DC-3, UFO's & The Bermuda Triangle

One of the most unusual stories was given by the pilot of a Pan-American DC-3 who said he had to swerve violently to avoid colliding with a ``mysterious luminous object'' off the coast of Florida. Speculation abounds about the Bermuda Triangle's alleged connection with extra-terrestrials, time warps, the lost continent of Atlantis or the supernatural. While skeptics point to purely natural causes - human error, mechanical breakdown, Gulf Stream currents, and sudden, violent changes in the weather - a growing number of scientists insist that there is probably more to the story than is being told.

December 27, 1948. Captain Robert Lindquist headed a commercial flight on a DC-3 from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida.with 36 people aboard and it apparently ``evaporated'' within sight of Miami. ``We are approaching the field only 50 miles to the south,'' the pilot told the control tower. ``We can see the lights of Miami now. All's well. Will stand by for landing instructions.'' The DC-3 vanished from the radar screen a few seconds later. The spot where the aircraft supposedly went down was over the Florida Keys, where clear waters of only 20 feet deep should have made the DC-3 visible. Officials investigating worked furiously on how the seasoned pilot could disappear on a clear and calm night. Search parties scoured the land where the plane was assumed to have crashed, but not a single trace of the plane was found in the twenty foot deep water.

One case, described by both Shalett and Keyhoe, involves a disk conforming to this pattern. At 2:45 a.m., on July 24, 1948, an Eastern Airlines DC-3, enroute to Atlanta, Georgia, from Montgomery, Alabama, sighted a "brilliant, fast moving object" about a mile away. Captain Clarence S. Chiles, an ex-Air Transport Command flier, and Pilot John B. Whitted, formerly a B-29 pilot, both observed it clearly. They agreed that it was about 100 feet long, shaped like a cigar. It was wingless. When the object passed them, at about eye level, they saw two rows of "windows" along the fuselage. These glowed with a blinding white light. A dark blue light ran the length of the shape, along the underside. There was a red orange flame exhaust which rocked the DC-3 at the missile veered off and zoomed out of sight. It seems to me that rather than a cigar shaped fuselage, what the pilots may have seen was a disk, edge on. The two rows of ports would be the vents of the main power plant. The blue light came from the belly motors, thrusting downward to enable the disk to operate at the slow speed of 500 to 700 miles per hour which the pilots estimated. The flame I am less sure about. Possibly the fact that it was traveling within the Earth's atmosphere (the DC-3 was at 5,000 feet during the encounter) made exhaust particles visible. The jolt it imparted to the DC-3, however, is not surprising. I should say that the plane felt a light energy blast, a product of radiation pressure motor operation.

Klass cites a passenger aboard the DC-3 who had also observed the UFO and whom he paraphrases as saying that he "reported seeing only a sudden streak of light with no physical shape discernible," implying that the pilots had to be mistaken in their observation because the passenger should surely have observed the same details if the pilots' report were accurate. Yet the naive reader would remain unaware that Klass twisted this passenger's testimony to fit his own interpretation. In fact, McKelvie, the only passenger awake at that time onboard the DC-3, reported that although he "could discern nothing in the way of a definite shape or form," he "was so startled that I [McKelvie] could not get my eyes adjusted to it before it was gone" [Clark, 1992]. Obviously then McKelvie's testimony is of no use as "evidence" that the pilots were mistaken as he never got a good look in the first place. Klass further references the "the annual Delta Aquarids meteor shower," as being involved in this incident, implying that the pilots had seen a fireball from this particular meteor stream. But as James McDonald pointed out in 1968, "the radiant of that stream was well over 90 degrees away from the origin point of the unknown object." Neither does Klass offer any explanation for the reported abrupt pull-up by the object. He simply ignores it entirely. UFOlogical Principles Klass' out of context paraphrasing and quoting, and ignoring contradicting evidence and pertinent details of the reports, demonstrates an important principle that applies to all of Klass' writings: The secret of Klass' success is that he superficially sounds very knowledgeable and authoritative about what he is writing. Only when you know the complete details of the cases do you realize he is selectively omitting evidence that would contradict his theories.

Another of the many airline-crew sightings of highly unconventional aerial devices were Cases 1 and 2, widely reported in the national press (for a day or two, and then forgotten like the rest). A check of weather data confirms that the night of 1/20/51 was clear and cold at Sioux City at the time that a Mid-Continent Airlines DC-3, piloted by Lawrence W. Vinther, was about to take off for Omaha and Kansas City, at 5 :20 p.m. CST. In the CAA control tower, John M. Williams had been noting an oddly maneuvering light high in a westerly direction. Suddenly the light abruptly accelerated, in a manner clearly precluding either meteoric or aircraft origin, so Williams alerted Vinther and his co-pilot, James F. Bachmeier. The incident has been discussed many times (Ref. 4, 5, 10, and 28), but to check details of these reports, I searched for and finally located all three of the above-named men. Vinther and Bachmeier are now Braniff pilots, Williams is with the FAA in Sacramento. From them I confirmed the principal features of previous accounts and learned additional information too lengthy to recapitulate in full here. The essential point to be emphasized is that, shortly after Vinther got his DC-3 airborne, under Williams' instructions to investigate the oddly-behaving light, the object executed a sudden dive and flew over the DC-3 at an estimated 200 ft. vertical clearance, passing aft and downward. Then a surprising maneuver unfolded. As Vinther described it to me, and as described in contemporaiy accounts, the object suddenly reversed course almost 180-degrees, without slowing down or slewing, and was momentarily flying formation with their DC-8 off it's port wing. (Vinther's dry comment to me was: "This is something we don t see airplanes do.") Vinther and Bachmeier agreed that the object was very big, perhaps somewhat larger than a B-29, they suggested to newspapermen who interviewed them the following day. Moonlight gave them a good silhouetted view of the object, which they described as having the form of a fuselage and unswept wing, but not a sign of any empennage, nor any sign of engine-pods, propellers, or jets. Prior to its dive, it had been seen only as a light; while pacing their DC-3, the men saw no luminosity, though during the dive they saw a light on its underside. After about five seconds, the unknown object began to descend below them and flew under their plane. They put the DC-3 into a steep bank to try to keep it in view as it began this maneuver; and as it crossed under them, they lost it, not to regain sight of it subsequently. There is much more detail, not all mutually consistent as to maneuvers and directions, in the full accounts I obtained from Vinther, Bachmeier, and Williams. The dive, pacing, and fly-under maneuvers were made quickly and at such a distance from the field that Williams did not see them clearly, though he did see the object leave the vicinity of the DC-3. An Air Force colonel and his aide were among the passangers, and the aide caught a glimpse of the unknown object, but I have been unable to locate him for further cross-check. Discussion. - The erratic maneuvers exhibited by the unknown object while under observation from the control tower would, by themselves, make this a better-than-average case. But the fact that those maneuvers prompted a tower operator to alert a departing aircrew to investigate, only to have the object dive upon and pace the aircraft after a non-inertial course-reversal, makes this an unusually interesting UFO. Its configuration, about which Vinther and Bachmeier were quite positive in their remarks to me (they repeatedly emphasized the bright moonlight, which checks with the near-full moon on 1/20/51 and the sky-cover data I obtained from the Sioux City Weather Bureau), combines with other features of the sighting to make it a most significant case The reported shape (tailless, engineless, unswept aircraft of large size) does not match that of any other UFO that I am aware of; but my exposure to the bewildering range of reported configurations now on record makes this point less difficult to assimilate. This case is officially carried as Unidentified, and, in a 1955 publication (Ref. 29), was one of 12 Unidentifieds singled out for special comment. A contemporary account (Ref. 28), taking note of a then recent pronouncement that virtually all UFOs are explainable in terms of misidentified Skyhook balloons, carried a lead caption. "The Office of Naval Research claims that cosmic ray balloons explain all saucer reports. If so, what did this pilot see?" Certainly it would not be readily explained away as a balloon, a meteor, a sundog, or ball lighting. Rather, it seems to be just one more of thousands of' Unidentified Flying Objects for which we have no present explanations because we have laughed such reports out of scientific court. Bachmeier stated to me that, at the time, he felt it had to be some kind of secret device, but, in the ensuing 17 years, we have not heard of any aircraft that can execute instantaneous course-reversal. Vinther's comment to me on a final question I asked as to what he thinks, in general, about the many airline-pilot sightings of unidentified objects over the past 20 years, was: "We're not all having hallucinations."

Forty years ago, one of the strangest UFO incidents in Brazil's history took place, involving a DC-3 airliner belonging to Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandense (VARIG) airlines. On August 14, 1957, at 9 p.m., a VARIG C-47 (cargo version of the DC-3) took off from the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul state, heading north towards the then-national capital, Rio de Janeiro. Flying the aircraft were Captain Jorge Araujo and First Officer Edgar Soares. Soon they were flying through a perfectly clear sky over the South Atlantic. Below, at 5,700 feet, was a thick overcast. Above them was an array of myriad stars, highlighted by the Southern Cross. The C-47's airspeed was 160 miles per hour. Suddenly, "they spotted some sort of brilliant object to the left and slightly behind and below them. Seconds later, it had streaked out ahead of them and off to their right--a maneuver that required fantastic speed..." "The object then swept in toward the plane." "In their witness report, both pilots and the other three crew members described it as a disc-shaped thing with a low shiny dome on top." "As the UFO drew close to the plane, the lights on the aircraft dimmed almost to extinction, the engines sputtered and missed badly, and the radio reception became nil. A few seconds later--anxious seconds for that crew, as they later admitted--the UFO plunged downward into the clouds, and the electrical systems on the plane returned to normal."

Thirty-four years ago, on January 12, 1965, a DC-3 transport plane took off from Whenuapai, New Zealand for a flight to Kaitaia. As the twin-engined propeller plane flew over Kaipara Harbour, a broad estuary 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Auckland, the pilot, Captain Kirkpatrick, spotted an unusual gleam in the water below -- an unidentified submerged object or USO. "He was about one-third of the way across Kaipara Harbour when he saw what he at first believed to be a stranded gray-white whale in an estuary." "As he veered his DC-3 for a closer look at the object, it became evident to him that he was observing a metallic structure of some sort." Captain Kirkpatrick "noted that the thing was perfectly streamlined and symmetrical in shape... had no external control surfaces or protrusions... appeared metallic with the suggestion of a hatch on top...was resting on the bottom of the estuary and headed toward the south as suggested by the streamlined shape... was harbored in no more than 30 feet of water... was not shaped like a normal submarine but approximately 100 feet in length with a diameter of 15 feet at its widest part." After he filed his flight report, the Royal New Zealand Navy told Captain Kirkpatrick "that it would have been impossible for any known model of submarine to have been in that particular area, due to the configuration of harbour and coastline."

GOSHEN 4/27/50 (McDonald) An early airline sighting involved the crew and passengers of a TWA DC-3 on the evening of 4/27/50. The DC-3, piloted by Capt. Robert Adickes and co-piloted by Capt. Robert F. Manning, was at about 2000 ft, headed for Chicago, when, at about 8:25 p.m., Manning spotted a glowing red object aft of the starboard wing, well to their rear. It was similar in appearance to a rising blood red moon, and appeared to be closing with us at a relatively slow rate of convergence. I watched its approach for about two minutes, trying to determine what it might be. Then I attracted Adickes' attention to the object asking what he thought it was. He rang for our hostess, Gloria Henshaw, and pointed it out to her. At that time the object was at a relative bearing of about 100 degrees and slightly lower than we were. It was seemingly holding its position relative to us, about one-half mile away. Capt. Adickes sent the stewardess back to alert the passengers, and then banked the DC-3 to starboard to try to close on the unknown object. As we turned, the object seemed to veer away from us in a direction just west of north, toward the airport area of South Bend. It seemed to descend as it increased its velocity, and within a few minutes was lost to our sight...

With regard to the crash of EgyptAir, Flight 990. The following is from the book, "The Case for the UFO", the annotated edition, by Morris K. Jessup; Part 3, History Speaks - Disappearing Planes "Nevertheless there is a strong element of mystery in many of them. It is the rule, and not the exception, that the major catastrophes come without warning. Whatever causes the crash seems to cut off communication simultaneously, for seldom is there any warning from the radio: only routine reports, and then... silence, until the wreckage is found with no survivors, and, in at least one case, no bodies!" This is regarding the 1955 crash of a DC-3 Airliner in the Rocky Mountains, where no bodies were found.

N - 1952.08.00, 21:25. - USA, Flying into Fort Worth, Texas from San Diego, California. 2 pilots in a DC-3: "Pilot Loran Pilling didn't come out and say he'd seen a flying saucer' but did indicate that he had seen something he couldn't explain. Neither could co-pilot Russ Fishback explain it." (Dallas News, undated) " It looked like the landing light of a plane and was at maybe 5,000 feet, ahead of us. We were at 3,000 feet. It was about 9:23 p. m. when we sighting it and we never got close enough to see a shape'." "Whatever it was could climb at a high rate of speed for later it raced up to 20,000 or 25,000 feet, and also could hover, for it seemed to hang in the air. On landing he and Fishback weren't the only ones to view the phenomenon. The field tower had been watching too. " Don't ask me what it was,' Pilling said. I just know I saw something.'" (Convariety magazine 10 Sep 1952.) The plane was in contact with the Fort Worth tower at the time. They deviated from flight pattern at the time to try to get closer, but the UFO would move away. (Investigation by NICAP.)

AIRLINE CREW REPORTS WINGLESS DISCS Boise, Idaho July 4, 1947 Only about a week after the now-famous Mt. Rainier sighting by private pilot Kenneth Arnold, a United Air Lines DC-3 crew sighted two separate formations of wingless discs, shortly after takeoff from Boise (Refs. 8. 10, 22.23). I located and interviewed the pilot, Capt. Emil J. Smith. now with United's New York office. He confirmed the reliability of previously published accounts. United Flight 105 had left Boise at 9 :04 p.m. About eight minutes out, en route to Seattle, roughly over Emmet, Idaho, Co-pilot Stevens who spotted the first of two groups of objects, turned on his landing lights under the initial impression the objects were aircraft. But, studying them against the twilight sky, Smith and Stevens soon realized that neither wings nor tails were visible on the five objects ahead. After calling a stewardess, in order to get a third confirming witness, they watched the formation a bit longer, called Ontario, Oregon CAA to try to get ground-confirmation, and then saw the formation spurt ahead and disappear at high speed off to the west. Smith emphasized to me that there were no cloud phenomena to coufuse them here and that they observed these objects long enough to be quite certain that they were no conventional aircraft. They appeared "flat on the bottom, rounded on top", he told me, and he added that there seemed to be perceptible "roughness" of some sort on top, though he could not refine that description. Almost immediately after they lost sight of the first five, a second formation of four (three in line and a fourth off to the side) moved in ahead of their position, again travelling westward but at a somewhat higher altitude than the DC-3's 8000 ft. These passed quickly out of sight to the west at speeds which they felt were far beyond then known speeds. Smith emphasized that they were never certain of sizes and distances, but that they had the general impression that these disc-like craft were appreciably larger than ordinary aircraft. Smith emphasized that he had not taken seriously the previous week's news accounts that coined the since persistent term, "flying saucer." But, after seeing this total of nine unconventional, high-speed wingless craft on the evening of 7/4/47, he became much more interested in the matter. Nevertheless, in talking with me, he stressed that he would not specculate on their real nature or origin. I have spoken with United Air Lines personnel who have known Smith for years and vouch for his complete reliability. Discussion. - The 7/4/47 United Air Lines sighting is of historic interest because it was obviously given much more credence than any of the other 85 UFO reports published in press accounts on July 4, 1947 (see Ref. 8). By no means the most impressive UFO sighting by an airliner crew, nevertheless, it is a significant one. It occurred in clear weather, spanned a total time estimated at 10-12 minutes, was a multiple-witness case including two experienced observers familiar with airborne devices, and was made over a 1000-ft. altitude range (climb-out) that, taken together with the fact that the nine objects were seen well above the horizon, entirely rules out optical phenomena as a ready explanation. It is officially listed as a Unidentified.