The William Powell Case
Dr. James E. McDonald:
Skipping over many other pilot observations to a more recent one which I have personally checked, I call attention to a close-range airborne sighting of a domed-disc, seen under midday conditions by two observers. One of them, William C. Powell, of Radnor, Pa., is a pilot with 18,000 logged flight hours. He and a passenger, Miss Muriel MeClave, were flying in Powell's Luscombe in the Philadelphia area on the afternoon of 5/21/66 when an object that had been first spotted as it apparently followed an outbound flight of Navy jets from Willow Grove NAS made a sharp (non-banking) turn and headed for Powell's plane on a near-collision course. As the object passed close by, at a distance that Powell put at roughly 100 yards, they both got a good look at the object. It was circular in plan form and had no wings or visible means of propulsion, both witnesses emphasized to me in interviews. The upper domed portion they described as "porcelain-white", while the lower discoid portion was bright red ("day glow red" Powell put it). It was slightly below their altitude as it passed on their right, and Powell pointed out that it was entirely solid, for it obscured the distant horizon areas. His brief comment about its solidity and reality was, "It was just like looking at a Cadillac." He estimated its airspeed as perhaps 200 mph, and it moved in a steady, non-fluttering manner. He estimated its diameter at perhaps 20 feet. Miss McClave thought it might have been nearer 40 feet across. Each put the thickness-to-diameter ratio as about one-half. After it passed their starboard wing, Powell could see it only by looking back over his shoulder through a small aft window, but Miss MeClave had it in full view when suddenly, she stated to me, it disappeared instantaneously, and they saw no more of it.
Discussion - Powell flies executive transports for a large Eastern firm, after years of military and airline duty. I have discussed the case with one of his superiors, who speaks without qualification for Powell's trustworthiness. At a UFO panel discussion held on April 22, 1967 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Powell was asked to summarize his sighting. His account is in the proceedings of that session (Ref.30). I know of no natural phenomenon that could come close to explaining this sighting. The visibility was about 15 miles, they were flying in the clear at 4500 ft, and the object passed nearby. A pilot with 18,000 hours flight experience is not capable of precise midair distance and speed estimates. but his survival has probably hinged on not commonly making errors of much over a factor of two. Given the account and accepting its reliability, it seems necessary to say that here was one more case of what Gen. Samford described as "credible observers seeing relatively incredible objects". I felt that Powell's summary of his sighting at the ASNE meeting was particularly relevant because, in addition to my being on the panel there, Dr. D. H. Menzel and Mr. Philip J. Klass, both strong exponents of meteorological-type UFO theories, were present to hear his account. I cannot see how one could explain this incident in terms of meteorological optics nor in terms of ball lightning plasmoids. Here again, we appear to be dealing with a meaningful observation of some vehicle or craft of non-terrestrial origin. Its reported instantaneous disappearance defies (as does the same phenomenon reported by J. B. Whitted and numerous other UFO witnesses) ready explanation in terms of present-day scientific knowledge. Powell reported his sighting at Willow Grove NAS, but it engendered no interest.
Source: Dr. James E. McDonald, Prepared Statement on Unidentified Flying Objects, Page 45-46, Hearings, 1968.