Part 2-16:    Skyhook 160 Miles From Mantell


June 10, 2006

Brad Sparks:
As I said at the start of the present controversy I don't know if this is a UFO or an IFO.  But if it is a Skyhook balloon it is not very well documented. If it is a UFO it is not very well documented. But a little more background on Mantell might be pertinent from his "closest friend" Capt Richard L. Tyler, Operations Officer at Standiford Field, Louisville, who was also the official Accident Investigator.

Mantell was co-owner of a flight school, the Elkins-Mantell Flying School, Louisville, thus a flight instructor.  He had been a flight instructor during WWII and trained Chinese pilots.  He flew over Normandy on D-Day (and won the Distinguished Flying Cross according to news reports).  He had a total of about 3,000 flight hours as of the time of his crash, 2,300 hours military flight time.  About 70 hours of flight time in the F-51 (P-51) since Mantell started flying it about May 1947. 

Tyler states that he believed that Mantell had "seen something more than a star or balloon" and that Mantell "did respect the airplane and the dangers of anoxia."  He concluded that:

"If some outside force did not cause his death, I  think he passed out too quickly to change his line of flight."
That's a pretty dramatic internal AF/ANG investigator statement we never heard before in all of the 58 years of this case.  Why is that?

From all of the evidence I have seen to date and I am still reviewing new material every day (including deciphering nearly illegible docs) a Skyhook-type balloon, probably the one launched by General Mills from Milaca, Minn. (NOT from Camp Ripley 43 miles away) on 1-6-48, the day before, which would have had to travel first S then SE at an average speed of about 25 mph over the course of 1-1/2 days to reach W Kentucky and then N-Central Tennessee.

News reports of sightings made by telescopes, etc., pinpoint the Skyhook's location between Nashville and Columbia, 40 miles SSW of Nashville at about 4-4:30 PM (CST).  Astronomer Carl Seyfert in Nashville sighted the balloon to the South (SSE).  Observers in Columbia sighted it to the North.  Thus the Skyhook's location is neatly bracketed midway between Nashville and Columbia, let's say 20 miles from each city.

That would mean the Skyhook was about 140 miles from Godman Field, which had the UFO in sight from about 2:15 to 3:50 PM at azimuth 215 degs until it disappeared behind a cloud.  Mantell crashed 90 miles or so from Godman while chasing the UFO, at about 3:18 PM about 4 miles south of Franklin near the KY-Tenn border. 

PROBLEM:  A 70-foot Skyhook balloon is smaller than the smallest resolution ability of the human eye beyond about 45 miles distance (when it is 1 arcminute in subtended angular size, the definition of 20/20 visual acuity).  The observers in Nashville and Columbia were roughly 20 miles away and that seems feasible, though no details would be visible to the naked eye at that distance (many people used telescopes and binoculars, the ones describing a balloon shape, a "glassy" appearance like sunlight on a nearly transparent Skyhook balloon plastic, a cable with "lumps" which were the instruments, etc.).

If you do not believe this I suggest you do an experiment:  A 70-foot object at 45 miles is the same as a 5-foot automobile at about 3 miles distance.  Try driving on a LONG STRAIGHT FREEWAY where you can mark your distance with your odometer against a distant overpass or landmark you can identify.  Try to see how far away you can see a car traveling in your direction in the distance. Mentally mark it against the landmark nearest the car then note your odometer reading.  Drive to your landmark and measure the distance.  I seriously doubt any of you can even see a 5-foot wide car even from 1 mile away let alone 3 miles away.  And certainly you cannot possibly see a 5-foot wide car from 9 MILES AWAY which is the actual equivalent of the seventy-foot Skyhook supposedly seen from Godman Field at about 140 miles. 

QUESTION:  How could the Skyhook balloon have been seen by numerous naked eye observers at Godman Field when it was about 3 times too far away, about 140 miles distant?

Even at that distance the Skyhook would only be a pinpoint in the sky, with no resolvable shape or detail.

QUESTION:  How could Mantell and his wingmen Clements and Hammond have seen the Skyhook from about 70 miles away when they saw the bright object (UFO) as they flew near the vicinity of Bowling Green, Ky.?  Again the maximum possible distance the Skyhook could have been seen was about 45 miles. 

Mantell's wingman Lt Albert Clements returned to base, refueled and reloaded his oxygen, and went back up to find the UFO and his flight leader Mantell at 4:05 PM.  Clements went up to 33,000 feet and headed out 100 miles from Godman right over Franklin, Ky., and Mantell's crash site without knowing it (not reported yet and/or report hadn't reached the right people yet) and went beyond, crossing the border into Tennessee at 4:25-30 PM according to Capt Tyler's report.  At that same time Dr Seyfert in Nashville was watching the Skyhook balloon to the south of him, roughly 20 miles away (while others in Columbia to the south saw it from the other direction to their north).  The Skyhook would then have been only roughly 40 miles from Lt Clements who searching.

QUESTION:  Why didn't Lt Clements see the Skyhook from about 40 miles away when Skyhooks purportedly (according to pro-Skyhook partisans) should have been visible from 140 miles?  Isn't it because 40 miles is right at the borderline of the 45-mile visibility limit?  Does that not further reinforce the fact and prove that a seventy-foot Skyhook could not be seen at 40-45 miles but could be seen from around 20 miles away?

An amateur astronomer, as reported in Nashville papers, sighted the balloon and noticed that it turned yellow at 4:50 PM then red in the reddish light of sunset at 5:05 PM then disappeared in the earth's shadow at 5:12 PM.  A balloon would have had to be at about 80,000 feet (15 miles) altitude in order to catch the last rays of the setting sun while the ground around Nashville was already 1/2 hour in twilight darkness after sunset. 

This 80,000 feet was in fact the tracked maximum altitude reached by the 1-6-48 Skyhook launch, and not the 60,000 or 100,000 feet altitudes postulated by Moore and others who should have known better.  This helps establish that it was in fact the 1-6-48 Skyhook Flight B.  That would mean the Skyhook was not descending or leaking yet and it eliminates any attempted self-serving scenarios where the balloon comes down to 50,000 feet in order to force fit sighting details.  As of 5:12 PM the Skyhook was still at maximum height 80,000 feet southeast of Nashville. 

Tom DeMary:
Certainly the Godman Field observers could not tell what they were looking at 100 miles+ range (unaided vision), but they *might* see the reflected sunlight from what is effectively a very large mirror.

Brad Sparks:
The Skyhook balloons were made of transparent plastic like household Saran wrap or dry cleaning bags only tougher.  They were not mirrors!  The sun would barely have a fractional percentage of sheen off the plastic. There is simply no way that a 70-foot transparent balloon which looked transparent to witnesses could be visible at all beyond about 45 miles, which is 1 arcminute angular size. No one ever reported seeing any "mirror" like flashes of reflected sunlight off the Skyhook.  The only light ever described was steady, not flickering, not shimmering, not flashing.  The fact that Lt Clements could not see the Skyhook when he came back to look and was about 40 miles away proves that 40-45 miles was about the limit of visibility of the Skyhook.  (Many years later mammoth Skyhooks 250-feet in size were launched but obviously don't count because 3-4 times larger.) 

Dick Hall:
After reading Brad Sparks's analysis today, I think it is time for me to recount my sighting of a Moby Dick balloon about 1956 in New Orleans. I made lots of notes at the time, but am not sure where they are now. So this is based on memory alone.


June 11, 2006

Tom DeMary:
OK, I surrender.  I probably can't see a 5 foot [wide] car 1 mile away. This means that I also can't see a 15 x 5 ft object 15 x 1 miles away; that is, a 75 foot object 15 miles away. Furthermore, cars aren't even translucent; they reflect light, unlike Skyhook balloons, so I have been told, which should make the balloons even harder to see. The altitude of the 73 ft balloon over Nashville has been proven to be 80,000 ft or 15 miles, so this same argument also proves that nobody on the ground would have spotted the 73 ft balloon over Nashville, because nobody on the ground was closer than 15 miles to the balloon.

Brad Sparks:
The original figures I gave for 20/20 vision are that a 70-foot object is at the limit of visual acuity at about 45 miles, it is 1 arcminute.  Do you dispute that?  Nitpicking at the boundary lines don't cut it.  Prove that the nearly transparent Skyhook balloon could be seen from 140 miles away don't quibble about 15 miles vs. 20 miles.  Prove that many people are capable of noticing and reporting a 0.3 arcminute object in the sky.  Some people certainly could not have seen it at 15-20 miles, but others could and did.  I contend that NO ONE can see a 70-foot object like the Skyhook at 140 miles. 

Joel Carpenter:
Come on, Brad - the 100 foot diameter Echo balloon satellites were in a 900 mile high orbit and could easily be seen from the ground.

Brad Sparks:
Come on Joel, the Echo satellites were MIRROR REFLECTORS made of aluminized (METAL) mylar plastic and brightly reflected sunlight so that they were "brighter than stars."  The Skyhooks were NOT made of reflective MIRROR-like material but of TRANSPARENT dry-cleaner bag type plastic.

Fran Ridge:
Since there were about two launches of Skyhooks per week (about a hundred a year) one would think there would be many UFO reports attributable to them.
Besides just launchings, even more important would be how long they are airborne, meaning many would be floating around at one time. WHY, why did this particular Skyhook (which I also contend was not) spark so much attention? Not so much because a man was killed and everybody knew it and was out looking, because the State Police at Madisonville were getting reports of an object 250' in diameter BEFORE they called the tower and BEFORE Mantell knew anything about anything. As Brad mentioned to me, we need to find out the source and content of THOSE reports, the ones that occurred before everybody was perked up to listen about something going on after a pilot was killed chasing a strange object.

Now, concerning what Mantell reportedly saw, if he couldn't have, and didn't see a Skyhook, whether this was a UFO situation or not, what DID he see? What would a pilot of Mantell's caliber be describing that appeared to him to be "large and metallic, tremendous in size"? Even if he COULD see the Skyhook, he wouldn't have described it as "tremendous in size" or "large and metallic". He did see an object "above and ahead of me". If he would have been close enough to actually SEE the object (which he was) a Skyhook would have then been described as a bright object which he couldn't identify, at best. The incidents occurring at the time of the Mantell incident are part of the Mantell report, but next we need to document even more so the two incidents we consider to be potential UFO incidents: at least Lockbourne & Columbus.

Fran Ridge:
Joel, I saw and photographed Echo several times, but seriously doubt any reflection would cause any object to be described by a pilot as large and metallic, tremendous in size. I can see a pilot mystified by an object like that, but I can't fathom anyone using those words unless they meant it. Besides, this wasn't at night for gosh sakes. This was broad daylight.

Jan Aldrich:
I agree with Dick Hall's posting. The arguments surrounding balloon appearance and behavior in recent postings are becoming more and more ridiculous and silly. I have some sixteen years experience in meteorology that involves thousands of balloon observations of all types.

Brad Sparks:
By the way, grazing angle reflection requires angles of less than 1 degree between the surface and the light source -- in this case the Skyhook would have had to be within 1 degree of the sun thus blindingly masked in glare and not visible.  Furthermore, the areal dimensions of a partial "sheen" of sun reflection off a 70-foot Skyhook is MUCH LESS than 70 feet and is nowhere near sunlight brilliance. Furthermore, naked eye witnesses in the Godman Field region sighted the object with extended dimensions much larger than a pinpoint of light.  Godman commander Col Hix estimated 1/4 Full Moon by the naked eye (NO he didn't confuse the binocular view and was very clear about that in his statement

Jan Aldrich:
Where did you get 70 feet, same place you got all the information on Mogul #4?  Out of the air.  I don't believe you can tell how big the skyhook was unless you have met(eorologcal) data for that day and know the exact altitude and then it would only be guesstimates.  Quantitative information my foot!

Brad Sparks:
If you had been paying attention instead of pontificating you would have known that the 70 foot size of the 1-6-48 launch AS PREVIOUSLY POSTED NUMEROUS TIMES (take note Mary) this past week came from the tracking data.  When Mary can post Joel's patching-up of the multiple scans of the drafting-paper-sized map you'll see the balloon size or model type is recorded.  And the plastic doesn't stretch in the stratosphere -- it breaks in the extreme cold.

Joel Carpenter:
Fran, there was an internal history of the Air Force balloon program  published in 1959 that included this paragraph. "A further advantage, or disadvantage, of plastic balloons is that from a distance they look remarkably like flying saucers." 

Fran Ridge:
Same thing the CIA said about U-2's. Joel, I believe balloons have fooled people. I saw one (I think) moving rapidly E-W one day and it looked like a flying disc. It could have been either one because it was going the wrong way, normally, but I only logged the date and time FTR just in case. Never took it seriously.

Has anyone wondered why Mantell didn't describe more than he did? Did he pass out that fast? Or is it possible that his radio acted up like the F-86 did over Albuquerque in 1952. Also, he would have caught up with that Skyhook real fast. He would have passed under it (because it was much higher), but it should not have outdistanced him. He said it was moving about "half my speed". Ever wonder how an experienced pilot could say that about a distant balloon of any kind?

Don Ledger:
Hi Joel, I'm guessing the first row of photos and second from the left had the Sun directly behind it. The 4th from the left would be more like what I would have envisioned that Mantell was chasing if it was a balloon. But in the second row, the 4th from the left is more like what the witnesses were reporting parachute shaped, ice-cream cone shaped etc. Sorry if this is silly and ridiculous.


June 12, 2006

Brad Sparks:
This is cute but it's not science. One of the balloons depicted, as Don points out, has the SUN DIRECTLY BEHIND IT!!!  Gimme a break!  Another one shown is obviously a mylar metallized mirror-reflective balloon which was not invented yet for Skyhooks in 1948. So, no one is willing to defend the fraud Charles B. Moore the so-called "balloon expert" who cannot correctly calculate balloon ascent rates with simple grade-school math????  Whose fabricated figures just happen to agree with his anti-Roswell slander scenario??? No one wants to assert that 2 + 2 = 5 ? Or 100 / 12 = 350 as Moore claims??? I will give $1,000 to anyone who can prove that Moore's figures of 100 ft /12 mins = 350 ft/min.  Is that enough of an incentive?  Or will you all just put up or shut up? 

By the way, I happen to know that the 1-6-48 Skyhook DID include MIRROR-like REFLECTORS that NO ONE DOGGONE SAW in Tennessee or Kentucky.  Yet the TRANSPARENT dry-cleaner-bag-like plastic is supposed to have brilliantly reflected sunlight like a mirror according to people on this List -- yet the actual MIRROR reflectors did not!  But I can't talk about how I know, you'll have to ask Mary to let me talk about it. 

Tom DeMary:
I originally said that people at Godman Field *might* have seen a balloon at Nashville because it was such a large reflector, and that I did not know how to calculate the apparent brightness. It turns out that the math involved is pretty simple, at least to calculate an upper limit.

Brad Sparks:
Thanks for the calculation. I also consulted the formula in the Condon Report. (See detail)


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