Cover-Up Suspected in Reported Air-UFO Chase

Civil Aeronautics Board Disapproves UFO Pursuits by Airliners 

Source: Nicap UFO Investigator; Vol1No3; Jan 1958 pp10-12 

            After a 7-month probe of a UFO encounter by an American Airlines plane, NICAP has evidence indicating the important facts have been officially withheld, and that Capt. Raymond Ryan, the pilot involved, may have been pressured into changing his original report.

            Since the case raises the question of airline-passenger safety, all documents, including reports of investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the Civil Aeronautics Board, will be submitted to appropriate Senate and House subcommittees. Both the CAA and CAB investigations were made at NICAP’s request.

            Since April 10, 1956, two days after the incident occurred, this UFO has remained a “sleeper.” Requests for further details have been repeatedly refused by the Air Force, American Airlines and Captain Ryan himself.

            Reprinted herewith is a front-page story of the encounter, as it appeared in the BUFFALO EVENING NEWS, April 10, 1956. Assistant City Editor Leonard U. Kreuger has informed NICAP in writing that the NEWS stands behind the story as published.


            This is the story as published in the Buffalo EVENING NEWS, April 10, 1956:


Object Streaks Ahead of Convair at 800 mph “This is Absolutely Real” Pilot Declares

            A veteran American Airlines pilot on a flight from New York to Buffalo Sunday night spent 45 fantastic minutes pursuing something which, until somebody offers a better explanation, can only be called a flying saucer.

            Capt. Raymond E. Ryan, 43, of 199 Lorfield Drive, Snyder, left New York at 9 PM Sunday at the controls of Flight 775 bound for Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

            The flight was routine into Albany, where the big Convair landed at 10 PM. Fifteen minutes later she was airborne again, heading into a starless sky which soon would unfold the strangest sight the captain and his crew had ever seen.

            “I was flying at the time we took off from Albany,” Capt. Ryan said. “We made a left turn after clearing Albany and headed for Syracuse.”

            Almost instantly, as the big plane turned westward, the captain saw “this bright light hovering over Schenectady.” At first, he said, he thought it was another plane.

            “We started to try to by-pass it and I remarked to my first officer, William Neff: ‘Oh, that’s an awfully bright light!’ the stewardess, Miss Phyllis Reynolds of Eggertsville, came into the cockpit and she too saw the light.

            “Suddenly, as we came abreast of it,” Capt. Ryan said, “it put on a burst of tremendous speed and darted off to the west.” He said his plane was flying at about 240 miles per hour and estimated the object then was traveling “about 800 or 900 miles per hour.”

            He said he could not judge the size of the object. Capt. Ryan explained that “the light was so bright you wouldn’t want to look at it.” He added that the object seemed at times to change color from “a very bright white to an orange color” especially when it passed over cities or towns.

            When the light was about eight miles west of the plane, Capt. Ryan recalled, it seemed to slow down and keep its distance as the plane followed.

            “We decided to call Griffis Air Force Base in Rome and ask them if they had radar operating.” The captain said.

            They didn’t and replied it would take 30 minutes to activate the equipment. But they requested the airliner which had its powerful landing light biting into the darkness in an attempt to identify the object, to douse all but the small navigational lights.

            The Air Force personnel then reported by radio to the Convair that they could see the plane and also “an orange object in the sky’.  The Air Force alerted a scramble of two jets. While the jets were being prepared for takeoff, the military base requested Capt. Ryan to follow the object which was now traveling at about 6000 feet or 1500 feet higher than the Convair.

            Capt. Ryan turned off his Syracuse bound course and headed northwest, following the flying object. At not time, he said, did he ever get closer than three miles to it. He followed it to “just beyond the shoreline of Lake Ontario near Oswego” and lost radio contact with Griffis.

            Contacting the CAA tower in Syracuse, he was told they had been monitoring his conversations with the Air Force. About five miles over the lake, Capt. Ryan decided to abandon the pursuit. “The object was heading northwest over the lake toward Canada. I know I couldn’t catch it or keep up with it.”

            The jets which took off from Griffis could not locate the object, the Air Force told Capt. Ryan. But it had been seen by the CAA towers in Albany and Watertown as well as by naked eye observers at Griffis Air Force Base.

            A veteran of 23 years of flying with 62 Atlantic crossings, Capt. Ryan said he has seen meteors and other strange sky phenomena. The light he and his crew – observers along the course – saw was none of these.

            “This is real, brother,” the captain said. “This is absolutely real.”

            He added, “I’ve read about fantastic flying saucers and I’m the type of fellow that – well, you’ve got to show me. But I’m convinced there was something fantastic up there.”

            After giving up the chase, Capt. Ryan returned to Syracuse and his normal course.

            Soon after the Buffalo Evening News story appeared, the present Director of NICAP, then acting as a private investigator of UFOs, asked the Air Force for the Griffis AFB report on this case and the analysis and conclusions of AF Intelligence.

            This request was refused. At the same time a spokesman denied the AF had any evidence that flying saucers existed.

            On April 5, 1957 NICAP began a thorough investigation with a courteous request to Captain Ryan for any additional details. To date two such requests have remained unanswered.

            On May 21, 1957 NICAP asked Major Gen. Joe W. Kelly, Director of Legislative Liaison, USAF, for the AF report on the case. No answer to this request has ever been received.

            Shortly after this NICAP asked the Civil Aeronautics Administration to secure a report from Captain Ryan. On August 12 the CAA forwarded to NICAP a statement from Ryan flatly denying he has chased to UFO to Lake Ontario.

            “I did not deviate from course at any time,” Ryan told the CAA. “I did sight an object and it was witnessed.”

            In view of the contradictory newspaper account, Ryan’s denial raised three possibilities:

1)      He had been silenced by American Airlines, independently or at AF request.

2)      The newspaper story of the chase was a fabrication. Considering the reputation of the Buffalo Evening News and the chance of a libel suit – or at least demands for a public retraction – this seemed very unlikely.

3)      Captain Ryan falsely reported the chase story to the NEWS. This also seemed very unlikely, since he was rated as a careful, responsible pilot. Also, it would almost certainly lead to a violent reaction by American Airlines and probably a public denial, if it were untrue.

            A check with the Buffalo Evening News has shown that no demands for a change in the published story ever were made. Since Captain Ryan resides in a Buffalo suburb and there is an American Airline office in Buffalo, their silent acceptance of this front page Buffalo story seems to indicate there were no grounds for complaint.

            Though not proof, it is strongly suggestive of a high level cover-up.

            If Ryan had been silenced by the airline, there could be sound reasons. Such a chase could appear a flagrant disregard of passenger safety. If the pilot had overtaken the UFO for a closer look, as the AF had reportedly requested, a collision might have occurred.

            Since AF jets were hunting for the UFO, there was a chance they might collide with the airliner – closing in at high speed. Also, if the jets fired on the object, airline passengers might feel their lives were being endangered. Since the AF had admitted firing on UFOs, this could strongly influence airline officials to silence Ryan.

            If the AF had silenced him, it probably would be done through the airline. The AF reasons would be obvious: the Buffalo News story quoting Ryan put the AF on record as privately sending an airliner to chase a UFO while publicly denying that such things existed.

            NICAP’s reopening of this “sleeper” story could focus press and congressional attention on two questions: Airline passenger safety during UFO chases, and AF contradictions regarding UFOs.

            On August 23, since the Buffalo Evening News quotations of Captain Ryan were obviously the key, NICAP phoned the newspaper and asked for the facts. The Director was told by Assistant City Editor Kreuger that the paper would back the story 100% in court if necessary. (Written confirmation of the newspaper’s stand was sent to NICAP on August 26 and also on November 30.)

            A NICAP letter immediately was written to CAA Administrator James T. Pyle asking that Ryan be told to explain the contradictory reports. On August 26 NICAP also asked American Airlines for an explanation. Through Frank Branton, the line’s public relation man in Washington, the Committee was given this reply from AA offices in New York:

            “American Airlines knows all about the case and will have absolutely no comment.”

            That same day NICAP’s Director put the question by phone to Capt. W. W. Elwood, assistant adjutant, Air Technical Intelligence Center, Dayton. On August 27 the ATIC public information officer, Ted Hyatt, said that ATIC refused to comment on the Ryan case or the AF policy of using airliners to chase UFOs.

            A call to the office of Brig. Gen. Arnold Leuhmann, Director of AF Public Information at the Pentagon, brought these instructions: “Submit the question in writing to the Chief of Staff and you will receive a specific answer.”

            Before writing the Chief of Staff, NICAP again urged the CAA to question Ryan. This time the CAA agreed, suggesting that the Civil Aeronautics Board also investigate. On October 10, while the two investigations were underway, NICAP sent a registered letter to Captain Ryan covering the investigation and stating that the Buffalo News stood squarely behind the published interview.

            “This is to give you an opportunity to explain the contradiction between the two stories,” NICAP stated. “It appears that you have been directed to change your first account and that you are therefore a victim of circumstances.

            “The point at issue is this: If you did not deviate from your course, why did you give the detailed story to the Buffalo Evening News describing the flight to the shore of Lake Ontario, following the UFO at the request of the U. S. Air Force?”

            This letter was delivered on October 16. To date Captain Ryan has not denied the quoted interview nor has he sent an explanation.

            On October 17 following instructions from General Leuhmann’s office, NICAP wrote Gen. Thomas D. White, the Air Force Chief of Staff, asking for the AF report on this incident and the Air Force policy of using airliners to pursue UFOs.

            No answer has been received from General White.

            On November 15 a letter from Maj. Gen. Joe Kelly repeated his frequent denial that the AF is withholding UFO information. But he evaded any mention of the Ryan case and other UFO case reports NICAP had requested.

            At about the same time, Mr. Prebel Staver, Assistant to Administrator Pyle, CAA, phoned NICAP to report that the CAA inquiry was finished. No deviation from course by Ryan was found, he said.

            Mr. Staver also stated the plane’s log showed routine flight time between Albany and Syracuse. He refused to permit NICAP to see the investigator’s report.

            The plane log claim made the Buffalo News story even more important. Unless the newspaper had been given a false account of the UFO chase, there appeared only one answer: the log had been altered to conceal the facts. NICAP does not state that this was done, but it must be considered in light of the published story.

            On the same day a similar informal report came from a safety official of the CAB. He told NICAP that Ryan had admitted being in radio contact with Griffis AFB. A Griffis officer, he quoted Ryan, had told him they were scrambling jets to intercept the UFO. But Ryan still insisted he had not chased the object.

            On October 24 NICAP sent the formal CAB answer, signed by Vice Chairman Chan Gurnee. After stating the Board’s disapproval of using passenger carrying airliners to chase UFOs, Mr. Gurnee gave Capt. Ryan’s answers to CAB investigators.

            Again Ryan had denied deviating from his course; he also denied being requested to do so. The plane’s log, said Vice Chairman Gurnee, showed a flight time from Albany to Syracuse of 48 minutes, which would make the reported deviation impossible. No attempt was made to force Capt. Ryan to explain the contradictory stories. Nor, said Mr. Gurnee, was there any reason to question Ryan further, nor to query CAA tower personnel at Syracuse, Albany and Buffalo.

            Two days later NICAP wrote President C. R. Smith of American Airlines and gave him a second chance to clear up the matter. On November 4, an answer came from Vice Pres. Willis Player, saying:

            “Capt. Ryan states unequivocally that he did sight an object. He also states unequivocally that he did not chase it. His flight time between Syracuse and Albany confirms that statement.”

            This was followed on November 25 by the formal CAA reply. It was signed by Roy Kealey, Director Office of Flight Operations and Air-worthiness. The CAA, said Mr. Kealey, has no policy on the use of airliners to chase UFOs and does not consider it necessary. Nor does the CAA, Mr. Kealey stated, feel it necessary to ask Capt. Ryan about the two contradictory stories.

            The final document in this case is a November 30 letter from the Buffalo Evening News repeating that they “stand behind the story as published.”

            This, to date, is the Capt. Ryan case.


            It is felt that the evidence calls for an open hearing, preferably by a Congressional committee. NICAP also believes that there should be a definite CAA policy based on that of the Civil Aeronautics Board prohibiting UFO chases by airliners, in the interests of passenger safety.

            NICAP further recommends that any passenger on an airliner used in a UFO pursuit should report the facts to this Committee or the press, or both.

            Meantime, the Committee will continue its efforts to uncover the truth in this case. Any new information bearing on the matter will be appreciated, and the sources will be kept confidential if so requested.

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