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Pawleys Island: Orange lights over ocean were flares, Air Force says

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Orange lights over the ocean that prompted several reports to the UFO Reporting Center from the Waccamaw Neck earlier this month were aerial flares, according to an Air Force spokesman.

“That was probably our aircraft,” said Rob Sexton, a spokesman for Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, after checking flight logs for the night of June 8.

He handles a few calls every year about orange lights over the ocean, an area where fighters from Shaw conduct air-to-air combat maneuvers.

“Flares are a defensive maneuver,” Sexton said. “Planes eject flares that fall slowly. They fall a few moments then fade rather suddenly.”

“Isn’t that interesting,” said Tom Hale, an attorney from Birmingham, Ala., who reported the lights to the UFO center while vacationing on Pawleys Island. “I’ve seen a lot of flares over the years. Usually, they fizzle out.”

The Navy and Marine Corps also use flares in aerial maneuvers over the ocean. “Flaring over the ocean is normal,” Sexton said.

Hale reported seeing four evenly spaced orange lights June 8 around 9:30 p.m. from the porch of a house on Myrtle Avenue. They were about the width of an outstretched hand above the horizon, with each light the size of the fingernail on his pinky.

“I wasn’t making a presumption about what they were,” Hale said, but he was encouraged to report them to the UFO center to find out if anyone else along the coast saw the same thing.

Several other sightings were reported.

Sexton said there is another way to check on offshore lights. “We always notify the Coast Guard ahead of time,” he said. “They will always have a record.”

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