Details of Sighting

Date 30th December 1997 Time 12:30AM Place Kaikoura

Date 30th December 1997 Time 12:30AM Place Kaikoura

Date 30th December 1997 Time 12:30AM Place Kaikoura

No New Zealand fighter aircraft were airborne at that time


23A Miro Rd.,
Mangere Bridge, Auckland.

14th January 98

Minister Defence
(Copy Minister Disarmament and Arms Control, Minister Foreign Affairs and Trade.)

Dear Sir/Madam,

At approximately 12:30AM on the 30th December 97 some 20 miles south of Kaikoura, while operating NZ Post flight AP 75 Palmerton [SIC] North to Christchurch, my Co-Pilot and I observed two separate strobe lights which, after some inquiry and much thought, I can only conclude were those of foreign military aircraft flying unannounced over New Zealand.

We were in level flight at 14,000 feet, at the time and position stated, when I saw the first strobe light traveling in a northerly direction at high altitude and speed passing directly overhead. There were no navigation lights visible and the strobe light had an unusually long period between flashes, unlike any I have ever seen on commercial jets.

We lost sight of the first light as it passed overhead our aircraft (we do not have windows in the roof) and the saw another to our left (east) at the same apparent speed and altitude flying a parallel track yet trailing the first by maybe a minute. Being out to the left slightly we were able to keep it in view until just passed our beam.

Prior to losing sight of the second strobe I asked Christchurch radar, under whose control we were at the time, if they had a target out to our left. Their reply was they had nothing on primary or secondary radar and there was nothing flight planned to be in the area. I then asked about the one that passed overhead and received the same reply. The only traffic they were aware of in our area was a northbound company aircraft, which passed underneath us north of Kaikoura. My Co-Pilot and I both saw this aircraft.

Please allow me a few lines to ensure that the differences between primary and secondary radar are understood by the reader.

Primary radar is a true radar and will detect any aircraft in its operating range unless the aircraft is of the stealth technology type. A primary target alone has no altitude information or identification. The controller on duty thought the primary radar at Christchurch would detect any target up to 80 miles and possible further if the aircraft was at high altitude. The other primary radar sites in New Zealand are Wellington and Auckland. The Wellington primary should also have detected the two aircraft.

Secondary radar interrogates aircraft transponders, the transponder in an aircraft needs to be turned on and an assigned code set for the system to work. The secondary coverage is almost nationwide.

Considering the direction of travel of the two unidentified aircraft the Christchurch primary radar would have had ample opportunity to detect them prior to our sighting if they had been conventional aircraft.

Later that day an acquaintance (a recently retired RNZAF Skyhawk instructor) on my request, made some inquiry and confirmed that no New Zealand fighter aircraft were airborne at that time. He also stated that New Zealand does not have aircraft capable of evading radar detection. The unusual strobe that I described was he thought, consistent with fighter aircraft.

I can only surmise as to why these two aircraft were showing any lights at all, however I suggest it would be to prevent them running into each other.

The other explanation I considered to explain what we saw was satellites in orbit. However I discounted this because satellites do not flash and I have seen numerous satellites and there [SIC] apparent speed is somewhat less than what we observed and two satellites on parallel trajectories in such a close formation would be unlikely.

As far as airspace goes I know that it is controlled up to 46,000 feet over New Zealand and few aircraft can fly much higher. Regarding New Zealand sovereignty I would be interested in knowing where it ends vertically.

Yours sincerely
Tim Jeffares.


Min 17/98

27 January 1998

T. Jeffares
23A Miro Road
Mangere Bridge

Dear Mr Jeffares

On behalf of the Hon Max Bradford, Minister of Defence, I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 14 January 1998, regarding the sighting of unidentified aircraft South of Kaikoura on 30th December 1997.

Your letter is with the Minister for his consideration and you will receive a reply as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely
J.P. Brounts
Squadron Leader RNZAF
Private Secretary: Defence

Internal Response

Air 1630/2




A.Min 17/98 dated 27 Jan 98 (due: 4 Feb 98)

1.The RNZAF had no aircraft in the area at the time of Mr Jeffares sightings nor have we any record of any unusual visiting military aircraft at the time.

2.However, the RNZAF does not control the entry of foreign military aircraft into New Zealand's air space. The Ministry of Foreign affairs and Trade has that responsibility and they do not inform the RNZAF of the details of all such aircraft given clearance to enter New Zealand airspace.

3.The question, No 17/98, needs therefore to be addressed by that Ministry both in respect of approvals for any foreign aircraft to enter, or be in, New Zealand air space at the time and to respond to the question of up to what vertical height (if any) is currently claimed as New Zealand territory.

A.W. Dale
Ext 7520

29 Jan 98

Report taken from file number
AIR 1630/2 Volume 2