Contrails Observed And Tracked By Radar
Aug. 14, 1950
Cromer, England


Brad Sparks:
Aug. 14, 1950; 10 miles N of Cromer, England (BBU)
1:22 p.m. (GMT). RAF Fighter Command Control at Neatishead radar tracked an unidentified aircraft designated “85N” at 55° azimuth range 90 miles, located near Cromer at 15,000 ft traveling about 325 knots (375 mph). After 2 mins radar tracking, Neatishead GCI controller scrambled 257 Squadron Red Section leader Flight Lt. Kartley and a wingman at 1:24 p.m. in 2 RAF Meteor jet fighters from RAF Horsham St. Faith airborne 1:27 p.m. At 1:28 p.m. Neatishead Type 13 radar tracked target at 40,000 ft and height was radioed to jets which leveled off at 15,000 ft. At 1:35 p.m. jets reached 10 miles N of Cromer climbing in altitude to 25,000 and 30,000 ft where the pilots saw two vapor trails suggesting to them widely spaced engines on a single aircraft to their right at great distance and higher altitude on a heading of 280° on a parallel course to the jets. Jets got “slightly ahead” of the contrails while keeping them in sight, at a radar track range of 5 miles to the target. At 1:41 p.m. Neatishead radar plotted unidentified target and Meteors at 7 miles due N of Hunstanton heading WNW. At 1:42 p.m. pilots saw contrails change heading to the right and they did the same, heading NW or N, all confirmed by Neatishead GCI radar controller. At 1:45 p.m. radar tracked jets and target 5 miles S of Mablethorpe, when blips faded; at this time pilots were at 38,000 [or 38,800] ft with contrails still above them and behind on the left at 7 o’clock position, estimated visually at 30 miles distance when contrails turned to the right heading due N 360° then disappeared. Jets made 360° right turn while still climbing to 39,500 ft but were unable to see contrails or aircraft. Object always remained too far to be seen. At 1:49 p.m. blips reappeared on GCI Neatishead radar which tracked jets 10-15 miles E of Grimsby, but no unidentified target, and GCI ordered jets to turn right to the S to verify target identity on scope. Two USAF F-84’s from Manston in the area independently saw the Meteors at about 36,500 ft and also the two unidentified contrails higher above. (Jan Aldrich)