Chicago O'Hare UFO Incident

November 2006
Gate C-17, C-19
Gate C-17, C-19

The Chicago O'Hare UFO sighting occurred on November 7, 2006, at around 4:15 PM, when twelve United Airlines employees and several dozen bystanders claim to have witnessed a UFO hovering above Concourse C at the world's second busiest airport. The classic saucer-shaped UFO is alleged to have hovered above gate C-17 for approximately 10-15 minutes before ascending vertically through the cloud cover at a high rate of speed. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to investigate the incident because the UFO was not seen on radar. The event was attributed to a "weather phenomenon."

November 7, 2006 was a typical overcast autumn day in Chicago. The weather at O'Hare Airport was seasonable and mild: temperature in the mid-50's with a cloud ceiling of approximately 1900' and a light breeze of around 10 MPH. It was under these conditions that a renowned–if underreported–UFO sighting took place.

O'Hare UFO sketch by Carol Renaud of Chicago, provided by CNN Headline News
O'Hare UFO sketch by Carol Renaud of Chicago, provided by CNN Headline News

At approximately 4:15 PM, a member of the ground staff on the runway at Concourse C (United Airlines) looked overhead and reported seeing what could be described as a gray colored, disc-shaped craft hovering above gate C-17 at between 500 and 1500 feet above the ground. This worker was the first of approximately a dozen United Airlines employees to witness the spectacle. Several baggage workers and other staff on the ground also reported seeing the object. Radio chatter among United employees was picked up as several calls were made to air traffic control requesting confirmation of their visual observation. Given the positioning of the air traffic control tower, visual confirmation could not be provided. Similarly, radar could not provide verification of what was being visually observed.

Approximately a quarter mile away, at the parking lot for the international terminal, a crowd of several dozen bystanders formed, fixated on the object. This group joined the United staff in spending the next 10-15 minutes watching as the craft silently hovered above the gate, rapidly spinning in a counterclockwise direction. At approximately 4:30 PM, the assembled crowd let out a collective gasp as the craft silently shot off into the sky at supersonic speeds. Witnesses, both on the ground at the United terminal and across the airport at the international terminal, unanimously reported that the ascension of the craft "punched a hole" into the cloud cover the exact size and shape of the disc.

Close-up of a hole punch cloud
Close-up of a hole punch cloud

The FAA quickly dismissed the event, attributing it to meteorological phenomenon. United Airlines began an investigation on November 8, 2006, but seemingly ended the investigation in an abrupt manner a day or two later. Internal documents from United have never been made public, and FOIA requests from the FAA have failed to reveal meaningful data related to the event. Contrary claims have been made as to whether or not United put a gag order into place for the employees that witnessed the event.

"I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don't understand why aliens would hover over a busy airport," said a United mechanic who said he saw the object while taxiing a Boeing 777 to a maintenance hangar. "But I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an [Earth] aircraft."

The National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) received witness reports shortly after the incident, but Director Peter Davenport delayed publicly releasing them, citing possible security and safety implications. Despite the incident occurring in early November, the first major newspaper account of the event was an article in the Chicago Tribune on January 1, 2007 by journalist Jon Hilkevitch. Hilkevitch was contacted by Davenport with information about the incident on December 16, 2006. The lack of formal investigation led the independent organization National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP) to conduct a thorough investigation culminating in a 150 page study. The story has been recounted numerous times in various media formats over the course of the subsequent decades.

Official explanations of the event suggest a meteorological phenomenon known as a fallstreak (aka a hole-punch cloud) which is formed when supercooled water droplets–formed in many instances by conventional airplanes flying through dense cloud cover–precipitate out of the middle of a cloud, leaving a hole behind similar to that described by eyewitnesses. Richard F. Haines, PhD. provides a thorough examination of this theory in the NARCAP study, concluding that meteorological conditions nor physical location were congruent with the formation of a fallstreak cloud episode at the time of this event.


Official Explanation

The FAA dismissed the incident as a meteorological phenomenon known as a fallstreak, or "hole-punch cloud."

Counter Argument

The object seen was not a cloud formation, but a solid object hovering in place.


There is recorded audio between the O'Hare flight tower with airline management, crew, and pilots. No air traffic controllers saw the object, nor did it show up on radar.

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