This case was brought to my attention by Herb Taylor. According to NICAP:
June 24, 1950--California desert. Cigar-shaped UFO paced United Airlines plane for 20 minutes. [V] Navy pilot reported cigar-shaped UFO. [IV]1
Section V is a listing of pilot sightings. There are two sightings from that date. One is from a Military pilot and the other is from an airliner.
AL 6-24-50 California desert F/O David Stewart, United Airlines Cigar-shaped object
paced plane for 20 miles. 
M 6-24-50 nr Daggett, Calif. Navy transport pilot Cigar-shaped object above desert.
The source for the airliner is from an AP article for June 27, 1950. The source for the military sighting refers to section IV, which states:
June 24 1950. The crews of two commercial airliners and a Navy transport sighted a cigar-shaped object about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Calif. The pilot of the Navy plane (name confidential) spent 22 years in Naval aviation and now is a project administrator with a West Coast electronics firm. He was alerted by a United
Airlines pilot who had seen the object and they both discussed the matter with CAA (now FAA) ground stations at Daggett and Silver Lake, Calif. The co-pilot of the Navy plane was the first to see it, and pointed it out to the pilot and navigator.
The pilot described the object as cigar-shaped, dark gray or gunmetal in color and giving off a faint shimmering heat radiation appearance
at the tail end. He judged its apparent size as about 1/8th that of the full moon. Estimated altitude 50,000- 100,000 feet, speed 1000-1500 mph. for the three minutes it was in view. At first it was traveling north, but then turned west presenting a tail end view as it sped out of sight.
Signed report on file at NICAP, (Case certified by Paul Cerny, Chairman, Bay Area NICAP Subcommittee).3
I could find no Blue Book record of this event, so I decided the best way to see what was stated at the time was to read the actual news accounts from the time period.
The media’s account
A search of the newspaper archive reveals a bit more information. What is not reported in “The UFO Evidence” is that the sighting was not restricted to one area but also visible in Nevada and Arizona, over 300 miles away!
Because the media reports could not agree on some of the details we have to assume that they probably got some of the details wrong concerning the event. The AP was the only report that stated the object paced the aircraft for 20 miles. However, the UP stated they reported
the object 30 miles distant. Perhaps the 20 mile value was the distance the object was estimated to be away. First officer Stewart was quoted as stating the object was moving faster than his airplane’s 290 mph and that it moved at tremendous speed. If it was much faster than his airplane, it probably was not “pacing” his aircraft for several minutes.
It wasn’t just the United Airlines report that was confusing. There were reports over Nevada, California, and Arizona. All gave slightly different descriptions of the event. David Rudiak has quite a listing of this event with selections from various news papers.7
I found many reports in the newspaper archives. The Nevada State Journal reported that witnesses
saw the event from Reno, Lovelock, and Fernley. If they saw the same event as the UAL flight, it indicates that the UFO was at a very high altitude to be seen at the same time or its track took it across all of these locations. The story that appeared in the Nevada State Journal on the 25th came from fliers in the Lovelock area.8 They reported the object moving from south to north, flying at high altitude, moving at a tremendous rate of speed, and leaving a vapor trail that lasted for 20 minutes. It is interesting to note that one of those reports from Nevada mentioned that the “smoke trail” had the shape of a number “3”. 9
The smoke trail caught quite a few people’s attention across the region. Ely, Nevada residents saw it change shape from the number “3” to a “disc” before disappearing.10 Pilots in Arizona even saw the trail to the north. Their report,
found in the Reno Evening Gazette, mentions the “vapor trail” but never mentions the pilots seeing the UFO that produced it. 11 However, David Rudiak’s LA times story of the same event, has the pilots stating they saw a very bright object that left this trail.12
The amount of news reports that mention the bright object are not quite as numerous as those who mention the trail in the sky, which lasted much longer. Observers in Modesto, California reported seeing a ball of “orange fire” that was very fast and flew from north to south.13 David Rudiak’s selection from the Fallon Standard by R.A. Pederson contains some clues.14 Mr. Pederson describes his wife being out around 9PM and seeing a bright light in the northeast sky that quickly disappeared. However, he was able to observe the smoke trail that was left behind. Rudiak also has a news story on his web site about two Silver Lake airport aircraft communicators, who stated they saw a “ball of fire” with a “luminous vapor trail” in the northern sky.15 Even though they thought it might have been a meteor, they also mentioned they saw it for 7-10 minutes and it moved to the west before disappearing. There are several instances, where witnesses suggested they thought it was an airplane crash.
There is an interpretation one might draw from all of these conflicting news reports. Many reports mention the “ball of fire” moving at high speed. If it was moving at high speed, it could not have been visible for many minutes. By most accounts, It was the “vapor trail” that was visible for many minutes and this may have affected how long the event was reported in the media. If this interpretation
is accurate, then the UFO could have been a bright meteor. After the meteor faded out, the bright vapor trail it left behind took on the shape of the number “3” as high altitude winds twisted its shape. While the description of the ion train being in the shape of a number “3” seems odd, it really isn’t. Ion trains vary depending on the upper level winds and can take on unusual shapes including
the number “3”. One of my first bright fireball observations, from 1974, involved a train that lasted about three minutes and had separated into two sections. One of these sections assumed the shape of an “S”.
The trajectory of the object is somewhat unclear. It is implied that the United Airlines flight saw the object move westward. The observers in Lovelock stated the object moved from south to north. The NICAP document indicates a northerly course followed by a course correction to the west. The Modesto observers mention the object moving in the opposite direction going from north to south. If one examines enough fireball reports, it is not unusual to see directions reversed. Harold Povenmire mentioned this in his book about fireballs and meteors:
It is surprising how many people do not know North from South, or even know which way the house that they live in faces.... Another common problem involves what I call ‘path reversal’. Many times I will receive a good clear report, but when I begin to work with the given numbers, I can tell that something is very wrong. It will have the object criss-crossing the correct path, or in the correct path but going the wrong way.....16
Of course there is the signed report in NICAP files being presented as evidence, which might rule out the meteor explanation. Unfortunately,
we have no date for this letter and, since NICAP did not come into existence until 1956, it probably was not written until many years later. The significant passage of time between the actual event and when it was recorded is going to affect its accuracy. For instance, the description that the object shifted its direction of travel from north to the west is not part of any of the accounts written in 1950. The same can be said for the “gun metal” or “dark grey” color. The 1950 accounts describe something that was bright and emitting streams of light. The dark shape described by the witness years later may also have been a false/confused memory or he might have been influenced by the “airship effect” as noted in the Zond IV incident. This report in the NICAP files may or may not be an accurate representation of what actually was seen. Therefore, it can not be used as the final word on the case.
Is it solved?
Without more information, it is hard to conclusively resolve this case. “The UFO evidence” has presented a highly selective evaluation
of the case by using only a few stories that support their desired conclusion. While “The UFO evidence” draws the conclusion that this is proof of alien visitation, I am not that convinced. It could have been a bright fireball. Without accurate observations of the event, the best one can do is label the case “insufficient information”.
Quelle: SUNlite 3/2014