It happened just after 10pm on the night of 24th March 1997 over the Peak District moorland near Sheffield.
The police received a lot of emergency calls from people saying that an aircraft had crashed. They had seen
a very low-flying aircraft which disappeared over the mountains, followed by a flash and a loud explosion.|
The police, having had a number of calls of a downed aircraft, began a major search of the area. They called in a police helicopter and enlisted the help of the fire service and mountain rescue. A Sheffield hospital was put on stand-by to receive possible casualties from an air crash. The police contacted Air Traffic Control and the RAF and were told that no aircraft were reported missing and that no military aircraft were flying in the area. An RAF Sea King helicopter was also brought in to help with the search. A thorough search took place covering 40 square miles but nothing was found.
Early the next morning, the police set up a special phone line for the public to report any sightings. They were flooded with calls from people who had seen a low flying aircraft and also military jets. The police decided to scale up the search operation and called in more mountain rescue volunteers. The RAF then set up a 10 mile air exclusion zone centred on Howden reservoir. By 2pm nothing was found and the search was called off.
Police were baffled about the incident and have considered the possibility that the event was triggered by an aircraft involved in a drugs drop or even the appearance of a phantom ghost plane which is said to haunt the moors. After a TV documentary shown on the BBC in October 1997 called 'Mysteries' the police said 'No explanation was ever found and we remain open-minded about what was behind the sightings.'
Following the Sheffield incident there have been many rumours and speculations. Some people believe that there has been a cover-up by the military and that a triangular shaped UFO was tracked by radar and that at least six RAF Tornado jets were in pursuit. They believe that a Tornado jet was destroyed during the pursuit and crashed into a reservoir. The RAF imposed a 10 mile exclusion zone around the reservoir and some think that this is where an aircraft crashed and that bodies were pulled out of the water.
On the 23rd of March 1998 the incident was brought up in the House of Commons and on the 30th of March 1998 the Ministry of Defence replied. The MOD (Ministry of Defence) said that a low flying military exercise was taking place over northern England on March 24th 1997. Edinburgh's seismology department confirmed two sonic booms at 21.52 and 22.06 on that particular night. They said it was caused either by an aircraft going supersonic or possibly space debris burning up in the atmosphere. The RAF deny that they had any aircraft in the area and that it was against the law to break the sound barrier over land in the UK. They had no record of any sonic booms by RAF/NATO aircraft on that night. The RAF also said that they imposed an air exclusion zone in response to a request for assistance from police to carry out a search without disturbance from other aircraft. They said exclusion zones / Danger Areas were routinely established for search and rescue operations.
Looking at the facts of this incident it seems that what people saw that night was a light aircraft flying low over the moors. The flash and the explosions may not have been connected with the light aircraft. However despite the fact that the RAF deny that they had any jets in the area it does seem that a covert military low-flying operation was going on and that one or more of their jets had exceeded the sound barrier resulting in the sonic booms. The search and rescue operation cost the British taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds and this may be one reason why the RAF deny their aircraft were involved. On the other hand why would the RAF be having a covert military low-flying operation so near to a built up city like Sheffield?