Mysterious object runs rings around onlookers

ByEmma Christie
08:50 - 27 June 2006

A Mysterious flying object caused a stir yesterday as it circled the Banffshire coast for over six hours.

Villager Norman Defoe first spotted the aircraft at around 10am.

He said: "At first I thought it was a jumbo jet, but after a look through binoculars I saw it was grey. It was going round in circles for hours, leaving a trail of vapour behind it. I was sure something must be going on."

One hotel owner in Portsoy reported that clients had left their drinks and headed to the street to catch a glimpse of the unidentified plane.

Local aviation expert Jim Ferguson believed it could be an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

He said: "AWACS are converted airliners, filled to the gills with electronics and a big radar. They can take radar pictures two or three miles wide."

An RAF spokesman said it was possible the plane was part of a standard training exercise, however.

"This sort of training goes on all the time, it's just that you can't usually see it."

He added: "Normally the planes are hidden by the clouds. It's a clear day though, that's why people are noticing."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence later confirmed the aircraft had been taking part in a month-long training exercise called Neptune Warrior.

Involving Nato as well as Canadian and New Zealand forces the exercise is due to finish on Thursday.