Ronald Reagan Sees a UFO

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.  | 
A close-up of a photograph taken by George Stuck of Passaic, New Jersey, as the UFO hovered about 200 feet above the ground. If there is such a thing as a typical flying saucer, his picture comes pretty close.
Fortean Picture Library

Key Takeaways

  • Ronald Reagan and his flight crew witnessed a UFO while flying to Bakersfield, California, in 1974.
  • Initially sharing the experience with a reporter, Reagan was taken aback upon realizing he was speaking to the press and subsequently refrained from discussing the incident publicly.
  • The UFO displayed extraordinary acceleration before vanishing upward into the sky at a 45-degree angle, leaving all witnesses aboard the aircraft astonished.

One night in 1974, from a Cessna Citation aircraft, one of America's most famous citizens saw a UFO.

There were four persons aboard the plane: pilot Bill Paynter, two security guards, and the governor of California, Ronald Reagan. As the airplane approached Bakersfield, California, the passengers called Paynter's attention to a strange object to their rear. "It appeared to be several hundred yards away," Paynter recalled. "It was a fairly steady light until it began to accelerate. Then it appeared to elongate. Then the light took off. It went up at a 45-degree angle-at a high rate of speed. Everyone on the plane was surprised. . . . The UFO went from a normal cruise speed to a fantastic speed instantly. If you give an airplane power, it will accelerate-but not like a hot rod, and that's what this was like."


A week later Reagan recounted the sighting to Norman C. Miller, then Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Reagan told Miller, "We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens." When Miller expressed some doubt, a "look of horror came over [Reagan]. It suddenly dawned on him . . . that he was talking to a reporter." Immediately afterward, according to Miller, Reagan "clammed up."

Reagan did not discuss the incident publicly thereafter.­



Frequently Asked Questions

Did Ronald Reagan's UFO sighting influence his policies or public statements on space and defense?
While not directly stated, Reagan's interest in space and defense, including the SDI, may have been subtly informed by his personal experiences with unexplained phenomena.
How did Reagan's UFO sighting compare to other public figures' experiences with UFOs?
Reagan's sighting is among the most notable due to his later prominence as president, highlighting the broad interest in UFOs across various sectors of society.