading for Manchester.

The 787 crew, operating as BA94, called Shannon at around 06:48 to ask if the centre was tracking any military traffic, according to communications archived by LiveATC.

“There’s nothing showing on either primary or secondary [radar],” the controller responded, before being advised that the sighted objected was “moving so fast”.

“Seemed to come up on our left-hand side, then rapidly veer to the north,” the BA pilot advised, adding that it was a “bright light” moving at “very high speed”.

“We didn’t think it was a likely collision course,” the pilot said. “Just wondering what that could have been.”

Another transmission, possibly also from BA94, then suggested it had been a “meteor or another object making some kind of re-entry”, adding: “[It] appeared to be multiple objects following the same sort of trajectory. Very bright from where we were.”

The crew of the Virgin 747, operating as VS76X, also confirmed the sighting, describing it as “two bright lights” in the “11 o’clock position”, putting it to the north and east of the aircraft.

“I’m glad it wasn’t just me,” an unidentified voice states, to which the Virgin flight responds: “Very interesting, that one.”

The Virgin pilot subsequently adds that the two lights “seemed to bank over to the right and then climb away at speed, at least from our perspective”.

Shannon air traffic control then advises the BA 787 crew that other aircraft have corroborated the sighting. “So we’re going to have a look and see,” the controller adds, before receiving the pilot’s response: “The speed was astronomical – Mach 2 or something.”

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