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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Story of Vimanas: India's Tradition of Flying Machines

The Story of Vimanas: India's Tradition of Flying Machines

Dr. Srikumar V. Gopalakrishna

Summary: In the Vedic literature of India, there are many descriptions of flying machines that are generally called vimanas. These fall into two cate- gories: (l) manmade craft that resemble airplanes and fly with the aid of birdlike wings, and (2) unstreamlined structures that fly in a mysterious manner and are generally not made by human beings. This book gives an elaborate description of vimanas of both categories. In this chapter, I will survey some of the available literature on vima-nas, beginning with the texts dating from late antiquity and the medieval period.

In the Vedic literature of India, there are many descriptions of flying machines that are generally called vimanas. These fall into two categories: (l) manmade craft that resemble airplanes and fly with the aid of birdlike wings, and (2) unstreamlined structures that fly in a mysterious manner and are generally not made by human beings. The machines in category (l) are described mainly in medieval, secular Sanskrit works dealing with architecture, automata, military siege engines, and other mechanical contrivances. Those in category (2) are described in ancient works such as the Rg Veda, the Maha-bha-rata, the Rama-yana, and the Pura-nas. In addition, there is one book entitled Vaima-nika-sa-stra that was dictated in trance during this century and purports to be a transcription of an ancient work preserved in the akashic record. This document gives an elaborate description of vimanas of both categories.

In this chapter, I will survey some of the available literature on vimanas, beginning with the texts dating from late antiquity and the medieval period. The latter material is described in some detail by V. Raghavan in an article entitled "Yantras or Mechanical Contrivances in Ancient India." I will begin by discussing the Indian lore regarding machines in general and then turn to flying machines.

Machines in Ancient and Medieval India

In Sanskrit, a machine is called a yantra. The word yantra is defined in the Samarangana-sutradhara of King Bhoja to be a device that "controls and directs, according to a plan, the motions of things that act each according to its own nature." There are many varieties of yantras. A simple example would be the taila-yantra, a wheel that is pulled by oxen around a circular track to crush seeds and extract their oil. Other examples are military machines of the kind described in the Arthasastra of Kautilya, written in the 3rd century B.C. These include the sarvato-bhadra, a rotating wheel that hurls stones, the sara-yantra, an arrow-throwing machine, the udghatima, a machine that demolishes walls using iron bars, and many more.

These machines are all quite understandable and believable, but there are other machines that seem less plausible from the point of view of modern historical thinking. Thus Raghavan mentions a device that could create a tempest to demoralize enemy ranks. Such a weapon is also mentioned by the third-century Roman writer Flavius Philostratus, who described sages in India who "do not fight an invader, but repel him with celestial artillery of thunder and lightning, for they are holy and saintly men." Philostratus said that this kind of fire or wind weapon was used to repel an invasion of India by the Egyptian Hercules, and there is an apocryphal letter in which Alexander the Great tells his tutor Aristotle that he also encountered such weapons.

Modern scholars tend to regard Philostratus's work as fictitious, but it does demonstrate that some people in Roman times were circulating stories about unusual fire or wind weapons in India. In ancient epics such as the Mahabharata, there are many references to remarkable wind weapons such as the vayavya-astra and fire weapons such as the sataghni. In general, the weapons described in older works tend to be more powerful and remarkable than those described in more recent works. Some ascribe this to the fantastic imagination of ancient writers or their modern redactors. But it could also be explained by a progressive loss of knowledge as ancient Indian civilization became weakened by corruption and was repeatedly overrun by foreign invaders.

It has been argued that guns, cannons, and other firearms were known in ancient India and that the knowledge gradually declined and passed away toward the beginning of the Christian era. This is discussed extensively in a book by Gustav Opperts.

Robots and Other Automata

Robots form another category of remarkable machines. There are many stories in secular Sanskrit literature involving a yantra-purusa, or machine-man, that can behave just like a human being. An example is the story in the Buddhistic Bhaisajya-vastu, in which a painter went to the Yavana country and visited the home of a yantracarya, or teacher of mechanical engineering. There he met a machine-girl who washed his feet and seemed human, until he found that she could not speak.

Fantastic sounding robots of this sort often appeared in fictional stories intended for entertainment, and thus they had the same status as the robots of modem science fiction. However, there are many descriptions of quite believable automata that were actually constructed and used in the palaces of wealthy kings. These include: singing and dancing birds, a dancing elephant, elaborate chronometers with moving ivory figures, and an astronomical instrument showing the movements of the planets.

The designs of these automata are similar to those of the automata that were popular in Europe in the eighteenth century. Here is a description taken from the twelfth-century Samararigana-sutradha-ra:

"Male and female figures are designed for various kinds of automatic service. Each part of these figures is made and fitted separately, with holes and pins, so that thighs, eyes, neck, hand, wrist, forearm and fingers can act according to need. The material used is mainly wood, but a leather cover is given to complete the impression of a human being. The movements are managed by the system of poles, pins and strings attached to rods controlling each limb. Looking into a mirror, playing a lute and stretching out the hand to touch, give pan, sprinkle water and make obeisance are the acts done by these figures."

Apart from their practical applications, robots also provided a metaphor for the relationship between the soul and the body. Thus, in the Bhagavad-gita-, Krisna says,

"The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine (yantra) made of the material energy."

Raghavan, for his part, found this metaphor regrettable. He lamented that in other countries machines led to a materialistic civilization, but in India they only reinforced the idea of God and Spirit. Thus, "even writers who actually dealt with the yantras, like Somadeva and Bhoja, saw in the machine operated by an agent an appropriate analogy for the mundane body and senses presided over by the Soul, and for the wonderful mechanism of the universe, with its constituent elements and planetary systems, requiring a divine master to keep it in constant revolution."


There are many stories in medieval Indian literature about flying machines. Thus in Bana's Harsa-carita there is the story of a Yavana who manufactured an aerial machine that was used to kidnap a king. Likewise, Dandl's Avanti-sundar tells of an architect named Mandhata who used an aerial car for such casual purposes as traveling from a distance to see if his young son was hungry. His son, by the way, was said to have created mechanical men that fought a mock duel and an artificial cloud that produced heavy showers. Both of these works date from about the 7th century A.D..

In the ninth to tenth centuries, Buddhasvamin wrote a version of the Brhat-kathd, a massive collection of popular stories. Buddhasvamin spoke of aerial vehicles as dkdsa-yantras, or sky-machines, and he attributed them to the Yavanas, a name often used for barbaric foreigners. It was quite common for flying machines and yantras in general to be attributed to the Yavanas in Sanskrit texts.

Some scholars take the Yavanas to be the Greeks, and they attribute Indian stories of machines to a Greek origin. For example, Penzer thought that the Greek philosopher Archytas may have been the "first scientific inventor" of devices resembling the Indian yantras, and he pointed out that Archytas "constructed a kind of flying machine, consisting of a wooden figure balanced by a weight suspended from a pulley, and set in motion by hidden and enclosed air."

No doubt there was much exchange of ideas in the ancient world, and today it is hard to know for sure where a given idea was invented and how highly developed it became. We do know, however, that fairly detailed ideas concerning airplanelike flying machines were known in medieval India.

Bhoja's Samardngana-sutradhdra states that the main material of a flying machine's body is light wood, or laghu-ddru. The craft has the shape of a large bird with a wing on each side. The motive force is provided by a fire-chamber with mercury placed over a flame. The power generated by the heated mercury, helped by the flapping of the - wings by a rider inside, causes the machine to fly through the air. Since the craft was equipped with an engine, we can speculate that the flapping of the wings was intended to control the direction of flight rather than provide the motive power.

I would suggest that the vimanas described by Bhoja are similar to conventional airplanes. Thus they are made of ordinary materials like wood, they have wings, and they fly like birds. Raghavan suggested that the mercury engine was intended to be a source of mechanical power for flapping the wings as in bird flight. He supported this by noting that Roger Bacon described a flying machine in which some kind of revolving engine caused wings to flap through a mechanical linkage.

Ramachandra Dikshitar, however, said that according to the Sama- rdngana-sutradhdra, the vimdna "has two resplendent wings, and is propelled by air." This suggests that some kind of jet propulsion was used.

However these vimanas were actually powered, it seems likely that they relied on some conventional mechanical method that extracted energy from burning fuel and used it to produce a flow of air over wings. Were the vimdnas mentioned in Samardrigana-sutradhdra ever actually built, or were they just products of imagination? I don't know. However, the elaborate descriptions of yantras found in medieval Indian texts suggest that many sophisticated machines were made in India long ago. If sophisticated mechanical technology was known in remote times, then it is quite possible that airplanes of some kind were also built. It is interesting that the Sanskrit astronomical text entitled Surya- siddhdnta mentions a mercury engine used to provide rotary motion for a gola-yantra, a mechanical model of the planetary system. This suggests that at least one kind of mercury engine was used to produce rotary power. The text also says that the design for the mercury engine is to be kept secret. It was standard practice in ancient India for technical knowledge to be passed down only from teacher to trusted disciple. An unfortunate consequence of this is that knowledge tended to be lost whenever oral traditions depending on teachers and disciples were broken. It is thus quite possible that many arts and sciences known in ancient times have been lost to us, practically without a trace.

Additional Sanskrit works referring to flying machines are listed in a book by Dileep Kanjilal.9 These are: the Yukti-kalpataru by Bhoja (twelth century A.D.); the Mayamatam attributed to Maya Dfinava but probably dating to the twelth century A.D.; the Kathdsaritsdgara (tenth century A.D.); the Avaddna literature (first-third centuries A.D.); the Raghuvamsam and Abhijndna-sakuntalam of Kalidasa (first century B.C.); the Abhimdraka of Bhasa (second century B.C.); and the Jdtakas (third century B.C.). These dates are often approximate, and the material in the various works is often taken from older works and traditions.

The Vaimaniko-Sastra

The Vaimdnika-sdstra is a highly detailed description of vimanas, and it is given great credence in a number of books and articles. These include the writings of Kanjilal,2¡ Nathan,2' and Childress. In particular, the Indian ufologist Kanishk Nathan wrote that the Vaimdnika-sdstra is an ancient Sanskrit text that "describes a technology that is not only far beyond the science of the times but is even way beyond the possible conceptual and scientific imagination of an ancient Indian, including concepts such as solar energy and photography."

It is indeed true that this book contains many interesting ideas about aerial technology. But it is important to note that it was written in the early 20th century by a psychic process known today as channeling.

The story behind this is presented in the introduction to G. R. Josyer's translation of the Vaimdnika-sdstra. There it is explained that knowledge in India used to be transmitted orally, but as this tradition died out, writing on palm leaves was used. Unfortunately, palm leaf manuscripts do not last very long in the Indian climate, and large volumes of old written material have been lost due to not being regularly recopied.

This is certainly true. But Josyer went on to say that the lost texts "remain embedded in the ether of the sky, to be revealed like television to gifted mediums of occult perception." The medium in this case was Pandit Subbaraya Sastry, a "walking lexicon gifted with occult perception," who began to dictate the Vaimdnika-sdstra to Mr. Venkatachala Sarma on August 1,1918. The complete work was taken down in exercise books up to August 23, 1923. In 1923, Subbaraya Sastry also had a draftsman prepare some drawings of the vimanas according to his instructions.

According to Subbaraya Sastry, the Vaimdnika-sdstra is a section of a vast treatise by the sage Maharsi Bharadvaja entitled Yantra-sarvasva or the Encyclopedia of Machines. Maharsi Bharadvaja is an ancient risi mentioned in the Mahdbhdrata and other Vedic works, but I do not know of any reference indicating that he was concerned with machines. The Yantra-sarvasva is no longer extant in physical form, but it is said to be existing in the akashic record, where it was read and recited by Subbarayat Sastry.

As far as I am aware, there are no references to this work in existing literature. This is discussed in Kanjilal's book on vimdnas. Although the Vaimdnika-sdstra could be a hoax, I have no reason to suppose that it was not dictated by Subbaraya Sastry in the manner described by Josyer. But is the work authentic? Even if it was existing as a vibrational pattern in the ether, during the process of psychical reading and dictation it might have been distorted or adulterated by material from the unconscious mind of the medium.

In fact, there are good reasons for thinking this might be the case. The text of the Vaimdnika-sdstra is illustrated by several of the drawings made under Subbaraya Sastry's supervision. These include cross sections of the rukma-vimdna, the tripura-vimdna, and the sakuna- vimdna These cross sections show the kind of crude mechanical and electrical technology that existed in the period just following World War I. There are large electromagnets, cranks, shafts, worm gears, pis- tons, heating coils, and electric motors turning propellers. The rukma-vimdna is supposedly lifted into the air by "lifting fans" that are powered by electric motors and that are very small compared with the size of the vimdna as a whole. It definitely does not look as though it could fly.

These mechanical devices may well have been inspired by the technology of the early 20th century. But if we turn to the text of the Vaimdnika-sdstra, we encounter material of a much different nature. To illustrate this, here are ten examples taken from a list in the Vai-mdnika-sdstra of 32 secrets that a vimdna pilot should know.

1. Goodha: As explained in "Vaayutatva-Prakarana," by harnessing the powers, Yaasaa, Viyaasaa, Prayaasaa in the 8'h atmospheric layer cov- ering the earth, to attract the dark content of the solar ray, and use it to hide the Vimaana from the enemy.

2. Drishya: By collision of the electric power and wind power in the atmosphere, a glow is created, whose reflection is to be caught in the Vishwa-Kriyaa-darapana or mirror at the front of the Vimana, and by its manipulation produce a Maaya-Vimaana or camouflaged Vimana.

3. Adrishya: According to "Shaktitantra," by means of the Vynarathya Vikarana and other powers in the heart centre of the solar mass, attract the force of the ethereal flow in the sky, and mingle it with the balaahaa-vikarana shakti in the aerial globe, producing thereby a white cover, which will make the Vimana invisible.

Here three methods are described for hiding a vimdna from the enemy. They sound fanciful, but it is interesting to note that vimdnas described in the Purdnas and the Mahdbhdrata have the ability to become invisible. The word "shakti" (sakti) means power or energy.

4. Paroksha: According to "Meghotpatthi-prakarana," or the science of the birth of clouds, by entering the second of the summer cloud layers, and attracting the power therein with the shaktyaakarshana darpana or force-attraction mirror in the Vimana, and applying it to the parivesha or halo of the Vimana, a paralyzing force is generated, and opposing Vimanas are paralyzed and put out of action.

5. Aparoksha: According to "Shakti-tantra," by projection of the Rohinee beam of light, things in front of the Vimana are made visible.

6. Viroopa Karena: As stated in "Dhooma Prakarana," by producing the 32nd kind of smoke through the mechanism, and charging it with the light of the heat waves in the sky, and projecting it through the padmaka chakra tube to the bhyravee oil-smeared Vyroopya-darpana at the top of the Vimana, and whirling with the 32nd type of speed, a very fierce and terrifying shape of the Vimana will emerge, causing utter fright to onlookers.

7. Roopaantara: As stated in "Tylaprakarana," by preparing griddhrajihwaa, kumbhinee, and kaakajangha oils and anointing the distorting mirror in the Vimana with them, applying to it the l9th kind of smoke and charging with the kuntinee shakti in the Vimana, shapes like lion, tiger, rhinoceros, serpent, mountain, river will appear and amaze observers and confuse them.

8. Saarpa-Gamana: By attracting the dandavaktra and other seven forces of air, and joining with solar rays, passing it through the zig-zagging centre of the Vimana, and turning the switch, the Vimana will have a zig-zagging motion like a serpent.

9. Roopaakarshana: By means of the photographic yantra in the Vimana to obtain a television view of things inside an enemy plane.

10. Kriyaagrahana: By turning the key at the bottom of the Imana, a white cloth is made to appear. By electrifying the three acids in the north- east part of the Vimana, and subjecting them to the 7 kinds of solar rays, and passing the resultant force into the tube of the Thrisheersha mirror . . . all activities going on down below on the ground, will be projected on the screen.

The word "television" in item was employed in the English translation of Vaimdnika-sdstra tha came out in 1973. The original Sanskrit text was written in 1923 before television was developed.

It seems clear that the illustrations in the Vaimdnika-sdstra are contaminated by twentieth century material from the medium's unconscious mind. Yet the passages I have just quoted mainly contain non-twentieth-century material, and this is expressed in terms of Vedic words and ideas. It may be largely a product of Subbaraya Sastry's imagination as applied to his extensive Vedic knowledge, or it may be a reasonably faithful rendition of an ancient Vedic text preserved as an etheric pattern.

The only way to find out about this is to obtain other obscure Sanskrit texts and see whether or not they confirm some of the material in the Vaimdnika-sdstra. Repeated confirmations would at least indicate that Subbaraya Sastry was presenting material from a genuine tradition, and further investigations would be needed to see whether or not that tradition had a basis in actual fact. At the moment, we should remain open to various possible interpretations of the Vaimdnika-sdstra material.

Vimanas in Vedic Literature

The Bhdgavata Purdna, the Mahdbhdrata, and the Rdmdyana are three important works in the Vedic tradition of India and contain a great deal of interesting material involving the aerial vehides called vimdnas. They also describe different races of humanlike beings who operate these vehicles, and they discuss the social and political relationships existing in ancient times between these beings and humans of this earth.

To some, this material is of no value because it seems fantastic and mythological. Thus the Indian ufologist Kanishk Nathan rejected the old Hindu religious texts because they attribute exaggerated feats to gods. He felt that they are simply poetry in which "a writer who is not reporting an actual event can let his imagination move in any direction it wishes to take him." He also pointed out that these texts belong to a prescientific age, and therefore, "Given the cultural, technological and scientific knowledge of that historical period, a writer can, while enjoying generality and avoiding detail, create inventions and combinations that do not actually exist."

One can reply that it has not been established that ancient writers were simply indulging in poetic imagination, with no regard for facts. There is a modern prejudice to the effect that anyone who has spiritual interests must be unscientific, and whatever he writes must be imagi- nary. This viewpoint makes sense as long as all observable data seem to support a mechanistic world model that excludes old religious ideas as exploded fallacies.

But if we carefully examine the UFO phenomenon, we find extensive empirical observations that completely contradict our comfortable mechanistic world view. It is noteworthy that this anomalous material, ranging from physically impossible flight patterns to beings that float through walls, fits quite naturally into the spiritually oriented cosmologies of the old Vedic texts. It is therefore worth considering that the writers of these texts may have been presenting a sound description of reality as they experienced it, rather than simply indulging in wild imagination.

General Purpose Vimanas

The preceding chapter presented the story of Salva's vimana, which is found in the Mahdbhdrata and the Bhdgavata Purdna. This was a large military vehicle that could carry troops and weapons, and it had been acquired by Salva from a nonhuman technological expert named Maya Danava. The Purdnas and the Mahdbhdrata also contain many accounts of smaller vimdnas, including pleasure craft that seem to be designed for a single passenger. These were generally used by Devas and Upadevas but not by human beings.

In this section, I will give a series of examples, showing how vimdnas figure as common elements in many different stories from these texts. Each example is extracted from the midst of a larger story, and it is not feasible to present these stories fully in this book. My purpose in presenting the examples is to show that vimanas are frequently mentioned in the Purdnas and the Mahdbhdrata. Apparently, they were as commonplace to people of the old Vedic culture as airplanes are to us today.

In the first account, Krsna killed a pythonlike serpent who was trying to swallow his father, King Nanda. By Krsna's arrangement, the soul of the serpent was transferred to a new body of a type possessed by the celestial beings called Vidyadharas. That soul had possessed such a celestial body before being placed in the body of the serpent, and so Krsna asked him why he had been degraded to the serpent form:

The serpent replied:

"I am the well-known Vidyadhara named Sudarsana. I was very opulent and beautiful, and I used to wander freely in all directions in my airplane. Once I saw some homely sages of the lineage of Angira Muni. Proud of my beauty, I ridiculed them, and because of my sin they made me assume this lowly form."

In this passage the Sanskrit word vimanena is translated as "in my airplane." It seems to have been a small private vehicle.

The next story is similar. Krsna had relieved the soul of one King J Nrga from imprisonment in the body of a lizard and had awarded him a celestial body. When the time came for the king to depart, a vimdna from another world came to get him:

Having spoken thus, Maharaja Nrga circumambulated Lord Krsna and touched his crown to the Lord's feet. Granted permission to depart, King Nrga then boarded a wonderful celestial airplane as all the people present looked on.

In the next case, we see the effect of a beautiful woman on the pilot of a vimdna. Here the sage Kardama Muni is describing the beauty of his future wife, Devahuti, to her father, Svayambhuva Manu:

"I have heard that Visvavasu, the great Gandharva, his mind stupefied with infatuation, fell from his airplane after seeing your daughter playing with a ball on the roof of the palace, for she was indeed beautiful with her tinkling ankle bells and her eyes moving to and fro."

It would seem that Visvavasu's vimana was a small single-seater. Perhaps he didn't have adequate seatbelts, and he banked too steeply while trying to see Devahuti.

After Kardama Muni married Devahuti, he decided at a certain point to take her on a tour of the universe. To do this, he manifested an aerial mansion (called, as usual, a vimana) that was lavishly equipped as a pleasure palace. Here the sage Maitreya relates the story of this mansion to his disciple Vidura:

Maitreya continued: "O Vidura, seeking to please his beloved wife, the sage Kardama exercised his yogic power and instantly produced an aerial mansion that could travel at his will. It was a wonderful structure, bedecked with all sorts of jewels, adorned with pillars of precious stones, and capable of yielding whatever one desired. It was equipped with every form of furniture and wealth, which tended to increase in the course of time.... With the choicest rubies set in its diamond walls, it appeared as though possessed of eyes. It was furnished with wonderful canopies and greatly valuable gates of gold. Here and there in that palace were multitudes of live swans and pigeons, as well as artificial swans and pigeons so lifelike that the real swans rose above them again and again, thinking them live birds like themselves. Thus the palace vibrated with the sounds of these birds. The castle had pleasure grounds, resting chambers, bedrooms and inner and outer yards designed with an eye to comfort. All this caused astonishment to the sage himself."

The sage was astonished because he had not actually designed the aerial palace or imagined it in detail. In effect, what he did was mentally put in an order for a flying palace, and he received it from a kind of universal supply system because he had earned good karmic credit through his austerities and practice of yoga. To understand what was happening here, it is necessary to consider some basic features of the Vedic conception of the universe.

Over the years, many analogies have been used to describe the universe. Thus the Aristotelians compared the universe to a living organism, and the early mechanistic philosophers compared it to a gigantic clock. To understand the Vedic conception of the universe, the modern idea of a computer with a multilevel operating system is useful. On the hard disk of such a computer, there are programs that can be set into action by typing in appropriate code words. When a code word is typed, the corresponding program will execute if the computer user has a suitable status. If he does not, then to him the code word is simply a useless name.

Typically, the user's status is indicated by the password he types when he begins to use the computer. Different users will have passwords indicating different status levels. Above all other users is a person called (in the Unix operating system) the superuser, who has full control over all programs on the system. Often this person is responsible for creating the total system by loading various pieces of software into the computer.

According to the Vedic conception, the universe has a similar organization. The superuser corresponds to the Supreme Being, who manifests the total universal system. Within that system there is a hierarchy of living beings having different statuses. A being at the ordinary human level has many remarkable powers, such as the power of speech, and a being at a higher level, such as Kardama Muni, can manifest even greater powers. When we grow up using a certain power, we tend to take it for granted, and when we completely lack access to a power, we tend to regard it as impossible or mythological. But all of the powersÑincluding the power to call up flying palaces, are simply programs built into the universal system by the superuser.

The parallel between the Vedic conception of the universe and a computer can be made more explicit by introducing the concept of a virtual reality system. It is possible to create an artificial world by computer calculation and equip human participants with sensory interfaces that give them the impression of entering into that world. For example, a participant will have small TV screens placed in front of his eyes that enable him to see from the vantage point of the virtual eyes of a virtual body within the artificial world. Likewise, he may be equipped with touch sensors that enable him to experience the feel of virtual objects held in that body's virtual hands. Sensors that pick up his muscle contractions or his nerve impulses can be used to direct the motion of the virtual body.

Many people can simultaneously enter into a virtual world in this way, and they can interact with one another through their virtual bodies, even though their real bodies may be widely separated. Depending on their status, as recognized by the computer's superuser, the different virtual bodies may have different powers, and some of these powers might be invoked by uttering code words, or mantras.

An extremely powerful virtual reality system provides a metaphor for the Vedic universe of maya, or illusion, in which conscious souls falsely identify themselves with material bodies. Of course, this metaphor should not be taken literally. The universe is not actually running on a digital computer. Rather, it is a system of interacting energies which, according to the Vedic conception, has features of intelligent design and organization reminiscent of certain manmade computer systems. Returning to the story of Kardama Muni, we find that after having acquired his marvelous flying palace, he proceeded to travel to different planets with his wife:

"Satisfied by his wife, he enjoyed in that aerial mansion not only on Mount Meru but in different gardens known as Vaisrambhaka, Surasana, Nandana, Puspabhadraka, and Caitrarathya, and by the Manasa-sarovara lake. He traveled in that way through the various planets, as the air passes uncontrolled in every direction. Coursing through the air in that great and splendid aerial mansion, which could fly at his will, he surpassed even the demigods."

In the Sanskrit, the Devas are referred to here as vaima-nikan, which means the "travelers in vima-nas." Thus the verse literally says that Kardama Muni's vimana excelled the vaimanikan. The Sanskrit word for planets is loka, which can refer to other physical globes and to higher-dimensional worlds not accessible to ordinary human senses.

The idea of calling up universal programs figures in another story that involves a vimana. It seems that there is a kind of mystical armor called Narayana-kavaca, which is called up by invoking the names of the Supreme Being. (Narayana is a name of the Supreme, and kavaca means armor.) At one time, a brahmana named Kausika used this armor and later gave up his physical body. Still later, the Gandharva king, Citraratha, experienced some strange interference with his vimana when he passed over the remains of Kausika's body:

Surrounded by many beautiful women, Citraratha, the King of Gandharvaloka, was once passing in his airplane over the brahmana's body at the spot where the brahmana had died.

Suddenly Citraratha was forced to fall from the sky headfirst with his airplane. Struck with wonder, he was ordered by the great sages named the Valakhilyas to throw the brahmana's bones in the nearby River Sarasvat. He had to do this and bathe in the river before returning to his own abode.

An example of a vimana used for military purposes comes up in the story of Bali, a king of the Daityas. Bali's vehicle is very similar to the one obtained by Salva, and it was also built by Maya Danava. It was used in a great battle between the Daityas and the Devas:

For that battle the most celebrated commander in chief, Maharaja Bali, son of Virocana, was seated on a wonderful airplane named Vaihayasa. O King, this beautifully decorated airplane had been manufactured by the demon Maya and was equipped with weapons for all types of combat. It was inconceivable and indescribable. Indeed, it was sometimes visible and sometimes not. Seated in this airplane under a beautiful protective umbrella and being fanned by the best of camaras, Maharaja Bali, surrounded by his captains and commanders, appeared just like the moon rising in the evening, illuminating all directions.

My final example of a vimana is taken from the story of the sacrifice of Daksa. It seems that Satl, the wife of Lord Siva, wanted to attend a sacrifice arranged by her father Daksa, but Siva did not want her to attend because of Daksa's offensive attitude toward him. Here we see Satl entreating her husband to let her go to the sacrifice after seeing her relatives traveling there in vimanas:

"O never-born, O blue-throated one, not only my relatives but also other women, dressed in nice clothes and decorated with ornaments, are going there with their husbands and friends. Just see how their flocks of white airplanes have made the entire sky very beautiful."

All of the beings referred to here are Devas or Upadevas. We can see from this and the other examples that vima-nas were considered to be standard means of travel for beings in these categories.

The Mahabharata also has this idea of self-sustaining flying cities that travel indefinitely in outer space. In this section and the next two, I will give several examples of this. The first is the flying city of Hiran- yapura. This was seen floating in space by Arjuna while he was travel- ing through the celestial regions after defeating the Nivatakavacas in a great battle. Arjuna was accompanied in his celestial journey by a Deva named Matali, and he asked him about the city. Matali replied:

"There once were a Daitya woman called Puloma and a great Asuri Kalaka, who observed extreme austerities for a millennium of years of the Gods. At the end of their mortifications the self-existent God gave them a boon. They chose as their boon that their progeny should suffer little, Indra of kings, and be inviolable by Gods, Raksasas and Snakes. This lovely airborne city, with the splendor of good works, piled with all precious stones and impregnable even to the Immortals, the bands of Yaksas and Gandharvas, and Snakes, Asuras, and RakSasas, filled with all desires and virtues, free from sorrow and disease, was created for the Kalakeyas by Brahma, O best of the Bharatas. The Immortals shun this celestial, sky-going city, O hero, which is peopled by Pauloma and Kalakeya Asuras. This great city is called Hiranyapura, the City-of-Gold."

Here the inhabitants of the city, the Paulomas and Kalakeyas, are identified as the descendants of two rebellious relatives of the Devas named Puloma and Kalaka. The "snakes" are a race of mystical beings, called Nagas, that can assume humanlike or serpentine form. The "self-existent god" is Brahma, who is understood to be the original progenitor of all living beings within the material universe. Since Brahma's origin is transcendental, and he has no material parents, he is said to be self-existent. The immortals are the Devas. They are referred to as immortal because they live for millions of our years. However, according to the Vedas, all em- bodied beings in the material universe have a finite life span and must die after some time.

With his superior powers, Brahma arranged for the Paulomas and Kalakeyas to have a flying city that could not be successfully attacked by various powerful groups of beings within the universe, including the Devas. However, he left open a loophole for the Devas by declaring that the flying city could be successfully attacked by a human being.

Arjuna was half human, half Deva. His mother was an earthly woman, and his father was Indra, the king of the Devas. Indra had equipped Arjuna with celestial weapons just for the purpose of defeating enemies of the Devas who had obtained protective benedictions from Brahma that didn't apply to humans. Thus Arjuna decided that it was part of his mission to attack Hiranyapura. Here is Arjuna's account of what happened after his initial attack:

"When the Daityas were being slaughtered they again took to their city and, employing their Danava wizardry, flew up into the sky, city and all. I stopped them with a mighty volley of arrows, and blocking their road I halted the Daityas in their course. But because of the boon given them, the Daityas easily held their celestial, divinely effulgent, airborne city, which could move about at will. Now it would go underground, then hover high in the sky, go diagonally with speed, or submerge in the ocean. I assaulted the mobile city, which resembled Amaravati, with many kinds of missiles, overlord of men. Then I subdued both city and Daityas with a mass of arrows, which were sped by divine missiles. Wounded by the iron, straight-traveling arrows I shot off, the Asura city fell broken on the earth, O king. The Asuras, struck by my lightning-fast iron shafts, milled around, O king, prompted by Time. Matali swiftly descended on earth, as in a headlong fall, on our divinely effulgent chariot."

Aeial Assembly Houses of the Devos

According to the Maha-bharata, just as the Daityas have flying Cities such as Hiranyapura, the Devas have flying assembly houses, which are used as centers for their administrative activities. Here are some examples, beginning with the assembly hall of Indra, or Sakra, the king of the Devas. In this passage, a league is a Sanskrit yoiana, which ranges from 5 to 8 miles:

"Sakra's celestial and splendid hall, which he won with his feats, was built by himself, Kaurava, with the resplendence of fire. It is a hundred leagues wide and a hundred and fifty long, aerial, freely moving, and five leagues high. Dispelling old age, grief, and fa- tigue, free from diseases, benign, beautiful, filled with chambers and seats, lovely and embellished with celestial trees is that hall where, O Partha, the lord of the Gods sits with Saci...."

It is standard for descriptions of vimanas to say that they are brilliantly glowing or fiery. We find the same feature in the following description of Yama's hall, which was built by Visvakarma, the architect of the Devas:

"This fair hall, which can move at will, is never crowded. Visvakarma built it after accumulating over a long time the power of austerities, and it is luminous as though on fire with its own radiance, Bharata. To it go ascetics of dread austerities, of good vows and truthful words, who are tranquil, renouncing, successful, purified by their holy acts, all wearing effulgent bodies and spotless robes; . . . and so go great spirited Gandharvas and hosts of Apsaras by the hundreds.... A hundred hundred of thousands of law abiding persons of wisdom attend in bodily form on the lord of the creatures."

An interesting feature of Yama's hall is that it is populated by beings of many different types. In Yama's hall, in addition to Gandharvas, Apsaras, and various kinds of ascetics, there are Siddhas, those who have a yogic body, Pitas, men of evil deeds, and "those familiars of Yama who are charged with the conduction of time."

The latter are functionaries equipped with mystic powers that enable them to regulate the process of transmigration of souls. Yama is the Vedic lord of death, who supervises the process of transmigration.

Another curious point about Yama's hall is that it never becomes crowded, no matter how many different beings enter into it. This suggests that within Yama's hall space is transformed in a way that goes beyond our ordinary experience.

There are Vedic siddhis called mahima and anima that allow an object to greatly expand or contract in size, while retaining its proportions and internal structure.

The assembly hall of Brahma provides another striking example of transformations of space that seem incomprehensible from an ordinary standpoint. In this case, the great sage Narada Muni visited Brahma's hall and found that he could not adequately describe its architectural layout:

"Thereupon the blessed and mighty lord Sun took me and went to the faultless hall of Brahma, which knows of no fatigue. It is not possible to describe it as it really is, king of the people, for from instant to instant it has another indescribable appearance. I know neither its size nor its structure, Bharata, and never before have I seen such beauty. The hall is very comfortable, king, neither too cold nor too hot; when one enters it, one no longer is hungry, thirsty, or weary. It is as though it is made up of many different shapes, all very colorful and luminous. No pillars support it. It is eternal and knows of no decay. It is self-luminous beyond the moon and the sun and the flame-crested fire; on the roof beam of heaven it blazes as though to light up the sun. In it sits the blessed lord, O king, the grandfather of the worlds who, alone, constantly creates the worlds with his divine wizardry."

The Aerial Mansion of Ravana

The epic called the Ra-mayana contains an interesting account of a vimana. The main story of the Ramayana is that long ago a country on this earth named Lanka was occupied by a race of malevolent beings called Raksasas (Lanka is thought to be the island now known as Sn Lanka, although some have questioned this.) Ravana, the king of the RakSasas, reigned in Laiika from a fortified city, and it was there that he hid Slta, the wife of Lord Rama, after kidnaping her with the aid of his powers of illusion. Ravana also possessed an aerial mansion that would fly according to his mental commands and that he used for his military exploits.

Lord Rama engaged a being named Hanuman, who belonged to an intelligent monkeylike race, to find Slta and report back to him. Although born on earth in a primitive society, Hanuman was also the son of the wind-god Vayu, and thus he was equipped with mystic powers that were useful in this search. In the course of his search for Slta, he saw Ravana's aerial mansion, which was hovering over his capital city:

"That heroic son of the Wind-god saw in the middle of that residential quarter the great aerial mansion-vehicle called Puspakavimana, decorated with pearls and diamonds, and featured with artistic windows made of refined gold.

Constructed as it was by Visvakarma himself, none could gauge its power nor effect its destruction. It was built with the intention that it should be superior to all sirnilar constructions. It was poised in the atmosphere without support. It had the capacity to go anywhere. It stood in the sky like a milestone in the path of the sun....

It was the final result of the great prowess gained by austerities. It could fly in any direction that one wanted. It had chambers of remarkable beauty. Everything about it was symmetrical and unique. Knowing the intentions of the master, it could go anywhere at high speed unobstructed by anyone including the wind itself....

It had towers of high artistic work. It had spires and domes like the peaks of mountains. It was immaculate like the autumnal moon. It was occupied by sky-ranging RakSasas of huge proportions with faces brightened by their shining ear-pendants. It was delightful to look at like the spring season and the bunches of flowers then in bloom. It had also for protecting it numerous elementals with round and deep eyes and capable of very speedy movements.

Hanuman, the son of the Wind-god, saw in the middle of the aerial edifice a very spacious construction. That building, half a yojana in width and one yojana in length, and having several floors, was the residence of the king of the RakSasas....

Visvakarma constructed in the heavenly region this Puspakavimana, or aerial mansion-vehicle of attractive form, which could go everywhere and which augmented the desire nature of its occupants. Kuvera by the power of his austerities obtained from Brahma that aerial mansion which was decorated entirely with gems, and which received the homage of the residents of all the three worlds. It was by overcoming Kuvera that Ravana, the king of the Raksasas, took possession of it."

Especially interesting is the reference to "elementals with round and deep eyes" whose job is to protect the vimana. These beings seemed to come with the vimana itself, while the RakSasas were mere interlopers who acquired it through the military exploits of Ravana. I also note that at eight miles per yojana, the residence of Ravana on the vimana would be four miles by eight miles in size.

What About Flying Horses and Chariots?

It is clear that there are extensive Vedic traditions about humanlike races of beings that can fly freely throughout the universe using vehicles called vimanas. But one might object that there are also Vedic stories about horse-drawn chariots that fly through the sky. Surely these stories are utterly absurd, since it makes no sense to say that an animal could run through air or outer space using its legs. Because of this absurdity, some claim, we should not take anything in the Vedic literature very seriously.

The answer to this objection is that there are indeed accounts of horse-drawn flying chariots in Vedic literature, but these stories are not necessarily absurd. To understand them properly, it is necessary to fill in various details that will place them in context within the overall Vedic world picture. When seen in this way, both the horse-drawn chariots and the self-powered vimanas make sense. I will try to fill in the needed details by referring to a number of stories from the Maha-bharata about the Pandava hero, Arjuna. In the first story, Arjuna is traveling through space in a literal chariot drawn by horses. This description has a number of important features, includ- ing travel through space on some kind of roadway:

"And on this sunlike, divine, wonder-working chariot the wise scion of Kuru flew joyously upward. While becoming invisible to the mortals who walk on earth, he saw wondrous airborne chariots by the thousands. No sun shone there, or moon, or fire, but they shone with a light of their own acquired by their merits. Those lights that are seen as the stars look tiny like oil flames because of the distance, but they are very large. The Pandava saw them bright and beautiful, burning on their own hearths with a fire of their own. There are the perfected royal seers, the heroes cut down in war, who, having won heaven with their austerities, gather in hundreds of groups. So do thousands of Gandharvas with a glow like the sun's or the fire's, and of Guhyakas and seers and the hosts of Apsaras.

Beholding those self-luminous worlds, Phalguna, astonished, questioned Matali in a friendly manner, and the other said to him, "Those are men of saintly deeds, ablaze on their own hearths, whom you saw there, my lord, looking like stars from earth below." Then he saw standing at the gateway the victorious white elephant, four-tusked Airavata, towering like peaked Kailasa. Driving on the roadway of the Siddhas, that most excellent Kuru Pandava shone forth as of old the great king Mandhatar. The lotus-eyed prince passed by the worlds of the kings, then looked upon Amaravatl, the city of Indra."

One important thing to notice about this passage is that Arjuna entered a region of stars where there was no light from the sun, the moon, or fire. This is what we would expect to find if we did travel among the stars. It is also stated that the stars are very large, but they seem small due to distance when seen from the earth, and this also agrees with modern ideas.

In that region, Arjuna saw that the stars were self-luminous worlds, and that they were hearths of Gandharvas, Guhyakas, and others, including "men of saintly deeds" who had been promoted to heaven. The stars themselves are spoken of as aerial chariots in this passage, and this is clearly a poetic description. They are also spoken of as persons, and this refers to the predominating persons living on them.

The next point to notice is that Arjuna was "driving on the road- way of the Siddhas," and that this roadway went past the worlds of the kings to the city of Indra. Later on, this road is spoken of as the "road of the stars" and the "path of the gods." Thus it seems that Arjuna's chariot was traveling on some kind of road through outer space.

The Vishnu Purana sheds some light on the actual route followed by Arjuna. It states that the Path of the Gods (deva-yana) lies to the north of the orbit of the sun (the ecliptic), north of Nagavlthl (the naksatras Asvinl, Bharanl, and Krttika), and south of the stars of the seven r$is. Asvim and Bharam are constellations in Aries, north of the ecliptic, and Krttika is the adjacent constellation in Taurus known as the Pleiades. Asvim, Bharam, and Krttika belong to a group of 28 constellations called nak$atras in Sanskrit, and asterisms or lunar mansions in English. The seven ris are thestars of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. From this information, we can form a general idea of the Path of the Gods as a roadway extending through the stars in the northern celestial hemisphere.

Another important celestial roadway is the Path of the Pitas (or pitr-ya-na). According to the Vishnu Purana, this roadway lies to the north of the star Agastya, and south of Ajavlthl (the three nak$atras Mula, Purvasadha, and Uttarasadha), outside of the Vaisvanara path. The region of the Pitas, or Pitrloka, is said in Vedic literature to be the headquarters of Yama, the Deva who awards punishments to sinful human beings and whose aerial assembly house was described above. This region, along with the hellish planets, is said in the Bha-gavata Pura-na to lie on the southern side of the universe, to the south of Bhu-mandala, the earthly planetary system.

The nak$atras Mula, Purvasadha, and UttaraSadha correspond to parts of the constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius, and it is thought that Agastya is the southern-hemisphere star called Canopus. Thus from the description in the Visnu Pura-na we can gain an idea of the location of Pitrloka and the road leading to it in terms of familiar celestial landmarks. Such celestial roadways involve large distances, and if they go through outer space, then there is the problem of the lack of a breath- able atmosphere. What sort of horses could follow such roads? We can answer this question by recounting a Maha-bha-rata story in which Arjuna was offered a benediction by the Gandharva named Citraratha. Although Citraratha owned a vimana, here he is concerned with horses:

"O best of men, I now wish to offer each of you five brothers a hundred horses of the type bred by the Gandharvas. The mounts of the gods and Gandharvas exude a celestial fragrance, and they move at the speed of the mind. Even when their energy is spent, they do not diminish their speed....

These Gandharva horses change color at will and fly at the speed they desire. And simply by your desire, they will appear before you, ready to serve. Indeed, these horses will always honor your wishes."

It seems that these are mystical horses that function according to laws governing subtle categories of material energy. The roadway on which they travel is presumably of a similar nature, and the fact that they can travel vast distances on this road in a short time is due to the fact that they obey the laws governing subtle energy rather than the laws governing ordinary, gross matter.

The fact that a gross human body can be carried along such a road can be understand in terms of the mystic siddhis called pra-pti and mano java. The basic idea is that the subtle laws include and supersede the gross laws. Gross matter obeying the familiar physical laws is also obeying the subtle laws. But the same subtle laws can be applied to cause gross matter to act in a way that violates the ordinary laws of physics.

Now let us consider Arjuna's chariot. Here is a description of one chariot that he used:

The chariot had all necessary equipment. It could not be conquered by gods or demons, and it radiated light and reverberated with a deep rumbling sound. Its beauty captivated the minds of all who beheld it. Visvakarma, the lord of design and construction, had created it by the power of his austerities, and its form, like that of the sun, could not be precisely discerned.

My tentative conclusion from this material is as follows: The technology involved in the vimanas and the flying horse-drawn chariots is essentially the same. It depends upon mystic powers and higher-dimensional aspects of material energy that are unknown to present-day science but are commonplace to the Devas. The vimanas are essentially architectural constructions that can fly, both in three dimensions and in higher dimensions, by virtue of powers that to us seem mystical. The Gandharva horses operate on the same mystical level, and the same is true of the chariots they draw.

If this is true, one might ask why the Devas and other related beings would bother with horse-drawn vehicles when vimanas that move by their own power are available. Judging from the Mahabharata as a whole, the answer is that these beings use horses because they like them. They make use of flying architecture when that suits their purposes, but they also have a fondness for equestrian activities. Likewise, they have powerful weapons, like the brahmastra, based on radiant energy, but they also have elaborate rules governing hand-to-hand fighting with maces. The general impression is that the Devas and Upadevas emphasize life and personal prowess over machines.

With Vedic celestial roads a beam seems to define a pathway through space that a person can move along by using his legs. The beings that use these pathways have powers that enable them to pass through walls, and they can carry human bodies through walls also. The Vedic celestial road is also a pathway through space that one can walk on. The horses and chariots that move on it have mystical properties, and the horses can appear and disappear at will. A human being like Arjuna can also be conveyed along such a road. The point where the analogy of celestial road to light-beam path may break down is that the celestial road is cosmic in scale and seems to be relatively permanent, whereas the light beam is small and is deployed temporarily when needed.

It turns out, curiously enough, that the celestial pathways mentioned in Vedic literature are beams of light of a peculiar nature. Thus the Bhagavata Pura-na gives the following description of the travels of a mystic along the Path of the Gods:

O King, when such a mystic passes over the Milky Way by the illuminating Susumna to reach the highest planet, Brahmaloka, he goes first to Vaisvanara, the planet of the deity of fire, wherein he becomes completely cleansed of all contaminations, and thereafter he still goes higher, to the circle of gisumara, to relate with Lord Hari, the Personality of Godhead.

The path followed by the mystic is the deva-ya-na path, and it is referred to here as the illuminating Susumna. According to the Sanskrit dictionary, Susumna is the name of one of the principal rays of the sun. Thus the Susumna must be some kind of light beam. Clearly, however, its position in space indicates that it is not an ordinary sunbeam.


THE UFO EVIDENCE, published by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, Copyright 1964
If UFOs had not been reported by pilots of scheduled airliners, and military pilots in operation all over the globe, there might be some justification in writing off reports of ground observers as mistaken observations. For, if unknown objects are maneuvering in our skies, pilots would be among the most likely to see them. (Others whose professions cause them to spend many hours watching the skies, such as General Mills Corporation balloon trackers, also have reported numerous UFOs. [1])
Airline and military pilots are among the most experienced observers of the sky. Their profession requires them to spend hundreds of hours per year in the air. Few, if any, occupations require more practical knowledge of weather, other aircraft, and unusual activity such as missile tests. Undoubtedly, few groups of observers have seen more meteors or watched planets under a wider variety of sky conditions. In addition, professional pilots normally are trained in rapid identification of anything which may endanger a flight. Therefore, it is significant that airline and military pilots have reported a large number of totally unexplained UFO sightings.
Recognizing that airline pilots have special training and are in a unique position for observation, the Defense Department includes them in the military system of reporting vital intelligence sightings (CIRVIS), as detailed in the Joint Chiefs regulation JANAP-146(D). [See Section IX.] In 1954, the groundwork for CIRVIS reports was laid by meetings between representatives of the airlines and Military Air Transport Service (MATS) intelligence branch. The reason? "The nation's 8,500 commercial airline pilots have been seeing a lot of unusual objects while flying at night, here and overseas," Scripps-Howard reported. "But," the report continued, "there hasn't been much of an organized system of reporting to military authorities. . . [the airlines and MATS] agreed to organize a speedy reporting system so that a commercial pilot spotting strange objects could send the word to the Air Force in a hurry. The Air Force could then send jet fighters to investigate." [2]
With a few exceptions, most UFO reports on record from military pilots have come from the World War II and Korean War eras, or from recently retired officers. Military pilots, naturally, are restricted from discussing the sightings freely while they are on active duty. But airline pilots (although in recent years some times under pressure from their companies not to discuss sightings) have contributed some of the best reports on record.
There had been scattered reports by airline pilots previously but "In the Spring of 1950," the former Chief of the Air Force UFO project reported, "the airline pilots began to make more and more reports - - good reports. . . In April, May, and June of 1950 there were over thirty-five good reports from airline crews." [3] That June, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker said in an interview:
"Flying saucers are real. Too many good men have seen them, that don't have hallucinations." Flying magazine, July 1950, published a roundup report on pilot sightings, giving them very serious treatment (as did other aviation journals in later years; for example, see RAF Flying Review, July 1957).
When NICAP was formed in 1956, four airline pilots (two of whom had personally sighted UFOs) joined the NICAP Panel of Special Advisers. Federal Aviation Agency personnel, aviation industry engineers, and other aviation experts also related their sightings and offered their services. Why are UFOs taken so seriously by professional pilots and aviation experts?
Pages 33 - 38: What The Pilots Have Seen - (Charts)

What professional and private pilots have seen is readily classifiable into three general types of UFO phenomena (corresponding very well with the Air Force Project Grudge Report; see Section XII):
* Geometrical objects, generally circular (disc, oval, ellipse)
* Maneuvering or gyrating lights
* Cigar-shaped or rocket-like objects
(Since military pilot sightings are covered in previous sections, they will not be detailed here. In general, they correspond to nonmilitary reports, so the latter are discussed in this section as typical pilot sightings.)

Geometrical Objects
The earliest recorded UFO sighting by an airline pilot, during the initial flurry of sightings in the United States, was the report by Capt. E. J. Smith, United Airlines, July 4, 1947. Flying a DC-3 from Boise, Idaho, to Portland, Oregon, Captain Smith and his crew observed two separate groups of flat round objects ahead, silhouetted against the sunset. The UFOs were visible for about 10 minutes over a distance of about 45 miles, opening and closing formation. In the second group of UFOs, three operated close together, and a fourth was off to one side by itself. [31]
Since that date, dozens of pilots on all the major airlines have reported UFOs.
Private pilots, also, have witnessed typical geometrical UFOs. During July 1948, in Pasco, Washington, Don Newman (former Air Force pilot) watched a disc-shaped UFO with a dome on top maneuvering over the city at 1:00 p.m. "The exterior finish appeared to be spun or brushed aluminum," Newman said in his report to NICAP. The UFO alternately slowed and accelerated rapidly, diving, and climbing over the area. [32]
On March 18, 1950, Robert Fisher was flying his family from Chicago to Keokuk, Iowa. Near Bradford, Illinois, at 8:40 a.m., he spotted an oval, metallic-appearing disc ahead and slightly to the left of his Bonanza NC 505B. The UFO was moving on a course of about 120 degrees true. (Fisher was flying a southwesterly course, approximately 225 degrees.) The UFO shone in the sunlight, but when it flew below an overcast continued to glow, indicating that it was self-illuminated. It quickly moved off into the distance, at a speed estimated to be 600 to 1,000 mph. [33]
Near Goshen, Indiana, April 27, 1950, a bright orange-red disc paced a Trans World Airways DC-3, which was piloted by Capts. Robert Adickes and Robert F. Manning. As the crew and many passengers watched, the UFO pulled alongside the plane. It looked "like a big red wheel rolling along." Each time the pilot moved toward the object, it moved away as if controlled by repulse radar. When the pilot turned, the disc dove (presenting an edge-on view) and sped off to the north toward South Bend. [34]
A month later (May 29), an American Airlines plane departed Washington, D. C., enroute south over Virginia. About 9:30 p.m., First Officer Bill Gates noticed a light approaching the airliner head-on and notified Capt. Willis T. Sperry. Flight Engineer Robert Arnholt also witnessed what followed. An unidentified object with a brilliant bluish light on the leading edge neared, and seemed to stop. Suddenly it darted to the left of the plane, stopped for a few seconds, then circled around to the right. There it was silhouetted against the moon, revealing a torpedo-shaped or narrow elliptical body. Finally the UFO sped away to the east. Captain Sperry called the speed "fantastic," and said it was "without a doubt beyond the limits of any known aircraft speeds." [35]
A "perfectly round disc" hovering above the Hanford atomic plant, Richland, Washington, was observed by four veteran pilots July 5, 1952. The four Conner Airlines pilots were interviewed by United Press when they landed in Denver, Colorado, and their story was put on the newswires that day.
Capt. John Baldwin (former Air Force pilot, with 7000 hours airline pilot experience at the time) said he was flying near the Hanford atomic plant at about 9000 feet. The UFO was noticed above the plane about 6:00 a.m. It was "just below a deck of wispy clouds about 10,000 to 15,000 feet directly above us," Baldwin said. He described it as "a perfectly round disc, white in color and almost transparent with small vapor trails off it like the tentacles of an octopus." [cf., September 24, 1959 FAA case below]
Capt. George Robertson, D. Shenkel (both former Air Force pilots) and Steven Summers confirmed Baldwin's report. "All of us have been flying a number of years," Baldwin said, "and we've seen all kinds of clouds and formations, but none of us had ever seen anything like this before."
At first, the UFO was hovering. Then it "seemed to back away" and tilt edge-on. "It became flat, gained speed and then disappeared quickly," Baldwin reported.
On the evening of July 14, 1952, a Pan American Airways DC-4 airliner, flying at 8,000 feet, was approaching the Norfolk, Virginia, area enroute to Miami. The senior Captain was back in the cabin and Capt. William B. Nash, temporarily acting as First Officer, was at the controls. In the right hand cockpit seat was Second Officer William Fortenberry. The night was clear and visibility unlimited. Norfolk lay about 20 miles ahead, on the plane's course of 200 degrees magnetic. Off to the right were the lights of Newport News.
About 8:10 p.m. EST, both men noticed a red brilliance in the sky, apparently beyond and to the east of Newport News. The light quickly resolved itself into six bright objects streaking toward the plane, at lower altitude. The UFOs were fiery red. "Their shape was clearly outlined and evidently circular," Captain Nash stated. "The edges were well-defined, not phosphorescent or fuzzy in the least." The upper surfaces were glowing red-orange.
Within seconds, "we could observe that they were holding a narrow echelon formation--a stepped-up line tilted slightly to our right, with the leader at the lowest point and each following craft slightly higher," Captain Nash said.
Abruptly, the leader seemed to slow. The second and third objects wavered slightly and almost overran the leader. The pilots estimated that the UFOs were a little more than a mile below them, at about 2,000 feet, and about 100 feet in diameter.
When the line of discs was almost directly underneath the plane and slightly to the right front, the UFOs abruptly flipped up on edge in unison and reversed direction. (See diagram.) Captain Nash described the maneuver: " . . . they flipped on edge, the sides to the left of us going up and the glowing surfaces facing right. Though the bottom surfaces did not become clearly visible, we had the impression that they were unlighted. The exposed edges, also unlighted, appeared to be about 15 feet thick, and the top surface, at least seemed flat. In shape and proportion, they were much like coins.
"While all were in the edgewise position, the last five slid over and past the leader so that the echelon was now tail foremost, so to speak, the top or last craft now being nearest to our position. Then, without any arc or swerve at all, they all flipped back together to the flat attitude and darted off in a direction that formed a sharp angle with their first course, holding their new formation.
"Immediately after these six lined away, two more objects just like them darted out from behind and under our airplane at the same altitude as the others."
As the two additional discs joined the formation, the lights of all eight blinked out, then came back on again. Still in line, the eight discs sped westward north of Newport News, climbed in a graceful arc above the altitude of the airliner. Then the lights blinked out one by one, though not in sequence.
Captain Nash also noted that the original six discs had dimmed slightly before their angular turn, and brightened considerably after making the turn. The two discs speeding to join the formation were brightest of all. Captain Nash and Third Officer Fortenberry radioed a report of the sighting to be forwarded to the Air Force.
July 14, 1952; nr. Norfolk, Va.

Larger version
"At 7:00 a.m. the morning after the sighting," Captain Nash reported, "we were telephoned by the Air Force. . . to come for questioning. There were five men, one in uniform; the others showed us I.D. cards and badges of Special Investigators, USAF. In separate rooms, we were questioned for one hour and 45 minutes- -then about a half hour together. We made sketches and drew the track of the objects on charts.....the tracks matched....the accounts matched. . . all conversation [was] recorded on a stenotype machine.
"They had a complete weather report. . . it coincided with our visual observations. . . our flight plan. The investigators also advised us that they already had seven other reports. One was from a Lieutenant Commander and his wife. . . They described a formation of red discs traveling at high speed and making immediate direction changes without turn radius. .
"Regarding speed: We tried again to be very conservative in our computations. The objects first appeared about 10 miles beyond Newport News. . They traveled to within about a half mile of our craft. . . changed direction, then crossed the western suburban edge of the town areas. . . out over a dark area at least 10 miles beyond the lights, then angled up at about 45 degrees.
"We drew a line through the lighted area, measured the distance from our aircraft (and we knew our exact position both visually and by VAR navigation using an ILS needle) to the line through the lighted area. The distance was 25 miles. We had seen them cross this line twice, so we knew they had traveled at least 50 miles. . . . To get a time, we, seven times, separately, using our own panel stopwatch clocks, pushed the button, mentally went through the time, even to saying to ourselves again, 'What the hell's that!' Each time we came up amazingly close to 12 seconds. To be conservative, we increased it to 15 seconds....50 miles in 15 seconds equals 12,000 miles per hour." [361
Hovering Green Sphere
During the Fall of 1952, three airliners 15 minutes apart sighted a UFO simultaneously. Pan American Airways Captains Charles Zammett, Robert Harris, and William Hutchins were flying DC-4 aircraft about 600 miles south of New York, enroute from New York City to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Suddenly they all saw ahead of them a huge green ball, extremely brilliant and much larger than a full moon in apparent size. The object seemed to be absolutely stationary.
The sighting was not reported to anyone until several years later when one of the pilots happened to fly with Capt. William B. Nash, PAA pilot and NICAP Adviser. Captain Nash describes what happened next:
One ship called to one of the others: "Do you see that?""I'll say I see it! What the devil is it?"
Then the third crew broke in: "We see it too. Who could miss it!"
The three pilots continued to watch the amazing sight for about 45 seconds, as the UFO stood perfectly still. Then one pilot started to ask: "Do you think we'll pass it---------- wow! Look at it go !"
Just then the bright green orb suddenly sped off to the west at fantastic speed. They watched it move straight away from them on a horizontal path gradually diminishing in size, seemingly due to perspective diminishment.
John B. Bean, a flyer with 17 years experience, made the following report in a letter dated February 7, 1953. [37]
"On the afternoon of January 27, 1953, after stopping at the Purchasing Office of the Atomic Energy Commission Research Facilities near Livermore, California, I was driving north on the road which runs parallel to the eastern fence bounding the Commission properties. Immediately opposite the northeast corner of the fence, I pulled over to the side of the road in order to stop and check some papers which I had in my briefcase behind the front seat of my car. In order to do this, I opened the door and stepped out of the car, thus facing southward. Having finished removing the papers from the briefcase, I was about to climb into the car again when I heard the sound of airplane engines overhead coming in from an easterly direction. . . . It was a DC-6 letting down in the direction of Oakland Municipal Airport, which is to the west of Livermore. Estimated altitude of this aircraft was 2,500 to 3,000 feet.
"As the DC-6 proceeded westward, I was about to take my hand down from my eyes when I noticed a small, whitish object proceeding southward on a course which had just brought it across the Commission property. My initial reaction was that it was some sort of plant fiber floating in the air. Since this was the first clear, sunny day in several weeks and the atmosphere was very spring like, it was a perfectly natural reaction.
"It suddenly occurred to me that we are still in the middle of winter and, insofar as I knew, there were no plants which were giving off any white fibrous substance into the air at this time. As this realization came to me, I also noticed that this object was moving directly away from me at a very rapid rate of departure.
"It began a shallow left turn and at that point I could see that it was perfectly round and had a metallic sheen somewhat similar to that of aluminum with a satin finish. I believe another term for this type of finish on aluminum is known as brushed aluminum. It did not have a sharp glint which one often sees when light is reflected from a conventional aluminum aircraft. The light was more diffused and whitish in color. . . Having gathered my wits about me to this extent, I followed its course and suddenly it began to alter direction, at first seemingly heading due south again, and then suddenly making a steep right hand turn. It also began to climb at the most terrific rate of ascent that I have ever witnessed. I should like to say parenthetically at this point that only the week previously I had watched two swept-wing F-86's chasing tails near Hamilton Field late one evening. The two F-86's had remained relatively stationary over one spot and I had an excellent opportunity to watch them in several merry-go-rounds. A number of times they each climbed almost vertically, but their speed was insignificant compared to the speed at which this object was able to climb and execute a sharp right turn.
"The moment the object began its climb, I started a count of 1,000-2,000-3,000. By the time the count of 3,000 had been reached the object disappeared from sight.
"At this moment, coming in from the East on a due westerly heading, at an altitude somewhat lower than that at which I had sighted the disc, was a jet. It was leaving a very definite contrail all the way across the sky and was on a collision course with that of the disc prior to its rapid ascent. When I say collision course, I mean that directionally the two objects were on a collision course but that actually they were separated by several thousand feet of altitude. However, it occurred to me that the disc might have taken evasive action in order to avoid the jet.
"The jet proceeded on its course due west and to the south of the Atomic Energy Commission grounds and at a point approximately over Hayward or Castro Valley turned and headed due north.
"The interesting facts about this sighting were that I had three distinct types of aircraft within my sight range simultaneously so that it was possible to evaluate their relative speeds. Thus there was no question that the disc-like object had far more power and far more rapid maneuverability than the other two. An additional interesting factor to be kept in mind is that, where as the jet was leaving a distinct contrail at the higher altitude, the white disc left no contrail whatsoever. Neither of the two higher aircraft made any sound. However, both of them were well to the south of my position and the wind was blowing from me toward them at about 15 to20 knots. Actually I imagine the correct direction of the wind was approximately north-northwest.
"As soon as the sighting was over, I glanced at my watch and noticed the time to be 1343. The date again was the afternoon of January 27, 1953 and the atmospheric conditions were CAVU.
In closing, there is one other factor which may be of interest. The whole elapsed time from the original sighting to the disappearance of the disc was approximately nine seconds in my estimation. It may have been slightly longer, but certainly no shorter. Three of those seconds were counted time, three or four of them were observed time when I had my wits about me, and the other two to four were initial-reaction time."
A disc-shaped UFO paced a Trans-World Airways plane June 1, 1954. United Press reported the incident (newswire copy on file at NICAP):
Elliptical Objects
Charles R. Morris of Dubuque, Iowa, attempted (unsuccessfully) to film three elliptical objects observed by him and his wife on March 4, 1960. The 8 mm kodachrome film, which he exposed in late afternoon, failed to show the UFOs. At 5:57 p.m. while watching one of his flying students perform aerobatics, Morris first noticed the three UFOs in the southeast sky. They moved in line, glowing a neon-like blue-white and arced from about 25 degrees elevation in the southeast toward the northeast. In about 4 minutes, the objects covered an area of about 135 degrees. During that time, Morris ran into the house for his camera while his wife continued to watch the UFOs. As the objects disappeared in the distance to the northeast, they appeared to be climbing slightly. [38]
NICAP Member Lex Mebane telephoned Morris and interviewed him at length a few days after the sighting, obtaining some additional information. At their largest, the UFOs appeared to be about one-eighth the apparent size of the moon. They made no sound and left no trails. The third UFO lagged behind occasionally. [cf., February 24, 1959, American Airlines case, following.]
Morris was interrogated by the Air Force, who told him there were no aircraft scheduled in the vicinity. He had checked independently with Cedar Rapids Air Traffic Control and determined the same.
Maneuvering or Gyrating Lights
The typical disc-shaped or elliptical UFOs seem to fly a recognizable course, though they do hover, alter direction abruptly and accelerate rapidly. The second main category of sightings, however, displays a characteristically different pattern of flight in a number of cases. This pattern has been compared to the gyrations of a hummingbird--alternately hovering and flitting here and there, horizontally and vertically. Whether some of the erratically maneuvering lights seen at night are in fact different from the geometrical UFOs observed in daylight is an open question. In some cases the lights have proved to be body lights on discs or ellipses;  in others no definite silhouette could be seen.
TWA Pilot Reports Gyrating Light
December 27, 1950: A TWA flight was enroute from Chicago to Kansas City. Shortly after sunset Capt. Art Shutts, at the controls, noticed a bright white light ahead of the plane, also flashing to green and red occasionally. The aircraft was on a heading of approximately 200 degrees. At first Captain Shutts thought it was a star, until it began to "wobble and swerve unsteadily." Then the UFO began to streak back and forth in a north-south line, through an arc of 10 degrees to 30 degrees, changing direction abruptly. The UFO would move at terrific speed, hover oscillating slightly, then speed up. Captain Shutts noticed that the visible horizon near the UFO appeared to vibrate as if light were being distorted, especially after the object put on a burst of speed.
Finally the light dimmed to a pinpoint and began to move slowly south in a straight line. Suddenly it "lurched," accelerated rapidly and zoomed upward at a 45 degree angle, made a nearly square turn, plunged downward and disappeared below the horizon on a north heading. It had been visible for 25 minutes. [39]
Chief Pilot Chases Unidentified Light
The following is an exact copy of a 1952 United Press news wire report:


June 23, 1954: An Air National Guard pilot, flying an F-51 Mustang fighter, was trailed by a UFO over Ohio. The incident was reported to Leonard H. Stringfield, then director of an Ohio- based UFO investigation organization. [See Section VII; Ground Observer Corps]. Lt. Harry L. Roe, Jr., first noticed the object about 8:00 p.m. near Columbus, and kept it in sight for 45 minutes all the way to Vandalia. Lt. Roe repeatedly tried to maneuver so that he could see a silhouette behind the "round white light," but "it kept maneuvering around so it was against the darkened part of the sky." When Roe swung the F-51 around to give chase, the UFO "took off" and sped away.
November 14,1955: Another UFO which gave the appearance of intelligence behind its actions was observed at night above the San Bernardino Mountains of California. Gene Miller, a former Air Force instructor, was enroute from Phoenix, Arizona, to Banning, California. His passenger, Dr. Leslie Ward (Redlands physician) also witnessed the UFO.
A "globe of white light" appeared ahead of Miller's plane, moving very slowly. Assuming it was an airliner, he blinked his landing lights twice. The "white globe" went out twice, in apparent acknowledgment. As the light grew larger, closing on his plane, Miller flashed his landing lights three times. The UFO, he said, blinked three times, then "suddenly backed up in mid-air."
The sighting by Miller, who later became a NICAP member, was reported in the Los AngelesTimes, November 26, 1955.
Commercial Plane Follows UFO
April 8, 1956: A very brilliant light was followed across New York State by an American Airlines plane. The pilots were Capt. Raymond Ryan and First Officer William Neff. The chase was described by radio to Air Force and civilian control tower operators. The following account of the sighting is taken from a tape-recorded interview program, "Meet the Millers," On WBEN TV, Buffalo, New York, April 16, 1956 (tape on file at NICAP). Mr. and Mrs. Miller are the interviewers (Int.); Captain Ryan, F/O Neff, and Bruce Foster (a Bell Aircraft Company engineer) are the guests:
Int:  Was that a regular flight of American Airlines?
Ryan: Yes, it was.

Int:  From Buffalo to New York?

Ryan:  This flight comes out of New York and lands at Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and terminates in Buffalo.

Int:  What was your first idea that anything was happening-- that you were seeing something?

Neff:  This very brilliant white light, like an approaching aircraft with its landing lights on. Naturally we moved away from it thinking that's what it was. Then we noticed it was standing still at the time and we got sort of curious.

Int:  Just about what location was this?

Ryan:  This was just about over Schenectady. We were coming out of Albany. We took off north and we made a left turn and we noticed this light over Schenectady. It seemed to be standing still.

Int:  A light? Now, when you say a light do you mean a light like a light bulb- about that color?

Ryan:  Oh yes, very fluorescent--a very bright light.

Int:  A big what?

Ryan:  A large light. It looked more like a light coming into Albany airport.

MIT:  And both of you saw it? At the same time?

Int:  How close were you to it, do you think?

Ryan:  We turned a little bit to pass to the south of it, and we were probably 2 or 3 miles from it. 

Int:  And the thing was just standing there? 

Ryan:  Just about standing; it was off our wingtip. 

Int:  Was there anyone else on the flight with you? 

Ryan:  Oh, we had Miss Reynolds, our stewardess was with us.

Int:  Did she happen to notice it too?

Ryan:  She came up. We called her and she came up and looked at it later on after this had taken off at this terrific speed from where we first noticed it.

Int:  How long was it stationary there?

Neff:  We couldn't say that it was actually stationary.....(several talking at once) < br />
Ryan: · . . from the time we were off the ground at Albany, until we--it's about 15 miles by air to Schenectady and it was off our wingtip, and we watched it go through a ninety degree arc, go right straight to the west, and it was-- how many seconds does it take to go through a ninety degree arc?

Int:  Bruce?

Foster:  How fast would you say it appeared to be going? Did it change speed very radically during the time that you saw it?

Ryan:  The initial speed l would say probably was 800 to 1000 miles an hour. How fast can it--it's hard to say, just to compute that speed.

Neff:  Certainly much faster than another airplane would.

Ryan:  Oh much faster, much faster than a jet.

lnt:  Faster than a jet?

Ryan:  Yes ma 'am.

Neff:  Couldn't be a jet, not at that altitude because their fuel is so critical.


Foster:  Did it appear to change color at all? 

Ryan:  Yes it did. It changed color after it got to the west of us, probably 8 to 10 miles. It appeared--the light went out, that's what had Bill and I concerned. It went out momentarily, and we knew there was something up there, and now here we were with a load of passengers with something on our course up ahead, and what are we going to do, so we watched this where the light went out and this orange object came on--this orange light.


Ryan:  We looked at one another a little bit amazed, so we decided we'd call Griffiss Air Force Base, and I thought they had the radar on. . . And they didn't have it on- It would taken them 30 minutes to energize the set.


Neff:  They asked us to keep it sighted and we did, and we kept calling out our location and as we told them where we were we turned all our lights on. They asked us to turn them off and they could see us, and they asked if this object you see is orange in color. We said it was---

lnt:  This is after it turned on I understand

Ryan:  Yes. They said "we have a definite silhouette in sight south of the field." Now those fellas are observers who are in the tower. They said that they could see a silhouette.


Neff:  Watertown could see it and they're quite a ways north of Griffiss, and Albany saw it--two men in the tower at Albany--one an Air Force man and one a CAA man. And they saw it after we first called them, and noticed--and they looked over to the west and saw it right away.

Int:  And when they saw it was it moving?

Neff:  Well, we didn't get to talk with them---

Int:  But to you it was moving?

Neff:  Oh yes.

Int:  Real fast?

Ryan:  It stayed just that far ahead of us, and they asked us what our point of next intended landing was, and 1 told them Syracuse, and they wanted to be identified--our aircraft, number and serial number, and they said "well abandon that next landing temporarily and maintain the course and your altitude," so we did. They were calling scramble.
Int:  When you said ****(garbled), was it low, or was it low for a jet?

Neff:  Well, it was low and it was also low for a jet. There happened to be an overcast that evening which eliminated the possibility of a star right off the bat, and ****(gar bled) the way I understand it a jet burns up three or four times the amount of fuel at low altitude than it does at high altitude. 1 don't think a jet could stay down that long with out using up a considerable amount of gas.

Int:  How fast were you going?

Ryan:  About 250 miles per hour.

Int: ****(garbled) then did they slow down or why didn't **** (garbled)

Ryan:  They must have slowed down. "They" or 'it" must have slowed down.

Neff:  We trailed out as far as Oswego which is right on the south shore of Lake Ontario and we passed up our point of landing at Syracuse and we weren't sure we should hold the passengers up any longer, and of course we didn't advise them.

Ryan:  We called them (Griffiss AFB) and they said they were "about off, "and that was about 8 minutes and we couldn't work them any longer, and we turned over with Syracuse tower, and they were giving--relaying the messages back and forth, and it was then about 10 to 12 minutes and they're still not off yet. And we can't - -I don 'I know, we'd probably still be flying. I just don't know where the jets were. Why didn't they get the jets up?

Int:  Well what happened to the object?

Ryan:  It went off, it just went to the northwest and it went out of sight.

Foster:  Was it more rapid? All of a sudden did it accelerate its speed?

Ryan:  It did appear to - -after it got over the water it appeared really get out of sight very fast.

Neff:  It did, in the direction of Toronto--in that direction.

Int:  Was this object saucer-shaped or not?

Ryan:  Oh I don't know; I couldn't say.

Neff:  There was no definite shape to it, it was just a brilliant light,
Radar-Visual Sighting by PAA Flight
March 19,1957: About 7:30 p.m. local time, Pan American flight 206A was northbound off the east coast of Florida, at 30 degrees N. Latitude. The plane was enroute to New York from Nassau at 16,000 feet, moving through the tops of cumulus clouds, on a heading of 25 degrees magnetic. At the controls was Capt. Kenneth G. Brosdal, The engineer, John Wilbur, was in the co-pilot's seat. The co-pilot, George Jacobson, was navigating.
"About 50 miles east of Papa-3, a checkpoint between Nassau and Tuna," Capt. Brosdal stated, "we (the co-pilot, engineer and myself) saw this very bright white light. It seemed to grow in intensity to the point where it would be about 3 or 4 strengths of a rising Venus, then would subside. This happened about 3 or 4 times, during which I came to enough to check on the radar screen. Sure enough, a target showed up at 3 o'clock between 45-50 miles away.
"Using the cursor on the face of the radar, I checked the angle of sighting and it checked with the visual angle. This light appeared to be stationary, or moving in a N.E. direction (same as us). I observed this on the scope long after the light went out. I checked with Miami ATC [Air Traffic Control] but no other traffic or firing was in the area, to their knowledge." [401
The radar set, tuned to the 50 mile range, tracked the unidentified target for 20 minutes. The visual observation lasted 4-5 minutes. "The blip on the scope," Capt. Brosdal added, "indicated an apparent size in excess of the size of normal aircraft. The altitude of the light, on the basis of angle of sight and radar ranging, was estimated to be 20,000 to 25,000 feet."
Capt. Brosdal indicated that he was most impressed by the exceptional intensity of the light during the bright phase of pulsation.
Pilot Reports High-Speed Light
October 8, 1957: Another Pan American pilot sighted an unidentified light. Capt. Joseph L. Flynn, bringing a DC -7C flight into New York from Paris, noticed the UFO at 7:05 a.m. about 25 miles southwest of Boston. The object, "like a star traveling very fast," showed up to the right of the plane. "The sun was directly behind the plane and the object glowed a very bright silver," Captain Flynn said. "It was much brighter than the morning star." The pilot turned the plane and, for five minutes, tried to follow the UFO. But it sped out of sight.
At first Captain Flynn assumed the object was the Russian satellite, Sputnik I. But a check with the Smithsonian Institution's astrophysical observatory revealed that the satellite had passed over the New York area at 8:03 a.m., nearly an hour after the UFO sighting. [41] Nor would a satellite be so readily visible or appear to travel at high speed as described.
Gyrating Light Ascends After Crossing Path of Plane
February 4, 1959: Over the Western Caribbean, 3:00 a.m., Capt. H. Dunker, Pan American Airways, was piloting a DC-6-B from New Orleans to Panama. He and the crew saw a reddish light speed across their course from right to left (west to east).
About 45 degrees to their left the light stopped suddenly, fading in luminosity. Seconds later it sped back across and stopped about 10 degrees to the right. Then the UFO moved again to the left. After remaining visible about 45 seconds, the object went straight up out of sight at tremendous speed. [42]
Airliners Paced by Three UFOs
The sighting of three glowing objects by several airline crews February 24, 1959 is one of the most thoroughly investigated (and, ironically, one of the most controversial) on record. The key witness, Capt. Peter W. Killian, was interviewed by NICAP personnel. A detailed investigation report, including weather data, air navigation maps, etc. , was submitted to NlCAP by the New York City Affiliate. The Akron UFO Research Committee co - operated in the investigation, adding valuable details. Other published references are listed in the Section Notes [43].
The Air Force later attributed the sighting to a refueling mission involving a tanker aircraft and jet bombers flashing brilliant lights. Discrepancies in this explanation are discussed in Section IX.
February 24, 1959; Captain Killian and First Officer James Dee, American Airlines, were flying a DC-6B nonstop from Newark to Detroit. It was a clear night, with stars brightly visible and no moon. At 8:20 p.m. EST the plane was approximately 13 miles west of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, flying on a heading of 295 degrees at 8,500 feet. Off the left wingtip, Captain Killian noticed three bright lights, which he first thought were the three stars making up the belt of the constellation Orion. But then he realized that Orion was also visible, higher overhead. The UFOs were about 15 degrees above the plane.
As he and F/O Dee continued to watch, the objects pulled ahead of the wingtip. At this point, in the vicinity of Erie, Pennsylvania, Captain Killian contacted two other American Airlines planes in the area. One at the Dolphin checkpoint (over the northern shore of Lake Erie) saw the objects directly to the south over Cleveland. The other aircraft, near Sandusky, Ohio, and headed toward Pittsburgh, spotted the objects a little to the left of their heading, to the southeast. [See map in Section DC]
As the DC-6B continued west, the UFOs occasionally pulled ahead and dropped back until they were in their original position with respect to the left wingtip. Then Captain Killian began letting down for landing in Detroit, and the crew no longer had time to watch the objects.
During the 45 minute observation, the UFOs continuously changed brightness, flashing brightly "brighter than any star," and fading completely. This did not occur in any apparent pattern. The color fluctuated from yellow-orange to a brilliant blue-white at their brightest. The last object in line moved back and forth at times, independently of the generally western motion of the formation.
Visibility was unlimited. The pilots agreed, "It could not be any clearer than it was that night above 5,000 feet."
When the plane began letting down for landing, about 9:15 p.m., Captain Killian and F/O Dee lost sight of the objects. At 9:30 p.m. in Akron, Ohio, George Popowitch of the UFO Research Committee received a phone call from a contact at the Akron airport. A United Airlines plane (Flight 937) had just landed for a 15-minute stop, and reported sighting three UFOs which had followed their plane for 30 minutes. Popowitch had already received 9 reports from local citizens between 9:15 and 9:20 of three UFOs seen in the area, so he arranged to interview the crew of the airliner.
Capt. A. D. Yates and Eng. L. F. Baney said they had tracked the objects from the vicinity of Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, to Youngstown, Ohio, between 8:40 and 9:10 p.m. United Airlines flight 321, also, had discussed the objects by radio. Captain Yates had seen the UFOs pacing his plane to the south. But in the vicinity of Warren, Ohio the objects passed the aircraft, veered to the right, and finally disappeared to the northwest.
UFO Landing Reported
Early in 1961, a private pilot in Texas witnessed an apparent landing of a UFO. NICAP Member Jack Varnell, Knox City, Texas, conducted an extensive investigation into the sighting and the resulting USAF interest. [44} An employee of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation office, he joined the search for the landed object shortly after noon of the day following the sighting, and observed proceedings firsthand from then on.
January 10, 1961: Pilot W. K. Rutledge and passenger George Thomas, both of Abilene, Texas, were enroute to Abilene from Tulsa, Oklahoma. At 6,500 feet over Wichita Falls, Texas, about 9:00 p.m. they spotted a red object about 1,500 feet above the plane, glowing brilliantly in the night sky. Rutledge changed course to follow it at about 180 mph, establishing radio contact with the control tower at Shepard AFB, Wichita Falls, during the chase. He followed it WSW to Munday, then north to Vera (where several persons on the ground saw it). Then the object moved WSW again, toward Benjamin, finally turning SW. When beyond Benjamin, the object began to reduce its speed and altitude, going into a glide and apparently landing 4 to 5 miles SW of the town in a heavily wooded area.
The pilot circled in his single-engine Beech "Debonair" while law officers, alerted by radio, sped to the scene. Included were Knox County Sheriff Homer T. Melton (now a Texas Ranger), one of his deputies, and the police chiefs of Knox City and Munday. Rutledge radioed his position to the Shepard AFB control tower when he began to circle, and the word was relayed to the converging patrol cars.
Poor communication between air and ground hampered Rutledge in his efforts to direct the search cars. At one point, a cruiser driven by Deputy Stone came within 100 yards of the landing spot, but the pilot was unable to direct him closer. During this period the glow from the UFO, which had been visible to Rutledge on the ground, was diminishing to a dull red. About the time Stone approached it (unknowingly) and blinked his lights, the glow from the UFO vanished completely.
After about 90 minutes of chasing and circling, Rutledge noticed he was running low on fuel and decided to go on to Abilene.
Next morning the search was resumed by police, about 20 high school boys, and several other citizens of the area. Despite a cold drizzle, they hunted until 3:00 p.m., when Rutledge and Thomas flew back from Abilene. Since there was no convenient airport, Rutledge landed on a highway near Benjamin. When they got into town they were immediately met by USAF Lieutenant McClure and a Sergeant; the four retired to a restaurant nearby for the questioning. NICAP Member Jack Varnell listened from the next table.
The Air Force officer's opening implications that the object might have been a balloon or meteorite were quickly shortcut by Rutledge's firm statement: "What I saw last night was certainly not a meteorite or a weather balloon." He then made it clear that the object "came down slowly," and did not "fall." The lieutenant changed his tone at this point, Varnell reported, and became much more serious and interested.
As the interview progressed, the cafe began to fill, since the sighting was by this time the chief topic of conversation in the small Texas town. Questions were posed and answers noted for more than a half hour, but the muffled voices were hard to hear in the crowded room.
The USAF men expressed an interest in locating the site of the landing, so the group returned to Rutledge's parked airplane. While Jack Varnell and the sheriff stopped traffic, Rutledge, Thomas, and Lieutenant McClure took off from the highway. The sergeant and the enlisted driver of the USAF car drove off.
The small plane made three or four passes over the 1,000 acre tract of mesquite where the object had reportedly landed, and then flew off. Contrary to expectations, the other USAF men did not join the ground search party, which broke up about the time the plane departed.
Shortly after 5:00 p.m., the three airmen, the pilot and his companion were seen at a drive-in restaurant near Knox City. Rutledge was observed by Jack Varnell to be filling out what appeared to be the standard USAF Technical Information Sheet with Lieutenant McClure.
July 4-5, 1961: On two consecutive nights while flying in the Cleveland-Akron area, Ernest Stadvec encountered strangely maneuvering lights which he could not identify. A World War II bomber pilot, he now owns a flying service in Akron, Ohio.
"I have been flying since 1942 both day and night," he stated, "and currently own a flying business that requires us to fly day or night in all types of weather. Over the years I have seen many falling stars and other phenomena associated with atmospheric conditions as well. What we saw was not an astronomical or meteorological phenomenon."
On the first night, over northwest Akron, Stadvec and two passengers spotted a brilliant green and white light apparently suspended to the right of the plane, about 10:15 p.m.
"The object we saw dived at us on a collision course to the extent that I actually called out to my passengers that the object was going to ram us," Stadvec said. "After the object came at us it reversed course and climbed rapidly into a clear night sky."
And he continued: "This happened again the next night [about the same time] when the object flashed up from in front of us and again climbed into a clear sky. In both instances, the object climbed at tremendous speeds, leveled off and disappeared to the northwest."
On the second night about the time of the sighting, radar at Cleveland Hopkins airport detected a meteor-like object, which flared up on the screen and faded out within a few minutes. [46]
A similar experience was reported more recently by a private pilot from Williamsport, Penna., and his passenger, John P. Campbell, reporter for the Williamsburg Sun-Gazette.
February 7, 1963: Returning to Pennsylvania from Danville, Virginia at 11:45 p.m. (near Charlottesville, Virginia, about 95 miles SW of Washington, D.C.) Carl Chambers noticed a star like light, and soon realize it was moving toward his plane. "After noting that its altitude and position changed rapidly, I radioed the Washington FAA and reported the incident," Chambers said in a signed report to NlCAP.
"For nearly an hour after, we stayed in contact with Washington. During that time, the object hovered off the right wing [easterly and moved toward, under, and above the aircraft. Then it dropped off and a few minutes later appeared about 35 miles south of Washington, where it seemingly hovered over a missile defense base. From that position and less than a half-minute later it reappeared some 10 or 15 miles north of the capital."
FAA tower personnel confirmed to Chambers that they had received a similar report from another pilot in the area at the same time. The object had an intermittent yellow-white glow, and at its closest point appeared to be about three feet in diameter.
Cigar-Shaped or Rocket-Like UFOs
The third general category of UFO types which pilots and others have reported is the rocket or cigar shape, sometimes leaving a flame -like exhaust. Reports of this type are comparatively rare, but they have been seen by enough competent witnesses to establish them as a distinct type. (Some objects reported as "cigar- shaped" have, on closer investigation, turned out to be elliptical in shape, i.e., tapered to a point--or nearly so--on the ends. The term "cigar-shaped" is used here to apply to spindle or cylindrical shaped objects with somewhat blunted ends).
The 'classic" case of this type is the sighting by Eastern Airlines pilots C S. Chiles and J. B. Whitted, July 23, 1948. At 2:45 a.m. in the vicinity of Montgomery, Alabama, Captain Chiles and his co-pilot noticed a brilliant light loom up in front of the DC-3, hurtling head-on toward them. The UFO swooped down veered to the right of the airliner, emitted a long red exhaust blast and shot straight up into clouds. Captain Chiles later described the UFO as torpedo-shaped, about 100 feet long, with two rows of brightly-lit apparent windows along the side.
The USAF currently contests the fact that the airliner was rocked when the UFO climbed away, but the statement that it was appears in the Air Force Project "Saucer" Report from the witnesses' original descriptions. [47] At Robbins AFB, Georgia on the same night, about 2:00 a.m., a "long, dark wingless tube" was seen rushing overhead spurting flame from the stern
Similar maneuvering rocket-shaped objects have been reported by military pilots [see August 1, 1946 case, Capt. Jack Puckett, Section III] and private pilots.
January 1, 1949: Tom Rush of Jackson, Mississippi, saw a cigar-shaped object while approaching to land at Dixie Airport. The UFO crossed in front of his plane, accelerated and flew out of sight. [48]
January 20, 1951: A bright light, source unknown, was observed from the control tower at Sioux City, Iowa, airport about 8:30 p.m. Chief Controller John Williams cautioned a Mid- Continent Airlines DC-3, which was about to take off; thinking it was another aircraft approaching the field.
Shortly after take-off, Capt. Lawrence W. Vinther and Co pilot James F. Bachmeier, in the DC-3, were startled to see the bright light closing on them very rapidly. Before they could take any action, the light flashed past the airliner and the pilots saw a clear silhouette of a cigar-shaped object behind the light.
The Co-pilot turned quickly, and there was the UFO pacing the airliner. The object had apparently reversed direction in an instant. Bachmeier called out to Captain Vinther, and he turned and looked. Then the UFO shot straight up and disappeared. [49]
One of the passengers who also witnessed the UFO was a full colonel of Air Force Intelligence, who filed a report along with the pilots. He was reportedly greatly impressed by what he had seen. [50]
Aviation personnel other than Pilots--Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) [51] control tower operators and flight controllers, flight crew members, ground crews, airport supervisors, etc. --have made regular reports of UFOs. The FAA often has cooperated with NICAP, in some cases furnishing logs, teletype reports, and other documentary material. Some of the information has come from NICAP members employed by the FAA, other from public servants (not NICAP members) who apparently have no prejudices about UFOs and merely believe that the subject should be treated frankly and openly.
September 24, 1959: Redmond Airport, Oregon, is situated southeast of the city. (see sketch map). Just before dawn, policeman Robert Dickerson was cruising the city streets when he noticed a bright falling object like a meteor. Instead of "burning out," the object took on a larger, ball-like appearance, stopped abruptly, and hovered about 200 feet above the ground, its glow lit up juniper trees below it.

Chiles-Whitted Case - July 23, 1948, near Montgomery, Alabama

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The patrolman watched the UFO for several minutes, then drove toward it on Prineville Highway, turning in at the airport. The UFO, meanwhile changed color from bright white to a duller reddish-orange color, and moved rapidly to a new position NE of the airport.
At the FAA office, Flight Service Specialist Laverne Werta had just completed making weather observations minutes before, and had seen nothing unusual. Now Patrolman Dickerson, Werta, and others studied the hovering object through binoculars. The UFO was round and flat, with tongues of "flame" periodically extending from the rim.
At 1310Z (5:10 a.m. PST), official logs show, the UFO was reported to Seattle Air Route Control Center. Logs of the Seattle center show that the report was relayed to Hamilton AFB. The Seattle log continues: "UFO also seen on the radar at Klamath Falls GCI [Ground Control Intercept] site. F-102's scrambled from Portland."
As the Redmond observers studied the UFO, they noticed a high speed aircraft approaching from the southeast. The log continues: "As aircraft approached, UFO took shape of mushroom, observed long yellow and red flame from lower side as UFO rose rapidly and disappeared above clouds."
The UFO was seen again briefly, hovering about 25 miles south of the airport. Radar continued to show the UFO south of Redmond for about two hours. [See FAA log, Section IX]
October 9, 1951: An earlier UFO, rated an "unknown" by the Air Force after investigation of similar evidence (apparently without radar confirmation) was reported at Municipal Airport, Terre Haute, Indiana. About 1:43 p.m, CAA Airways Operations Specialist R. L. Messmore noticed an unusual object approaching from the SE, and quickly called another witness. C. W. Sonner, Chief of Interstate Airways Communication Station, ran outside to watch. "I have been working at airports for 16 years." Sonner said, "and never before have I seen an aircraft like it." The flattened round object sped overhead, disappearing to the NW after 15 seconds. Using the angle of sighting, Messmore and Sonner calculated that the UFO was traveling at 2,880 mph, assuming it was at treetop level; 18,000 mph if at 3,000 feet; etc.
Because of the experience of the observers, this would have been a good sighting as it stood. But two minutes later, near Paris, Illinois (19 miles to the NW), a private pilot encountered a hovering UFO shaped like a flattened sphere. (See diagram.) When the pilot turned directly toward the UFO, it accelerated and shot away to the NE. [53]
In the next two days, General Mills, Inc., balloon personnel spotted UFOs over Wisconsin and Minnesota. [Section VI]

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OCTOBER 9, 1951
1. Time: 1:43 p.m. UFO sped over airport, visible 15 seconds.
2. Time: 1:45 p.m. Private pilot enroute from Greencastle to Paris encountered hovering UFO.
3. When pilot turned toward it, object accelerated and shot away northeast.
March 13, 1950; Mexico City, Mexico. Santiago Smith, chief weather observer for the Mexican Aviation Company, J. de la Vega of the airport commander's office, and others saw a total of four UFOs passing over the airport during the day. Smith caught one in a theodolite telescope, and described it as resembling the "shape of a half-moon." [54]
March 26, 1950; Reno, Nevada. Mrs. Marie H, Matthews, CAA Tower Operator (over four years experience in aircraft observation with Navy and as a civilian), others in the tower, and United Airlines employees Robert Higbee and Fred Hinkle at about 8:50 p.m. saw a brilliant light NE of Hubbard Field which
was "so bright it was impossible to determine shape." Visible on each side of it was a green light. The UFO appeared to hang motionless for 5 or 6 minutes; then it began moving slowly across the sky, and suddenly shot upward into a cloud bank. [55]
March 29,1950; Ironwood, Michigan. Tom Christensen, airlines representative for Wisconsin Central Airlines, and six other persons at the airport (all pilots or with flying experience) viewed a round UFO through binoculars at 2:55 p.m. It was moving directly into a north wind at "pretty good" speed. As it traveled, the UFO made a "slipping and sliding sideways" motion. [56]
July 1950; Cincinnati, Ohio. At 1:45 p.m., a C.A.A. flight engineer with 11 years of aeronautical experience observed a "wingless, fuselage-shaped" object which maneuvered in a sunny sky. The UFO climbed at a steep angle, hesitated, dove and sped away to the west. Estimated speed: 5,000 m.p.h. The object made no sound and left no trail. (Confidential report obtained by NICAP Adviser L. H. Stringfield, Cincinnati, Ohio).
November 27, 1950; Huron, South Dakota. In the early morning, Gene Fowler of the Weather Bureau, Winfield Henry of CAA, and two Western Airlines ground crew members watched a UFO which alternately hovered and darted around the sky. The UFO changed color, red to white to green. At Aberdeen, 75 miles north, William B. Hiller, CAA Aircraft Communicator, also, saw a lighted UFO that changed colors. [57]
July 8,1952; near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Joseph J. Greiner, CAA equipment provider (experienced as radio operator weather observer, and traffic controller) at 10:00 p.m. saw a domed UFO speed overhead below a high overcast. The object was visible about 10 seconds, traveling at an estimated 1,000 mph. The main body was green, with a reddish domed portion on top. [58]
Early 1952; Cleveland, Ohio. Clark Croft, chief of the CAA Tower staff, stated to the Associated Press July 22 that "several months ago" a member of his staff had sighted a red light hovering in the sky in the direction of nearby Berea. He asked a pilot taking off for Akron to watch for it. The pilot saw it first below and ahead of him. "suddenly it took off at a very rapid rate," Croft said. "He tried to catch it, but couldn't. It was faster than any jet aircraft we know about."
Washington, D.C., Sightings 
On two consecutive weekends in July 1952, UFOs swarmed over Washington, D.C. Maneuverable, erratically performing objects were seen visually by pilots where radar showed them to be. Among the aviation personnel who either tracked the UFOs on radar or sighted them visually were the following: 

July 19, 11:40 p.m. CAA radar operators at National Airport control center and in tower; 8 unidentified targets moving 100 to 130 mph.July 20, midnight to 5:40 a.m. Harry 0. Barnes (senior air route traffic controller), Ed Nugent, Jim Copeland, and Jim Ritchey (radar controllers); up to 10 unidentified targets at one time on radar; motions coincided with visual sightings by Capt. Casey Pierman, Capitol Airlines pilot, who about 1:00 a.m. saw a total of 7 UFOs which maneuvered in all directions, sometimes hovering.
July 20, early a.m. Howard Cocklin, CAA control tower operator, saw yellow-orange light gyrating low in NW sky where control center radar indicated it was.
July 20, 3:00 a.m. Capt. Dermott, Capitol Airlines pilot, watched unidentified light follow his plane to within 4 miles of National Airport; radar also showed object.
July 26, 9:08 p.m. Jim Ritchey and other radar personnel saw 12 unidentified targets move onto scope from NW headed SE; helped vector in jet interceptors, which reported glimpses of high speed lights. Commercial pilot reported yellow light that turned to red, then back to yellow, pacing his plane about two miles away; "Radar confirmed that he was between two and three miles from the object," Ritchey stated.
[For additional details, see Section XI, July 1952 Chronology.]
October 12, 1952; Palo Alto, California. Harry C. Potter, aircraft maintenance man for United Airlines, was standing talking to friends at 1:00 a.m. Suddenly they noticed a V-formation of six apparent discs speeding overhead from N to S, traveling about 120 degrees in about 8 seconds. One separate UFO crossed at the same time from W to E. The UFOs appeared as rings of very bright blue-white light, apparently dark discs lighted only on the outer rim. [59J
1952; San Mateo, California. At 6:30a.m., Leonard L. Musel, United Airlines mechanic, was one of five persons in a car pool who saw a large flat UFO take on board five smaller objects of similar shape. [See Section II, Satellite Object Cases.] All six UFOs were roughly diamond-shaped, the main object nearly elliptical as it hovered 50 to 75 feet above salt flats visible from Hillsdale Boulevard. When the smaller objects were on board, the parent object flipped over flat side down (presenting an elliptical outline) and took off eastward at fantastic speed, going out of sight in seconds. [60]
December 3, 1954; Wilmington, North Carolina. About 12:30 p.m. Luther H. O'Banian and J. B. Bradley, CAA traffic controllers, and others at the airport saw a round yellowish UFO which sped overhead on a southwesterly course. The two controllers studied the object through binoculars, but could not identify it. The UFO, visible about 45 seconds, seemed to be moving at a downward angle at an estimated speed of 500 mph or more. [61]
January 8, 1959; near Walworth, Wisconsin. Gordon Higgins, a draftsman who has had two years USAF experience as control tower operator and flight controller, watched a UFO descend and then speed away horizontally. (See self-explanatory diagram with number keys.)

September 29, 1960; Arlington, Texas. J Rodriguez, Jr., flight radio officer for Pan American Airways, reported to NICAP:
"At 6:23 p.m. CST while watching 8 or 9 kids (ages 10 to 16) play fast ball in front yard across street from my home, I looked up, east, elevation 50 degrees approximately, and I saw a bright pin point of orange-colored light traveling toward the south; its speed was faster than a high flying jet aircraft, but slower than a meteor. As it reached a point below the moon it slowed down very rapidly, at which time I turned and ran toward my house for my field glasses. [see sketch, position "A" to "B"].
"Upon returning with my field glasses (7 power) the kids had now taken up the watch. Mr. Louis Via, my neighbor across the street, was also out in his front yard where we all were. While the kids insisted that it was up there just below a bright star, Mr. Via and myself said 'no it's just another star.' [See sketch, position "C"]
"Soon we all realized that the stars were moving, as though around each other clockwise. I took up a position where I could use the house roof for reference to see if one was moving.
"Mr. Via and myself soon agreed that the bottom one was slowly moving upward and clockwise around the star, which I then realized was the planet Jupiter. The movement between positions 'B' and 'C' was seen by the 8 or 9 kids. While watching the movement between positions 'C' and 'D', Mrs. Via came outside and also saw the orange colored point of light moving. My field glasses did nothing for seeing what it was, still a bright point of light.
"At about 6:35 another neighbor came over from two houses down, Mr. and Mrs. Rowmach. Mrs. Rowmach said: 'Rod, I've been watching that very fast moving light since you ran toward your house a while ago.' We all stood there and watched it slowly moving up and getting smaller, but still bright.
About 6:37 p.m. while trying to point out the UFO to another neighbor, Rodriguez saw it take off suddenly toward the west and vanish "as fast as a meteor."

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Time of sighting: 5:15 PM, Thursday, January 8, 1959
Position: 1 mile north of Illinois-Wisconsin state line on U.S. 14
1. 40 degrees from horizon   100 degrees from north
2. 20 degrees from horizon   100 degrees from north
3. 15 degrees from horizon   130 degrees from north
4. 10 degrees from horizon   135 degrees from north
While traveling east at 5:15 P.M. the object was sighted at position No.1.  As it started to descend slowly the automobile was brought to a stop to get a better view. It took approximately 15 seconds for the object to reach position No.2.  It still glowed a bright white as in position No.1.  Then it shot off at tremendous speed leaving a trail of sparks changing from the original brilliant white, to orange, and seemed to either go out of sight, disappear, or disintegrate.