The Ryan case: April 8, 1956
In the chronology, the case is described as:
April 8, 1956--Nr. Schenectady, N. Y. American Airlines pilot followed UFO across state. [V, IX]1 (p. 135)
NICAP lists quite a bit in their UFO evidence file concerning the case in sections V and IX. Section V contains a transcript from a Buffalo television program called, “Meet the Millers”, which was recorded on April 16, 1956.2 In that interview, Captain Ryan and first officer Neff described what transpired:
The flight left Albany and was flying to Buffalo via Syracuse and Rochester.
Shortly after takeoff from Albany, the crew saw a brilliant white light, which Neff described as “like an approaching aircraft with its landing lights on” and “standing still”.
Ryan described the direction as over Schenectady. He also described it as “standing still”.
Ryan then states they turned a bit to pass to the south of the light. At this point, the light was off their wingtip.
The object then went towards the west in front of them at a speed estimated to be 800-1000 mph.
The object went out momentarily and then changed color to orange as it went to the west.
They contacted Griffiss AFB and asked them track it on radar. Griffiss did not have their radar set operating and stated it would take 30 minutes to warm up.
Ryan reported that the AFB saw a light south of their base and could see a silhouette.
Communications with various locations revealed that Watertown and Albany could also see it. Ryan is not clear but the Albany tower saw the object to the west.
Ryan reported it was staying ahead of them. He was directed by Griffiss to temporarily abandon their next stop and maintain course and altitude. They also stated they were going to scramble some fighters.
Ryan states that the sky was overcast so it could not have been a star. He also stated that he was flying at 250 mph and the object must have slowed down and it was at low altitude.
Ryan stated they followed the object all of the way to Oswego. He also stated they had passed up their landing at Syracuse.
The scrambled jets never arrived and the object simply disappeared in the northwest towards Toronto.
Section IX contains some discussion of the case and notes that investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), and American Airlines (AA) discovered that the aircraft logs, and official testimony of Captain Ryan, refuted parts of the story and there never was a pursuit by the airplane. 3
The Blue Book file
The Blue Book file contains some documents from the date in question that sheds some light on the subject.
The first item is a message from Griffiss AFB.4 They reported seeing the silhouette of a plane going from east to west and pass- ing south of their location for three minutes at 03332 GMT (the extra 3 or 2 may have been a typo), which was either 1032 or 1033 EST. The estimated size was larger than a C-47 but a follow-up message states it was about the same size as C-47.
The next report came from Albany tower, which states they saw a star-like object for 4-6 minutes at 0314 GMT to the northwest at an azimuth of 310 degrees, which disappeared over the horizon.5 The message also mentioned that a jet fighter (jumping jack able) had been scrambled at 0344 GMT and had been airborne by 0351 GMT. They could not locate the target and returned to base.
The next message is in relation to Ryan’s sighting.6 In that message, we discover that the sky was clear in most locations but there was a thin overcast over Schenectady. As he stated in the broadcast, the object was seen off his starboard wing and then disappeared after 45 minutes when it was only 5 degrees relative to his aircraft’s flight (297 degrees).
At the insistence of Donald Keyhoe, the CAA investigated the case in 1957. Found in the Blue Book file is a proof for Menzel’s book “The world of flying saucers”and it mentions the investigation but there are no original reports or transcripts.7 They stated that Ryan never deviated from his course and had landed at Syracuse ahead of schedule. Blue Book would eventually determine that Ryan had pursued the planet Venus, which set around 1045 PM EST in a northwest direction.
The CAA investigation
In his collection of UFO history with the title “Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse UFOs: A history January - April 1956”, Loren Gross gives us a copy of a letter the CAA wrote to Keyhoe in the fall of 1957. They addressed the story Ryan had told the press about pursuing the UFO as far as Oswego:
This matter was looked Into by the Board’s Bureau of Safety after your request in September 1957 for an investigation of Captain Ryan’s reported deviation from course to follow the object. Captain Ryan stated most emphatically that he did not deviate from his prescribed course, nor was he requested to do so. He had filed a VFR flight plan at Albany, New York, with Syracuse as the destination. Scheduled time for American Airlines Flight 775 (the one involved in this incident) between Albany and Syracuse is 49 minutes; elapsed log time for that flight on April 8, 1956, was 40 minutes. Since it Is obvious that this schedule could not have been maintained had the flight deviated from its prescribed course as reported by the Buffalo Evening News on April 10, 1956, and since safety does not appear to have derogated, further investigation into the matter by the Board Is not considered warranted.9
Missing from NICAP’s best evidence document was this letter and a statement made by the Vice President of American Airlines, Willis Player:
Capt. Ryan states unequivocally that he did sight an object. He also states unequivocally that he did not chase it. His flight time between Syracuse and Albany confirms that statement. 10
It appears that there was a disconnect between what Ryan told the press and what his official statements were. The records ap- peared to show there was no deviation in course and it brought into question some of the other statements made by Ryan and Neff. Ryan had disappeared from the record shortly after April of 1956 and did not respond to any letters sent from Keyhoe.
The results of the CAB/CAA investigation were not what NICAP expected and, as a result, they took the only route they could after having promoted the case so heavily. The declared it was a conspiracy.
After a 7-month probe of a UFO encounter by an American Airlines plane N[CAP has evidence indicating that important facts have been officially withheld and that Capt. Raymond Ryan, the pilot involved, may have been pressured into changing his original report.
Since the case raises the question of airline-passenger safety, all documents, including reports of investigations by the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the Civil Aeronautics Board, will be submitted to appropriate Senate and House subcommittees. Both the CAA and CAB Investigations were made at NICAP’s request.
Since April 10th 1956, two days after the incident occurred, this UFO case has remained a “sleeper.” Requests for further details have been repeatedly refused by the Air Force, American Airlines and Captain Ryan himself.11
It seems that NICAP missed another possibility. Ryan and Neff could have exaggerated what transpired when they were approached by the press. Like any good sea story, there was a kernel of truth to their version of events but they may have embellished the de- tails. This would also explain why Ryan refused to respond to Keyhoe’s letters.
The Nuclear connection
In 2009, Joel Carpenter proposed a nuclear connection to the Ryan case.12 Schenectady was the location of Knolls Atomic Power laboratories (KAPL) and Joel thought the UFO was hovering over the facility. Ac-
cording to Carpenter, KAPL operated a Separations Process Research Unit at the
site from 1950 and 1953. He also adds that they operated nuclear prototypes in
West Milton at the Kesselring site. Having been to the Kesselring site in 1979 as a trainee, I was familiar with the area. As best I can recall KAPL only had offices in Schenectady and whatever had been there, associated with actual fuel, had left by 1953. In 1956, only one reactor existed at the Kesselring site, which was rough- ly 20 miles due north of Albany airport (azimuth 339 near Ballston Spa). This was the prototype reactor for the liquid metal cooled design being used with the USS Seawolf.13 It was enclosed in a large ball to contain any sodium-water explosions. This can be seen in aerial images taken in 1965.14 When I was stationed there, that design had long since been removed and it was referred to as D1G prototype. The “ball” still exists and can be seen in Google earth images.
Blue Book explained this as the planet Venus. While most of the sighting appears to have been of the planet Venus, there are some issues that suggest problems with the explanation. None of these appear to be fatal and rule out Venus as the source.
The first reason to reject Venus was the sky conditions. Ryan claimed it was cloudy but the weather reports indicate that there was only a thin overcast near Schenectady and the rest of the locations had clear skies. A low pressure cell had moved along the coast and was situated near Cape Cod at 0130 EST on the 9th.15 Weather underground observations for Albany in- dicated light snow early in the day.16 Unfortunately, there are no observations for Albany in the evening but Utica reported clear sky conditions at 10PM.17 There is a good evidence to suggest that the weather report found in the Blue Book files is accurate and conditions were clear enough to see Venus.
A second reason to reject the Venus explanation might be that Ryan had report- ed seeing the object between 1015 and 1100 PM EST. Venus set around 1045 PM EST for Syracuse. This may be a mistake made by Ryan as far as recalling the duration of the event. The official log for the flight indicated it lasted only forty minutes. Assuming they took off at 1015PM, they would have landed around
1055 PM EST. The disappearance of the “object” was before landing, which means it could have been around, or before 1045PM EST when the UFO “disappeared”.
The third, and probably biggest, reason to reject the Venus explanation was that Ryan and Neff stated the object, at one point, was seen off their starboard wing and then sped towards the front of the aircraft. They also stated the object was over Schenectady when they took off. Venus could not have moved through 90 degrees of azimuth, which appears to reject Venus as the source of the report. I think there might be an explanation for this.
The runway at Albany was north-south and east-west. The wind was from the West-Northwest at 10PM17 indicating that the plane probably departed on the east-west runway. Once the plane was airborne, they would have started their normal track, which was towards an azimuth of 285-300 degrees. Venus, at azimuth of about 301 degrees, would have been seen over Schenectady and appear to have been in their flight path. The crew stated they turned towards the south to avoid the light because they thought it might be an approaching aircraft. A turn towards the southwest would have placed Venus close to the starboard wing tip as they described. Once they resumed their track westward of 285-300 degrees , Venus would have moved towards the front of the aircraft at about 5-20 degrees relative to their heading. If they took off using the north-south runway, the scenario would have been similar. While some may think that Ryan and Neff could never make such a mistake, one has to remember that the story about them pur- suing the UFO had been exaggerated. The excitement of retelling the story on a television program might have introduced some “omissions” by Neff and Ryan.
These arguments against Venus are based on what Captain Ryan had stated and not on verifiable facts. Ignored is the biggest reason to support the Venus explanation. It is significant that Ryan or Neff never mentioned the planet Venus being also visible in the area the UAP was seen. Since conditions were clear enough to allow seeing the bright planet, there would have been no reason to miss it. Its absence in the story indicate that the UFO was probably Venus.
On a final note, Blue Book had another case file for the following night.18 Airmen at Griffiss AFB, east of Syracuse, reported seeing a light in the northwest and interceptors were sent to chase it. Aircraft in the area and the interceptor agreed that it probably was a planet. It disappeared at 1043 PM EST, the same time Venus was setting.
Like the Killian case, mentioned last issue, the Ryan case is another one of those UFO cases where NICAP clashed with Blue Book on the conclusions. This controversy continues even today where proponents insist that the solution is not correct because they believe that a conspiracy has withheld the truth.
In my opinion, the evidence to reject the Venus explanation is insufficient and the evidence to support it is sufficient to conclude that it probably was Venus. This case is not “best evidence” and should be removed from the best evidence document.
Quelle: SUNlite 2/2017