An American Airlines flight crew encountered an unidentified flying object over New Mexico on February 21. American Airlines has confirmed the strange incident, during which a “long, cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile” zipped over the Airbus A320, according to a pilot’s transmission obtained by The War Zone.

American Airlines Flight 2292 was en route from Cincinnati to Phoenix on Sunday afternoon when it came into contact with the mysterious object at approximately 37,000 feet over northeastern New Mexico. Radio interceptor Steve Douglass captured Flight 2292’s transmission on the Albuquerque Center frequency of 127.850 MHz or 134.750 MHz.

In the transmission, which you can hear below, the American Airlines pilot reported:

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Albuquerque Center didn’t respond to the pilot’s report because local air traffic interfered, Douglass wrote on his blog, Deep Black Horizon. American Airlines Flight 2292 safely landed in Phoenix shortly after the encounter.

American Airlines later confirmed with The War Zone the validity of the transmission:

When TMZ reached out to the FBI, spokesperson Frank Fisher said the Bureau is “aware of the reported incident.” He continued: “While our policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations, the FBI works continuously with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners to share intelligence and protect the public.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also released a short statement confirming the encounter:

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As The War Zone points out, New Mexico is indeed home to White Sands Missile Range, the sprawling stretch of desert where the U.S. military has long tested everything from nuclear weapons to V-2 rockets. The site is actually the birthplace of America’s space program, and today is home not just to a space capsule landing field, but the latest in weapons tech, too, from lasers to electromagnetic railguns.

But White Sands is approximately 400 miles away from the site of Sunday encounter’s west of Clayton, New Mexico, and it’s unlikely a weapon like a cruise missile could have “gone off the reservation” during a test, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway observes.

Scott Stearns, the chief of public affairs at White Sands, told Fox News the missile range wasn’t testing anything on Sunday. “We have no idea what it could have been or if anything similar has been sighted in that area before.”

The War Zone has dispelled the speculation that the American Airlines pilots may have seen a Learjet 60 that flew over Flight 2292. “One major issue with this theory was that this occurred about nine minutes before the radio call was supposedly made,” Rogoway writes. “In addition, the Learjet was traveling 5,000 feet above the Airbus and passed in front of it at an angle about eight miles in distance. This is not something out of the ordinary that the pilots should have reacted to in such a puzzled fashion.”

More from The War Zone:

Rogoway is executing “a full FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request on this case with the FAA” on behalf of The War Zone, he writes. In the meantime, speculation persists.

In a Reddit thread about the incident on r/UFOs, user Can_Not_Double_Dutch, who purports to be an airline pilot, provides information that raises additional questions about the “very weird” encounter:

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Even if we don’t learn more about the bizarre object at the center of this week’s encounter, 2021 promises to be an important year for the advancement of UFO disclosure.

Last August, the Department of Defense (DoD) officially approved the establishment of an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force (UAPTF). The task force will investigate the sightings of UAPs, also known as UFOs.

The task force is the first official government program affiliated with UFO research since a 2000s-era unit that analyzed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other UAPs lost its funding in 2012, even though multiple sources confirmed with Popular Mechanics that the unit remained active in secrecy after its shuttering.

The DoD formed the UAPTF to “improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs,” Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough told Popular Mechanics at the time. “The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze, and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

In last June’s Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) authorized appropriations for fiscal year 2021 for the UAPTF and supported its efforts to reveal any links that UAP “have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”

In the IAA, the Select Committee on Intelligence said it “remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on [UAP], despite the potential threat,” and so it directed the task force to report its findings on UAP, “including observed airborne objects that have not been identified,” within 180 days.

When former President Donald Trump signed the coronavirus relief and government funding bill into law in December 2020, it contained the IAA for Fiscal Year 2021, which means the UAPTF must report its findings to Congress by June 25. What will the task force reveal?

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