A FORMER pilot and aircraft recognition teacher has been left stumped by a mysterious orange ball seen flying in the skies above Buckhurst Hill.

David Crook, of Cherston Road in Loughton, said he and his girlfriend saw the unidentified flying object as it silently swooped through the clouds above the town just before 11pm on Sunday (May 30).

It is the latest in a string of recent sightings in the area – although some have suggested the district's proximity to Stansted Airport could be to blame, while others have theorised that the orange balls are Chinese lanterns.

But Mr Crooks, a 23-year-old finance worker, said: “I don't think it was a Chinese lantern as it was absolutely huge and it wasn't particularly windy either.

“It was a fairly big orange ball. It looked like a large ball of fire moving steadily at a good speed and it made no noise. It was very close to us so it couldn't have been been an aircraft or helicopter.

“I could not gauge exactly how high the light was but it could not have been particularly high – less than 5,000 feet in my estimation.”

Mr Crooks, who started flying at the age of 18 and used to teach for the air training corps, added: “I'm not one of those people to believe in UFOs and aliens but it is very strange. I've never seen anything like it.

“Perhaps it might be some new form of technology that's being tested that we don't know about.”

In February this year a “long line” of around 50 orange lights were spotted in the same location, while last September a line of other bright specks was seen hovering over Loughton, and again in Epping in November.

Have you seen anything strange in the skies of Epping Forest? Email dbinns@london.newsquest.co.uk