Case 1011- November 18, 1951
In his list of Blue Book unknowns, Don Berlinner describes the event:
Nov. 18, 1951; Washington, D.C. 3:20 a.m. Witnesses: Crew of Capital Airlines DC-4 Flight 610, Andrews AFB Senior air traffic controller Tom Selby. One object with several lights, followed the DC-4 for about 20 minutes and then turned back.1
In Brad Sparks list, we read:
Nov. 18, 1951. Washington, D.C. 3:20 a.m. Crew of Capital Airlines Flight 610 and Andrews AFB senior air traffic controller Tom Selby saw an object with several lights, follow the DC-4 for about 20 mins [miles?] then turn back, with ground radar tracking [?]. (Sparks; Berliner; Saunders/FUFOR Index)2
￼There really isn’t much more than that.
The Blue Book record
The Blue Book record card reads:
Strange object following Pilot airplane (DC-4) for about 20 miles at 8000 ft and turned back.3
When one looks at the file, there is no report from the pilot but only the report from the Air Traffic Controller Tom Selby. He describes the event as follows:
At 0320 EST Washington tower called me and asked if I had seen any strange aircraft or objects flying around Andrews. I told them no. They then advised me that a Capital pilot, flight 610 had reported a strange object following his DC-4 for 20 miles at 8000 feet. This object was reported not to be a star because of the brilliant light that it carried. Several other lights were seen on it also.
This object followed flight 610 for 20 miles and then turned and went back. Washington tower then advised that the object was east of Andrews. I saw it. It appeared to be moving slowly, if at all. My attention was turned to some thing else and when I looked at the object again, it was gone. The only thing that I saw then was a bright star. I saw this same star before, when I saw the strange object. Later I saw the object again but it soon disappeared to the south. Washington requested an aircraft be sent to check it. Redman 22, a F94 that was in the area flew to the south but didn’t see anything. Washington radar advised that they were unable to pick it up on radar.4
This is the limit to any information we have regarding this sighting. Selby goes on to state that base operations thought he may have seen Venus but Selby stated that he saw his UFO and Venus, which he described as a bright star.
There are some points that need to be emphasized regarding all of this:
• The information about flight 610 was second hand. It may or may not be entirely accurate.
• Selby did not see anything until Washington told him to look for a UFO.
• When told to look to the east, he saw his UFO, but only for a moment (we do not have a duration) and it appeared to be some- what stationary. When he looked again, it was gone.
• After an unknown period of time, Selby saw the UFO again and it went south.
• There was never any reported radar contact in this file and Selby stated that Washington was unable to pick it up. However, both Sparks and Weinstein claim that radar tracked the object. One can not determine how they drew this conclusion since they give no sources that can be checked.
The lack of any other information may have a lot to do with the fact that Blue Book did not receive this report until April 11, 1952.5 This appears to have been a bureaucratic mistake and the report was sent to the wrong location. As a result, any possibility of a follow-up that might resolve the case was lost.
The first thing one needs to discover is where was flight 610 in all of this. Looking up the old airline tables for Capital Airlines, the July 1, 1953 table reveals that flight 610 was an air coach overnight flight from Detroit to Miami.6 It stopped in Washington D.C. at 1:20 AM and left at 2:00 AM. Since it was airborne, it was either flying into DC or on its way to Miami. It all depends if it was on time or not and if this was the correct schedule. If the times in 1953 are the same as 1951, it probably was on its way south. While, the brochure only gives the “To Miami” designation after leaving Washington D.C. it does not mention any further stops. However, the front of the brochure indicates the route was via Jacksonville.7 This indicates that the plane may have been flying SSW.
This course appears to match the description that the DC-4 had a UFO following them being east of Ed- wards Air Force Base. The plane could not have the UFO “follow them” unless it was towards the rear of the aircraft and they could see it. This implies a direction of observation that was towards the northeast or east of them. What could have been observed was Venus outside their rear quarter towards the east. As they proceeded south, it kept its same position giving the impression of them being followed. What caused the UFO to “turn back” may have been due to a course change or the Venus disappearing behind distant clouds. Venus had risen at 3AM and, at 3:20 AM, was at an elevation of about 3 degrees. Saturn was also in the east about a degree above the horizon.
Selby’s observations were of a “object” that was in the same general direction as Venus. Comparing his observations of an object that was only seen briefly, and then lost to the observation, to a very bright light described by the pilots indicates that his UFO was probably not the same object. If the pilots saw a bright object and they were to the southwest of Andrews AFB, Selby’s UFO should have been bright and easily visible. His observations indicate something that was fainter than “the bright star” he recalled seeing in the same direction. His UFO could have been the planet Saturn, which was a few degrees below Venus and around magnitude +1. At the angle of elevation 1-2 degrees. Its low angle of elevation could make it something that was glimpsed briefly and then lost due to ground haze, clouds, or fog.
Selby’s second observation was of an object that appeared and then went south. We have no duration for this event but it is implied that it was only a brief period of time. He concludes that he saw the same object as his first observation but there is no evidence to draw that conclusion. It is possible that his UFO that disappeared to the south might have been a Leonid meteor, which had peaked on the morning of the 17th. Occasional bright meteors from the radiant (situated about 45 degrees elevation in the east) could have gone in a southerly direction giving the impression that he had seen a UFO. It is also possible that Selby might have seen some sort of aircraft in the area. We don’t know because Blue Book did not receive this information until it was too late to conduct a proper investigation of the incident and Selby was not very thorough in his report.
Is it solved?
Idon’t consider this one solved. However, there is reason to suspect that Venus may have been involved with the initial sighting by the aircraft. Selby’s sighting does not give us much and it is possible that what he saw were simply astronomical objects/events. Based on the limited amount of information, the best we can label this is “possible astronomical (Venus/Saturn/ meteor)” or “insuf- ficient information”. I would not leave it in the “unidentified” category simply because there is very little in this case file that can be properly evaluated.
Quelle: SUNlite 5/2014