Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2010 19:52:53 -0400
From: Brad Sparks
Subject: Re: Nov. 21, 1957; Houma AFS,  Louisiana

The "figuring" is wrong -- nothing was at 31,000 ft, that's a gross error, it was 16,000 (or 17,700) ft and lowering to 3,000 ft.  Why two whole SENTENCES for a simple Blue Book typo that dropped out the "a" in "Houma" like some great detective discovery has been made??

This is a very poor case (no data on azimuths or what directions, no weather data, no visuals, etc.) and it is obviously weather-related. 
Winds aloft of 55 knots are not unusual at all (hurricanes generate even faster winds and they happen all the time in the Gulf of Mexico -- ever hear of Katrina with 175 mph winds?).  This was apparently a 10-15-mile cloud or flock of birds, which was heading North and inland from the Gulf.  Two airliners flew over it and their onboard radars detected nothing and they saw nothing unusual (if they saw the cloud or a flock of birds they would not have made note of it since they were being directed to what was thought to be a moving target like an aircraft and it was nighttime and perhaps not enough light to see).

There might have been a large flock of birds covering a 10-15-mile area with no cloud.  Birds would be able to move with or against the wind so exact wind speeds won't disprove it.

Lastly, the radar operator's "correction" for what he claimed was a failure of the radar set's built-in earth curvature correction is itself grossly in error.  The earth's curvature at 50 miles is only 1700 ft -- NOT 15,000 ft.  So even if there was an equipment failure on this function the highest altitude was about 17,700 ft (16,000 indicated + 1700 ft correction = 17,700 ft).  NOT 31,000 ft.