A mystery plane captured the attention of thousands of eyewitnesses in Denver, Wednesday, November 16th. People where trying to figure out why the high altitude plane circled the city for a long period of time.
The interloper, called IRON99, was tracked as it flew from the West Coast to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Sounds routine, however, the strange part of it’s journey was that it spent about an hour flying in a racetrack holding pattern over Denver.
The sky was clear, allowing eyewitnesses to see that it was a large four engined, swept wing aircraft that was creating a contrail that marked its flight path.
This flight was branded a mystery by local media at the time because the the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), and military officials, including NORAD, could not confirm the origin or purpose of such a flight.
On November 17, a day after the plane touched down at Tinker, Navy officials commented on the flight. They confirmed the the flight took place and it did fly over Denver for about an hour in a holding pattern.
Local ABC affiliate Denver7 quoted a Navy public affairs officer for Commander Naval Air Forces, confirming IRON99’s identity is a Navy Boeing E-6B Mercury.
The E-6B is designed as a command and control platform with the capabilities to communicate, direct and employ resources, like ICBMs and ballistic submarines.
Why was it flying in a racetrack pattern above Denver? It was halted by the FAA when traveling from it’s forward base in California back to Tinker Air Force Base, where the planes are serviced and housed. It was eventually cleared and landed at Tinker.
The mystery is that when contacted on the day of the incident, November 16th, Travis Air Force Base, the E-6B’s forward base, claimed to have no knowledge about the plane and it’s flight and the FAA denied that they were in contact with the jet at all. That all changed when Navy officials came forward the next day.
What mission this plane was on and why the FAA put them in a holding pattern over a major metropolitan area is still a mystery.