R e s e a r c h
Martin SHOUGH & Wim VAN UTRECHT
Our next case is from a Spot Intelligence Report prepared for Blue Book by the U.S. Air Force's Office of Special Investigations (OSI). The full report can be viewed at bluebookarchive.org.
On Tuesday, 24 January 1950, while en route from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, to Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., in C-45 type aircraft No. 7122, Captain THERON C. FEHREVACH was first to notice the unidentified flying object. FEHREVACH stated that the C-45 was pursuing a course of approximately 26° at 5,000 ft. when he first noticed the object slightly to the left of the course and about 2,000 ft. higher at a distance of 5 to 10 miles from the C-45. The object was approximately 7,000 ft. just above the top of the cloud level which was at this time approximately a 5/10 cloud coverage. It was darker than the clouds and easy to distinguish as not being a cloud. When first noticed the object was pursuing a course between and above two rather large cloud banks, which were estimated as being two miles apart. The object moved from the left cloud to the right cloud twice and never at any time did the object show any radius of turn. It moved to a stop and proceeded back again with a fine horizontal movement, at no time varying vertical in an assent or descent motion. At this time Captain FEHREVACH showed the unconventional aircraft to Captain EDWARDS who immediately altered his course some 6 degrees and climbed to 7,000 ft. to be horizontally on the same level as the object. The C-45 pursued the object at approximately 160 miles per hour with a 20 mile tail wind. The C-45 at no time could overtake the object and at all times it seemed to stay between 5 to 10 miles directly in front and at the same level as the C-45. At this time FEHREVACH had the passenger, Lt. Van SANTEN, view the object. The object then seemed to disappear in front of them by increasing its speed. The entire action thus far reported took approximately five minutes.
After a minute and a half the object was again sighted at the same distance (5 - 10 miles) at approximately 35 to 45 degrees to the right of the course pursued by the C-45. Before assuming this course the object seemed to oscillate to the right and left, a distance seeming to be about one or one and a half distance of its width. Then assuming the course it appeared to disappear directly in front of the C-45 by increasing its speed until it was invisible. The entire incident took place in approximately 15 minutes. Captain FEHREVACH and Captain EDWARDS stated that they had been airborne some 35 or 40 minutes or approximately 1650 when they first sighted the object. These two pilot officers further volunteered the following information:
(1) The object was clearer when first noticed than at any time during the following 15 minutes that tey could focus on it. The unconventional aircraft appeared to be hemispherical or spheroid in shape of approximately 200 to 250 ft. in diameter. The object appeared to be flat on the bottom, but this is further explained that the bottom half of the sphere could have been obscured due to a black trail which appeared to follow the object. This black trail appeared to be three to four times as long as the object was in diameter precipitating at the end of the smoke trail. (1-2½ minutes precipitation rate) At no time during the viewing of the object was it possible to determine the actual structure. The black trail was very pronounced at the bottom. As proclaimed by Captain EDWARDS, the object looked like an oversized parachute with a large black object hanging below it. The smoke trail would lag behind the object no matter which direction it moved.
(2) The atmospheric conditions were as follows:
(3) The object maintained a fine smooth movement which appeared to be capable of speeds from nothing to more than 300 miles per hour. It moved with and against the wind at will and could not have been mistaken for a cloud, meteor or celestrial [sic] planet. Due to the speed maintained by the C-45 the object could not have been some sort of aerostatic lift or it would have been overtaken.
(4) the only tactics or maneuvers noticed were horizontal and at one time oscillating.
(5) In reference to the support the object could have, according to FEHREVACH, resembled what possibly the B-35 (the flying wing) would have looked like from astern at the same distance.
(6) It is noted that Captains EDWARDS and FEHREVACH insist that the C-45 was never at any time close enough to determine the structure, support, propulsion, lights, sound or actual shape of the object.
(7) Captain EDWARDS stated the incident occurred in the area of Blackstone, Virginia, or approximately 37° 5'N-78° 1'W.
Comment - The sighting description contains several observational characteristics that point towards a mirage, such as: the indistinct shape of the phenomenon, the impossibility to overtake it and the lateral movements that remained confined to a limited segment of the sky. A candidate target for a mirage is Hawksbill Peak, the highest point (4,051 ft) in Shenandoah Park, 105 miles from Blackstone and at an azimuth of 348°. The "black trail" at the bottom of the object is not unlike the dark band that often marks the area in the mirage duct where the inverted and erect refracted images are closest. The photo below is an example of this.
Photo by renown astronomy photographer Juan Carlos CASADO showing a desert mirage of distant mountain tops with a clearly distinguishable trail connecting the miraged images. [Image borrowed from astronomycafe.net.]