Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 10:17:01 -0500
From: Francis Ridge <nicap@insightbb.com>
Subject:  Dec. 15, 1952; Goose AFB
To: RADCAT

 

The following was extracted from NARCAP's catalog.

8.  DATE: December 15, 1952          TIME: 1915 local            CLASS: R/V  air radar/air
                                                                                                                                       visual

LOCATION:                                     SOURCE: Thayer, in Condon 1970, 126

Goose AFB

Labrador, NF

                                                           RADAR DURATION: unspecified, but brief

 

EVALUATION: Blue Book - Venus/radar malfunction

                           Thayer - mirage of Venus/radar malfunction

 

PRECIS:  An F-94B and a T-33 jet trainer were flying at 14,000' when both crews saw a bright red and white object at 270 degrees azimuth. The F-94 attempted to intercept the object but was unable to close the range. At one point during the chase the radar operator acquired a target at the correct approximate azimuth and the AI radar "locked on" briefly, but contact was soon lost. At 1940, after 25 minutes of pursuit at an indicated airspeed of 375 knots, the object faded and disappeared, at which time the F-94 was about 20 miles from its position at the initial sighting.

 

 

NOTES:  The Air Force conclusion that the radar malfunctioned was not based on evidence of a fault (the AI radar would usually be checked before and after every mission) but simply on the fact that the contact was brief. Venus was setting in the E at about the time of the event and seemed a probable explanation, in which case there would be every reason to dismiss the radar contact as a malfunction. Thayer agrees that the aircrew were probably chasing Venus, but adds that the image could have been a mirage of Venus which would be more likely to mislead experienced pilots and would explain the description of the light as a source with "no definite size or shape". An astronomical explanation is supported by the witnesses' statement that the relative elevation of the object appeared to remain constant despite the varying altitude of the aircraft, by the inability of the F-94 to close on the object, and by the fact that no ground radar contact was reported with the object. The weather was clear with unlimited visibility.

 

   There is a serious flaw in this otherwise plausible hypothesis, however: after 25 minutes of pursuit at an IAS of 375 knots (about 430 mph) the F-94 had covered only about 20 miles on the ground. If it were chasing a stationary celestial body it should have covered some 180 miles during this time. The actual distance would imply a ground speed of about 48 mph (about half the stalling airspeed of an F-94), and headwinds of 380 mph at 14,000' are presumably impossible. This curious anomaly in the report is not explained by Blue Book or by Thayer. It suggests that the pursuit was not confined to a single azimuth and that the F-94 had thus been brought back to a point near its original position when the object disappeared, in which case it could not have been Venus or any other celestial body. A lighted balloon might lead a pilot on an erratic chase, back and forth over a restricted area, but the F-94 would rapidly overtake a balloon and none of the characteristic "dog-fight" behavior of balloon interceptions occurred in this case.

 

    Unless this contradiction can be resolved the object cannot be identified as Venus or any other object with any confidence, and if it was not Venus then a reassessment of the AI radar "lock on" becomes in order. The reported absence of ground radar contact is suggestive, but not wholly probative without information on the range of the aircraft from Goose and the completeness of any report or investigation at that site. The case would appear to merit further study.

 

STATUS: Insufficient information