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January 23rd 2019 at 7:30 p.M. around prescott airport. my background is i am a certified flight instructor for embry-riddle aeronautical university. at the time of the event i had been flying for about 10 years, however this was one of my "new hire flights" for my first commercial aviation job. the purpose of this flight was to meet ifr currency requirements as well as night landing requirements. i was acting as pilot in command, but there was another instructor in the aircraft with me that was acting as my safety pilot for the ifr portion of the flight, and was also getting night current at this time. i will refer to this instructor as mike; i wont release his name as i have not received his permission to do so.

after completing two instrument approaches, we requested to perform stop and go's. we completed our first stop and go and then departed. while on upwind around 600 to 700 feet agl mike and i see a bright light significantly a few miles away. in a few seconds (if i had to guess around 5 to 15 seconds) that bright light was a couple hundred feet from us and much brighter and much larger. it passed from originally about 20 degrees to the left of us while on runway heading for runway 21l, and passed off our left and continued behind us going from just west of prescott airport to the north eastern edge of the town of prescott valley. at this point i made sure to look at our clock in the cockpit and i timed it from our current position (approximately .75 nm to the southwest of the prescott airport) to somewhere over prescott valley (the city's lights made it difficult to judge what exactly part of prescott valley, all i can confirm is it was the north eastern edge of the town); the clock showed 12 seconds had passed. it was going fast enough that mike described it as the speed of sound. it started out at approximately our altitude, but once it got over prescott valley it appeared to descend. for a short while we lost it in either the prescott valley lights, but then later spotted it again heading back from prescott valley to directly over the prescott airport. this caused another aircraft to perform a go around in order to avoid it (i don't believe that aircraft ever saw the light, they performed a go around as a precautionary measure).

i have a recording taken from liveatc.Net of the entire interaction between prescott tower and all other traffic in the area. while listening back to the recording immediately after the event, both mike and i verified that there was no other traffic coming from prescott valley to prescott. the light originally upon first spotting it was like a large white light that was rounded at one end and it's other end extended out long. it was like if you took a capital letter d, flipped it 90 degrees counterclockwise, and extended the right side slightly. upon getting closer to us initially on upwind, within a few hundred feet, it split into two lights that were very close together. after this split, it appeared as this split two lights the rest of the event.

the three atmospheric/meteorological explanations that mike and i came up with were: meteor showers, lightening balls, and saint elmo's fire. prescott tower did report meteor activity that night, however we don't believe it was meteors because the lights were appearing at the same altitude as us; we weren't looking up into the sky. these lights were moving significantly faster than any video i've seen of a lightening ball. lastly, i don't believe it was st. elmo's fire because that looks much more like flashes of lightening whereas this appeared to be a constant light with no flashes.

i will attach the recording taken from liveatc.Net. if any of the aviation terms i used were confusing, please contact me and i will clarify their meaning. in the audio recording mike is the one who is talking to prescott tower.
files attached:
media file 1- tower 1 file radio comms edited to applicable parts
media file 2- tower 1 file unedited (there are two full files of tower communications because it passed over into the next liveatc recording time period)
media file 3- tower 2 file unedited
media file 4- ground control unedited (applicable for after landing)

* This article was originally published here

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