Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Condensation trails passing in the moonlit night

Hi all,

Two of my recent blog post interests crossed over recently. Firstly, readers will be aware of my series of posts, about the work of colleague Paul Dean and I about the 25 October 1973 North West Cape incident. Secondly, I have been examining digital copies of the "Canberra Times" newspaper, held by the National Library of Australia (available up till 1992.)

Mystery aircraft:

Two civilian airline pilots reported seeing a mystery "object" leaving a condensation trail in the moonlit night sky, near Derby, Western Australia in the early hours of Monday 29 November 1982.

"The pilot of the Qantas aircraft, Captain Barry Roberts, told company officials yesterday that he had been flying at about 10,750 metres, when in the bright moonlight he noticed a newly formed condensation trail running from north-west to south-east. His aircraft was then over approximately the entrance to King Sound." ("Canberra Times" 30 Nov 1982, p.3.) This position put the aircraft at about 150 kilometres north-west of Derby.

Captain Roberts contacted Perth ATC who advised there was no other civilian aircraft in the area. The vapour trail was almost directly across the flight path of the Qantas jet which was flight QF2 from London, via Singapore to Sydney. The Qantas pilot estimated that the condensation trail was at a height of 11,400 metres.

"A few minutes later, according to a Department of Aviation spokesperson, the Singapore Airlines pilotadvised Perth that he too could see the condensation trail at about 12,300 metres but that the aircraft making it was not showing any running lights. The SIA pilot reported that the aircraft was heading north-east across air traffic route Amber 76. The Singapore Airlines aircraft was then 135 kilometres north-west of Derby." ("Canberra Times" 30 Nov 1982, p.3.)


The Department of Civil Aviation stated that apart from the Qantas and Singapore Airlines flights there were no known scheduled civilian aircraft in the area. "Department of Aviation officials were advised yesterday by defence authorities that none of their aircraft was in the Derby area at the time of the incident." ("Canberra Times" 30 Nov 1982, p.3.)

There was an ANZUS sponsored defence exercise in the area, called Sandgroper 82. However, all related air activity had ceased well before the Qantas and Singapore Airlines pilots reported the condensation trail.

Checks with the US Embassy in Australia revealed that a USAF "Starlifter" aircraft had passed through the airspace concerned. It had been on a flight to Alice Springs. However, it had passed through some 45 minutes before the two commercial aircraft. It was also flying the Amber 76 route.

The closest ATC or air defence radars were at Darwin and Perth, so there was no radar coverage to show what the cause of the condensation trail was.

It was reported that "A team of RAAF investigators was asked yesterday to interview the airline pilots over their reports..." ("Canberra Times" 1 Dec 1982, p.9.) It was also reported that "A senior specialist of the Bureau of Meteorology will make an urgent study of upper atmospheric winds...The study is part of an intensive investigation by the Department of Defence." ("Canberra Times" 3 Dec 1982, p.7.)

Winds at the height of the condensation trail were estimated as 110km/hr which would have quickly dissipated a fresh condensation trail.


What was the object which had created the observed condensation trail? Speculation fell into three categories.

1. "...the possibility being actively investigated now are that it was a smuggling operation, though these tend to take place at low altitude..." ("Canberra Times" 3 Dec 1982, p.7.)

2. "...or a Soviet electronic surveillance machine returning from an Indian Ocean sortie." ("Canberra Times" 3 Dec 1982, p.7.)

"The aircraft could have been a Soviet reconnaissance aircraft- possibly a Tupolev -TU126...from its base at Da Nang..." ("Canberra Times" 30 Nov 1982, p.3.)

"The aircraft could have flown over the Australian-US Communications station at North-West Cape..." ("Canberra Times" 30 Nov 1982, p.3.)

3. " It is now suspected that the aircraft...was a privately owned jet..." ("Canberra Times 7 Dec 1982, p.10.)

However, the bottom line on identity was "RAAF investigators have not yet been able to establish the identity of an aircraft which passed close to two airliners near Derby, Western Australia on Monday morning last week." ("Canberra Times" 7 Dec 1982, p.10.)


The fact that the RAAF were actively investigating the encounter, suggests to me that the most likely cause of the sighting of the unlit aircraft, was indeed a Soviet electronic surveillance aircraft. The fact that the four Canberra Times articles on the sighting were all written by Frank Cranston, Defence and Aviation correspondent only adds to my deductions.

Given the nature of the operations at the time at North-West Cape, it would be logical to suggest that the Soviets would wish to keep an eye/ear on the station.

I searched the Internet for any further information on this incident, but failed to find any.


1. "Airline pilots report mystery aircraft over WA" "Canberra Times" 30 Nov 1982, p.3.
2. "Mystery aircraft not yet identified." "Canberra Times" 1 Dec 1982, p.9.
3. "Weather expert called in to study mystery air trails." "Canberra Times" 3 Dec 1982, p.7.
4. "Aircraft puzzle not solved." "Canberra Times" 7 Dec 1982, p.10.

Other items of interest:

1. On National Archives of Australia file series E1327, control symbol 5/3/Air Part 1, at folio 5 appears a report of sightings of unknown aircraft from the light house keeper at Cape Leveque, Western Australia. Keeper Weston, in December 1976 claimed that he had been "...asked by RAAF Darwin to keep a look out for Russian jets." The RAAF stated "...the presence of Russian aircraft is thought unlikely..."

2. The "Canberra Times" dated 6 January 1977, page 1, reported that a Russian research ship had been seen by RAAF Orion aircraft, off Scott Reef, Western Australia. It had apparently been refused permission to put into any Australian port. The newspaper article said that the Russian embassy had ordered the ship to leave Australian territorial waters.

The exclusion from Australian ports seems odd, unless perhaps the vessel was actually a Russian electronic surveillance ship.

Friday, July 18, 2014

North West Cape - follow-up questions

Hi all,

Subsequent to my last post on the 25 October 1973, North West Cape incident (click here) I posed a number of questions to Bill Lynn (Jnr.) and Kate (daughter of Bill Lynn Snr.) They have both kindly responded to  these questions. I set out the questions, and their responses, below. Please bear in  in mind, that at the time of the incident, Bill (Jnr.) was just 5 years of age, and Kate was 14 1/2 years of age. For those readers new to this topic, you might care to click here and read about what was, in 1973, a US Navy base on Australian soil.

Q1. Did your dad ever mention who he reported his sighting to?

Bill. "My reasonably firm understanding was that because he worked for the US Navy, he had to complete the official report to his superiors within the US Navy. The US Navy base was separate to the town and very much run by the US. There was very much an air of confidentiality of everything the Americans were doing in Exmouth, and dad obviously worked for them. Even as his son, there were not many times I went onto the base (during my 15 or so years living there,) and even then had to have special permission to enter onto the base. Over the years there has been a lot of speculation about what the US were doing in Exmouth. There were places that even my dad was restricted to enter (even in his position.) That is certainly one reason I was surprised to hear my dad's report had made it into the open hands of Australians/civilians."

Kate. "Dad reported this to the Security Commander on the base."

Q2. Did he ever say whether or not he was interviewed by anyone about his sighting?

Bill. "I am not sure, but cannot recall dad mentioning any interviews. In terms of any material matter he dealt with (particularly in relation to security or any other major incident) he had to complete a formal report and submit it. The US had very strict protocols about these type of things."

Kate. "No, he didn't say he was interviewed as such, but he was asked to fill in an official report, after he reported it in writing (via letter.) From memory, I think he was discouraged to report it, but he insisted."

Q3. Do you know how he came to know about the other witness?

Bill. "I don't know. The other person was obviously very senior, and from the ranks within the US. From recollection I always seem to remember dad saying he was lucky to have someone else witness the event. He always said this provided a much greater level of credibility to his sighting.  I was always of the impression dad found out after the fact (of formally reporting the incident) - but stand to be corrected. I personally cannot remember the person or name Moyer."

Kate. "Not sure how he came to know about the other witness - but the news was all over town. Everyone was talking about the 2 sightings. It was general knowledge."

Q4. Did he mention whether or not he was asked/told to keep his sighting quiet?
Bill. "I don't know, but do not believe so. I was always of the impression that he was told it would be investigated but nothing more ever came of it."

Kate. "Not sure if he was asked to keep quiet, but he was definitely discouraged from reporting it. (As I said- this is my memory of it.)"

Q5. Did he make any statements about what he thought the object was?

Bill. "To me he always stated it was a UFO (of some sort,) and certainly believed in UFOs. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he thought it may have been something the Americans were up to, based on some of the facts under point (1)."

Kate. "Not really, but he was convinced that it was a genuine UFO. Not sure if he thought it was some kind of spy craft, or an extra-terrestrial."

Q6. Did he ever see anything else unusual during the rest of his time at the base?

Bill. "I don't believe so, and certainly nothing else material was mentioned to me."

Kate. He never saw any other UFOs or similar during the time he lived at Exmouth, North West Cape, or on the base, to my knowledge."


I would like to thank both Kate and Bill for taking the time to respond to my questions.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"The UFO that remains very, very 'U'"

Hi all,

I have been browsing the TROVE digitised newspaper collection of the National Library of Australia. Most of the digitised newspapers have been digitised only up until the year 1954. However, the "Canberra Times" newspaper, is available through till 1992. I came across the following intriguing article on page 1 of the Tuesday 22 June 1982 issue. I have added some links for readers to obtain further information about key data in the article.

"The UFO that remains very, very 'U'"

By Frank Cranston, Defence and Aviation correspondent.

"On the morning of Friday, June 4, about 300 nautical miles south of Cocos Island,(click here)  a small task force of Soviet military and civilian ships collected an object which had come from space.

The re-entry of the object and its recovery by the Russians was closely observed by a Lockheed P3C Orion patrol aircraft (click here) of the Royal Australian Air Force.

During several sweeps low over the area the cameras and other sensors aboard the Orion captured a series of pictures, apparently in minute detail, of exactly what it was the Soviets deployed their ships to gather.

A specially equipped United States Air Force Boeing 707 electronic intelligence aircraft ( click here) was also in the vicinity and may have taken its own photographs of the recovery operation.

Two days later, the RAAF issued pictures of the Soviet ships but no information about what they recovered.

Beyond the release of the pictures, no further information has been made available. Not only have the authorities since refused to release pictures of the space vehicle and its recovery but refused even to comment on its nature and why it might have been programmed (if it was) to splash down so close to a relatively well-trafficked area.

Not only the Australian authorities ("at the highest level") are refusing information on the Soviet vehicle but also the US.

At the weekend the US Secretary of State, Mr Haig, (click here) disclosed that, in the period leading up to and during the "splashdown" the Soviets were testing an anti-satellite weapon or "killer" satellite.(Click here.)

Defence officials have refused to speculate on whether this could have been the vehicle recovered in the Indian Ocean.

A Soviet space authority denied last week that the vehicle was connected with the Salyut program (click here) or that it was part of the Soviet space shuttle. (Click here.)

There has never been any reticence on the part of Western or Soviet authorities to discuss civil satellites. A good example of this was the much-publicised re-entry of Skylab..."

The "U" is identified:

With the hindsight of time, and use of the Internet, it was easy for me to determine just what the RAAF photographed in June 1982. It was no extra-terrestrial spacecraft, but a Soviet one. It turns out that the mysterious object which came from space was a Soviet unpiloted orbital rocket plane. For further details please take a look at (click here.) For some fascinating intelligence aspects of this and the Soviet space shuttle program, click here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

William Gordon Lynn - the 25 October 1973 North West Cape incident

Hi all,

The incident:

On Thursday, 25 October 1973, at about 1920hrs, two individuals who worked at Navcommsta H E Holt, a US Naval base on Australian soil, sighted an unusual object in the sky. Their story has been detailed in previous blog posts (click here, here, herehere, and here.)

Although the UFO literature states that the two were both US Navy personnel, I now wish to set the record straight. One of those individuals was an Australian civilian, William Gordon Lynn.

Bill Lynn:

William Gordon Lynn was born in Gorrogin, Western Australia on 14 June 1923. His father was John Firth Lynn, and his mother Ethel Maud Lynn.

As recorded in National Archives of Australia file series B883, control symbol WX35596, Bill Lynn, in 1941, at age 18, was a gunner in the 5th Anti Aircraft Battery. He found himself in Darwin, Northern Territory; then by 1944 he was attached to the 2/43rd Battalion, 24th Australian Infantry Brigade. Between 1945 and 1946 he saw action at Madang (New Guinea); Morotai; Biak and British North Borneo. Finally, after the cessation of World War 2, he travelled back home via Rabaul and Sydney.

The 1949, 1954 and 1958 Western Australian electoral rolls show him living in Kenwick, WA, with his trade shown as apprentice boot maker. The rolls also show his mother and father residing at the same address.

Somewhere between 1958 and 1963 Bill changed profession from boot maker to fireman. I located an article and photograph of him on page 7 of the 3 December 1963 "Canberra Times" digitised newspaper, held by the National Library of Australia.The article refers to a Bill Lynn, fireman of Cannington, WA.

In 1967 he obtained a position at Exmouth, WA working as a Fire Safety Officer for the US Navy at Navcommsta H E Holt, North West Cape.

The 1968 Western Australian electoral roll shows Bill and his wife Ivy Lillian at 2 Carpenter Street, Exmouth. The roll lists Bill's occupation as "USN fire services." Bill and his wife had five children, four girls and a boy.

Bill retired from Exmouth in 1983, and went to live in Brisbane, Queensland.

(The above photograph shows Bill Lynn on the extreme left. It was taken at Navcommsta Harold E Holt, North West Cape in about 1975, some two years after the incident.)

Family recollections:

Bill Lynn's son, also named Bill Lynn, contacted this author and advised that his father had talked about the 1973 incident to him, on a number of  occasions. He said that his father was adamant about what he saw that day. When Bill (Jnr.) was about 5, (in 1973), his father showed him a sketch of the object. "I was only aged 5 at the time but grew up with my dad's stories of the sighting."

In correspondence with Bill Lynn's daughter Kate, she clearly recalls her time at Exmouth. Regarding the 1973 incident, she writes "I have heard the story told many times. Dad actually recounts how he sat (or leaned) on the bonnet of the pick-up truck and pulled either his notebook or match box out of his pocket, and sketched the UFO and jotted down some rough notes."

"I have a recollection of the sighting being verified, because another sighting was reported at approx. the same time, but from the township itself (Exmouth). We thought it was pretty exciting at the time."

Kate also revealed that her dad "...was fascinated by Astronomy and he would point out all the stars, planets... we often sat on the front step to "spot sputniks"...so I am not surprised that Dad had his eyes on the sky, that night in October 1973."

"One thing I am surprised about in the reports that I have read, is that Dad was thought to be US Navy, and not a civilian...I suppose because he worked on the base, people just presumed."

Bill Lynn (Snr.) passed away, aged 82, in 2005.

Kate concluded "...he was a very honest, down-to-earth, hard working, loveable man with a huge heart and a twinkle in his eye!"

Kate supplied the author with scanned copies of some pages from her Dad's notebooks, plus a letter from 1976 which he wrote. Together with a hand written letter by Bill Lynn found on the file in the National archives, there is no doubt that her dad was the Bill Lynn mentioned in the RAAF's documents which refer to the 25 October 1973 incident.


I wish to thank both Kate and Bill (Jnr.) for their assistance in providing details of their father's background, and their recollections of the incident.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Royal Australian Air Force and UAS - the end of an era

Hi all,

From my research into the subject of what the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) refer to as Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS), I know that the RAAF's official interest, ceased in December 1993 (click here.)

However, for many years after that, a Defence Instruction existed, which was effectively the Australian Department of Defence's continuing policy on UAS. As far as anyone outside of the Department was concerned, this Defence Instruction was still in existence. However, not so.

Melbourne researcher Paul Dean, was recently in correspondence with the office of the Chief of Air Force. Their response letter to Paul, included "Since 1996 the recording of any UAS has been a civil matter. The Defence Instruction that you have referred to was cancelled in March 2013 and Defence has no current policy on this issue."

This is well and truly the end of an era, which started around 1951, with the issue of a proforma by the Australian government, Air Board looking to capture details of UAS.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Perth near miss with "unknown" - 2014 - earlier incidents located

Hi all,

Recent blog readers may recall previous posts (click here and here) about the 19 March 2014, near miss, between a Skippers Aviation aircraft (VH-XFX click here for details of this aircraft) and an "unknown," near Perth International airport. A little research found that this is not the first such event at this location.


As part of the response to a Freedom of Information request to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) I received the details of  a 1998 incident.

At 1515hrs on 8 November 1998, an aircraft was 28kms NW of Perth Aerodrome, Western Australia. The pilot reported an unidentified flying object, bright red/orange in colour, 30 metres below his plane, travelling very fast, as the aircraft passed 9,000 feet. The object was estimated to be approximately 2 metres across. The pilot said he believed that the object may have been a model aircraft.


The "West Australian" newspaper, of Saturday, 18 April 2009, page 7 ran the headline "Toy plane crashes into jet."

The story was that a radio controlled model aircraft had collided with a jet, either a Virgin Blue or a Qantas aircraft. Two young men had been observed operating the model, some 500 metres from the runway threshold.

A more detailed account appeared on page nine of the Tuesday, 21 April 2009, issue of the "West Australian."

At 0800hrs on Friday 17 April 2009, a model aircraft "...came within seconds of colliding with the 160 seat 737 aircraft..." "Enthusiasts from Australian and New Zealand have tracked down the man they believe responsible...and have given his details and the video to WA police." The model plane was 88cm long, with a 1 metre wingspan, and weighed 850g. The video taken by the operator of the model is still available to view, on Youtube (click here.)


Compare the above two incidents, both of which appear to have involved model aircraft, with the 19 March 2014 event.

In 2014, the "unknown" was described by the pilot as:

* Cylindrical in shape - no wings, propellors, etc. were reported
* Grey in colour
* Had what appeared to be a "strobe light" on it.

In addition, the "unknown":

* did not appear on primary radar
* did not trigger the aircraft's TCAS (click here for details about TCAS.)

The ATSB was unable to locate a UAV operator who might have been operating a UAV in the area at the time.

For a very detailed look at what the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has to say about what it refers to as "Remotely Piloted Aircraft" (or UAV) click here. It makes for very interesting reading.

In summary, this 2014 near miss between an aircraft and an "unknown," in my opinion, remains a UAP (unidentified aerial phenomenon), the subject of interest of this blog.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New book alert - Watson

Hi all,

I only recently caught up with Nigel Watson's 2013 book, "UFO Investigations Manual: UFO Investigations from 1892 to the present day," published by Haynes Publishers, Sparkford, Yeovill, UK. ISBN 978-0-85733-400-8 (click here.) My copy was courtesy of the publishers.


The introduction to the book opens with an excellent insight into UFO research, "Ufology - the study of UFOs - is equally exciting, educational, exhilarating, enlightening, exasperating, exhausting and embarrassing." The rest of the introduction provides a concise and balanced overview of the current state of play of Ufology.


Chapters one through three cover the 'waves' of sightings between 1892 and 1947; details of official UFO studies; "hotspots," and patterns in the data. Here the reader gets a look at statistics; expert studies which have been conducted, and locations where UFOs pop up with greater regularity than at other places on earth.

Chapters four through six cover "classifying and identifying UFOs;" "identifying type 1 cases;" and "physical evidence." Here we learn of classification systems which have been introduced; and some of the evidence for the physical nature of the phenomenon.

Chapters seven through ten cover close encounters of the third kind; reported retrievals of 'crashed UFOs,' abductions; contactees, and finally a discussion of potential explanations for the phenomenon.

Something for everyone:

Even as a seasoned field investigator and researcher, in this book I found information about specific cases and personalities, which was new to me.

The book does touch on a few Australian cases, e.g. a sketch of the July 1965 Vaucluse Beach CE1; a mystery aircraft in 1942, and the January 1966 Tully 'swirled reeds in a lagoon' case.

I particularly liked that Watson provides a list of references at the end of each chapter. I also found the numerous photographs and illustrations, of interest.

I found that Watson presents a balanced viewpoint, providing pros and cons on a variety of aspects; e.g. should a witness put their name to their sighting; or on potential mundane explanations for some sightings. Many books written by UFO 'believers' tend to overlook the latter.

The book's appendices feature useful information to anyone looking to conduct their own investigations; selected web site resources, and a glossary, plus index.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend it to both the beginner or the more advanced researcher.