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The Bethune Flight 124 airmiss in 1951:

U.S. Naval Reserve Lieutenant Graham Bethune, co-pilot on Flight 125 from Keflavik, reported:

"While flying in the left seat on a true course of 230 degrees at a position of 49-50 North and 50-03 West, I observed a glow of light below the horizon about 1,000 to 1,500 feet above the water. We both observed its course and motion for about 4 or 5 minutes before calling it to the attention of the other crew members... Suddenly its angle of attack changed, its altitude and size increased as though its speed was in excess of 1,000 miles per hour. It closed in so fast that the first feeling was we would collide in midair. At this time its angle changed and the color changed. It then [appeared] definitely circular and reddish orange on its perimeter. It reversed its course and tripled its speed until it was last seen disappearing over the horizon. Because of our altitude and misleading distance over water it is almost impossible to estimate its size, distance, and speed. A rough estimate would be at least 300 feet in diameter, over 1,000 miles per hour in speed, and approached to within 5 miles of the aircraft."

Table of content:

Click! The case, general information.
#docClick! #docThe Air Intelligence Report page 1 of 2.
Click! The Air Intelligence Report, page 2 of 2.
Click! Project record card.
Click! Fleet logistic report by witness Fred W. Kingdon.
Click! Letter to CG, AMC, by Colonel S. Harris.
Click! Letter from North East Air Command: all experienced North Atlantic flyers.
Click! Radio Note from J.J. Rogers to Colonel Harris of Wright Patterson AFB..
Click! Major Keyho of NICAP's story.
Click! Dominique Weinstein's case summary.
Click! Graham E. Bethune's public testimony at Washington Disclosure conference 2001.
Click! Other sightings in that area.
Click! Letter from North East Air Command: weather clear, no planes.
Click! The Parrot letter; explaining it away: it was a meteor, or Northern Lights (This page).
Click! Drawings by witnesses.
Click! References.

Picture of a Navy R5D transport. The R5D is a variant of the C-54 transport, whose civilian version is known as the Skymaster.

The case, general information:

On the night of the February 10, 1951, a four engine Navy R5D transport was flying West over the Atlantic. On this trip the 30-year-old pilot was bringing two flight crews home from special duty in Europe. Including his own crew there were over twenty-five pilots, navigators and flight engineers aboard the transport. The National Archives turned up a number of supporting documents on this case, including Air Intelligence Information Reports by five of the crew members. Although it isn't documented, reports indicate the object was tracked by ground radar. Publicly, the Air Force made several attempts to explain the sighting as the aurora borealis (northern lights) or a meteor or a fireball or the Moon, but behind the scenes the encounter was being taken very seriously. The number and quality of UFO sightings in the region in 1950 prompted the government of Iceland to request military aid from the United States. Apparently what we know today as UFOs were interpreted as experimental Soviet bombers. After 50 years of waiting, no craft with this description or performance has shown up in any Earthly inventory, Russian or American. This event, and others like it, prompted the development of the Air Defense Command.

The debriefing by the ATIC (the Air Technical Intelligence Center) resulted in report that went to Project Twinkle. But when Commander Graham Bethune, the co-pilot in the R5D finally saw the report in 1990, the UFO was explained away as aurora borealis, what is commonly known as the Northern lights. Anger seized Graham Bethune, an experienced pilot who had done the crossing of Northern Atlantic more than 200 times, when he discovered that he was and his crew were supposed to have seen northern lights and confuse them with an interplanetary spaceship.

Donald Keyhoe discovered the hidden case:

Major Donald Edward Keyhoe had learned of this hidden report in 1959. Admiral Delmer S. Fahrney, former Navy guided missile chief, whom he had known for years, told him that Captain James Taylor, USN, Ret., had an important UFO sighting made by a naval pilot and his crew. That night Taylor gave him the report.

Major Donald E. Keyhoe:

When the plane landed, the entire crew was interrogated by AF Intelligence officers. At their destination, Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland, the pilot and the rest were questioned again by Naval Intelligence and required to sign full reports. Later, a government scientist (supposedly from the CIA) confidentially showed the pilot secret UFO photos - one portraying a disc like the one over the Atlantic. In a final interview, the commander was interviewed by Air Technical Intelligence officers at Wright-Patterson AFB. But none of the Navy or Air Force men, or the government scientist, would answer any questions about the UFOs.

Admiral Fahrney convinced:

On january 16, 1957, Admiral S. Fahrney, head missile testing of the American Navy stated:

According to worthy information of faith, in our atmosphere objects arrive at high speed. No aircraft, neither in the United States, either in the Soviet Union is currently able to achieve the speed attributed to these objects from the radars and from the observatories. These objects appear to be driven by an intelligence the way in which they fly. According to reports from scientists and technical personnel, these objects fly in formation and finish manoeuvres that seem to point out that are not completely driven from an automatic equipment. These objects are in incontestable mode the result of long investigations and highly technological and exceptional knowledge.

Philip J. Klass: A refletion of the Moon:

The Gander case was drawn to the attention of debunker Philip J. Klass, who examined the Project Blue Book records, made an independent analysis, and reported his findings in one of his books "UFOs Explained (1974)." By establishing the exact position of the moon below the horizon, the presence of stratus clouds with ice crystals on the horizon, and the degree of below - the - horizon coverage due to refraction in the atmosphere, he concluded that what the pilots had seen and described was a lunar reflection, a "Sub Moon."

In my numerous years as a UFO investigator I have encountered many cases that prove to be misidentifications of unfamiliar objects, and occasionally of familiar objects seen under unusual conditions. But until my analysis of the Gander case, I would have had difficulty believing that so many experienced pilots and others in a flight crew could mistake the moon for a giant UFO that seemed to be zooming toward them on a collision course.

One contributing factor in the Gander case, may have been the fact that there had been a considerable number of UFO reports in the press during the several months preceding this incident, and in 1951 the possibility of alien spaceships was still a conceivable hypothesis.

Philip Klass actually re-issued the exploit of a non credible public explanation of the Navy at the time. He does not explain, though, why the sigthings were so carefully examined by the military investigators, if it was only a reflection of the moon as he claims or an aurora borealis as the Air Force's ATIC claimed. Not one of the witnesses agreed with such explanations.

Philip Klass has also failed to explain how a reflection of the moon can be detected by ground radar, and how it can be detected at the coordinates where the visual sighting occurs. Also unexplained, the process in which a reflection takes a collision course, then makes a U turn to avoid the collision.

He also forgot the other luminous spot that did not raise up to the plane on a collision course but stayed at the lower altitude. Had he not forgotten it, he would certainly have concluded that these other lights were reflection of Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.

And finally Philip Klass seems to have miss one point of the army records, namely the Air Intelligence Report's paragrah f.: "Weather clear, visibility from 15 miles to unlimited, no other weather information available." It seems to mean than there were no clouds for some light to reflect on, at least in a 15 miles range if not more, and the observed UFO came as close as five miles to the aircraft, causing the collision worries of the crew.

All in all, this is exactly what could have been expected from a debunker with no scientific knowledge who refuses to speak to the actuel witness, does not car to insult the witnesses reputation, ignores all data that disturb his contruction of a trivial explanation, and writes off all UFO events decades later as "the moon", "venus", "fraud" and "plasma."

Project Blue Book: many other cases in that area at the time:

Captain Edward Ruppelt of the Air Force, in charge of the UFO investigation "Project Blue Book", wrote in his book about his UFO investigation experience:

On June 19 radar at Goose AFB in Newfoundland picked up some odd targets. The targets came across the scope, suddenly enlarged, and then became smaller again. One unofficial comment was that the object was flat or disk shaped, and that the radar target had gotten bigger because the disk had banked in flight to present a greater reflecting surface. ATIC's official comment was weather.

Goose AFB was famous for unusual reports. In early UFO history someone had taken a very unusual colored photo of a "split cloud." The photographer had seen a huge ball of fire streak down through the sky and pass through a high layer of stratus clouds. As the fireball passed through the cloud it cut out a perfect swath. The conclusion was that the fireball was a meteor, but the case is still one of the most interesting in the file because of the photograph.

Then in early 1952 there was another good report from this area. It was an unknown.

The incident started when the pilot of an Air Force C-54 transport radioed Goose AFB and said that at 10:42 P.M. a large fireball had buzzed his airplane. It had come in from behind the C-54, and nobody had seen it until it was just off the left wing. The fireball was so big that the pilot said it looked as if it was only a few hundred feet away. The C-54 was 200 miles southwest, coming into Goose AFB from Westover AFB, Massachusetts, when the incident occurred. The base officer-of-the-day, who was also a pilot, happened to be in the flight operations office at Goose when the message came in and he overheard the report. He stepped outside, walked over to his command car, and told his driver about the radio message, so the driver got out and both of them looked toward the south. They searched the horizon for a few seconds; then suddenly they saw a light closing in from the southwest. Within a second, it was near the airfield. It had increased in size till it was as big as a "golf ball at arm's length," and it looked like a big ball of fire. It was so low that both the OD and his driver dove under the command car because they were sure it was going to hit the airfield. When they turned and looked up they saw the fireball make a 90 degrees turn over the airfield and disappear into the northwest. The time was 10:47 P.M.

The control tower operators saw the fireball too, but didn't agree with the OD and his driver on how low it was. They did think that it had made a 90 degree turn and they didn't think that it was a meteor. In the years they'd been in towers they'd seen hundreds of meteors, but they'd never seen anything like this, they reported.

And reports continued to pour into Project Blue Book. It was now not uncommon to get ten or eleven wires in one day. If the letters reporting UFO sightings were counted, the total would rise to twenty or thirty a day. The majority of the reports that came in by wire could be classified as being good. They were reports made by reliable people and they were full of details. Some were reports of balloons, airplanes, etc., but the percentage of unknowns hovered right around 22 per cent.

2001, Bethune joins "Project Disclosure":

Lieutenant Graham Bethune, a main witness in this case, is now a retired US Navy commander pilot with a top-secret clearance. In 1951, Bethune was assigned to fly high-ranking US military officers and civilians from Keflavik, Iceland, to Ardentia, Newfoundland.

He added that he had felt lucky that his plane's control functions were mainly hydraulic rather than electrical. He said it was not until much later that he realized his sighting corresponded to the other unusual reports in Iceland, but he knew immediately that the object he saw could not have been a human aircraft. Bethune noted that his onboard magnetic compasses were spinning wildly while the mystery craft was nearby.

Graham E. Bethune said he had been told by military personnel in Iceland that there had been many other sightings of unusual aircraft in that area, which were assumed to be some new Soviet weapon.

Years later Bethune was able to retrieve the reports from the National Archives and confirmed that the UFO they encountered that night had traveled 10,000 feet straight up in a fraction of a second and was tracked on radar at 1,800 miles per hour, well exceeding the 500 miles-per-hour capacity of the most advanced man-made craft at that time.

Former naval commander Graham Bethune was typical of many giving evidence at the Project Disclosure press launch in Washington on May 9, 2001. He reminded the audience of how he was piloting between Iceland and Newfoundland on 10 February, 1951 and encountered the UFO:

We had 31 people on board and a psychiatrist ­ we all witnessed it," he said, before adding to raucous applause: "I will testify under oath before Congress that everything I have said is true."


In addition to the sources directly available in this section:

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This page was last updated on September 12, 2005.