THE UFO EVIDENCE, published by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, Copyright 1964
PILOTS & AVIATION EXPERTS
If UFOs had not been reported by pilots of scheduled airliners, and military pilots in operation all over the globe, there might be some justification in writing off reports of ground observers as mistaken observations. For, if unknown objects are maneuvering in our skies, pilots would be among the most likely to see them. (Others whose professions cause them to spend many hours watching the skies, such as General Mills Corporation balloon trackers, also have reported numerous UFOs. )
Airline and military pilots are among the most experienced observers of the sky. Their profession requires them to spend hundreds of hours per year in the air. Few, if any, occupations require more practical knowledge of weather, other aircraft, and unusual activity such as missile tests. Undoubtedly, few groups of observers have seen more meteors or watched planets under a wider variety of sky conditions. In addition, professional pilots normally are trained in rapid identification of anything which may endanger a flight. Therefore, it is significant that airline and military pilots have reported a large number of totally unexplained UFO sightings.
Recognizing that airline pilots have special training and are in a unique position for observation, the Defense Department includes them in the military system of reporting vital intelligence sightings (CIRVIS), as detailed in the Joint Chiefs regulation JANAP-146(D). [See Section IX.] In 1954, the groundwork for CIRVIS reports was laid by meetings between representatives of the airlines and Military Air Transport Service (MATS) intelligence branch. The reason? "The nation's 8,500 commercial airline pilots have been seeing a lot of unusual objects while flying at night, here and overseas," Scripps-Howard reported. "But," the report continued, "there hasn't been much of an organized system of reporting to military authorities. . . [the airlines and MATS] agreed to organize a speedy reporting system so that a commercial pilot spotting strange objects could send the word to the Air Force in a hurry. The Air Force could then send jet fighters to investigate." 
With a few exceptions, most UFO reports on record from military pilots have come from the World War II and Korean War eras, or from recently retired officers. Military pilots, naturally, are restricted from discussing the sightings freely while they are on active duty. But airline pilots (although in recent years some times under pressure from their companies not to discuss sightings) have contributed some of the best reports on record.
There had been scattered reports by airline pilots previously but "In the Spring of 1950," the former Chief of the Air Force UFO project reported, "the airline pilots began to make more and more reports - - good reports. . . In April, May, and June of 1950 there were over thirty-five good reports from airline crews."  That June, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker said in an interview:
"Flying saucers are real. Too many good men have seen them, that don't have hallucinations." Flying magazine, July 1950, published a roundup report on pilot sightings, giving them very serious treatment (as did other aviation journals in later years; for example, see RAF Flying Review, July 1957).
When NICAP was formed in 1956, four airline pilots (two of whom had personally
sighted UFOs) joined the NICAP Panel of Special Advisers. Federal Aviation
Agency personnel, aviation industry engineers, and other aviation experts
also related their sightings and offered their services. Why are UFOs taken
so seriously by professional pilots and aviation experts?
What professional and private pilots have seen is readily classifiable into three general types of UFO phenomena (corresponding very well with the Air Force Project Grudge Report; see Section XII):
* Geometrical objects, generally circular (disc, oval, ellipse)(Since military pilot sightings are covered in previous sections, they will not be detailed here. In general, they correspond to nonmilitary reports, so the latter are discussed in this section as typical pilot sightings.)
The earliest recorded UFO sighting by an airline pilot, during the initial flurry of sightings in the United States, was the report by Capt. E. J. Smith, United Airlines, July 4, 1947. Flying a DC-3 from Boise, Idaho, to Portland, Oregon, Captain Smith and his crew observed two separate groups of flat round objects ahead, silhouetted against the sunset. The UFOs were visible for about 10 minutes over a distance of about 45 miles, opening and closing formation. In the second group of UFOs, three operated close together, and a fourth was off to one side by itself. 
Since that date, dozens of pilots on all the major airlines have reported UFOs.
Private pilots, also, have witnessed typical geometrical UFOs. During July 1948, in Pasco, Washington, Don Newman (former Air Force pilot) watched a disc-shaped UFO with a dome on top maneuvering over the city at 1:00 p.m. "The exterior finish appeared to be spun or brushed aluminum," Newman said in his report to NICAP. The UFO alternately slowed and accelerated rapidly, diving, and climbing over the area. 
On March 18, 1950, Robert Fisher was flying his family from Chicago to Keokuk, Iowa. Near Bradford, Illinois, at 8:40 a.m., he spotted an oval, metallic-appearing disc ahead and slightly to the left of his Bonanza NC 505B. The UFO was moving on a course of about 120 degrees true. (Fisher was flying a southwesterly course, approximately 225 degrees.) The UFO shone in the sunlight, but when it flew below an overcast continued to glow, indicating that it was self-illuminated. It quickly moved off into the distance, at a speed estimated to be 600 to 1,000 mph. 
Near Goshen, Indiana, April 27, 1950, a bright orange-red disc paced a Trans World Airways DC-3, which was piloted by Capts. Robert Adickes and Robert F. Manning. As the crew and many passengers watched, the UFO pulled alongside the plane. It looked "like a big red wheel rolling along." Each time the pilot moved toward the object, it moved away as if controlled by repulse radar. When the pilot turned, the disc dove (presenting an edge-on view) and sped off to the north toward South Bend. 
A month later (May 29), an American Airlines plane departed Washington, D. C., enroute south over Virginia. About 9:30 p.m., First Officer Bill Gates noticed a light approaching the airliner head-on and notified Capt. Willis T. Sperry. Flight Engineer Robert Arnholt also witnessed what followed. An unidentified object with a brilliant bluish light on the leading edge neared, and seemed to stop. Suddenly it darted to the left of the plane, stopped for a few seconds, then circled around to the right. There it was silhouetted against the moon, revealing a torpedo-shaped or narrow elliptical body. Finally the UFO sped away to the east. Captain Sperry called the speed "fantastic," and said it was "without a doubt beyond the limits of any known aircraft speeds." 
A "perfectly round disc" hovering above the Hanford atomic plant, Richland, Washington, was observed by four veteran pilots July 5, 1952. The four Conner Airlines pilots were interviewed by United Press when they landed in Denver, Colorado, and their story was put on the newswires that day.
Capt. John Baldwin (former Air Force pilot, with 7000 hours airline pilot experience at the time) said he was flying near the Hanford atomic plant at about 9000 feet. The UFO was noticed above the plane about 6:00 a.m. It was "just below a deck of wispy clouds about 10,000 to 15,000 feet directly above us," Baldwin said. He described it as "a perfectly round disc, white in color and almost transparent with small vapor trails off it like the tentacles of an octopus." [cf., September 24, 1959 FAA case below]
Capt. George Robertson, D. Shenkel (both former Air Force pilots) and Steven Summers confirmed Baldwin's report. "All of us have been flying a number of years," Baldwin said, "and we've seen all kinds of clouds and formations, but none of us had ever seen anything like this before."
At first, the UFO was hovering. Then it "seemed to back away" and tilt
edge-on. "It became flat, gained speed and then disappeared quickly," Baldwin
On the evening of July 14, 1952, a Pan American Airways DC-4 airliner, flying at 8,000 feet, was approaching the Norfolk, Virginia, area enroute to Miami. The senior Captain was back in the cabin and Capt. William B. Nash, temporarily acting as First Officer, was at the controls. In the right hand cockpit seat was Second Officer William Fortenberry. The night was clear and visibility unlimited. Norfolk lay about 20 miles ahead, on the plane's course of 200 degrees magnetic. Off to the right were the lights of Newport News.
About 8:10 p.m. EST, both men noticed a red brilliance in the sky, apparently beyond and to the east of Newport News. The light quickly resolved itself into six bright objects streaking toward the plane, at lower altitude. The UFOs were fiery red. "Their shape was clearly outlined and evidently circular," Captain Nash stated. "The edges were well-defined, not phosphorescent or fuzzy in the least." The upper surfaces were glowing red-orange.
Within seconds, "we could observe that they were holding a narrow echelon formation--a stepped-up line tilted slightly to our right, with the leader at the lowest point and each following craft slightly higher," Captain Nash said.
Abruptly, the leader seemed to slow. The second and third objects wavered slightly and almost overran the leader. The pilots estimated that the UFOs were a little more than a mile below them, at about 2,000 feet, and about 100 feet in diameter.
When the line of discs was almost directly underneath the plane and slightly to the right front, the UFOs abruptly flipped up on edge in unison and reversed direction. (See diagram.) Captain Nash described the maneuver: " . . . they flipped on edge, the sides to the left of us going up and the glowing surfaces facing right. Though the bottom surfaces did not become clearly visible, we had the impression that they were unlighted. The exposed edges, also unlighted, appeared to be about 15 feet thick, and the top surface, at least seemed flat. In shape and proportion, they were much like coins.
"While all were in the edgewise position, the last five slid over and past the leader so that the echelon was now tail foremost, so to speak, the top or last craft now being nearest to our position. Then, without any arc or swerve at all, they all flipped back together to the flat attitude and darted off in a direction that formed a sharp angle with their first course, holding their new formation.
"Immediately after these six lined away, two more objects just like them darted out from behind and under our airplane at the same altitude as the others."
As the two additional discs joined the formation, the lights of all eight blinked out, then came back on again. Still in line, the eight discs sped westward north of Newport News, climbed in a graceful arc above the altitude of the airliner. Then the lights blinked out one by one, though not in sequence.
Captain Nash also noted that the original six discs had dimmed slightly before their angular turn, and brightened considerably after making the turn. The two discs speeding to join the formation were brightest of all. Captain Nash and Third Officer Fortenberry radioed a report of the sighting to be forwarded to the Air Force.
July 14, 1952; nr. Norfolk, Va.
"At 7:00 a.m. the morning after the sighting," Captain Nash reported, "we were telephoned by the Air Force. . . to come for questioning. There were five men, one in uniform; the others showed us I.D. cards and badges of Special Investigators, USAF. In separate rooms, we were questioned for one hour and 45 minutes- -then about a half hour together. We made sketches and drew the track of the objects on charts.....the tracks matched....the accounts matched. . . all conversation [was] recorded on a stenotype machine.
"They had a complete weather report. . . it coincided with our visual observations. . . our flight plan. The investigators also advised us that they already had seven other reports. One was from a Lieutenant Commander and his wife. . . They described a formation of red discs traveling at high speed and making immediate direction changes without turn radius. .
"Regarding speed: We tried again to be very conservative in our computations. The objects first appeared about 10 miles beyond Newport News. . They traveled to within about a half mile of our craft. . . changed direction, then crossed the western suburban edge of the town areas. . . out over a dark area at least 10 miles beyond the lights, then angled up at about 45 degrees.
"We drew a line through the lighted area, measured the distance from our aircraft (and we knew our exact position both visually and by VAR navigation using an ILS needle) to the line through the lighted area. The distance was 25 miles. We had seen them cross this line twice, so we knew they had traveled at least 50 miles. . . . To get a time, we, seven times, separately, using our own panel stopwatch clocks, pushed the button, mentally went through the time, even to saying to ourselves again, 'What the hell's that!' Each time we came up amazingly close to 12 seconds. To be conservative, we increased it to 15 seconds....50 miles in 15 seconds equals 12,000 miles per hour." [361
During the Fall of 1952, three airliners 15 minutes apart sighted a UFO simultaneously. Pan American Airways Captains Charles Zammett, Robert Harris, and William Hutchins were flying DC-4 aircraft about 600 miles south of New York, enroute from New York City to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Suddenly they all saw ahead of them a huge green ball, extremely brilliant and much larger than a full moon in apparent size. The object seemed to be absolutely stationary.
The sighting was not reported to anyone until several years later when one of the pilots happened to fly with Capt. William B. Nash, PAA pilot and NICAP Adviser. Captain Nash describes what happened next:
One ship called to one of the others: "Do you see that?"
Just then the bright green orb suddenly sped off to the west at fantastic speed. They watched it move straight away from them on a horizontal path gradually diminishing in size, seemingly due to perspective diminishment.
John B. Bean, a flyer with 17 years experience, made the following report in a letter dated February 7, 1953. 
"On the afternoon of January 27, 1953, after stopping at the Purchasing Office of the Atomic Energy Commission Research Facilities near Livermore, California, I was driving north on the road which runs parallel to the eastern fence bounding the Commission properties. Immediately opposite the northeast corner of the fence, I pulled over to the side of the road in order to stop and check some papers which I had in my briefcase behind the front seat of my car. In order to do this, I opened the door and stepped out of the car, thus facing southward. Having finished removing the papers from the briefcase, I was about to climb into the car again when I heard the sound of airplane engines overhead coming in from an easterly direction. . . . It was a DC-6 letting down in the direction of Oakland Municipal Airport, which is to the west of Livermore. Estimated altitude of this aircraft was 2,500 to 3,000 feet.
"As the DC-6 proceeded westward, I was about to take my hand down from my eyes when I noticed a small, whitish object proceeding southward on a course which had just brought it across the Commission property. My initial reaction was that it was some sort of plant fiber floating in the air. Since this was the first clear, sunny day in several weeks and the atmosphere was very spring like, it was a perfectly natural reaction.
"It suddenly occurred to me that we are still in the middle of winter and, insofar as I knew, there were no plants which were giving off any white fibrous substance into the air at this time. As this realization came to me, I also noticed that this object was moving directly away from me at a very rapid rate of departure.
"It began a shallow left turn and at that point I could see that it was perfectly round and had a metallic sheen somewhat similar to that of aluminum with a satin finish. I believe another term for this type of finish on aluminum is known as brushed aluminum. It did not have a sharp glint which one often sees when light is reflected from a conventional aluminum aircraft. The light was more diffused and whitish in color. . . Having gathered my wits about me to this extent, I followed its course and suddenly it began to alter direction, at first seemingly heading due south again, and then suddenly making a steep right hand turn. It also began to climb at the most terrific rate of ascent that I have ever witnessed. I should like to say parenthetically at this point that only the week previously I had watched two swept-wing F-86's chasing tails near Hamilton Field late one evening. The two F-86's had remained relatively stationary over one spot and I had an excellent opportunity to watch them in several merry-go-rounds. A number of times they each climbed almost vertically, but their speed was insignificant compared to the speed at which this object was able to climb and execute a sharp right turn.
"The moment the object began its climb, I started a count of 1,000-2,000-3,000. By the time the count of 3,000 had been reached the object disappeared from sight.
"At this moment, coming in from the East on a due westerly heading, at an altitude somewhat lower than that at which I had sighted the disc, was a jet. It was leaving a very definite contrail all the way across the sky and was on a collision course with that of the disc prior to its rapid ascent. When I say collision course, I mean that directionally the two objects were on a collision course but that actually they were separated by several thousand feet of altitude. However, it occurred to me that the disc might have taken evasive action in order to avoid the jet.
"The jet proceeded on its course due west and to the south of the Atomic Energy Commission grounds and at a point approximately over Hayward or Castro Valley turned and headed due north.
"The interesting facts about this sighting were that I had three distinct types of aircraft within my sight range simultaneously so that it was possible to evaluate their relative speeds. Thus there was no question that the disc-like object had far more power and far more rapid maneuverability than the other two. An additional interesting factor to be kept in mind is that, where as the jet was leaving a distinct contrail at the higher altitude, the white disc left no contrail whatsoever. Neither of the two higher aircraft made any sound. However, both of them were well to the south of my position and the wind was blowing from me toward them at about 15 to20 knots. Actually I imagine the correct direction of the wind was approximately north-northwest.
"As soon as the sighting was over, I glanced at my watch and noticed the time to be 1343. The date again was the afternoon of January 27, 1953 and the atmospheric conditions were CAVU.
In closing, there is one other factor which may be of interest. The whole elapsed time from the original sighting to the disappearance of the disc was approximately nine seconds in my estimation. It may have been slightly longer, but certainly no shorter. Three of those seconds were counted time, three or four of them were observed time when I had my wits about me, and the other two to four were initial-reaction time."
A disc-shaped UFO paced a Trans-World Airways plane June 1, 1954. United Press reported the incident (newswire copy on file at NICAP):
FLYING SAUCER OR A WEATHER BALLOON... THAT SEEMS TO BE THE ISSUE BETWEEN AN AIRLINES PILOT AND THE AIR FORCE.
TRANS-WORLD AIRWAYS PILOT CHARLES KRATOVIL OF PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, SAYS HE SAW AN UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT . . . LARGE, WHITE-COLORED, AND DISC-SHAPED.
HE SAYS HE AND HIS TWO CREW MATES SPOTTED THE OBJECT 10 MILES NORTH OF BOSTON THIS MORNING
THAT IT WAS PURSUING THE SAME COURSE AS HIS PLANE BUT WAS OBSCURED BY HIGH CLOUDS.
KRATOVIL SAYS HE RECEIVED A MESSAGE FROM THE AIRLINES BOSTON OFFICE QUOTING THE AIR FORCE AS SAYING THE OBJECT PROBABLY WAS A WEATHER BALLOON.
HOWEVER, THE PILOTS PUT IT THIS WAY:
"IF THIS IS A WEATHER BALLOON... IT'S THE FIRST TIME I EVER SAW ONE TRAVELING AGAINST THE WIND."
Charles R. Morris of Dubuque, Iowa, attempted (unsuccessfully) to film three elliptical objects observed by him and his wife on March 4, 1960. The 8 mm kodachrome film, which he exposed in late afternoon, failed to show the UFOs. At 5:57 p.m. while watching one of his flying students perform aerobatics, Morris first noticed the three UFOs in the southeast sky. They moved in line, glowing a neon-like blue-white and arced from about 25 degrees elevation in the southeast toward the northeast. In about 4 minutes, the objects covered an area of about 135 degrees. During that time, Morris ran into the house for his camera while his wife continued to watch the UFOs. As the objects disappeared in the distance to the northeast, they appeared to be climbing slightly. 
NICAP Member Lex Mebane telephoned Morris and interviewed him at length a few days after the sighting, obtaining some additional information. At their largest, the UFOs appeared to be about one-eighth the apparent size of the moon. They made no sound and left no trails. The third UFO lagged behind occasionally. [cf., February 24, 1959, American Airlines case, following.]
Morris was interrogated by the Air Force, who told him there were no aircraft scheduled in the vicinity. He had checked independently with Cedar Rapids Air Traffic Control and determined the same.
The typical disc-shaped or elliptical UFOs seem to fly a recognizable course, though they do hover, alter direction abruptly and accelerate rapidly. The second main category of sightings, however, displays a characteristically different pattern of flight in a number of cases. This pattern has been compared to the gyrations of a hummingbird--alternately hovering and flitting here and there, horizontally and vertically. Whether some of the erratically maneuvering lights seen at night are in fact different from the geometrical UFOs observed in daylight is an open question. In some cases the lights have proved to be body lights on discs or ellipses; in others no definite silhouette could be seen.
TWA Pilot Reports Gyrating Light
December 27, 1950: A TWA flight was enroute from Chicago to Kansas City. Shortly after sunset Capt. Art Shutts, at the controls, noticed a bright white light ahead of the plane, also flashing to green and red occasionally. The aircraft was on a heading of approximately 200 degrees. At first Captain Shutts thought it was a star, until it began to "wobble and swerve unsteadily." Then the UFO began to streak back and forth in a north-south line, through an arc of 10 degrees to 30 degrees, changing direction abruptly. The UFO would move at terrific speed, hover oscillating slightly, then speed up. Captain Shutts noticed that the visible horizon near the UFO appeared to vibrate as if light were being distorted, especially after the object put on a burst of speed.
Finally the light dimmed to a pinpoint and began to move slowly south in a straight line. Suddenly it "lurched," accelerated rapidly and zoomed upward at a 45 degree angle, made a nearly square turn, plunged downward and disappeared below the horizon on a north heading. It had been visible for 25 minutes. 
Chief Pilot Chases Unidentified Light
The following is an exact copy of a 1952 United Press news wire report:
June 23, 1954: An Air National Guard pilot, flying an F-51 Mustang fighter, was trailed by a UFO over Ohio. The incident was reported to Leonard H. Stringfield, then director of an Ohio- based UFO investigation organization. [See Section VII; Ground Observer Corps]. Lt. Harry L. Roe, Jr., first noticed the object about 8:00 p.m. near Columbus, and kept it in sight for 45 minutes all the way to Vandalia. Lt. Roe repeatedly tried to maneuver so that he could see a silhouette behind the "round white light," but "it kept maneuvering around so it was against the darkened part of the sky." When Roe swung the F-51 around to give chase, the UFO "took off" and sped away.
November 14,1955: Another UFO which gave the appearance of intelligence behind its actions was observed at night above the San Bernardino Mountains of California. Gene Miller, a former Air Force instructor, was enroute from Phoenix, Arizona, to Banning, California. His passenger, Dr. Leslie Ward (Redlands physician) also witnessed the UFO.
A "globe of white light" appeared ahead of Miller's plane, moving very slowly. Assuming it was an airliner, he blinked his landing lights twice. The "white globe" went out twice, in apparent acknowledgment. As the light grew larger, closing on his plane, Miller flashed his landing lights three times. The UFO, he said, blinked three times, then "suddenly backed up in mid-air."
The sighting by Miller, who later became a NICAP member, was reported in the Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1955.
Commercial Plane Follows UFO
April 8, 1956: A very brilliant light was followed across New York State by an American Airlines plane. The pilots were Capt. Raymond Ryan and First Officer William Neff. The chase was described by radio to Air Force and civilian control tower operators. The following account of the sighting is taken from a tape-recorded interview program, "Meet the Millers," On WBEN TV, Buffalo, New York, April 16, 1956 (tape on file at NICAP). Mr. and Mrs. Miller are the interviewers (Int.); Captain Ryan, F/O Neff, and Bruce Foster (a Bell Aircraft Company engineer) are the guests:
Int: When you said ****(garbled), was it low, or was it low for a jet?
March 19,1957: About 7:30 p.m. local time, Pan American flight 206A was northbound off the east coast of Florida, at 30 degrees N. Latitude. The plane was enroute to New York from Nassau at 16,000 feet, moving through the tops of cumulus clouds, on a heading of 25 degrees magnetic. At the controls was Capt. Kenneth G. Brosdal, The engineer, John Wilbur, was in the co-pilot's seat. The co-pilot, George Jacobson, was navigating.
"About 50 miles east of Papa-3, a checkpoint between Nassau and Tuna," Capt. Brosdal stated, "we (the co-pilot, engineer and myself) saw this very bright white light. It seemed to grow in intensity to the point where it would be about 3 or 4 strengths of a rising Venus, then would subside. This happened about 3 or 4 times, during which I came to enough to check on the radar screen. Sure enough, a target showed up at 3 o'clock between 45-50 miles away.
"Using the cursor on the face of the radar, I checked the angle of sighting and it checked with the visual angle. This light appeared to be stationary, or moving in a N.E. direction (same as us). I observed this on the scope long after the light went out. I checked with Miami ATC [Air Traffic Control] but no other traffic or firing was in the area, to their knowledge." [401
The radar set, tuned to the 50 mile range, tracked the unidentified target for 20 minutes. The visual observation lasted 4-5 minutes. "The blip on the scope," Capt. Brosdal added, "indicated an apparent size in excess of the size of normal aircraft. The altitude of the light, on the basis of angle of sight and radar ranging, was estimated to be 20,000 to 25,000 feet."
Capt. Brosdal indicated that he was most impressed by the exceptional intensity of the light during the bright phase of pulsation.
Pilot Reports High-Speed Light
October 8, 1957: Another Pan American pilot sighted an unidentified light. Capt. Joseph L. Flynn, bringing a DC -7C flight into New York from Paris, noticed the UFO at 7:05 a.m. about 25 miles southwest of Boston. The object, "like a star traveling very fast," showed up to the right of the plane. "The sun was directly behind the plane and the object glowed a very bright silver," Captain Flynn said. "It was much brighter than the morning star." The pilot turned the plane and, for five minutes, tried to follow the UFO. But it sped out of sight.
At first Captain Flynn assumed the object was the Russian satellite, Sputnik I. But a check with the Smithsonian Institution's astrophysical observatory revealed that the satellite had passed over the New York area at 8:03 a.m., nearly an hour after the UFO sighting.  Nor would a satellite be so readily visible or appear to travel at high speed as described.
Gyrating Light Ascends After Crossing Path of Plane
February 4, 1959: Over the Western Caribbean, 3:00 a.m., Capt. H. Dunker, Pan American Airways, was piloting a DC-6-B from New Orleans to Panama. He and the crew saw a reddish light speed across their course from right to left (west to east).
About 45 degrees to their left the light stopped suddenly, fading in luminosity. Seconds later it sped back across and stopped about 10 degrees to the right. Then the UFO moved again to the left. After remaining visible about 45 seconds, the object went straight up out of sight at tremendous speed. 
The sighting of three glowing objects by several airline crews February 24, 1959 is one of the most thoroughly investigated (and, ironically, one of the most controversial) on record. The key witness, Capt. Peter W. Killian, was interviewed by NICAP personnel. A detailed investigation report, including weather data, air navigation maps, etc. , was submitted to NlCAP by the New York City Affiliate. The Akron UFO Research Committee co - operated in the investigation, adding valuable details. Other published references are listed in the Section Notes .
The Air Force later attributed the sighting to a refueling mission involving a tanker aircraft and jet bombers flashing brilliant lights. Discrepancies in this explanation are discussed in Section IX.
February 24, 1959; Captain Killian and First Officer James Dee, American Airlines, were flying a DC-6B nonstop from Newark to Detroit. It was a clear night, with stars brightly visible and no moon. At 8:20 p.m. EST the plane was approximately 13 miles west of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, flying on a heading of 295 degrees at 8,500 feet. Off the left wingtip, Captain Killian noticed three bright lights, which he first thought were the three stars making up the belt of the constellation Orion. But then he realized that Orion was also visible, higher overhead. The UFOs were about 15 degrees above the plane.
As he and F/O Dee continued to watch, the objects pulled ahead of the wingtip. At this point, in the vicinity of Erie, Pennsylvania, Captain Killian contacted two other American Airlines planes in the area. One at the Dolphin checkpoint (over the northern shore of Lake Erie) saw the objects directly to the south over Cleveland. The other aircraft, near Sandusky, Ohio, and headed toward Pittsburgh, spotted the objects a little to the left of their heading, to the southeast. [See map in Section DC]
As the DC-6B continued west, the UFOs occasionally pulled ahead and dropped back until they were in their original position with respect to the left wingtip. Then Captain Killian began letting down for landing in Detroit, and the crew no longer had time to watch the objects.
During the 45 minute observation, the UFOs continuously changed brightness, flashing brightly "brighter than any star," and fading completely. This did not occur in any apparent pattern. The color fluctuated from yellow-orange to a brilliant blue-white at their brightest. The last object in line moved back and forth at times, independently of the generally western motion of the formation.
Visibility was unlimited. The pilots agreed, "It could not be any clearer than it was that night above 5,000 feet."
When the plane began letting down for landing, about 9:15 p.m., Captain Killian and F/O Dee lost sight of the objects. At 9:30 p.m. in Akron, Ohio, George Popowitch of the UFO Research Committee received a phone call from a contact at the Akron airport. A United Airlines plane (Flight 937) had just landed for a 15-minute stop, and reported sighting three UFOs which had followed their plane for 30 minutes. Popowitch had already received 9 reports from local citizens between 9:15 and 9:20 of three UFOs seen in the area, so he arranged to interview the crew of the airliner.
Capt. A. D. Yates and Eng. L. F. Baney said they had tracked the objects from the vicinity of Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, to Youngstown, Ohio, between 8:40 and 9:10 p.m. United Airlines flight 321, also, had discussed the objects by radio. Captain Yates had seen the UFOs pacing his plane to the south. But in the vicinity of Warren, Ohio the objects passed the aircraft, veered to the right, and finally disappeared to the northwest.
UFO Landing Reported
Early in 1961, a private pilot in Texas witnessed an apparent landing of a UFO. NICAP Member Jack Varnell, Knox City, Texas, conducted an extensive investigation into the sighting and the resulting USAF interest. [44} An employee of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation office, he joined the search for the landed object shortly after noon of the day following the sighting, and observed proceedings firsthand from then on.
January 10, 1961: Pilot W. K. Rutledge and passenger George Thomas, both of Abilene, Texas, were enroute to Abilene from Tulsa, Oklahoma. At 6,500 feet over Wichita Falls, Texas, about 9:00 p.m. they spotted a red object about 1,500 feet above the plane, glowing brilliantly in the night sky. Rutledge changed course to follow it at about 180 mph, establishing radio contact with the control tower at Shepard AFB, Wichita Falls, during the chase. He followed it WSW to Munday, then north to Vera (where several persons on the ground saw it). Then the object moved WSW again, toward Benjamin, finally turning SW. When beyond Benjamin, the object began to reduce its speed and altitude, going into a glide and apparently landing 4 to 5 miles SW of the town in a heavily wooded area.
The pilot circled in his single-engine Beech "Debonair" while law officers, alerted by radio, sped to the scene. Included were Knox County Sheriff Homer T. Melton (now a Texas Ranger), one of his deputies, and the police chiefs of Knox City and Munday. Rutledge radioed his position to the Shepard AFB control tower when he began to circle, and the word was relayed to the converging patrol cars.
Poor communication between air and ground hampered Rutledge in his efforts to direct the search cars. At one point, a cruiser driven by Deputy Stone came within 100 yards of the landing spot, but the pilot was unable to direct him closer. During this period the glow from the UFO, which had been visible to Rutledge on the ground, was diminishing to a dull red. About the time Stone approached it (unknowingly) and blinked his lights, the glow from the UFO vanished completely.
After about 90 minutes of chasing and circling, Rutledge noticed he was running low on fuel and decided to go on to Abilene.
AIR FORCE INVESTIGATION
Next morning the search was resumed by police, about 20 high school boys, and several other citizens of the area. Despite a cold drizzle, they hunted until 3:00 p.m., when Rutledge and Thomas flew back from Abilene. Since there was no convenient airport, Rutledge landed on a highway near Benjamin. When they got into town they were immediately met by USAF Lieutenant McClure and a Sergeant; the four retired to a restaurant nearby for the questioning. NICAP Member Jack Varnell listened from the next table.
The Air Force officer's opening implications that the object might have been a balloon or meteorite were quickly shortcut by Rutledge's firm statement: "What I saw last night was certainly not a meteorite or a weather balloon." He then made it clear that the object "came down slowly," and did not "fall." The lieutenant changed his tone at this point, Varnell reported, and became much more serious and interested.
As the interview progressed, the cafe began to fill, since the sighting was by this time the chief topic of conversation in the small Texas town. Questions were posed and answers noted for more than a half hour, but the muffled voices were hard to hear in the crowded room.
The USAF men expressed an interest in locating the site of the landing, so the group returned to Rutledge's parked airplane. While Jack Varnell and the sheriff stopped traffic, Rutledge, Thomas, and Lieutenant McClure took off from the highway. The sergeant and the enlisted driver of the USAF car drove off.
The small plane made three or four passes over the 1,000 acre tract of mesquite where the object had reportedly landed, and then flew off. Contrary to expectations, the other USAF men did not join the ground search party, which broke up about the time the plane departed.
Shortly after 5:00 p.m., the three airmen, the pilot and his companion were seen at a drive-in restaurant near Knox City. Rutledge was observed by Jack Varnell to be filling out what appeared to be the standard USAF Technical Information Sheet with Lieutenant McClure.
July 4-5, 1961: On two consecutive nights while flying in the Cleveland-Akron area, Ernest Stadvec encountered strangely maneuvering lights which he could not identify. A World War II bomber pilot, he now owns a flying service in Akron, Ohio.
"I have been flying since 1942 both day and night," he stated, "and currently own a flying business that requires us to fly day or night in all types of weather. Over the years I have seen many falling stars and other phenomena associated with atmospheric conditions as well. What we saw was not an astronomical or meteorological phenomenon."
On the first night, over northwest Akron, Stadvec and two passengers spotted a brilliant green and white light apparently suspended to the right of the plane, about 10:15 p.m.
"The object we saw dived at us on a collision course to the extent that I actually called out to my passengers that the object was going to ram us," Stadvec said. "After the object came at us it reversed course and climbed rapidly into a clear night sky."
And he continued: "This happened again the next night [about the same time] when the object flashed up from in front of us and again climbed into a clear sky. In both instances, the object climbed at tremendous speeds, leveled off and disappeared to the northwest."
On the second night about the time of the sighting, radar at Cleveland Hopkins airport detected a meteor-like object, which flared up on the screen and faded out within a few minutes. 
A similar experience was reported more recently by a private pilot from Williamsport, Penna., and his passenger, John P. Campbell, reporter for the Williamsburg Sun-Gazette.
February 7, 1963: Returning to Pennsylvania from Danville, Virginia at 11:45 p.m. (near Charlottesville, Virginia, about 95 miles SW of Washington, D.C.) Carl Chambers noticed a star like light, and soon realize it was moving toward his plane. "After noting that its altitude and position changed rapidly, I radioed the Washington FAA and reported the incident," Chambers said in a signed report to NlCAP.
"For nearly an hour after, we stayed in contact with Washington. During that time, the object hovered off the right wing [easterly and moved toward, under, and above the aircraft. Then it dropped off and a few minutes later appeared about 35 miles south of Washington, where it seemingly hovered over a missile defense base. From that position and less than a half-minute later it reappeared some 10 or 15 miles north of the capital."
FAA tower personnel confirmed to Chambers that they had received a similar report from another pilot in the area at the same time. The object had an intermittent yellow-white glow, and at its closest point appeared to be about three feet in diameter.
Cigar-Shaped or Rocket-Like UFOs
The third general category of UFO types which pilots and others have reported is the rocket or cigar shape, sometimes leaving a flame -like exhaust. Reports of this type are comparatively rare, but they have been seen by enough competent witnesses to establish them as a distinct type. (Some objects reported as "cigar- shaped" have, on closer investigation, turned out to be elliptical in shape, i.e., tapered to a point--or nearly so--on the ends. The term "cigar-shaped" is used here to apply to spindle or cylindrical shaped objects with somewhat blunted ends).
The 'classic" case of this type is the sighting by Eastern Airlines pilots C S. Chiles and J. B. Whitted, July 23, 1948. At 2:45 a.m. in the vicinity of Montgomery, Alabama, Captain Chiles and his co-pilot noticed a brilliant light loom up in front of the DC-3, hurtling head-on toward them. The UFO swooped down veered to the right of the airliner, emitted a long red exhaust blast and shot straight up into clouds. Captain Chiles later described the UFO as torpedo-shaped, about 100 feet long, with two rows of brightly-lit apparent windows along the side.
The USAF currently contests the fact that the airliner was rocked when the UFO climbed away, but the statement that it was appears in the Air Force Project "Saucer" Report from the witnesses' original descriptions.  At Robbins AFB, Georgia on the same night, about 2:00 a.m., a "long, dark wingless tube" was seen rushing overhead spurting flame from the stern
Similar maneuvering rocket-shaped objects have been reported by military pilots [see August 1, 1946 case, Capt. Jack Puckett, Section III] and private pilots.
January 1, 1949: Tom Rush of Jackson, Mississippi, saw a cigar-shaped object while approaching to land at Dixie Airport. The UFO crossed in front of his plane, accelerated and flew out of sight. 
January 20, 1951: A bright light, source unknown, was observed from the control tower at Sioux City, Iowa, airport about 8:30 p.m. Chief Controller John Williams cautioned a Mid- Continent Airlines DC-3, which was about to take off; thinking it was another aircraft approaching the field.
Shortly after take-off, Capt. Lawrence W. Vinther and Co pilot James F. Bachmeier, in the DC-3, were startled to see the bright light closing on them very rapidly. Before they could take any action, the light flashed past the airliner and the pilots saw a clear silhouette of a cigar-shaped object behind the light.
The Co-pilot turned quickly, and there was the UFO pacing the airliner. The object had apparently reversed direction in an instant. Bachmeier called out to Captain Vinther, and he turned and looked. Then the UFO shot straight up and disappeared. 
One of the passengers who also witnessed the UFO was a full colonel of Air Force Intelligence, who filed a report along with the pilots. He was reportedly greatly impressed by what he had seen. 
AVIATION PERSONNEL OTHER THAN PILOTS
Aviation personnel other than Pilots--Federal Aviation Agency (FAA)  control tower operators and flight controllers, flight crew members, ground crews, airport supervisors, etc. --have made regular reports of UFOs. The FAA often has cooperated with NICAP, in some cases furnishing logs, teletype reports, and other documentary material. Some of the information has come from NICAP members employed by the FAA, other from public servants (not NICAP members) who apparently have no prejudices about UFOs and merely believe that the subject should be treated frankly and openly.
September 24, 1959: Redmond Airport, Oregon, is situated southeast of the
city. (see sketch map). Just before dawn, policeman Robert Dickerson was cruising
the city streets when he noticed a bright falling object like a meteor. Instead
of "burning out," the object took on a larger, ball-like appearance, stopped
abruptly, and hovered about 200 feet above the ground, its glow lit up juniper
trees below it.
The patrolman watched the UFO for several minutes, then drove toward it on Prineville Highway, turning in at the airport. The UFO, meanwhile changed color from bright white to a duller reddish-orange color, and moved rapidly to a new position NE of the airport.
At the FAA office, Flight Service Specialist Laverne Werta had just completed making weather observations minutes before, and had seen nothing unusual. Now Patrolman Dickerson, Werta, and others studied the hovering object through binoculars. The UFO was round and flat, with tongues of "flame" periodically extending from the rim.
At 1310Z (5:10 a.m. PST), official logs show, the UFO was reported to Seattle Air Route Control Center. Logs of the Seattle center show that the report was relayed to Hamilton AFB. The Seattle log continues: "UFO also seen on the radar at Klamath Falls GCI [Ground Control Intercept] site. F-102's scrambled from Portland."
As the Redmond observers studied the UFO, they noticed a high speed aircraft approaching from the southeast. The log continues: "As aircraft approached, UFO took shape of mushroom, observed long yellow and red flame from lower side as UFO rose rapidly and disappeared above clouds."
The UFO was seen again briefly, hovering about 25 miles south of the airport. Radar continued to show the UFO south of Redmond for about two hours. [See FAA log, Section IX]
October 9, 1951: An earlier UFO, rated an "unknown" by the Air Force after investigation of similar evidence (apparently without radar confirmation) was reported at Municipal Airport, Terre Haute, Indiana. About 1:43 p.m, CAA Airways Operations Specialist R. L. Messmore noticed an unusual object approaching from the SE, and quickly called another witness. C. W. Sonner, Chief of Interstate Airways Communication Station, ran outside to watch. "I have been working at airports for 16 years." Sonner said, "and never before have I seen an aircraft like it." The flattened round object sped overhead, disappearing to the NW after 15 seconds. Using the angle of sighting, Messmore and Sonner calculated that the UFO was traveling at 2,880 mph, assuming it was at treetop level; 18,000 mph if at 3,000 feet; etc.
Because of the experience of the observers, this would have been a good sighting as it stood. But two minutes later, near Paris, Illinois (19 miles to the NW), a private pilot encountered a hovering UFO shaped like a flattened sphere. (See diagram.) When the pilot turned directly toward the UFO, it accelerated and shot away to the NE. 
In the next two days, General Mills, Inc., balloon personnel spotted UFOs over Wisconsin and Minnesota. [Section VI]
OTHER SAMPLE CASES
March 13, 1950; Mexico City, Mexico. Santiago Smith, chief weather observer for the Mexican Aviation Company, J. de la Vega of the airport commander's office, and others saw a total of four UFOs passing over the airport during the day. Smith caught one in a theodolite telescope, and described it as resembling the "shape of a half-moon." 
March 26, 1950; Reno, Nevada. Mrs. Marie H, Matthews, CAA Tower Operator (over four years experience in aircraft observation with Navy and as a civilian), others in the tower, and United Airlines employees Robert Higbee and Fred Hinkle at about 8:50 p.m. saw a brilliant light NE of Hubbard Field which
was "so bright it was impossible to determine shape." Visible on each side of it was a green light. The UFO appeared to hang motionless for 5 or 6 minutes; then it began moving slowly across the sky, and suddenly shot upward into a cloud bank. 
March 29,1950; Ironwood, Michigan. Tom Christensen, airlines representative for Wisconsin Central Airlines, and six other persons at the airport (all pilots or with flying experience) viewed a round UFO through binoculars at 2:55 p.m. It was moving directly into a north wind at "pretty good" speed. As it traveled, the UFO made a "slipping and sliding sideways" motion. 
July 1950; Cincinnati, Ohio. At 1:45 p.m., a C.A.A. flight engineer with 11 years of aeronautical experience observed a "wingless, fuselage-shaped" object which maneuvered in a sunny sky. The UFO climbed at a steep angle, hesitated, dove and sped away to the west. Estimated speed: 5,000 m.p.h. The object made no sound and left no trail. (Confidential report obtained by NICAP Adviser L. H. Stringfield, Cincinnati, Ohio).
November 27, 1950; Huron, South Dakota. In the early morning, Gene Fowler of the Weather Bureau, Winfield Henry of CAA, and two Western Airlines ground crew members watched a UFO which alternately hovered and darted around the sky. The UFO changed color, red to white to green. At Aberdeen, 75 miles north, William B. Hiller, CAA Aircraft Communicator, also, saw a lighted UFO that changed colors. 
July 8,1952; near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Joseph J. Greiner, CAA equipment provider (experienced as radio operator weather observer, and traffic controller) at 10:00 p.m. saw a domed UFO speed overhead below a high overcast. The object was visible about 10 seconds, traveling at an estimated 1,000 mph. The main body was green, with a reddish domed portion on top. 
Early 1952; Cleveland, Ohio. Clark Croft, chief of the CAA Tower staff, stated to the Associated Press July 22 that "several months ago" a member of his staff had sighted a red light hovering in the sky in the direction of nearby Berea. He asked a pilot taking off for Akron to watch for it. The pilot saw it first below and ahead of him. "suddenly it took off at a very rapid rate," Croft said. "He tried to catch it, but couldn't. It was faster than any jet aircraft we know about."
Washington, D.C., Sightings
October 12, 1952; Palo Alto, California. Harry C. Potter, aircraft maintenance man for United Airlines, was standing talking to friends at 1:00 a.m. Suddenly they noticed a V-formation of six apparent discs speeding overhead from N to S, traveling about 120 degrees in about 8 seconds. One separate UFO crossed at the same time from W to E. The UFOs appeared as rings of very bright blue-white light, apparently dark discs lighted only on the outer rim. [59J
1952; San Mateo, California. At 6:30a.m., Leonard L. Musel, United Airlines mechanic, was one of five persons in a car pool who saw a large flat UFO take on board five smaller objects of similar shape. [See Section II, Satellite Object Cases.] All six UFOs were roughly diamond-shaped, the main object nearly elliptical as it hovered 50 to 75 feet above salt flats visible from Hillsdale Boulevard. When the smaller objects were on board, the parent object flipped over flat side down (presenting an elliptical outline) and took off eastward at fantastic speed, going out of sight in seconds. 
December 3, 1954; Wilmington, North Carolina. About 12:30 p.m. Luther H. O'Banian and J. B. Bradley, CAA traffic controllers, and others at the airport saw a round yellowish UFO which sped overhead on a southwesterly course. The two controllers studied the object through binoculars, but could not identify it. The UFO, visible about 45 seconds, seemed to be moving at a downward angle at an estimated speed of 500 mph or more. 
January 8, 1959; near Walworth, Wisconsin. Gordon Higgins, a draftsman
who has had two years USAF experience as control tower operator and flight
controller, watched a UFO descend and then speed away horizontally. (See self-explanatory
diagram with number keys.)
September 29, 1960; Arlington, Texas. J Rodriguez, Jr., flight radio officer for Pan American Airways, reported to NICAP:
"At 6:23 p.m. CST while watching 8 or 9 kids (ages 10 to 16) play fast ball in front yard across street from my home, I looked up, east, elevation 50 degrees approximately, and I saw a bright pin point of orange-colored light traveling toward the south; its speed was faster than a high flying jet aircraft, but slower than a meteor. As it reached a point below the moon it slowed down very rapidly, at which time I turned and ran toward my house for my field glasses. [see sketch, position "A" to "B"].
"Upon returning with my field glasses (7 power) the kids had now taken up the watch. Mr. Louis Via, my neighbor across the street, was also out in his front yard where we all were. While the kids insisted that it was up there just below a bright star, Mr. Via and myself said 'no it's just another star.' [See sketch, position "C"]
"Soon we all realized that the stars were moving, as though around each other clockwise. I took up a position where I could use the house roof for reference to see if one was moving.
"Mr. Via and myself soon agreed that the bottom one was slowly moving upward and clockwise around the star, which I then realized was the planet Jupiter. The movement between positions 'B' and 'C' was seen by the 8 or 9 kids. While watching the movement between positions 'C' and 'D', Mrs. Via came outside and also saw the orange colored point of light moving. My field glasses did nothing for seeing what it was, still a bright point of light.
"At about 6:35 another neighbor came over from two houses down, Mr. and Mrs. Rowmach. Mrs. Rowmach said: 'Rod, I've been watching that very fast moving light since you ran toward your house a while ago.' We all stood there and watched it slowly moving up and getting smaller, but still bright.
About 6:37 p.m. while trying to point out the UFO to another neighbor,
Rodriguez saw it take off suddenly toward the west and vanish "as fast as
Time of sighting: 5:15 PM, Thursday, January 8, 1959
While traveling east at 5:15 P.M. the object was sighted at position No.1. As it started to descend slowly the automobile was brought to a stop to get a better view. It took approximately 15 seconds for the object to reach position No.2. It still glowed a bright white as in position No.1. Then it shot off at tremendous speed leaving a trail of sparks changing from the original brilliant white, to orange, and seemed to either go out of sight, disappear, or disintegrate.
1. See Sections I, VI; Also Ruppelt, Edward J., Report on Un identified
Flying Objects, (Doubleday, 1956), p.161.
51. The FAA formerly was CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration). This designation
appears in some of the reports.
Section VI, Scientists & Engineers (pages 49-59)
NICAP Home Page