In November 2006, something unusual appeared in the late afternoon skies above one of the world’s busiest airports.

More than a decade later, no conclusive explanation exists for what was observed by a staff at O’Hare International Airport, which was described by those who saw it as a circular or disc-shaped object hovering over Gate C17.

The story of the O’Hare UFO incident has become one of the most widely discussed cases in modern times involving a multiple witness observation of unidentified aerial phenomena, having appeared in countless books and articles since it first made headlines in early 2007.

Yet perhaps one of the most startling aspects of the famous O’Hare UFO case is that it was nearly dismissed at the time it occurred. Despite the obvious potential danger an unrecognized aircraft hovering over one of North America’s busiest airports might represent, the FAA and other agencies initially dismissed the incident as merely having been the result of “weather phenomena.”

Fortunately, witnesses that included a number of United Airlines employees on duty at the time thought otherwise, and filed a report with the National UFO Reporting Center just days after the incident occurred.

“I’m a management employee for a major airline,” the report by the anonymous author began, “and was sitting in my office at around 1630 on Nov. 7th when an employee made a radio call to our station operations center concerning an object hovering over gate C17 at O’Hare International Airport.

O'Hare UFO
Credit: Paul Bienek/Unsplash

“I ran out of my office and saw a relatively small object hovering in place over C17,” the report described. At the time of the observation, the narrator described that the Meteorological Aerodrome Reports system, or METAR, “was reporting OVC 1900 and I initially estimated the object hovering at about 1000 feet. After about a minute, I saw the aircraft zip to the east and disappeared.”

It would later be revealed that several of the primary observers at the time of the incident had observed this small hovering object, and its strange, sudden departure. “I immediately called our operations center to confirm the sighting and the FAA was contacted while I drove to the other concourse to talk with the witnesses.”

Some of the descriptions that these witnesses gave were strange indeed. One notable account involved a mechanic who described feeling a strange compulsion to look directly above, at which time he observed the strange disc-shaped object.

“I spoke with an employee working that gate who said he was compelled to look straight up for some reason and was startled to see the craft hovering silently,” the NUFORC report stated. “He then made the radio call and notified the pilots at that gate who opened the front windows and witnessed the object for themselves. The employee stated the object was 500-1000 feet above the ground, rotating, and metallic in nature with no lights. He said it looked like a frisbee and was directly above.”

O'Hare UFO
Credit: Evan R/Unsplash

Despite the apparent fact that there was a solid object observed for as much as two minutes, according to some accounts, the object apparently did not appear on radar. “The FAA reported no radar blips and I believe the TSA was notified. Our shift manager was notified and the incident was immediately reported to our WHQ Operations Center.”

Air Traffic Control operators also said they had not seen the unidentified craft, although it was later determined that the object should have been visible from their vantage at that time.

“All employees are very familiar with aircraft around the world’s busiest airport,” the anonymous reporter concluded, although noting that “this was nothing we are familiar with. As a side note as it is probably unrelated, the next aircraft into that gate was experiencing electrical problems.”

Electrical disturbances and interference with both terrestrial vehicles and aircraft is a consistent feature in UFO reports from over the years. It seems likely that this could indicate the presence of powerful electromagnetic fields produced by the craft, with the possible implication that such fields are either a secondary effect resulting from their means of propulsion or may even represent one of the defensive capabilities of such craft.

Under other circumstances, this story might have ended with the anonymous report filed with the National UFO Reporting Center, had it not been for traffic reporter Jon Hilkevitch with the Chicago Tribune seeing the report and following up with witnesses. Speaking with Hilkevitch on conditions of anonymity, a surprising number of employees who had been present on the date in question confirmed the events detailed in the original NUFORC account. Additionally, despite the initial dismissal of the incident by the Federal Aviation Administration, Freedom of Information Act requests filed by Hilkvetich would later reveal that there had, in fact, been reports and further official discussion about an object observed at the time of the incident. Hilkevitch’s article would go on to be the most viewed since the website for the Tribune appeared online.

Chicago Tribune
Credit: Ben Burlaga/Unsplash

The 2006 O’Hare UFO incident remains both an intriguing story, and a staple of modern UFO literature. But is there anything else that this famous incident reveals for us?

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the O’Hare UFO incident had been the fact that such official denial and dismissal was maintained by the FAA, despite the fact that the presence of an unidentified object over one of the world’s busiest airports inherently presents a hazard to public aviation. Although there is seldom any evidence supporting an overt threat posed by unidentified aerial phenomena, the potential for dangers to aircraft, both civilian and military, should be afforded more serious attention.

Agencies like the FAA, which are tasked with ensuring safety standards in the field of aviation, should take any potential danger to pilots and passengers in our skies more seriously. The preponderance of reports from over the years involving pilot encounters with UAP should demand their recognition and subsequent investigation—not dismissal—by aviation authorities.

This article originally appeared in the TSL Telepath Newsletter. 

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Author: Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, researcher, and podcaster. His interests include areas of history, science, archaeology, philosophy, and the study of anomalous phenomena in nature. He can be reached at

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