Calls poured in to police and TV stations Feb. 6 after many residents of the metropolitan Phoenix region observed a line of four bright lights near the horizon in the western sky at approximately 8 p.m. Arizona time.

Videotape of the lights was taken and broadcast on local TV news programs shortly after the incident occurred. According to news reports, military officials stated the lights were flares being used as targets during Marine Corps and Air Force pilot training operations nearby.

©National Ledger
The Original Phoenix Lights from March 1997

Officials said a training exercise was being conducted by the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma at the Barry Goldwater Gunnery Range west of Phoenix. In addition, six Air Force F-16s based at Luke Air Force Base on the west side of metro Phoenix were also participating in training exercises that involved flares, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Military flares were also given as the cause of the recent Arkansas sighting when a retired Air Force colonel and F-16 pilot with 32 years of service reported several unusual lights that he was convinced were not conventional earthly aircraft or objects.

How a veteran Air Force officer and pilot could mistake military flares for extraterrestrial phenomena puzzled many who read about that incident and the official explanation.

'Phoenix' Lights' UFO returned?

When the Feb. 6 reports surfaced on local TV stations that evening, some initial speculation recalled the March 13, 1997,"Phoenix Lights" incident.

In that case, hundreds or possibly thousands of witnesses in Arizona and the Phoenix-area "Valley of the Sun" reportedly saw not only large bright lights but also a huge V-shaped, or some said boomerang or triangle-shaped solid craft.

The object was estimated to be one mile to two miles in length, according to some witnesses.

It slowly and silently cruised directly across the center of metropolitan Phoenix in a generally southeasterly direction in the early evening hours, approximately the same time as reports of last night's lights.

After the 1997 incident, government officials said military flares in the same area as last night's training activities were the cause of the case of mistaken identity.

Some researchers and citizens speculated that both a large unusual craft of some kind and military flares west of Phoenix both may have occurred.

The idea that the military rapidly sent up aircraft to drop flares as a cover story that night has also been suggested.

As the 10-year anniversary of what has come to be known as "The Phoenix Lights" incident approaches, much national and international attention has focused on upcoming films and conferences in Arizona exploring the subject of UFOs and extraterrestrial visitors.

The Feb. 6 apparent military flares, if that is what they were, come at an interesting time for Arizonans and people around the world curious about these kinds of topics.

The lights seen from Phoenix last night seem to have served dual purposes as a military training activity and a repetition of explanations that military flares are responsible for some "UFO sightings."

Even a local TV news chopper pilot and some of the TV station's on-air personalities indicated that last night's lights were clearly flares as were the 1997 lights.

In coming to this conclusion, the TV station news personnel apparently disregarded reports of the huge solid craft that was allegedly observed by large numbers of witnesses ten years ago.

UFO over Arisona's Navajo nation

Approximately two weeks before the Feb. 6 incident, and at the same time of the evening, an unusual flying object was spotted over the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. Near the small town of Leupp, local people reported a bright light and a flying object that was variously reported as disc or circular-shaped and as triangle-shaped.

The Winslow Mail newspaper reported that the incident "reportedly took place at approximately 7:40 p.m., Wed., Jan. 24 and was visible until after 9 p.m."

Winslow Mail reporter Rebecca Schubert quoted witnesses in her Jan. 31 article headlined "Large UFO spotted near Winslow: Northern Arizona Navajos watch a strange ship fly around for over an hour."

Schubert wrote, "According to Sean and Deanna Dover, they were driving home from Flagstaff toward Leupp when Deanna spotted a curious looking object above their Honda Accord."

She quotes these witnesses: "I saw a bright light and told my brother to watch it," Deanna, 20, said. "Then it disappeared, then reappeared. I didn't see it as much as he did, because I had to concentrate on driving."

The article provided more details of the witnesses' statement: "We were about 10 miles out of Leupp and my sister said she saw something," said Sean, a senior at Sinagua High School. "It had a circle around it and was about one-and-a-half miles above us. It had three lights and was a triangular shape. We kept on driving and when we reached Leupp we saw it had four lights," Sean said.

As Sean and Deanna Dover drove into Leupp, they told their parents of the sighting, according to the Winslow Mail report. Since their father is a police ranger with the Navajo Nation Police, Sean grabbed the night-vision goggles his dad uses on the job to try to get a better look at the object.

"Then two jets intercepted it in the air. They came from the southwest," Sean was quoted as saying. "Then it headed east. Eight minutes later it lost them and circled back to Leupp. When it got here it started blinking its lights."

Meanwhile, other local residents were seeing the same thing. As the Dover family was observing the activity in the sky, their mother Daisy's friend Denise Fredericks, a teacher at Leupp Elementary School, was at home watching the same thing.

"I was coming home from my son's basketball game in Dilkon. When I came inside the house my husband said, 'Daisy just called and said there was something in the sky,' then I saw a triangular thing go overhead," the Winslow Mail quoted Fredericks as saying.

"Fredericks and Daisy Scott-Dover then met in the center of Leupp near the gas station and watched the events with approximately 30 other stargazers," according to the Mail report. "It was flying straight and then it turned. It went toward Bird Springs and then turned toward Tolani Lake and then came back this way."

Mail reporter Schubert also wrote that, "Each of the witnesses described the object as triangular with three or four tiers. On the underside of the craft was a sphere with a pulsating light. Fredericks and Scott-Dover said the UFO emitted a 'yellowish' light and was approximately twice the size of the Leupp Elementary School gymnasium."

"The UFO circled the area 15 times. On the last turn, the craft lights went dark, then suddenly and rapidly illuminated across in a sequential pattern. Finally, the UFO headed southeast toward Winslow," Schubert reported.

Steve Hammons has worked as a journalist, editor, counselor, juvenile probation peace officer, public safety urgent response specialist, teacher, instructor and U.S. Government researcher. He graduated from Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, with studies in communications (journalism focus) and health education (psychology focus). Hammons' two novels tell the story of a U.S. intelligence and joint-service military research team investigating unusual phenomena.