I don't often comment on UFO cases but this one interests me for the dynamics it displays between "believers" and "skeptics," and I find myself somewhere between the two camps. It interests me, in the first instance, because it is one of those cases where - thankfully - we are not dealing with reports of dead extra-terrestrials or any such stories of "evidence" to prejudge the case.

The celebrated early ufologist Major Donald Keyhoe first wrote about this case in his book The Flying Saucer Conspiracy.  According to Keyhoe, on Nov 12, 1953 radar operators observed a return on their screens over northern Michigan that appears suddenly. An F89 fighter jet was scrambled from nearby Kinross Air Force base to intercept and investigate.  Traveling at approximately 500 mph the figher passed over the far eastern edge of Michigan's upper peninsula. Approximately 100 miles from Sault Ste. Marie, the return from the jet and the unknown object merged. The radar return then faded from the screen and the fighter was never heard from again.

The next day, the Chicago Tribune ran an AP wire story with the headline "Jet, 2 Aboard, Vanishes Over Lake Superior." Beyond talking about the merging of the radar returns, the short article provided no other information. Later, the local Sault Ste. Marie newspaper quoted a local Kinross AFB spokesman as stating that the unknown object was in fact a C-47 military transport of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a statement that the Canadian government to this day still denies.  Adding further difficulty to this explanation was the fact that the UFO was being tracked at speeds of 500mph, whereas the top speed of the C-47 was only about 200mph. Keyhoe apparently was told about the incident the very night that it occurred from a retired military source.

Contacting the Air Force the day after the incident, Keyhoe was informed that the aircraft had simply lost power, and crashed into Lake Superior. His suspicions rose that the Air Force was covering up something when he was also told that the ground radar crew, misread their radar returns, and that the the aircraft and the unknown object were actually several miles apart. These suspicions were only deepened when the Air Force couldn't get its story straight to the widow of the lost aircraft's pilot. At first, she had been informed that her husband simply flew too low, and crashed into Lake Superior. But another Air Force representative who visited a few days later, when asked if she could recover her husband's body, told her that the body was not recoverable because her husband's plane had exploded at high altitude.

Keyhoe and a German-American friend of his, Walther Riedel, decided that the case might be the key to the entire UFO mystery, and speculated that perhaps extraterrestrials were seeking some sort of contact with humans - literally abducting the Kinross F-89 crew alive to learn our language in order to communicate with us! For Keyhoe, the final piece de resistance of the story was the fact that the base radar operator, 2nd Lt. Douglas A. Stuart, stated that "It seems incredible but the blip apparently just swallowed our F-89."

At this juncture, the skeptics weigh in to point out that the Northrup F-89 was plagued with manifold design problems that were so grievous that the Air Force nearly abandoned the aircraft altogether. The faulty-aircraft explanation was further enhanced by the discovery in 1968, reported in the local Sault Ste. Marie newspaper, of wreckage of an F-89. So much for the Kinross case...

...or was it? Notice on the one hand that the reported speed of the UFO was far in excess of anything a C-47 was capable of, and, if the Canadian Government is telling the truth, none of its C-47s were in the area that night to begin with. But note also, the speed of the UFO was hardly sufficient enough to conclude that it was "extraterrestrial" either.  The only unusual thing, as far as Keyhoe then knew the story, was the apparent merging of the radar returns and the disappearance of the F-89, and the inability of the Air Force to settle upon a consistent story: now it's a collision with a Canadian C-47, now its pilot error flying too low, now it's a high altitude explosion.

But surely the appearance of the F-89 wreckage in 1968 settles the matter? Perhaps, but then, why did it crash, and what was the original radar return? And why did the radar operator himself say that the two object's returns merged? Surely if there was a collision some other wreckage might have been recovered, but none has ever been mentioned. And there's not sufficient detail - as far as I know - to determine if the wreckage that was recovered was that from the lost F-89. Indeed, if there was a collision with a Royal Canadian Air Force c-47, then at some point one would expect recovery of that type of wreckage as well, yet none has ever been reported. So in my view, the Canadian government is probably telling the truth: there was no Canadian C-47 in the area that day.

The explanation that the original radar return was another case of an artificially produced return doesn't work either, for why would the Air Force come up with three conflicting accounts when it could have simply admitted that the aircraft was lost through malfunction.  In short, in my opinion, nothing adds up here, neither for the skeptical case of F89 malfunction, nor for the case that this was something extraterrestrial. The lone signature that indicates we might be in the presence of an exotic technology is the merger of the radar returns, the loss of the F89, while the original radar return remained visible until it went out of range. If there was a collision, in other words, it remained unaffected by it. And if there was not then we're left with a coincidental malfunction of the aircraft at the very point of contact, or a deliberate hostile action against the F89 by the unknown, or, as some versions of the story have it, with the F89 simply being "swallowed whole" by whatever it encountered.

As if to heighten the whole mystery of the incident still further, in 1988 the late Robert G. Todd obtained an account of the incident under Freedom of Information Act inquiries. The official account states, somewhat cryptically, "The fighter and the bogey (unidentified) blips merged on the GCI radar scope and there was no further transmission from the fighter. The bogey was not aware of any aircraft in the area, and GCI saw no blips break off from the target."

Say that again? "The bogey was not aware of any aircraft in the area..."? Todd, of course, thought this was simply a mistake. But what if it wasn't? What if it was an inadvertent slip? Either way, it is clear that the Air Force thought it was dealing with the signatures of a real technology, not a will-of-the-radar-wisp.

In the end, the dynamics are clear: the skeptical explanations do not do full justice to the facts of the case, but similarly, the extra-terrestrial explanation exceeds them. For my part, the indicators are that we're dealing with a technology of some sort, probably not under US Air Force control (or at least, not known to the officers of Kinross). The indicators are too slim to point conclusively to anything extraterrestrial, but by the same token, they leave an air of mystery hovering over the whole incident that does suggest that in the Kinross case, we're dealing with something significant and beyond the known ordinary capabilities of the US Air Force at the time.

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Joseph P. Farrell

Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and "strange stuff". His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into "alternative history and science".


  1. Khobe on August 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Boyd Bushman of a retired Lockheed Martin senior research scientist said that the Roswell crash was caused by a US fighter jet armed with a secret weapon that gunned down the famous UFO, could this be true & that an asteroid is definitively due to hit earth in 2036 according to their calculations??? Interesting.
    These two things would need confirmation.

  2. chris on February 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Dr Farrell would it be possible for you and more knowledgeable physics and audio visual/ space buffs than me to comment on this video of the international space station?
    it shows what one could interpret as 3 cloaked figures (greys? lol) removing a panel. What could it be, more likely? They are too dark to be space suits from cosmonauts. The film is blurry hence also my plea goes out to AV buffs . thanks all -hope you find it interesting . The apropos part is about 30 seconds in I think.

  3. FRED on February 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    That plane went down about 40 miles NE of my living room in Lake Superior…The radar station in question was the Calumet Radar Station located on Mt Horace Greeley near Gratiot Lake in Keweenaw Co. U.P. Mich….about 30 mi north of here,,,we were on the DEW line in the COLD WAR…..The base was closed in the 70’s..We need to research who the CO of THAT Radar Station was as they were the ones tracking them…Kinross would have had to have the info relayed to them from here, and who knows how watered down it was by the time Kinross got the info, even tho it was their airplane that went down….THE AIRCRAFT IS IN FACT DOWN THERE….REALLY REALLY DEEP…PROBABLY 200-300FT.
    A team has video taped the wreckage taken remotely, but if you know SUPERIOR…it would take a Herculian effort to haul that baby out of there.
    .I have the GPS Co-Ords somewhere tho if there are any divers out there willing to lose their life to go down and have a look-see.

    As a sidebar, Mich Tech University ( Houghton, Mi…15mi South of me) NASA, the DOD, and the USAF (from the Radar Station) launched many missles off Keweenaw Point…the “Tip” of the “Finger” sticking out into Superior…in the 1970’s..They built a launch facility…shot their rockets over a 3 year period…IN THE WINTER OF ALL TIMES…IN THE WINTER MIND YOU..where we average 300″ of snow/winter..then dismantled the whole site and simply went away..They were mostly small rockets, but they did do a couple of Nikes (not the shoes). THAT was a strange deal too.

  4. AJCruz on February 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    This was one of the other events I was thinking of as well:

    RAF Binbrook (Sept. 8, 1970)
    At six minutes past ten on the night of 8 September 1970, a single Lighning Jet Fighter took off from RAF Binbrook, the North Linclonshire base near Grimsby.

    Ground crew on the flight line were accustomed to Lighnings being scrambled in a hurry ant time of day or night. Binbrrok, after all, was a front-line fighter station and its aircraft shared QRA – Quick Reaction Alert – duty with other East Coast airfields to provide cover should any unidentifiable aircraft appear on the radar screens.

    The pilot was Captain William Schaffner of the United States Air Force, who was on his second tour as an exchange pilot with the RAF.

    Schaffner was a vastly experienced jet fighter pilot with combat experience behind him in Vietnam. He had been at Binbrook for some time and his wife was living on the base with him.

    The aircraft, XS894, a Lightning F6 of 5 squadron, whose call-sign that night was Foxtrot 94, turned out over the North Sea – and disappeared into what is fast becoming one of the great aviation puzzles of recent times.

    Early the following morning, XS894 ditched in the sea off Flamborough Head.

    The ditching was witnessed by the crew of a Shackleton reconnaissance aircraft. Flares were spotted by the Grimsby trawler ‘Ross Kestrel’. But no trace was found of Captain Schaffner was ever found.

    More than a month later the wreckage of the aircraft was found on the sea-bed by Royal Navy divers. Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the cockpit was empty and the canopy closed.

    5 minute video about the incident:

  5. AJCruz on February 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    There are a couple accounts of pilots and their craft vanishing during a UFO chase, this is one of the better accounts I can remember at the moment of a pilot that by chance came into contact with a Unidentified Craft. I know there are a lot of cases of this… I’ll look for some of the other ones too….

    1978 – Boats and aircraft have found no trace of the 20-year-old Australian pilot who disappeared with his plane on Saturday night after radioing that he was being chased by a UFO.

    Frederick Valentich was on a 125 mile training flight in his single engine Cessna 182 along the coast of Bass Strait when he told air traffic controllers in Melbourne that he was being buzzed by a UFO with 4 bright lights about 1000 feet above him.

    The transcript portion of the communication between Valentich and Melbourne Flight Service as released by the Australian Department of Transport follows: (FS – Flight Service, DSJ – Frederick Valentich aircraft designation).

    1906:14 DSJ Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.

    DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be a large aircraft below five thousand.

    1906:44 FS Delta Sierra Juliet, What type of aircraft is it?

    DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it seems to me like landing lights.

    1907 FS Delta Sierra Juliet.

    1907:31 DSJ Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, and it is a large aircraft, confirmed?

    DSJ Er-unknown, due to the speed it’s travelling, is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, no known aircraft in the vicinity.

    1908:18 DSJ Melbourne, it’s approaching now from due east towards me.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet.

    1908:41 DSJ (open microphone for two seconds.)

    1908:48 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, it seems to me that he’s playing some sort of game, he’s flying over me two, three times at speeds I could not identify.

    1909 FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what is your actual level?

    DSJ My level is four and a half thousand, four five zero zero.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, and you confirm you cannot identify the aircraft?

    DSJ Affirmative.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, stand by.

    1909:27 DSJ Melbourne, Delta Sierra Juliet, it’s not an aircraft it is (open microphone for two seconds).

    1909:42 FS Delta Sierra Juliet, can you describe the -er- aircraft?

    DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, as it’s flying past it’s a long shape (open microphone for three seconds) cannot identify more than it has such speed (open microphone for three seconds). It’s before me right now Melbourne.

    1910 FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger and how large would the – er – object be?

    1910:19 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne, it seems like it’s stationary. What I’m doing right now is orbiting and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also. It’s got a green light and sort of metallic like, it’s all shiny on the outside.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet

    1910:46 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet (open microphone for three seconds) It’s just vanished.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet

    1911 DSJ Melbourne, would you know what kind of aircraft I’ve got? Is it a military aircraft?

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, Confirm the – er ~ aircraft just vanished.

    DSJ Say again.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, is the aircraft still with you?

    DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet; it’s (open microphone for two seconds) now approaching from the south-west.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet

    1911:50 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough-idling. I’ve got it set at twenty three twenty-four and the thing is coughing.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?

    DSJ My intentions are – ah – to go to King Island – ah – Melbourne. That strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again (open microphone for two seconds). It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.

    FS Delta Sierra Juliet.

    1912:28 DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Melbourne (open microphone for seventeen seconds).

  6. Gary Hunter on February 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    The point in this story that jumps out to me, is that if the military can’t read its own technology metrics, and can’t communicate a story any more accurately than the two significantly divergent (cover) versions— WHAT CAN WE BELIEVE FROM THEM? Do they actually expect any credibility to the public about ANYTHING? This issue transcends believer/skeptic status.

  7. Vinnie on February 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

    It’s hard to believe that there was no ground to air communication going on between the plane and the communications people, which would imply one more coverup.

  8. Bill on February 15, 2011 at 5:54 am

    The kind of exotic technology, well beyond standard Air Force fare at the time, that could potentially carry a clandestine and purely terrestrial crew to the depths of space, well within range of the moon and Mars? Fodder for my “boots on the ground” hypothesis on these relatively nearby worlds by some secret exploration and hi-tech archeological recovery cabal?

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