Friday, February 21, 2014

Vanished Over Lake Superior


On the evening of November 23, 1953, an Air Force radar controller was alerted to an "unidentified target" over Lake Superior, and an F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled from Kinross AFB. Radar controllers watched as the F-89 closed in on the UFO, and then sat stunned in amazement as the two blips merged on the screen, and the UFO left. The F-89 and it’s two man crew, pilot Felix Moncla and radar operator Robert Wilson, were never found, even after a thorough search of the area.

The channel that connects Lake Superior with the other Great Lakes flows through the Soo Locks near Saulte Ste. Marie, Michigan. On one side of the channel is the U.S., and on the other side is Canada. The fact that this area is on a U.S. national border makes it a restricted airspace. As such, it was monitored by the Air Defense Command in 1953.

On the evening of 23 November 1953, an Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar controller at Truax AFB became alerted to an "unidentified target" over Soo Locks. He sounded the alert, and an F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled from nearby Kinross Field. The jet was piloted by 1st Lieutenant Felix Moncla, Jr., with 2nd Lieutenant Robert Wilson in the rear seat as radar operator.

Ground Control vectored the jet toward the target, noting that the target changed course as the F-89 approached it at over 500 mph. Lt. Wilson had problems tracking the target on his onboard radar, so ground control continued to direct the jet to the target. For thirty minutes, the jet pursued the radar blip and began to close the gap as the UFO accelerated out over Lake Superior.

As Ground Control watched, the gap between the two blips on the radar screen grew smaller and smaller until the two blips became one blip. Ground Control thought that Moncla had flown over the target and that the two blips would separate again as he moved past it.

That didn't happen. Suddenly, the single blip flashed off the screen and the radar screen was clear of any return at all.

Frantically, Ground Control tried to contact the F-89 by radio. There was no response. Marking the last radar position, Ground Control dispatched an emergency message to Search and Rescue. That last sighting was about seventy miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan, at an altitude of 8,000 feet, approximately 160 miles northwest of Soo Locks.

After an all night air/sea rescue search, not a trace of the plane or the men was ever found. No debris, no oil slick, nothing was ever found.

Officials at Norton Air Force Base Flying Safety Division issued a statement that "the pilot probably suffered from vertigo and crashed into the lake." However, this was merely speculation and was based on hearsay reports that Moncla was prone to vertigo.

The Air Force explained the unknown radar target at first as a Canadian DC-3, then later as a RCAF jet. Canadian officials responded that there were no Canadian aircraft in the airspace over the lake at any time during the chase. The Air Force finally stated that the F-89 had exploded at high altitude, ignoring the fact that this would have left a lot of debris on the lake surface.

NICAP investigators found that mentions of Moncla's mission - chasing an unidentified target - had been obliterated from official records. Project Bluebook files simply listed the case as an "accident."

Off the record, those that were present in the Ground Control radar room that day have expressed other opinions. They think that whatever the F-89 was chasing directly caused the disappearance of the jet. - Loy Lawhon, About.com

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Kinross AFB/F-89 Disappearance
November 23, 1953

On the night of November 23, 1953, an Air Defense Command radar detected an unidentified "target" over Lake Superior. Kinross Air Force Base, closest to the scene, alerted the 433rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin, and an F-89C all-weather interceptor was scrambled. Radar operators watched the "blips" of the UFO and the F-89 merge on their scopes, in an apparent collision, and disappear. No trace of the plane was ever found.

U S Air Force accident-report records indicate that the F-89 was vectored west northwest, then west, climbing to 30,000 feet. At the controls were First Lieutenant Felix E. Moncla, Jr.; his radar observer was Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson. While on a westerly course, they were cleared to descend to 7,000 feet, turning east-northeast and coming steeply down on the known target from above. The last radar contact placed the interceptor at 8,000 feet, 70 miles off Keeweenaw Point, and about 150 miles northwest of Kinross AFB (now Kincheloe AFB).

The incident is not even labeled as a "UFO" case in Air Force records; instead, it was investigated by air-safety experts. There were several layers of scattered clouds (one with bottoms at 5,000 to 8,000 feet) and some snow flurries in the general area. Official records state, however, that the air was stable and there was little or no turbulence.

The Air Force later stated that the "UFO" turned out to be a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) C-47 "On a night flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Sudbury, Ontario Canada." The F-89 apparently had crashed for unknown reasons after breaking off the intercept. In answer to queries from the NATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE ON AERIAL PHENOMENA (NICAP) in 1961 and again in 1963, RCAF spokesmen denied that one of their planes was involved. Squadron Leader W. B. Totman, noting that the C-47 was said to be on a flight plan over Canadian territory, said "... this alone would seem to make such an intercept unlikely."

The Air Force suggested that "... the pilot probably suffered from vertigo and crashed into the take." Harvard University astronomer and UFO debunker Dr. Donald H. MENZEL accepted this explanation, adding that the radar operators probably saw a "phantom echo" of the F-89, produced by atmospheric conditions, that merged with the radar return from the jet and vanished with it when the plane struck the water.

Exactly what happened that night remains unclear, as the Air Force acknowledges, and serious unanswered questions remain. How likely is it that a pilot could suffer from vertigo when flying on instruments, as official records indicate was the case? If the F-89 did intercept an RCAF C-47, why did the "blip" of the C47 also disappear off the radar scope? Or, if Menzel's explanation is accepted and there was no actual intercept, why did the Air Force invoke a Canadian C-47, which RCAF spokesmen later stated was not there? No intelligence document has yet surfaced that reports the radio communications between the pilot and radar controllers, and what each was seeing. Without this information, it is impossible to evaluate the "true UFO" versus the false radar returns and accidental crash explanations. - Richard Hall, NICAP

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The Kinross Incident

Did a UFO abduct an Air Force jet interceptor and its crew in 1953?

Donald Keyhoe - UFO researcher, ex-Marine and director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) - an early advocate of the concept that UFOs were extraterrestrial spacecraft visiting Earth on reconnaissance and sampling missons, was particularly intrigued with cases where aircraft interacted with the objects. He was especially fascinated with one 1953 case, describing it in several articles and books. Here is one of the most detailed versions:

One of the strangest cases on record occurred in 1953. Though it has received considerable publicity, some of the follow-up developments are not generally known. On the night of November 23, 1953, an F-89 all-weather interceptor was scrambled at Kinross AFB, to check on a UFO flying over the Soo Locks. The jet had a crew of two – Lt. Felix Moncla, the pilot, and Lt. R. R. Wilson, the radar observer. Guided by an AF GCI (Ground Control Intercept) radar station, Moncla followed the unknown machine out over Lake Superior, flying at 500 miles an hour. Minutes later, a GCI controller was startled to see the blips of the jet and the UFO suddenly merge on the radar-scope. Whatever had happened, one thing was certain: The F-89 and the UFO were locked together. As the combined blip went off the scope the controller hurriedly radioed Search and Rescue. Moncla and Wilson might have bailed out before the collision. Both had life jackets and self-inflating life rafts – even in the cold water they could survive for a while. All night, U.S. and Canadian search planes with flares circled low over the area. At daylight, a score of boats joined the hunt, as the pilots crisscrossed the lake for a hundred miles. But no trace was found of the airmen, the jet or the UFO. The search was still on when Truax AFB gave the Associated Press this official release: “The plane was followed by radar until it merged with an object 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan.” In view of AF secrecy this was a surprising admission. The statement appeared in an early edition of the Chicago Tribune, headed JET, TWO ABOARD, VANISHES OVER LAKE SUPERIOR. (Photocopy in author’s possession.) Then AF Headquarters killed the story. Denying the jet had merged with anything, the AF said that radar operators had misread the scope. The reported UFO, it stated, had been an offcourse Canadian airliner which the F-89 had intercepted and identified. After this, the AF speculated, the pilot evidently had been stricken with vertigo and the jet had crashed in the lake. The Canadian airlines quickly denied any flights in the area. Expert pilots also hit at the AF explanation…. As customary, the AF sent two officers to the families of the lost airmen to give them official messages of sympathy. According to letters which a relative of Moncla sent me, here is what followed. Explaining the accident, the AF representative told Moncla’s widow that the pilot had flown too low while identifying the supposed Canadian airliner and had crashed in the lake. By some headquarters mixup, a second AF officer was sent to offer condolences to the Moncla family. When Moncla’s widow asked if her husband’s body might be recovered the officer said there was no chance – the jet had exploded at a high altitude, destroying the plane and its occupants. - Aliens from Space: The Real Story of Unidentified Flying Objects

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Official Account - Obtained Through FOIA

The following official accounts of the Kinross loss were obtained by Robert Todd under the Freedom of Information Act. Note that, surprisingly enough, there were two F-89s lost by the 433d Fighter Interceptor Squadron on November 23, 1953 - the first while returning from a short engine test flight near the 433d's home base at Truax AFB, Madison, Wisconsin, and the second on an operational intercept mission over Lake Superior, originating from Kinross AFB, Michigan, a satellite base of Truax. All four crewmen were either killed outright or declared missing and listed as dead.

A crucial point is that the first entry clearly implies that the unidentified radar target that Moncla was pursuing when his fighter disappeared was in radio contact with ground controllers at some point, and therefore was not a UFO: "the bogey was not aware of any aircraft in the area."

CHAPTER III OPERATIONS AND TRAINING

On 23 November a F-89 assigned to the 433d took off on a routine operational flight to check the afterburners on the new J-35-A-47 engines. After climbing to 40,000 feet and broadcasting performance data to the ground recording unit, air-to-ground transmission was discontinued. Approximately twelve minutes after the last transmission was received the ship crashed and disintegrated upon impact, killing both crew members. Prior to the crash, the aircraft was observed to pull out of a steep dive and eject the canopy. Cause was undetermined. Still again in November, an F-89 of Detachment #1, Kinross AFB, Michigan, took off on an active Air Defense mission and disappeared. GCI had control of the fighter and was directing it from 25,000 feet down to 7,000 feet. The fighter and bogey 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. Both pilot and observer are missing and officially listed as dead.

HISTORICAL DATA FOR THE 433d FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON 1 July 1953-31 December 1953

D. Accidents On 23 November 1953, an F-89C assigned to this organization took off from Truax Field on a routine operational check of the afterburners on the J-35-A-47 engines. The pilot climbed to 40,000 feet and at the same time broadcast performance data to a ground recording unit. After reaching 40,000 feet, air to ground transmission was discontinued as all data had been received. Approximately twelve minutes after the last transmission the aircraft crashed seven miles south of the field with injuries fatal to both crew members. The aircraft was observed to have pulled out of a steep dive at 500 feet, and the canopy was ejected just prior to impact. On 23 November 1953, an F-89C of Detachment #1, 433d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Kinross Air Force Base, Michigan, took off on an active air defense mission. GCI had control of the fighter and was directing it from 25,000 feet down to 7,000 feet. The fighter and the bogey blips merged on the GCI radar scope. 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. Both pilot and radar observer are missing and are now officially listed as dead.

OPERATIONS

In November this unit had a jet fighter, an F-89C type aircraft disappear over Lake Superior while on an active air defense mission under this unit’s control. The Controller (4) [2nd Lt. Douglas A. Stuart] on duty had positioned the fighter for the final phase of the intercept and the blips merged on the scope. Radar and radio [contact] was lost with the F-89 at this time and the aircraft was never sighted again. The search for the missing aircraft was under the direction of the Canadian Air Force; and the United States Coast Guard, Air Force, and Canadian Air Force participated in the search. No trace was found of the plane and crew of two.

NOTE: Here is a link to a report referencing known trouble with the F-89

NOTE: The following is a newspaper article from 7/20/2003 - Two Air Force Pilots Vanish Chasing UFO 50 Years Ago

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Missing F-89 Found?

Update: November 1, 2006

A number of individuals have been trying to corroborate information supplied by Adam Jimenez, who is the contact for Great Lakes Dive Company (if such a group actually exists). Most of the investigators believe that the information which has surfaced in these investigations suggests that this find is possibly or probably a hoax. Adam Jimenez is currently unavailable for comment or to answer questions. He is the only person known who can substantiate his claims.

Original Information Follows

A group of Michigan based divers and engineers, the Great Lakes Dive Company, has announced that they have found the wreck of an F-89 on the bottom of Lake Superior.

Using advanced side scan sonar equipment, they surveyed an area around the location where the F-89 was last observed on radar, back on the night it disappeared, Nov. 23, 1953.

Expecting to find perhaps the engines and a few scraps of metal debris, they were quite stunned when the first low resolution scans of the discovery showed an almost complete F-89, resting upright on the lakebed with the nose and one wingtip buried in the sediment. The upswept tail of the F-89 and a wing pod fuel tank were clearly visible. The port side wing is completely gone and looks like a straight-edged cut where it would join the fuselage. The starboard horizontal stabilizer on the tail is also mysteriously missing.

Despite an extended search of the nearby area, no evidence of the missing wing or tail part was found. Instead, another mysterious object was found which the divers believed to be the object with which the F-89 collided.

The object is reportedly metallic and contains a hole which they believe was caused by a collision of the missing port wing of the F-89.

GLDC states they believe the canopy and cockpit are in place also, which may imply the crew did not escape and their remains may be in the cockpit.

GLDC had intended to go back to the wreck this year to perform ROV scans of the craft, however they say they were contacted by the Canadian government who asked them to provide the GPS coordinates of the site before they would allow them to finish their site surveys. They also requested that a coast guard vessel or Canadian government official accompany GLDC on any further surveys of the site.

GLDC has stated they want to do a full length documentary of their search and discovery although their plans may now be on hold as they state they have abandoned efforts to do more surveys on the wreck discovery.

Implications of Discovery

It is far from clear what this reported discovery implies about the fate of the missing F-89. The reported find of another mysterious object may provide a clue.

Until more information becomes available, all we have is a few images which a reported to be images from their side scan sonar. Although the Great Lakes Dive Co. have so far been providing useful information, there will be lingering doubts on the veracity of this find until it can be further substantiated.

GLDC believes this discovery may imply the F-89 was brought down by a collision with some sort of unknown craft which may be the mysterious object on the lakebed. However they are unable to reconcile this theory with good structural condition of the F-89.

I believe the discovery might imply something quite different. It may be possible that the craft was placed on the lakebed by the crew of the craft which perhaps abducted the craft and crew.

I think this remains a possibility due to the following:

F-89 Not Tracked Below 7000 Feet

The F-89 disappeared from radar at an altitude of 7000 feet. If it collided with a craft at this altitude then the F-89 should still have reflected radar signals as it fell to the lakebed.

If it collided with the object at a lower altitude, we still need to explain why the altitude of the unknown and F-89 was not tracked below 7000 feet.

Missing Wing and Tail

The port wing and starboard tail horizontal stabilizer are missing from the plane and despite many scans, no evidence of them has so far emerged. All parts of the aircraft should have settled into the same general vicinity of the lakebed - although it is possible that the search has not been thorough enough or the radius of the search area still needs to be increased.

Is it possible that the missing tail piece was part of the parts found in 1968? We may never be able to find out as the identification of the parts were apparently withheld from the public and the Canadian and US governments claim they have no records of the find.

Lt. Moncla Heard on Radio

The pilot of the first F-89 into the air in search of the missing F-89, Lt. Mingenbach, took off from Kinross AFB just a few minutes after the F-89 went missing from radar. About 40 minutes after the F-89 disappeared from radar, Lt. Mingenbach believes he heard a radio transmission from the pilot of the missing plane, Lt. Moncla. While it is possible that this was something else, it certainly is doubtful that Lt. Moncla would be transmitting from the bottom of the lake, 40 minutes after his plane collided with an unknown object.

Where To Now?

The family of the missing USAF crew clearly have a right to know whether the discovered wreck contains the remains of the crew.

As someone who has investigated this mystery for over five years, I believe the Canadian and US public has the right to know what can be discovered from this find. This means that a detailed video scan should be made of the wreck as soon as can be arranged. The evidence which is obtained should be made available to interested members of the general public.

The US government has had a particularly poor record in dealing with this incident in an honest manner. The Canadian government also has some explaining to do with respect to its handling of the discovery of military jet aircraft parts in October, 1968 in the bush near the shore of Alona Bay (north of Sault Ste. Marie).

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F-89 Discovery a Possible Hoax

Since this story first appeared, various people have been trying to corroborate information supplied by Adam Jimenez concerning the alleged discovery of a missing F-89 on the bottom of Lake Superior.

Update Dec. 18, 2006 - See summary of MUFON's investigation into Great Lakes Dive Company and their claims of discovery of the missing F-89.

While it may be too early to reach any definitive conclusions, there certainly seems to be many more questions than answers concerning Great Lakes Dive Company and the alleged F-89 discovery.

About the middle of October, the Great Lakes Dive Company website suddenly went blank. It was at this time that Adam Jimenez stopped returning phone calls and emails.

Without communication from Adam Jimenez, it is impossible to know exactly why the website was blanked out and why Adam has chosen to stop answering questions.

It is possible that he simply decided he wanted to keep a lower profile and was tired of the publicity.

It is also possible that he was avoiding the exposure of those who were asking questions of the authenticity of his claims.

Some see the disappearance of the website as evidence of a dark conspiracy of government to hide the truth that was daring to be revealed. This seems like one of the lesser possibilities based on all the questions surrounding the claims.

Who is Great Lakes Dive Company?

According to Adam, Great Lakes Dive Company first discovered the F-89 in the summer of 2005. They sat on the discovery for almost a year before revealing it to anyone. To do this search, they need some very expensive equipment, and a fairly large boat. Adam indicated that GLDC was involved in the search of other missing shipwrecks, however, it seems that no one in the Great Lakes shipwreck searching community has ever heard of Adam Jimenez or his project.

Their name appears in no other web related citations concerning shipwrecks, side scan sonar or Great Lakes diving.

The Great Lakes Dive Company website was brought online about the time that Adam announced the alleged F-89 find. During the whole time it was online, it never once provided a list detailing the members or owners of the alleged "Great Lakes Dive Company". Investigators who have tried to track down any registration or license for the company have found nothing.

Does the company consist of any other person besides Adam Jimenez? It is difficult to tell because no one appears to have had any contact with anyone else but Adam and there were never any photographs of anyone from GLDC posted to their website.

Does the company have any assets such as a boat or side scan sonar equipment? This is also difficult to tell as GLDC never posted any pictures of the boat and the side scan sonar equipment.

Was the company ever on Lake Superior? You would think that anyone who was engaged in such a search would bring a camera and record the search and discoveries. Note that Adam claimed that GLDC had actually performed ROV surveys of the F-89 and "mystery object" and had taken photos of video of the F-89 and mystery object. But not a single photograph from the vessel was ever posted to the site. This certainly seems very puzzling.

Where Did the Story Originate?

My first knowledge of the alleged discovery came by word of mouth from someone who had read about the discovery on the website list "UFO Updates" which is hosted by Errol Bruce-Knapp of Toronto, Ontario. The original August 22nd, 2006 post was sent to UFO Updates from Francis Ridge who is a researcher, writer and investigator with NICAP. Francis received email from Preston Miller which consisted of copied text which was presented as an AP (Associated Press) news story from Port Huron, Michigan.

Beyond this, no one has been able to find the original story or any trace of the AP story. It now seems likely that the story was a fake. It is unclear who this Preston Miller is and whether they were the actual source for the story.

Are the Sonar Images Real?

There seems to be conflicting opinions on whether the images of the F-89 and the mystery object are real side scan sonar images. Brendon Baillod of Great Lakes Shipwreck Research uses side scan sonar to search for shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. He believes the images are real side scan sonar images although he does think that "his (Adam Jimenez's) claims are based on an elaborate hoax".

I am not an authority on side scan sonar imaging, but I thought it might be possible for someone to create these images using image processing software on a computer. The original image might be a real model or a computer generated model. The photographs don't have much detail so I thought it would be quite possible for someone to fake these images.

From the beginning, I worried that the whole find might be a hoax, but I did not want to sound too skeptical because I wanted to ensure that if it was a real find, that I would do my best to assist the investigation. In my view, if the claim turned out to be a hoax, this would be just another in a rather tedious and boring history. If it were real, then this possibly would lead to the solution to the mystery surrounding a fifty year old missing aircraft and crew - a mystery which resonates deeply within me.

I am very curious about the real truth behind the claims. Perhaps this whole thing is some persons idea of a joke. If so, they would have to know that they would eventually have to face up to the hoax. The only logical sounding theory I have heard put forward is that someone wanted to fool the UFO community into swallowing the notion that a flying saucer had been found on the bottom of Lake Superior. Then the idea would be just to make the whole UFO community look gullible. If this is the case, we would expect Adam to emerge trumpeting his success in making some people look foolish.

I was never really much impressed with the image of the "mystery object" or with Adam's account of how they used a fish finder to get the image after they noticed a distortion in the image from their regular sidescan sonar equipment. As Brendon states, it is really quite hard to imagine how they would connect up this fish finder and get it down several hundred feet on the towfish and then collect the returned signal from the fish finder and patch it back as a feed into the sonar signal processing software.

Where To From Here?

With what is known now, we still don't know the following:

Are the sonar images real sonar images?

If the images are real, are the images of an real F-89?

If the images are of a real F-89, is it an F-89 on the bottom of Lake Superior?

It is possible that Adam Jimenez could do us all a favor by explaining all that he knows about the find. He did state that he has photographs or video images of the F-89 showing it is the missing F-89 from Kinross.

If he doesn't come forward to validate his claim or explain the purpose of the possible hoax, then we can still solve the key remaining question.

Is the missing F-89 lying on the bottom of Lake Superior? All that is needed is some people with a good boat, some expensive side scan sonar equipment, and a camera equipped ROV and we're off to the races.

Sources:
ufoevidence.org
ufos.about.com
unexplained-mysteries.com
UFO Cover-up: What the Government Won't Say
NICAP
mysteriousuniverse.org
Wisconsin UFO's & Extraterrestrials!: A Look at the Sightings & Science in Our State! (Carole Marsh Wisconsin Books)
CUFON
web.archive.org
Aliens from Space: The Real Story of Unidentified Flying Objects
The Town Talk - Alexandria-Pineville, LA
ufobc.ca
"Aircraft Parts Found in 1968". Sault Daily Star - 2008-06-07
UFO's in the Quran


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