Kenneth Arnold

kenneth_arnoldOn June 24, 1947, Arnold was flying from Chehalis, Washington to Yakima, Washington in a CallAir A-2 on a business trip. He made a brief detour after learning of a $5,000 reward for the discovery of a U.S. Marine Corps C-46 transport airplane that had crashed near Mt. Rainier. The skies were completely clear and there was a mild wind. He then a saw a flash light but disregarded it. About 30 seconds after seeing the first flash of light, Arnold saw a series of bright flashes in the distance off to his left, or north of Mt. Rainier, which was then 20 to 25 miles away. He thought they might be reflections on his airplane’s windows, but a few quick tests ruled this out. The reflections came from flying objects. They flew in a long chain, and Arnold for a moment considered they might be a flock of geese, but quickly ruled this out for a number of reasons, including the altitude, bright glint, and obviously very fast speed. He then thought they might be a new type of jet and started looking intently for a tail and was surprised that he couldn’t find any. They quickly approached Mt. Rainier and then passed in front, usually appearing dark in profile against the bright white snowfield covering Mt. Rainier, but occasionally still giving off bright light flashes as they flipped around erratically. Sometimes he said he could see them on edge, when they seemed so thin and flat they were practically invisible. According to Jerome Clark, Arnold described them as a series of objects with convex shapes, though he later revealed that one object differed by being crescent-shaped. In Arnold’s initial descriptions he likened their movement to saucers skipping on water, without comparing their actual shapes to saucers, as news reporters would subsequently quote him. At one point Arnold said they flew behind a sub-peak of Mt. Rainier and briefly disappeared. Knowing his position and the position of the (unspecified) sub-peak, Arnold placed their distance as they flew past Mt. Rainier at about 23 miles. Arnold said “the objects were grouped together”, as Ted Bloecher writes, “in a diagonally stepped-down, echelon formation, stretched out over a distance that he later calculated to be five miles”. Though moving on a more or less level horizontal plane, Arnold said the objects weaved from side to side (“like the tail of a Chinese kite” as he later stated), darting through the valleys and around the smaller mountain peaks. They would occasionally flip or bank on their edges in unison as they turned or maneuvered causing almost blindingly bright or mirror-like flashes of light. The encounter gave him an “eerie feeling”, but Arnold suspected he had seen test flights of a new U.S. military aircraft. As the objects passed Mt. Rainer, Arnold turned his plane southward on a more or less parallel course. It was at this point that he opened his side window and began observing the objects unobstructed by any glass that might have produced reflections. The objects did not disappear and continued to move very rapidly southward, continuously moving forward of his position. Curious about their speed, he began to time their rate of passage: he said they moved from Mt. Rainer to Mount Adams where they faded from view, a distance of about 50 miles (80 km), in one minute and forty-two seconds, according to the clock on his instrument panel. When he later had time to do the calculation, the speed was over 1,700 miles per hour (2,700 km/h). This was about three times faster than any manned aircraft in 1947. Not knowing exactly the distance where the objects faded from view, Arnold conservatively and arbitrarily rounded this down to 1,200 miles (1,900 km) an hour, still faster than any known aircraft, which had yet to break the sound barrier. It was this supersonic speed in addition to the unusual saucer or disk description that seemed to capture people’s attention. . His sighting was the first post-war sighting in the US, and was credited as being the first of the modern era sightings of UFO’s, including numerous reported sightings over the next few weeks. His description of the crafts is what coined the term “flying saucer” and “flying disc”.

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