Island Earth, © Universal Studios 1955
a UFO abduct an Air Force jet interceptor and its crew in 1953?
- UFO researcher, ex-Marine and director of the National Investigations
Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) - an early advocate of the concept
that UFOs were extraterrestrial spacecraft visiting Earth on reconnaissance
and sampling missons, was particularly intrigued with cases where aircraft
interacted with the objects. He was especially fascinated with one 1953
case, describing it in several articles and books. Here is one of the
most detailed versions:
of the strangest cases on record occurred in 1953. Though it has received
considerable publicity, some of the follow-up developments are not generally
known. On the night of November 23, 1953, an F-89 all-weather interceptor
was scrambled at Kinross AFB, to check on a UFO flying over the Soo
Locks. The jet had a crew of two – Lt. Felix Moncla, the pilot, and
Lt. R. R. Wilson, the radar observer. Guided by an AF GCI (Ground Control
Intercept) radar station, Moncla followed the unknown machine out over
Lake Superior, flying at 500 miles an hour. Minutes later, a GCI controller
was startled to see the blips of the jet and the UFO suddenly merge
on the radar-scope. Whatever had happened, one thing was certain: The
F-89 and the UFO were locked together. As the combined blip went off
the scope the controller hurriedly radioed Search and Rescue. Moncla
and Wilson might have bailed out before the collision. Both had life
jackets and self-inflating life rafts – even in the cold water they
could survive for a while. All night, U.S. and Canadian search planes
with flares circled low over the area. At daylight, a score of boats
joined the hunt, as the pilots crisscrossed the lake for a hundred miles.
But no trace was found of the airmen, the jet or the UFO. The search
was still on when Truax AFB gave the Associated Press this official
release: “The plane was followed by radar until it merged with an object
70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan.” In view of AF secrecy
this was a surprising admission. The statement appeared in an early
edition of the Chicago Tribune, headed JET, TWO ABOARD, VANISHES OVER
LAKE SUPERIOR. (Photocopy in author's possession.) Then AF Headquarters
killed the story. Denying the jet had merged with anything, the AF said
that radar operators had misread the scope. The reported UFO, it stated,
had been an offcourse Canadian airliner which the F-89 had intercepted
and identified. After this, the AF speculated, the pilot evidently had
been stricken with vertigo and the jet had crashed in the lake. The
Canadian airlines quickly denied any flights in the area. Expert pilots
also hit at the AF explanation. As customary, the AF sent two officers
to the families of the lost airmen to give them official messages of
sympathy. According to letters which a relative of Moncla sent me, here
is what followed. Explaining the accident, the AF representative told
Moncla's widow that the pilot had flown too low while identifying the
supposed Canadian airliner and had crashed in the lake. By some headquarters
mixup, a second AF officer was sent to offer condolences to the Moncla
family. When Moncla's widow asked if her husband's body might be recovered
the officer said there was no chance the jet had exploded at a high
altitude, destroying the plane and its occupants.
From Space (1973)
official accounts of the Kinross loss were obtained by Robert Todd under
the Freedom of Information Act. Note that, surprisingly enough, there
were two F-89s lost by the 433d Fighter Interceptor Squadron on
November 23, 1953 - the first while returning from a short engine test
flight near the 433d's home base at Truax AFB, Madison, Wisconsin, and
the second on an operational intercept mission over Lake Superior, originating
from Kinross AFB, Michigan, a satellite base of Truax. All four crewmen
were either killed outright or declared missing and listed as dead.
point is that the first entry clearly implies that the unidentified radar
target that Moncla was pursuing when his fighter disappeared was in
radio contact with ground controllers at some point, and therefore
was not a UFO: "the bogey was not aware of any aircraft in the
III OPERATIONS AND TRAINING
On 23 November
a F-89 assigned to the 433d took off on a routine operational flight
to check the afterburners on the new J-35-A-47 engines. After climbing
to 40,000 feet and broadcasting performance data to the ground recording
unit, air-to-ground transmission was discontinued. Approximately twelve
minutes after the last transmission was received the ship crashed and
disintegrated upon impact, killing both crew members. Prior to the crash,
the aircraft was observed to pull out of a steep dive and eject the
canopy. Cause was undetermined. Still again in November, an F-89 of
Detachment #1, Kinross AFB, Michigan, took off on an active Air Defense
mission and disappeared. GCI had control of the fighter and was directing
it from 25,000 feet down to 7,000 feet. The fighter and bogey blips
merged on the GCI radar scope and there was no further transmission
from the fighter. The bogey was not aware of any aircraft in the area,
and GCI saw no blips break off from the target. Both pilot and observer
are missing and officially listed as dead.
DATA FOR THE 433d FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON 1 July 1953-31 December
On 23 November 1953, an F-89C assigned to this organization took off
from Truax Field on a routine operational check of the afterburners
on the J-35-A-47 engines. The pilot climbed to 40,000 feet and at the
same time broadcast performance data to a ground recording unit. After
reaching 40,000 feet, air to ground transmission was discontinued as
all data had been received. Approximately twelve minutes after the last
transmission the aircraft crashed seven miles south of the field with
injuries fatal to both crew members. The aircraft was observed to have
pulled out of a steep dive at 500 feet, and the canopy was ejected just
prior to impact. On 23 November 1953, an F-89C of Detachment #1, 433d
Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Kinross Air Force Base, Michigan, took
off on an active air defense mission. GCI had control of the fighter
and was directing it from 25,000 feet down to 7,000 feet. The fighter
and the bogey blips merged on the GCI radar scope. There was no further
transmission from the fighter, the bogey was not aware of any aircraft
in the area, and GCI saw no blips break off from the target. Both pilot
and radar observer are missing and are now officially listed as dead.
this unit had a jet fighter, an F-89C type aircraft disappear over Lake
Superior while on an active air defense mission under this unit’s control.
The Controller (4) [2nd Lt. Douglas A. Stuart] on duty had positioned
the fighter for the final phase of the intercept and the blips merged
on the scope. Radar and radio [contact] was lost with the F-89 at this
time and the aircraft was never sighted again. The search for the missing
aircraft was under the direction of the Canadian Air Force; and the
United States Coast Guard, Air Force, and Canadian Air Force participated
in the search. No trace was found of the plane and crew of two.
Events of November 23, 1953
51-5855 of 433d Fighter Interceptor Squadron - the second-last F-89C
aircraft involved in the Kinross incident was nearly identical, built
just two slots ahead on the Northrop assembly line.
color photo of another 433d FIS F-89C, showing the squadron's "Blue
Fighter Interceptor Squadron was based at Truax AFB, Madison, Wisconsin,
and flew Northrop F-98C Scorpion all-weather jet interceptors, which were
the first US jet fighter specifically designed to carry radar and operate
in night or bad-weather conditions. The F-89 had suffered serious development
problems, including a fleet-wide grounding in late 1952. At the time of
the incidents, less than 40 were permitted by Air Defense Command to stand
alert on operational ADC missions.
The Troubled F-89
12:30 on the afternoon of Monday, November 23, 1953, an F-89C took off
from Truax AFB for a short flight. At its controls was 1st Lt. John W.
Schmidt, 28, of Del Rio, Texas. In the rear seat was Capt. Glen E. Collins,
30, from Indianapolis, Indiana. Both men were experienced veterans who
had flown combat duty in the Pacific theatre during WWII.
that day was a quick checkout the afterburners of newly installed engines.
The fighter climbed rapidly to 40,000 feet and the engine tests were performed
with no apparent problems. The men transmitted their instrument readings,
signed off, and headed back toward Truax.
minutes later, Mrs. Donald Alme was standing outside her home in Madison
when she suddenly saw a jet overhead. "It was quite low and I knew it
was a jet, but there wasn't any noise like you always hear from a jet.
It was just still-like…suddenly there was something just like an explosion
- oh, an awful, huge noise. The jet then plummeted to earth - just so
fast your eye could hardly follow it." Another witness, who was about
two miles from the crash site, said, " I heard the plane roaring across
the hill and thought it was going to land in the marsh south of my house.
Then it pulled up … lifted up over and headed for the arboretum. There
was a puff of smoke and the plane seemed to dive right straight down.
After that there was a real loud thud and I knew it had crashed."
first fatal 433d FIS F-89C crash on November 23, 1953
click to enlarge
Detachment 1 of the 433d FIS, which consisted of two Scorpions, was standing
alert a considerable distance away at Kinross AFB, on Michigan's upper
peninsula, near the locks on the Sault St Marie Canal. 1st Lt Felix E.
Moncla, Jr., of Moreauville, Louisiana, and 2nd Lt. Robert L. Wilson,
from Ponca City, Oklahoma, crewed aircraft 5853.
second loss of November 23 - Moncla and Wilson's aircraft
where the radar blips merged and the fighter disappeared was well into
the Canadian side of Lake Superior. The Search and Rescue effort was handled
by Canadian forces for the most part.
marks approximate location of the disappearance of Moncla's F-89
Air Defense Command radar site that was tracking Moncla's plane -
remote Calumet AFS, MI, near the tip of the Keweenaw peninsula which
juts into Lake Superior. Radar in use was probably an AN/CPS-5