Several pilots have lost their lives when trying to intercept UFOs, Capt Mantell being probably the most famous. The following incident is very interesting for several reasons, primarily because the UFO element of the incident is blatantly ignored by the MoD, who prefer to focus their investigation on alleged pilot error. Why this is now returning to the attention of some UFOlogists is that the files relating to this incident have been released in the latest batch of UFO related files (released March 2009). The file contains the official report by the MoD, a lot of newspaper reports and some letters from a variety of UFOlogists and UFO organisations requesting information. But first, let us see how this business began…
It is September 8th, 1970, we are in the depth of the Cold War and tensions are high on both sides. Saxa Vord was a radar station based on the Shetland Islands whose primary function was to spot unidentified craft approaching the North Sea. Around this time Russian bombers made regular, unauthorised flights along the British coastline (or as near as they could get) to test the RAF and NATO defences. It was a constant game of ‘Cat and Mouse’. This particular night, a radar operator detected an unidentified aircraft halfway between the Shetland Islands and Alesund, Norway. The object was tracked and held steady at a speed of 630mph at 37,000ft and on a south-west trajectory. Suddenly the object turned 30 degrees to head South and accelerated to 980mph (Mach 1.25) and climbed to 41,000ft. As per procedure a scramble message was despatched to the nearest NATO airfield which was RAF Leuchars. Within several minutes two Lightning interceptors were in the air homing in on the object, which they were expecting to be a Russian jet. Then the object performed a manoeuvre that astounded the radar operators. The object, which until now had been performing within the range expected of a Russian plane, now turned through 180 degrees and disappeared to the North at a speed calculated at 17,400mph.
Despite the sudden disappearance of the object the two Lightning jets stayed airborne and over the next hour the object returned from the North and the Lightning interceptors would turn to approach the object, which would then retreat in the usual manner. Now the chase was joined by two F4 Phantoms scrambled from the USAF base at Keflavek in Iceland. The radar onboard the Phantoms was quite sophisticated and was able to detect the object. But when the Phantoms attempted to give chase the object effortlessly disappeared at high speed, leaving the Phantoms helpless. It was at this point NATO Commanders were becoming concerned and the situation was being monitored at the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) at Fylingdales. It was also being tracked by a second BMEWS in Greenland. The information being gathered by all these different stations was now being relayed to NORAD, deep in the Cheyenne Mountain.
Meanwhile the game of chase was still taking place, until around 9pm when the object seemed to vanish completely. The Lightning interceptors were ordered to return to base while the Phantoms were ordered to patrol off the Icelandic East coast. Approximately 40 minutes later radar operators detected the object again. This time the object was travelling at a more leisurely 1,300mph, well within the range of both Lightnings and Phantoms. Two Lightnings were scrambled again from RAF Leuchars, with another two being scrambled from Coltishall, Norfolk. Unbeknown to those already taking part in the chase Strategic Air Command HQ at Omaha, Nebraska was ordering its B52 bombers to get airborne. Things were escalating quickly.
NORAD were now informed by Pentagon officials that USAF pilot Captain William Schafer was currently on secondment at RAF Binbrook. Captain Schafer was considered a very experienced and capable pilot, he was a Vietnam veteran, and a request was made by a ‘high-level source’ through Strike Command HQ at High Wycombe for Captain Schafer to get airborne and join in the chase of the mystery object. Luck was with NORAD as Captain Schafer was on-base and could be airborne within minutes.
By this time, the planes already in the air were joined by a Shackleton Mk3 from Kinloss. The other Lightnings at RAF Binbrook were not scrambled, only Capt. Schafer was scrambled and within minutes was in the air. According to newspaper reports at the time Capt Schafer ignored the usual pre-flight checks and got airborne as quickly as he could.
Now the object was also being tracked by radar at Staxton Wold, just outside Scarborough. The object was now flying 90 miles off the East coast at approximately 530mph and at only 6,000ft. Ground crew were confident that the object could now be intercepted by Capt Schafer. The following is considered the most accurate transcript on the conversation between Schafer and the radar station at Staxton Wold and was reported in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph on October 10, 1992.
Schafer: I have visual contact, repeat visual contact. Over
Staxton: Can you identify aircraft type?
Schafer: Negative, nothing recognisable, there is no clear outline. There is blue-ish lights, hell, that’s bright… very bright
Staxton: Are your instruments functioning, 94? Check compass, over.
Schafer: Affirmitive…I’m alongside it now, maybe 600ft off my… It’s a conical shape. Jeez, that’s bright, it hurts my eyes to look at it for more than a few seconds.
Staxton: How close are you now?
Schafer: About 400ft, he’s still in my 3 o’clock. Hey, wait… there’s something else, it’s like a large soccer ball… it’s like it’s made of glass.
Staxton: Is it part of the object or independent? Over.
Schafer: It … no, it’s separate from the main body… the conical shape… it’s at the back end, the sharp end of the shape, it’s like bobbing up and down and going from side to side slowly. It may be the power source. There’s no sign of ballistics.
Staxton: Is there any sign of occupation? Over
Schafer: Negative, nothing.
Staxton: Can you assess the rate…?
Schafer: Contact in descent, gentle. Am going with it …50, no about 70ft… it’s levelled out again…
Staxton: Is the ball object still with it? Over.
Schafer: Affirmative… it’s not actually connected… maybe a magnetic attraction to the conical shape. There’s a haze of light. Ye’ow… it’s within that haze. Wait a second, it’s turning… coming straight for me… shit… am taking evasive action… a few … I can…
Staxton: 94? Come in 94. Foxtrot 94, are you receiving me? Over? Come in ’94. Over.
The wreckage of Capt. Schafer’s aircraft was recovered a month later from the seabed but Capt Schafer’s body was never recovered. It was normal practice to take the wreckage of a downed craft to the MoDs Crash Investigation Branch at Farnborough but this was not the case with Schafer’s aircraft. The aircraft was returned to RAF Binbrook where it was kept out of sight by a series of shutters in the far corner of one of the Hangars. Normally press photographers got to photograph the wreckage of downed craft, and as there were regular crashes they were used to this, but Schafer’s wreckage seemed to be moved with maximum security and photographs were definitely not permitted. When aircrash investigators arrived from Farnborough to start a report on the incident they were surprised to find that many of the aircrafts instrumentation had already been removed. Missing was the compass, voltmeter, direction indicator and the complete auxiliary warning panel from the starboard side of the cockpit below the voltmeter. The investigators were assured these items would be returned but they never were.
The investigators were also wary of the ejector seat, they believed it was not the one that Schafer took off in. They felt that there was something wrong with it, but they were told by the Squadron Officer that this was the original seat, but still the investigators do not believe this was the case. During the examination by the aircrash investigators they also noted an unusual smell within the cockpit and the craft having an unusual ‘slimy’ feel to it. Throughout their very brief time with the aircraft they were supervised at all times by 5 un-named civilians, two of whom were American.
The following day the investigators were rounded up and informed that under no circumstances were they to discuss anything to do with the crash of Schafer’s aircraft. The reason quoted was ‘national security’.
The report that was compiled by the MoD as to the circumstances of the crash varies wildly with the events reported. The MoD claim that Captain Schafer was involved in a tactical exercise whereby he was instructed to intercept an aircraft. The MoD claim that Schafer was meant to be intercepting a Shackleton Mk3 but was initially unaware of the type of craft he was meant to intercept. But Schafer, when he makes contact with the object describes something very unlike an airplane. He describes a conical object and a ball shaped object. He is also only several hundred feet away and surely his wealth of experience as a pilot would give credence to what he was actually seeing? Was he really likely to make such a mistake in regards to identifying an aircraft, especially at this short distance?
The MoD also state that the crash occurred because of Schafer’s lack of experience in flying this type of craft, and in the report state that “The MRS Chief Controller had appreciated that this was a difficult interception, and had monitored the latter stages very closely”. If Schafer was not experienced enough to fly this craft in such an exercise why was he there? Why was he involved in such a “difficult interception” if he was so inexperienced? The MoD also claim that his ejector seat failed to deploy properly which would indicate the reason why the canopy was still attached (but open) when the wreckage was recovered. The report indicates that negligence was the reason the ejector seat failed to deploy, but the Corporal implicated was ‘excusably negligent’.
What is surprising that the two sides of the story seem so very much at odds with each other. On one side we have the MoD’s claims that Schafer was involved in a tactical exercise that went horribly wrong. Whereas the other intimates that Schafer was involved in chasing a UFO and died as a result of that crash. The MoD report also fails to mention the object initially detected by the radar operators.
The file released lacks anything else to give us direction so a lot of detective work is still involved, but this case is very important for a number of reasons as we shall discuss later. But again, the lack of documentation and the aircrash investigation being manipulated show that there are unseen forces keeping this phenomena in check.