Monday, September 21, 2009

UFO FYI: June 24, 1947- Kenneth Arnold Sees Something

Kenneth A. Arnold (March 29, 1915 in Sebeka, Minnesota – January 16, 1984 in Bellevue, Washington)
From WIKIPEDIA (abridged)

Kenneth A. Arnold was an American businessman and pilot. He is best-known for making what is generally considered the first widely reported unidentified flying object sighting in the United States, after claiming to see nine unusual objects flying in a chain near Mount Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947. Arnold described the objects' shape as resembling a flat saucer or disc (see quotes below), and also described their erratic motion as resembling a saucer skipped across water; from this, the press quickly coined the new terms "flying saucer" and "flying disc" to describe such objects, many of which were reported within days after Arnold's sighting. Later Arnold would add that the objects resembled a crescent or flying wing.

The U.S. Air Force formally listed the Arnold case as a mirage; this is one of many explanations that have been rebutted by critics, and researchers Jerome Clark and Ronald Story both argue that there has never been an entirely persuasive conventional explanation of the Arnold sighting.

On June 24, 1947, Arnold was flying from Chehalis, Washington to Yakima, Washington in a CallAir A-2 on a business trip. He made a brief detour after learning of a $5000 reward for the discovery of a U.S. Marine Corps C-46 transport airplane that had crashed near Mt. Rainer. The skies were completely clear and there was a mild wind. A few minutes before 3:00 p.m. at about 9,200 feet (2,800 m) in altitude and near Mineral, Washington, he gave up his search and started heading eastward towards Yakima. He saw a bright flashing light, similar to sunlight reflecting from a mirror. Afraid he might be dangerously close to another aircraft, Arnold scanned the skies around him, but all he could see was a DC-4 to his left and back of him, about 15 miles (24 km) away.

About 30 seconds after seeing the first flash of light, Arnold saw a series of bright flashes in the distance off to his left, or north of Mt. Rainier, which was then 20 to 25 miles (40 km) away. He thought they might be reflections on his airplane's windows, but a few quick tests (rocking his airplane from side to side, removing his eyeglasses, later rolling down his side window) ruled this out. The reflections came from flying objects.

They flew in a long chain, and Arnold for a moment considered they might be a flock of geese, but quickly ruled this out for a number of reasons, including the altitude, bright glint, and obviously very fast speed. He then thought they might be a new type of jet and started looking intently for a tail and was surprised that he couldn't find any.

They quickly approached Rainier and then passed in front, usually appearing dark in profile against the bright white snowfield covering Rainier, but occasionally still giving off bright light flashes as they flipped around erratically. Sometimes he said he could see them on edge, when they seemed so thin and flat they were practically invisible. According to Clark, Arnold said that one of the objects was rather crescent shaped, while the other eight objects were more circular, but initially Arnold's descriptions were only of the latter disk-like shape.

At one point Arnold said they flew behind a subpeak of Rainier and briefly disappeared. Knowing his position and the position of the (unspecified) subpeak, Arnold placed their distance as they flew past Rainier at about 23 miles (37 km).

Using a dzus cowling fastener as a gauge to compare the nine objects to the distant DC-4, Arnold estimated their angular size as slightly smaller than the DC-4, about the width between the outer engines (about 60 feet). Arnold also said he realized that the objects would have to be quite large to see any details at that distance and later, after comparing notes with a United Airlines crew that had a similar sighting 10 days later (see below), placed the absolute size as larger than a DC-4 airliner (or greater than 100 feet (30 m) in length). Army Air Force analysts would later estimate 140 to 280 feet (85 m), based on analysis of human visual acuity and other sighting details (such as estimated distance).

Arnold said the objects were grouped together, as Ted Bloecher writes, "in a diagonally stepped-down, echelon formation, stretched out over a distance that he later calculated to be five miles". Though moving on a more or less level horizontal plane, Arnold said the objects weaved from side to side ("like the tail of a Chinese kite" as he later stated), darting through the valleys and around the smaller mountain peaks.

As the objects passed Mt Rainer, Arnold turned his plane southward on a more or less parallel course. It was at this point that he opened his side window and began observing the objects unobstructed by any glass that might have produced reflections. The objects did not disappear and continued to move very rapidly southward, continuously moving forward of his position. Curious about their speed, he began to time their rate of passage: he said they moved from Mt. Rainer to Mt. Adams where they faded from view, a distance of about 50 miles (80 km), in one minute and forty-two seconds, according to the clock on his instrument panel. When he later had time to do the calculation, the speed was over 1,700 miles per hour (2,700 km/h). This was about three times faster than any manned aircraft in 1947. Not knowing exactly the distance where the objects faded from view, Arnold conservatively and arbitrarily rounded this down to 1,200 miles (1,900 km) an hour, still faster than any known aircraft, which had yet to break the sound barrier. It was this supersonic speed in addition to the unusual saucer or disk description that seemed to capture people's attention.

Arnold landed in Yakima at about 4.00 p.m., and quickly told friend and airport general manager Al Baxter the amazing story, and before long, the entire airport staff knew of Arnold's claims. He discussed the story with the staff, and later wrote that Baxter didn't believe him.

He also wrote that some former Army pilots told him that they had been briefed before going into combat "that they might see objects of similar shape and design as I described and assured me that I wasn't dreaming or going crazy." Arnold wasn't interviewed by reporters until the next day (June 25) when he went to the office of the East Oregonian in Pendleton. Any skepticism the reporters might have harbored evaporated when they interviewed Arnold at length; as historian Mike Dash records:

Arnold had the makings of a reliable witness. He was a respected businessman and experienced pilot ... and seemed to be neither exaggerating what he had seen, nor adding sensational details to his report. He also gave the impression of being a careful observer ... These details impressed the newspapermen who interviewed him and lent credibility to his report.
Arnold would soon complain about the effects of the publicity on his life. On June 28 he was reported saying, "I haven't had a moment of peace since I first told the story." He then said a preacher had called and told him that the objects he saw were "harbingers of doomsday" and that the preacher was preparing his congregation "for the end of the world." But that wasn't half as bad as an encounter he had with a woman in a Pendleton cafe who looked at him and dashed out shrieking, "There's the man who saw the men from Mars." She ran out "sobbing she would have to do something for the children" Arnold was reported saying "with a shudder".He then added that, "This whole thing has gotten out of hand. I want to talk to the FBI or someone. Half the people look at me as a combination of Einstein, Flash Gordon and screwball. I wonder what my wife back in Idaho thinks."

Arnold's sighting was partly corroborated by a prospector named Fred Johnson on Mt. Adams, who wrote AAF intelligence that he saw six of the objects on June 24 at about the same time as Arnold, which he viewed through a small telescope. He said they were "round" and tapered "sharply to a point in the head and in an oval shape." He also noted that the objects seemed to disturb his compass.

The Portland Oregon Journal reported on July 4 receiving a letter from an L. G. Bernier of Richland, Washington (about 110 miles (180 km) east of Mt. Adams and 140 miles (230 km) southeast of Mt. Rainier). Bernier wrote that he saw three of the strange objects over Richland flying "almost edgewise" toward Mt. Rainier about one half hour before Arnold. Bernier thought the three were part of a larger formation. He indicated they were traveling at high speed: "I have seen a P-38 appear seemingly on one horizon and then gone to the opposite horizon in no time at all, but these disks certainly were traveling faster than any P-38. [Maximum speed of a P-38 was about 440 miles an hour.] No doubt Mr. Arnold saw them just a few minutes or seconds later, according to their speed."[9] The previous day, Bernier had also spoken to his local newspaper, the Richland Washington Villager, and was among the first witnesses to suggest extraterrestrial origins: "I believe it may be a visitor from another planet."

About 60 miles (97 km) west-northwest of Richland in Yakima, Washington, Mrs. Ethel Wheelhouse likewise reported sighting several flying discs moving at fantastic speeds at around the same time as Arnold's sighting.

When military intelligence began investigating Arnold's sighting, they found yet another witness from the area. A member of the Washington State forest service, who had been on fire watch at a tower in Diamond Gap, about 20 miles (32 km) south of Yakima, reported seeing "flashes" at 3:00 p.m. on the 24th over Mount Rainier (or the exact same time as Arnold's sighting), that appeared to move in a straight line. Similarly, at 3:00 p.m. Sidney B. Gallagher in Washington State (exact position unspecified) reported seeing nine shiny discs flash by to the north. A Seattle newspaper also mentioned a woman near Tacoma who said she saw a chain of nine, bright objects flying at high speed near Mt. Rainier. Unfortunately this short news item wasn't precise as to time or date, but indicated it was around the same date as Arnold's sighting.

However, a pilot of a DC-4 some 10 to 15 miles (24 km) north of Arnold en route to Seattle reported seeing nothing unusual. (This was the same DC-4 seen by Arnold and which he used for size comparison.)

The primary corroborative sighting, however, occurred ten days later (July 4) when a United Airlines crew over Idaho en route to Seattle also spotted five to nine disk-like objects that paced their plane for 10 to 15 minutes before suddenly disappearing. The next day in Seattle, Arnold met with the pilot, Cpt. E. J. Smith, and copilot and compared sighting details. The main difference in shape was that the United crew thought the objects appeared rough on top. This was one of the few sightings that Arnold felt was reliable, most of the rest he thought were the public seeing other things and letting their imaginations run wild. Arnold and Cpt. Smith became friends, met again with Army Air Force intelligence officers on July 12 and filed sighting reports, then teamed up again at the end of July in investigating the strange Maury Island incident.

A similar sighting of eight objects also occurred over Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 12, 1947. In this instance, a photo (left) was taken and published in the Tulsa Daily World the following day (photo at right). Interestingly, the photographer, Enlo Gilmore, said that in blowups of the photo, the objects resembled baseball catcher's mitts or flying wings. He was of the opinion that the military had a secret fleet of flying wing airplanes. He had been a gunnery officer in the Navy during the war, and using information from another witness, also a veteran, he performed a triangulation and arrived at an estimation of speed of 1,700 miles per hour (2,700 km/h), or essentially the same estimate as Arnold's. One of the objects, he said, seemed to have a hole in the middle.

Two or three photos of a similar, solitary object were taken by William Rhodes over Phoenix, Arizona on July 7, 1947, and appeared in a local Phoenix newspaper and some other newspapers. The object was rounded in front with a crescent back. These photos also seem to show something resembling a hole in the middle, though Rhodes thought it was a canopy.

Publicity and origins of term "flying saucer"

Starting June 27, newspapers first began using the terms "flying saucer" and "flying disk" to describe the sighted objects. Thus the Arnold sighting is credited with giving rise to these popular terms. The actual origin of the terms is somewhat controversial and complicated. Jerome Clark cites a 1970 study by Herbert Strentz, who reviewed U.S. newspaper accounts of the Arnold UFO sighting, and concluded that the term was probably due to an editor or headline writer: the body of the early Arnold news stories did not use the term "flying saucer" or "flying disc."

Years later, Arnold claimed he told Bill Bequette that "they flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water." Arnold felt that he had been misquoted since the description referred to the objects' motion rather than their shape. Thus Bequette has often been credited with first using "flying saucer" and supposedly misquoting Arnold, but the term does not appear in Bequette's early articles. Instead, his first article of June 25 says only, "He said he sighted nine saucer-like aircraft flying in formation..."

The next day in a much more detailed article, Bequette wrote, "He clung to his story of shiny, flat objects racing over the Cascade mountains with a peculiar weaving motion ‘like the tail of a Chinese kite.' ...He also described the objects as 'saucer-like' and their motion 'like fish flipping in the sun.' ...[Arnold] described the objects as 'flat like a pie-pan and somewhat bat-shaped'." It wasn't until June 28 that Bequette first used the term "flying disc" (but not "flying saucer").

A review of early newspaper stories indicates that immediately after his sighting, Arnold generally described the objects’ shape as thin and flat, rounded in the front but chopped in the back and coming to a point, i.e., more or less saucer- or disk-like. He also specifically used terms like "saucer" or "saucer-like", "disk", and "pie pan" or "pie plate" in describing the shape. The motion he generally described as weaving like the tail of a kite and erratic flipping.

For example, in a surviving recorded radio interview from June 25, Arnold described them as looking "something like a pie plate that was cut in half with a sort of a convex triangle in the rear." His motion descriptions were: "I noticed to the left of me a chain which looked to me like the tail of a Chinese kite, kind of weaving... they seemed to flip and flash in the sun, just like a mirror... they seemed to kind of weave in and out right above the mountaintops..."

The first investigation of Arnold's claims came from Lt. Frank Brown and Capt. William Davidson of Hamilton Field in California, who interviewed Arnold on July 12. Arnold also submitted a written report at that time. Regarding the reliability of Arnold's sighting, they concluded:

"It is the present opinion of the interviewer that Mr. Arnold actually saw what he stated he saw. It is difficult to believe that a man of [his] character and apparent integrity would state that he saw objects and write up a report to the extent that he did if he did not see them."

Despite this, the Army Air Force's formal public conclusion was that Arnold had seen a mirage.

In addition, on July 9 AAF intelligence, with help from the FBI, secretly began an investigation of the best sightings, mostly from pilots and military personnel. Arnold's sighting, as well as that of the United Airline's crew, were included in the list of best sightings. Three weeks later they came to the conclusion that the saucer reports were not imaginary or adequately explained by natural phenomena; something real was flying around. This laid the groundwork for another intelligence estimate in September 1947 by Gen. Nathan Twining, commanding officer of the Air Materiel Command, which likewise concluded the saucers were real and urged a formal investigation by multiple government agencies. This in turn resulted in the formation of Project Sign at the end of 1947, the first publicly acknowledged USAF UFO investigation. Project Sign eventually evolved into Project Grudge, and then the better known Project Blue Book.

In a 1950 interview with journalist Edward R. Murrow, Arnold reported seeing similar objects on three other occasions, and said other pilots flying in the northwestern U.S. had sighted such objects as many as eight times. The pilots initially felt a duty reporting the objects despite the ridicule, he said, because they thought the U.S. government didn't know what they were. Arnold did not assert that the objects were alien spacecraft, although he did say: "being a natural-born American, if it's not made by our science or our Army Air Forces, I am inclined to believe it's of an extraterrestrial origin." Then he added that he thought everybody should be concerned, but "I don't think it's anything for people to get hysterical about." The first issue of Fate (1948) featured the article The Truth About The Flying Saucers by Arnold. In 1952 he described his experiences in the book The Coming of the Saucers, which he and a publisher friend named Raymond A. Palmer.

Recently in news, a team from the Northrop Grumman defense-contracting corporation used original Nazi blueprints (see re-created blueprints of Hitler's stealth fighter) and the only surviving Ho 2-29, which has been stored in a U.S. government facility for more than 50 years. This plane looks similar to the drawing made by Arnold. Its possible what Arnold actually saw was this secret German prototype which the US Army recovered after world War II.

The all-wing Ho 2-29 looked more like todays U.S. B-2 bomber (B-2 bomber picture)—or something from a Star Wars prequel—than like any other World War II aircraft. Made primarily of wood and powered by jet engines, the plane was designed for speeds of up to 600 miles an hour (970 kilometers an hour).

Armed with four 30mm cannons and two 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bombs, the planned production model was also meant to pack a punch.

A Ho 2-29 prototype made a successful test flight just before Christmas 1944. But by then time was running out for the Nazis, and they were never able to perfect the design or produce more than a handful of prototype planes.

Determining the Horten's stealth capabilities could help reveal what might have happened if the Ho 2-29 had been unleashed in force.


(UFO Casebook) Although the history of UFOs can be traced back to early cave drawings, pictures, and folklore, the modern era of the study of UFOs is usually believed to be the 1947 sighting report of nine "flying saucers" made by pilot Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947. Arnold was aiding in the search for a missing plane when the sighting occurred. He did not believe his story would be believed, but swore that it was true. Arnold related his sighting to the Chicago Daily Tribune: "The first thing I noticed was a series of flashes in my eyes as if a mirror was reflecting sunlight at me..."

"I saw the flashes were coming from a series of objects that were traveling incredibly fast. They were silvery and shiny and seemed to be shaped like a pie plate...What startled me most at this point was...that I could not find any tails on them."

Arnold estimated that the objects were flying at an altitude between 9,500 and 10,000 feet, and at a great speed. After clocking them from Mt. Ranier to Mt. Adams, he arrived at an estimated speed of 1,200 miles per hour. "It seemed impossible," he said, "but there it is...I must believe my eyes." The term "flying saucer" was coined, not by Arnold, but a reporter. Arnold made the statement that the objects moved, "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." East Orengonian newspaper reporter Bill Bequette paraphrased Arnold's statement when he placed the story on the AP news wire. Arnold's term "saucer-like" became "flying saucers." The US military attempted to ignore the press reports of Arnold's sighting, but as the story grew, they felt compelled to take action. A meeting to discuss a course of action was held at the Pentagon on July 7, 1947, only a few days after the Roswell crash. Taking charge was Chief of the Army Air Force Air Intelligence Requirements Division, General Schulgen. The group made the decision to follow up on "qualified" observers' reports of flying discs. Three days later, Arnold received a request from Continental Air Command to appear for an interview, regarding his report. Two Counter Intelligence Corps investigators would carry out the investigation. The results of this session were included in Project Blue Book.

Arnold's report was one of the first of 850 different UFO reports to make US media by the end of July, 1947. More than anything else, Arnold was in the right place at the right time to forever be an important part of the history of UFOs.

Pilot Reports Seeing Mystery 'Aircraft' Over Coast Range
Sacramento Bee June 26, 1947

PENDELTON (Ore) June 26.-(AP)-Nine shiny objects flying at 1200 miles per hour over the Coast Range of Western Washington-that is what pilot Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Ida., reported he saw while on a routine flight over the mountains. He stuck to his story while fellow pilots openly scoffed at his report and experts said they had no explanation as to what the "objects" could be.
"It seems impossible, but there it is," Arnold insisted.

Calls Them Aircraft

He said they were bright, saucer like objects-he called them "aircraft"-flying at 10,00 feet altitude. A flash of reflected sunshine brought them to his attention, he asserted, and for a second he was stunned by their "incredible" speed.

He said he rolled down the window of his plane, thinking it might have caused the reflection, but he still saw them with the window down.

They flew with a peculiar dipping motion, "like a fish flipping in the sun," he said, and "they were extremely shiny, and when they caught the sun right it nearly blinded me."

Figures Speed

He reported they were about 25 to 30 miles away when first sighted flying north. He glanced at his instrument clock and timed them between Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, a distance of 47 miles.

It took 1:42 minutes, Arnold reported, added that after he landed, he got out a map and by triangulation figured the speed of the "objects" at 1200 miles per hour.

"I might have missed a second or two in my timing, but the speed still would be near 1,200 miles per hour," he asserted.

In Portland, the state senior Civil Aeronautics Administration Inspector, Edward Leach, said he doubted "that anything would be traveling that fast."

Size of Transport Plane

Arnold also said a DC4 was flying in the vicinity and he estimated that the "objects" were about the same size as the four engined passenger ships, although the "objects" did not have wings.

"One thing that struck me," he said, "was that they were flying so low. Ten thousand feet is very low for anything going at that speed."

He reported that they appeared to fly almost as if they were fastened together-if one dipped the others did too.

Maury Island "hoax": an early Men-In-Black incident three days before the Arnold sighting, in which a "donut-shaped object" dropped slag on a boat near Tacoma, Washington; the next day an MIB visited Harold Dahl, who was piloting the boat, and warned him not to discuss the sighting; the boat's owner, Fred Crisman, was suspected of being a CIA employee and was later called to give secret testimony at the trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans; pilot Dahl disappeared and UFOlogist Arnold, who investigated the case, reported unexplained failure of his own plane's engine soon after two Air Force investigators were killed taking off from Tacoma's airport.

From About Dot Com

There have been UFO sightings ever since man roamed the Earth. There exist many paintings of centuries past that depict unusual flying objects in the sky. Folklore of many early peoples are filled with stories of strange objects flying through the skies. However, most Ufologists credit pilot Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting of 1947 as the beginning of the modern UFO age.

On June 24, 1947, businessman Arnold was using his plane to help search for a missing aircraft. He was flying over the Cascade mountains. As he scanned the landscape below him, he would notice some flashes in his eyes, like reflecting sunlight. He told the Chicago Daily Tribune, "The first thing I noticed was a series of flashes in my eyes as if a mirror was reflecting sunlight at me... "

Arnold soon found the source of the flashes - a series of fast moving objects. He described them as silvery and shiny. The most startling aspect of the object was a lack of a tail. The objects appeared to be shaped like a pie plate. This description almost certainly meant that the objects had a raised top, or cupola on them. This description very closely fit that of the large UFO photographed during The Battle of Los Angeles.

The stunned pilot was seeing something that he had never seen before in his many years of flying. He estimated the objects' altitude as between 9,500 and 10,000 feet. He began to clock their flight from Mt. Ranier to Mt. Adams. This information would be used to estimate the objects' speed at 1,200 mph, an unbelievable speed for the era.

"It seemed impossible," he said, "but there it is... I must believe my eyes."Although the term saucer was used in a 1930 UFO report in Texas, it was meant to show the relative size of the object from arm's length. Arnold told a newspaper reporter that the objects moved "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." Arnold was indicating how the objects bounced across the atmosphere, not the shape of the object, Yet, newspaper reporter Bill Bequette's report on the AP news wire used the term "flying saucer" to describe the objects' shape. A phrase was coined.

As was the custom of the day, the U.S. military, though aware of the Arnold report, at first tried to simply ignore the matter. But, the story broke big across the nation, and the military had to make some statement on the sighting. On July 7, a meeting was held to determine how to respond to the report.

Chief of the Army Air Force Air Intelligence Requirements Division, General Schulgen would head the group. Under pressure to give the public some reassurance, the decision was made to hear from "qualified" reporters of UFO sightings. In a couple of days, Arnold was called in for an interview. The results of this interview would earn a place in Project Blue Book.

Place in History: Although there had already occurred several excellent UFO cases before the Arnold sighting, his account will always have a place in UFO history. Over 800 reports would make U.S. media by the end of July, 1947 alone, and Arnold's was one of the most important.


Skeptical explanations

One skeptical objection raised is that Arnold was suspiciously precise in his descriptions (for example, "approaching Mt. Rainier at about 107 degrees" and "passed almost directly in front of me, but at a distance of about 23 miles"), perhaps calling into question Arnold's reliability as a witness. However, Arnold's "about 107 degrees" was clearly not meant to be exact but an estimate, based on judging flight bearings from thousands of hours of flying experience. Arnold was also explicit from the beginning that his 23-mile (37 km) distance figure was based on seeing the objects momentarily disappear behind a sub-peak of Rainier of a known distance.

Skeptic Steuart Campbell has argued that the objects Arnold reported could have been mirages of several snow-capped peaks in Cascade Range. Campbell's calculation of the objects' speed determined that they were travelling at roughly the same speed as Arnold's plane, indicating that the objects were in fact stationary. Mirages could have been caused by temperature inversions over several deep valleys in the line of sight.[17] It is true that when Arnold had turned the plane so as to fly parallel to the apparent N-S course of the objects the relative bearing to very distant mountains would change at a much slower angular rate than the bearings to nearby peaks, i.e. as nearby landmarks fell aft of the left wing parallax would cause distant landmarks to be relatively displaced in the opposite direction. Because mirage affects visual elevation but preserves visual bearing, detached mirage images of distant peaks could appear to pace the plane. However, Arnold said that he first saw the objects crossing the nose of the plane at speed from N - S before he turned S in order to watch them through the open side canopy. Parallax does not explain this. He also said he saw the objects fly in front of Mt. Rainier; they could be seen in profile and also flashing brightly against the snowfields of Rainier. That would be impossible for mirages of mountain peaks dozens of miles away to the south. UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass[18] cited an article by Keay Davidson of the San Francisco Examiner in arguing that Arnold might have misidentified meteors on June 24, 1947. In rebuttal, optical physicist Bruce Maccabee pointed out a meteor theory would require impossibly slow speeds and durations for brightly glowing meteors on a horizontal trajectory.

James Easton was the first of several skeptics to suggest that Arnold may have misidentified pelicans: the birds live in the Washington region, are rather large (wingspans of over three meters are not uncommon), have a pale underside that can reflect light, can fly at rather high altitudes, and can appear to have a somewhat crescent-shaped profile when flying.

Similarly, Richard Carrier recently claimed to have seen the same UFOs as Arnold described, "ovoid objects flying in formation" "rotating along their axis of motion, like footballs, with one side black and one bright white, so they alternated in color while they spun." Then he realized it was an optical illusion and a flock of seagulls of which he misgauged the speed. He further claimed that Arnold's account showed that Arnold was incorrectly estimating his height, believing himself level to mountains four thousand feet below him giving him erroneous estimates of the level, distance, and speed of the objects. Birds unable to meet these erroneous estimates are ruled out by the minds eye as a possible explanations for the object and aren't recognized.

Rebutting the various bird explanations, Maccabee, argues it is physically impossible for a bird to be blindingly bright as reported by Arnold—the objects; brilliant brightness being what initially attracted Arnold's attention. Further, Arnold was flying at roughly 110 miles (180 km) an hour on a parallel course to the objects. Arnold reported the objects rapidly moving forward of his position as he observed them flying southward on a parallel course between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. However, no bird could possibly fly faster than Arnold's plane; instead birds would have steadily moved backward, not forwards, relative to his position.

Donald Menzel's explanations

Donald Menzel was a Harvard astronomer and one of the earliest UFO debunkers. Over the years, he offered several mutually exclusive explanations for the Arnold's 1947 UFO sighting. Bruce Maccabee rebutted Menzel's explanations in a 1986 monograph, arguing that Menzel often left out data that conflicted with a given 'explanation'.

  1. In 1953, Menzel argued that Arnold had seen clouds of snow blown from the mountains south of Mt. Rainier. Maccabee noted that such snow clouds have hazy light, not the mirror-like brilliance reported by Arnold. Further, such clouds could not be in the rapid motion reported by Arnold, nor would they account for Arnold first seeing the bright objects north of Rainier.
  2. In 1963, Menzel argued that Arnold had seen orographic clouds or wave clouds; Maccabee noted that this conflicted with testimony from Arnold and others that the sky was clear, and again can't account for the brightness of the objects or their rapid motion over a very large angular region.
  3. In 1971, Menzel argued that Arnold had merely seen spots of water on his airplane's windows; Maccabee notes that this contradicts Arnold's testiomony that he had specifically ruled out water spots or reflections shortly after seeing the nine UFOs. For example, the early Bill Bequette article of June 26 in the Pendleton East Oregonian has Arnold saying he at first thought that maybe he was seeing reflections off his window, but "he still saw the objects after rolling it down."

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