The incident took place at Luke Air Force Base (Luke AFB), Arizona, the Air Force’s advanced fighter-bomber school that is named after the famous “balloon buster” of World War I, Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. It was a sighting that produced some very interesting photographs. UFOs, Unidentified Flying Objects – Flying Saucers, whatever you care to call them, and whether you believe in them or not, there are too many sightings to be totally dismissed. Here’s an exceptional one extracted from “Project Blue Book”, written by “EJR” former chief of the Air Force’s project for investigating UFO reports.
There were only a few high cirrus clouds in the sky late on the morning of March 3 1953 when a pilot took off from Luke in an F-84 jet to log some time. He had been flying F-51s in Korea and had recently started to check out in the jets. He took off, cleared the traffic pattern, and started climbing toward Blythe Radio, about 130 miles west of Luke.
He’d climbed for several minutes and had just picked up the coded letters BLH that identified Blythe Radio when he looked up through the corner glass in the front part of his canopy travelling left to right at two o’clock from his current position, the pilot noticed what initially appeared to be an aeroplane, leaving a long, thin vapour trail. He glanced down at his altimeter and saw that he was at 23,000 feet. The object that was leaving the vapour trail must really be high, he remembered thinking because he couldn’t see any aeroplane at the head of it.
He altered his course a few degrees to the right so that he could follow the trail and increased his rate of climb. Before long he could tell that he was gaining on the object, or whatever was leaving the vapor-trail because he was under the central part of it. But he still couldn’t see any object. He felt this was strange, as vapour-trails do not just occur; something has to leave them.
He had now climbed another 12,000 feet to 35,000 feet, according to his altimeter. He kept on climbing, but soon the ’84 began to mush; it was as high as it would go. The pilot dropped down 1,000 feet and continued on even when he was below the front of the trail, however, still no sight of an aeroplane. This bothered him too.
Nothing in 1953 flew over 55,000 feet except a few experimental airplanes like the D-558 or those of the “X” series, and they don’t stray far from Edwards AFB in California.
He couldn’t be more than 15,000 feet from the front of the trail, and you can recognize any kind of an aeroplane 15,000 feet away in the clear air of the sub stratosphere.
He looked and he looked and he looked. He moved the F-84 back and forth, convinced a flaw in the canopy’s plexiglass was blanking out the aeroplane, however, still none to be seen. Whatever it was, it was darn high or darn small. The object was travelling at approximately 300 miles an hour, as it was necessary to reduce engine power and “S” to stay under it.
He was beginning to get low on fuel about this time so he hauled up the nose of the jet, took about 30 feet of gun camera film, and started down. After landing the pilot told his story and the subsequent processing and viewing of the film was given priority. It showed a weird, thin, forked vapour trail but no aeroplane.
Lieutenant Olsson and Airman Futch (veterans of the UFO campaign of 1952) worked the report over thoroughly. The photo lab confirmed that the trail was definitely a vapour trail, not a freak cloud formation. But Air Force Flight Service said, “No other aeroplanes in the area,” and so did Air Defense Command, because minutes after the F-84 pilot broke off contact, the “object” had passed into an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) and radar had shown nothing.
There was one last possibility: an astronomer confirmed that the photos resembled the smoke trail of a meteor. But there was one hitch: the pilot was positive that the head of the vapour trail was moving at about 300 miles an hour. He didn’t know exactly how much ground he’d covered, but when he first picked up Blythe Radio he was on Green 5 airway, about 30 miles west of his base, and when he’d given up the chase he’d taken another radio bearing, and he was now almost up to Needles Radio, 70 miles north of Blythe. He could see a lake, Lake Mojave, in the distance.
Could a high-altitude jet-stream wind have been blowing the smoke cloud? Futch checked this no. The usual westerly winds were above 20,000 feet, with the jet stream on the north.
Several months later I talked to a captain who had been at Luke when this sighting occurred. He knew the F-84 pilot and he’d heard him tell his story in great detail. Maybe not a confirmed believer, however, certainly curious. “I never gave much thought to previous reports,” he said, “but I know this particular chap well. He’s not nuts. What do you think he saw?”
I don’t know what he saw. Maybe he didn’t travel as far as he thought he did. If he didn’t, then I’d guess that he saw a meteor’s smoke trail. But if he did know that he’d covered some 80 miles during the chase, I’d say that he saw a UFO a real one. I cannot believe that pilots don’t know what they’re doing.
“Project Blue Book” documents many sighting of UFOs, and as such is regarded as an authority on the subject. This report is the first time ever that someone, military or civilian, has collated and publicized all the facts on this controversial subject.