Three passenger jets flying near Gatwick, London's second airport, had a close encounter with Unidentified Flying Objects shaped like flying saucers, a new report has revealed.

As the planes came in to land on 30 December 2012, the pilots reported seeing two discs hovering above the airport. The first to raise the alarm was the pilot of a Boeing 777, who reported spotting "two flat silver discs" at 0853 GMT.

According to The Sun, just minutes later, the crews of a Boeing 767 and an Airbus 319 observed the same "saucer-like" shapes. The crew of the 777 also claimed that they looked "man-made" and "toy-like".

Their claim has been confirmed by air traffic control staff, who said that six UFOs had appeared on their radar before suddenly vanishing.

Gatwick airport is to the south of London, not far from the UK headquarters of the Church of Scientology, in East Grinstead, West Sussex. According to Scientology - which was founded by L Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer - aliens inhabit human bodies. Local wags have suggested that the UFOs had come for the Scientologists. The cult's most famous adherents are Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

But the sighting itself is being taken seriously. "The evidence is first rate. The witnesses are experienced pilots and there is radar evidence to back up their stories," Nick Pope, a former Ministry of Defence UFO investigator said.

The UK Airprox Board, the branch of the Civil Aviation Authority that investigates aerial near-misses over the UK, suspects the UFOs might have been weather balloons or kites. However, Pope insisted that "None of the theories holds water." The Airprox Board has classified the incident as level D - meaning it is unexplained.

UFO sightings across the world continue to draw attention and debate. In one photograph released recently by NASA a disc-shaped object can be seen hovering above the Earth's surface, emitting rainbow-like lights.