Date: Tue, 22 May 2012 12:36:35 +0100
Subject: Re: [Current Encounters] Jan. 27, 1965; Plum Tree Island (Hampton), Virginia (BB)

Martin Shough wrote:

Worth noting that the witness was looking N-NE across 1.8 mi of the Back River roughly towards the Plum Tree Island NASA aviation test range operated by Langley, whose nearby runways were about E or ENE from him. The site appears to have been used mainly for model drop tests and the like from helicopters and cherry-pickers. Since BB approached Langley one supposes that no testing of unusual illuminated LEM-style rigs or similar was actually taking place or they would have jumped on the explanation. All they got from Langley was that there was a helicopter "in the area east of Langley" during the sighting time. Clear as mud, but that *could* place a chopper in the line of sight. It was good enough for BB, of course. But why this chopper would be carrying a bank of multiple red lights is another question, not to mention the parallels with similar cases. Anyway, here're a few bits of possibly-relevant background:

The 1959 location map of the planned Plum Tree Island test range:

1960 Operations Plan:

Photos of a paraglider test at Plumtree in 1961:

1965 letter (undated but 14 Dec 65 date added in pencil) requesting permission for unspecified drop tests there:

Interesting NASA video, undated, showing model drop tests of various lifting bodies and capsules at Plumtree:



BTW the single helicopter reportedly in the area was an H-3 Sea King, not an especially quiet machine I feel but others more knowledgeable may want to comment. True, the W or WNW wind direction was not necessarily most favourable, but on a cold, clear night over open water one might expect that some sound might be heard from a Sea King near enough to subtend a significant visual angle (resolvable string of multiple lights) - yet the report says it was silent.


Hi Martin,

Thanks for the NASA test range data. The AF reporting on the case is a bit murky. Too bad we don't have the NICAP reports -- see UFO Investigator Mar-Apr 1965 p. 4b. Crimmins told NICAP the lights looked like they were "on the edge or rim of a rapidly rotating disc."

NICAP UFO investigator Mar-Apr 1965 p. 4b:

On Jan. 27, Maj. John Nayadley, a retired AF pilot who is now a NASA research engineer, sighted a fast-moving objectat Hampton, Va. At first, its speed led him to think it a "shooting star." But when it came closer, he saw it was a V shaped object with blinking red-orange lights on the outer edges. The sighting was fully confirmed by another NASA engineer, A.G. Crimmins, Jr., who saw the UFO maneuvering close to the ground.

"It was zigzagging as if searching for a landing spot," said Mr. Crimmins, in his report to NICAF. "I watched it through 20 x 50 binoculars and I could see the same flashing lights. They appeared to be on the edge or rim of a rapidly rotating disc."

After a brief touch-landing, the flying disc took off and rapidly climbed out of sight.

The AF quickly explained the UFO as a helicopter. When an investigator from Langley AFB questioned Crimmins, he said that "no helicopters were flying at that time."

But AFHQ still uses this false answer, ridiculing an experienced AF pilot and a NASA engineer as too befuddled or excited to recognize an ordinary "whirly-bird."

Soon alter this case broke, Maj. Hector Quintanella [sic], UFO Project chief, came to Richmond to debunk the numerous recent Virginia sightings. Playing up frauds, delusions and fake photos, Quintanella combined ridicule, evasion or denial of documented facts and claimed not a single UFO report had ever been proved true.

The Langley AFB report to BB is very fuzzy and marred by errors and contradictions. It is unclear what the estimated distance to the object was, but seems to have been the 1.8 mile distance to Plum Tree Island, which seems to be where the object hovered and then landed for 5 minutes of the 1-1/2-hour sighting. Crimmins estimated the object's size at 75 feet, which at a distance of about 9,000 ft (1.8 mi) would represent a naked-eye angular size of about 0.5 deg or almost Full Moon, which is huge. But Crimmins also used 20x 50mm binoculars which would magnify the equivalent angular size to almost 20 times Full Moon, an extraordinarily large image over an extraordinarily great length of time, making it highly unlikely to be a helicopter. Crimmins also noted no sound.

Moreover, the AF report states that the Navy helicopter was in the area east of Langley AFB only from 6:00 to 6:30 PM, whereas Crimmins sighted the object from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, or for 1 hour after the helicopter had left. The AF did not state exactly where "east" of Langley AFB the helicopter was located nor what sort of mission it was on.

The sketchy AF report gives the impression the object was seen to the NNE yet states that "upon disappearance" the object was at an "azimuth of 090 degrees from the observer." That is Due East from Crimmins, straight out to sea, and well away from Langley AFB. So if it was a helicopter, it apparently did not return to base, assuming it was based at Langley AFB about NNW of Crimmins or at Norfolk Naval Air Station to the S of Crimmins.

Since Crimmins was using 20-power binoculars he could see a helicopter out to a very great distance. Visibility was reported at 10 miles but with bright lights and binoculars the distance could be much greater.

Among the errors and discrepancies in the Langley AFB report to BB, besides the typo in the Zulu time of Crimmins' sighting, there is the question of the date of reporting and investigation. The AF reporting officer 1st Lt. Dockum claims that the sighting description was given to him by Crimmins in a personal interview on Jan. 29, or 2 days after the sighting (why the delay?). Yet Lt Dockum states that he searched the (landing) area "in a helicopter the next morning after the reported sighting," or on Jan 28. That would suggest that Crimmins reported his sighting by phone on the morning of Jan 28 with sufficient detail that Lt Dockum could find and search the landing site by helicopter. Maybe Crimmins did both, report by phone on Jan 28 and in person on Jan 29, but it is a little odd to not just say that, in as simple words as I have just given.

Lt Dockum claims, apparently falsely, that "Mr. Crimmins stated that he thought that a helicopter would explain his sighting." Crimmins certainly would have denied any such claim in his report to NICAP. Even on its own terms, the AF claim that the witness himself acknowledged a helicopter IFO explanation does not explain why the hell Crimmins would have even bothered reporting the sighting to the AF at all if he had had any inkling it was simply a helicopter operating in an active aviation area!

The BB file has a 3x5 card with a handwritten note:

"for additional information see [redacted -- Nayadley ??] folder."



I agree with just about all of this, Brad. Some of the same points occurred to me. I'd only add one comment to this:

Lt Dockum states that he searched the (landing) area "in a helicopter the next morning after the reported sighting," or on Jan 28. That would suggest that Crimmins reported his sighting by phone on the morning of Jan 28.
Perhaps Lt Dockum meant to say that he searched in a helicopter the next morning after the sighting was reported instead of after the reported sighting?