Wednesday, May 28, 2014

HIBAL Westall hypothesis under test

Hi all,

In a previous post (click here) I postulated a novel hypothesis as an explanation for the 6 April 1966 Westall case. Since then, I have spent time seeking to disprove the hypothesis myself, as have others. HIBAL flight 292 was at the centre of the conjecture.

Counter argument:

One counter argument put forward, was that perhaps the reason why the Bureau of Meteorology HIBAL files, do not contain a list of actual balloon launches for April 1966, and the success/failure status of each flight, was that perhaps April 1966 was a month of failures, i.e. there were no successful flights, and therefore flight 292 could not have made its way to Westall.

In order to check on this possibility of no successful flights in April 1966, I went searching in contemporary newspapers.


I first looked through microfiche copies of the "Adelaide Advertiser" and the Adelaide "Sunday Mail." There were no articles in either paper, during April 1966, concerning HIBAL flights.

I then checked through a physical copy of the Mildura based "Sunraysia Daily" for April 1966, held in the State Library of South Australia. This was because the HIBAL program mainly launched balloons from Mildura. I thought that if any paper would contain details of flights, the "Sunraysia Daily" would. I located two, April 1966, articles about HIBAL. These were:

Article one:

(Sunraysia Daily, Thursday 21 April 1966, page 3.)

"Balloon launch delayed.

Plans for the launch of another super balloon, from Mildura airport today have been dropped because of an approaching front.

Conditions earlier yesterday suggested the weather would be suitable today for the sending of a balloon of 242 foot diameter to a height of 120,000 feet.

But tests with weather balloons yesterday afternoon showed that winds at the high levels would swing the balloon too close to Swan Hill at the time its payload should be released and that the increasing northerlies could swing it south - well outside the allowable impact zone.

An effort would be made to launch the big balloon as soon as conditions improve.

The Balloon Launching Crew had success on Tuesday with a balloon which went to 105,000 feet and dropped its payload on Til Til station property, north of Balranald and about 100 miles north-north-east of Mildura. The flight was a success in all respects."

Article two:

(Sunraysia Daily, Thursday 28 April 1966, page 1.)

"Giant Hibal balloon in successful flight.

A super giant Project Hibal balloon was sent aloft from Mildura Aerodrome for a successful six and a half hour flight yesterday.

It was the biggest balloon ever launched in Australia to complete a successful flight, and followed in the shadow of failure to launch a similar balloon here in February.

The balloon was sent aloft to gather atmospheric data for the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

The huge balloon - 242 feet in diameter was launched from Mildura Airport by the Hibal crew at 7.30 yesterday morning. It climbed gradually and reached the required height of 120,000 feet.

Hibal officials expected the balloon to land about 90 miles east of Mildura.

But it was caught by winds estimated at 80 knots and landed some 250 miles east of Mildura, 15 miles south-west of Narrandera.

The payload parachuted to earth from the burst balloon at 2pm.

The Hibal recovery crew travelled to the spot where the payload landed and returned with the equipment late last night.

The launching of the balloon was scheduled for 6.45am but because of the size of the huge balloon, an extra hour was involved in preparing it for launching, compared to the smaller balloons.

The balloon was sent to Mildura from America.

A similar Project Hibal balloon was successfully launched from the airport about the middle of February this year, but burst prematurely at 31,000 feet.

It was believed that a freak wind jet was responsible for this failure."

Flight details:

The Bureau of Meteorology HIBAL file has a memo on it, which gives the dates of the proposed launches for April 1966. These dates were:

1. April 5th - flight 292 - 90,000 feet.
2. April 13th - flight 293 - 80,000 feet.
3. April 19th - flight 294 - 105,000 feet.
4. April 21st - flight 295 - 120,000 feet.

There is also mention of an additional non HIBAL April flight to 120,000 feet.

The Bureau file has no memo on it which gives the dates of the actual flights, however I have now confirmed the following:

1. Flight 292 -?????
2. Flight 293 - Confirmed by the log book of one of the HIBAL chase aircraft pilots, to me. Successful.
3. Flight 294 - Confirmed in the "Sunraysia Daily' of 21 April 1966. Successful to 105,00 feet.
4. Flight 295 - Rescheduled from April 21st to April 27th as stated in the "Sunraysia Daily" of 21 and 28 April. Successful to 120,000 feet.

I found no information on the additional non-HIBAL flight to 120,000 feet.

So, the idea that there were no successful HIBAL flights in April 1966, is proved incorrect.

Flight 292:

What about flight 292? The one the HIBAL hypothesis suggests caused the Westall event? None of the papers I consulted contains any articles on this flight. We are none the wiser as to its status.


There is however, one interesting piece of information I gathered from the "Daily." Shane Ryan from Canberra, asked me if I knew the direction of the wind on 5 April 1966 at Mildura. This date was the scheduled launch date for flight 292. When Shane asked me, I did not. I do now.

The "Daily" for 5 April 1966 (page 1) provides the forecast for Mildura, the site of the HIBAL launches. The surface wind direction was from the north to north-west, meaning that near the surface the HIBAL balloon would have travelled south to south-east, the direction in which Westall lies from Mildura. Now, of course, as we have no details of the upper wind direction, this piece of information has minimal value.

However, it is interesting to note that the "Daily" article of 21 April 1966 speaks of delaying a launch because the high altitude winds were from the north, potentially driving the balloon south - "well outside the allowable impact zone."

The 27 April 1966 HIBAL launch landed 250 miles east of Mildura, after high altitude winds also drove it outside the predicted impact zone.

In summary:

Despite a search of a local Mildura newspaper which carried regular articles on HIBAL since 1960, no record of flight 292 was located. The mystery continues.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Near collision 2014 - unknown object - Perth - the official report released

Hi all,


In two previous blog posts, (click here and here) I reported that eagle-eyed  Melbourne researcher, Paul Dean, had spotted an interesting Australian Transport Safety Bureau preliminary report. This report concerned a near collision between an "unknown object," and a De Havilland DHC-8 aircraft, registration VH-XFX, near Perth international airport on 19 March 2014.

FOI requests:

In jointly researching the incident, Paul Dean submitted an FOI request to Air Services Australia, asking for a copy of radar coverage around the time of the incident. Paul received the relevant radar data. Paul kindly sent me a copy of the data, and at run time 0106 the DHC-8 aircraft appears on the screen, and it, and surrounding commercial aircraft can be followed, until they land at Perth. The data was examined by an experienced air traffic controller, who advised that the data was a compilation of both primary and secondary radar, but that no "unknown object" appeared on the screen.

Meanwhile, with Paul's concurrence, I simultaneously submitted an FOI request to the Department of Defence, seeking a copy of any primary radar coverage from RAAF Perth, around the time of the incident. This FOI request was refused, on the grounds, that as the relevant radar tape had been re-used, in line with standing orders, and there was no such "document" that they could provide to me. I had been hoping that primary, as opposed to secondary radar, would show the "unknown object." Memo for next time is that one needs to submit an FOI request to the DOD immediately after an incident. This of course assumes that you hear about it right away. This was not the case with this particular incident.

Final ATSB report:

The four page ATSB report was released today. Here are excerpts from the report:

"...the crew sighted a bright strobe light directly in front of the aircraft...the light appeared to track towards the aircraft and the crew realised that the light was on an unknown object, possibly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)..." 

It passed the aircraft at extremely close range.

"The pilot reported that the object was cylindrical in shape and grey in colour. It was at about 3,700ft AMSL and in controlled airspace. The crew did not receive a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) alert. The airspace below 3,500ft AMSL was military restricted airspace and the Australian Defence Force was not operating UAVs and was not aware of any UAV operating in the area at the time of the incident. The ATSB was not able to confirm the details of the object or identify any UAV operator in the area at that time."


A cylindrical shaped, grey coloured, object,  caused an aircraft pilot to take action, to avoid a perceived collision, near Perth, Western Australia on 19 March 2014. The ATSB report suggested it was "possibly" a UAV. However, there is no confirmatory evidence that this is the definitive answer. I believe, therefore, that in my opinion, the object fits the definition of UAP.

Monday, May 19, 2014

"The Petrov Story"

Hi all,

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I read a large range of books. At the moment, I am reading a book titled "The Petrov Story" by Michael Bialoguski. 1989. Mandarin Australia. Melbourne. First published in 1955. (For more on Bialoguski click here.)

Most Australians will have heard of the defection of Soviet diplomat and secret agent, Vladimir Petrov in 1954. The year 1954, here in Australia, as with many European countries, saw large numbers of reports of "flying saucers." There are numerous newspaper accounts available in the TROVE digitised newspaper collection in the National Library of Australia.

You wouldn't expect to find a mention of our topic of interest in such a serious tome as this book. However, on page 147, in a section concerning an individual named Platkais, described as a member of the Soviet embassy in Australia, author Bialoguski writes:

"From this story Platkais moved on to flying saucers; there was no doubt, he inferred, that flying saucers existed, and that many of those that had been reported were, of Russian origin.

I might not have taken this seriously, but for the fact that, as he was about to elaborate, Petrov gave him a disapproving stare. Much to my disappointment Platkais stopped and changed the subject."

Friday, May 16, 2014

New book alert - Pope, Burroughs, Penniston

Hi all,


Yet another of a long line of books about the United Kingdom's 1980 Rendlesham Forest affair.

Previous books include:
Butler, B; Street, D; & Randles, J. 1984. "Skycrash."
Randles, J. 1991. "From Out of the Blue."
Randles, J. 1998. "UFO Crash Landing."
Bruni, G. 2000. "You Can't Tell the People."

This one is titled "Encounter in Rendlesham Forest: The Inside Story of the World's Best-Documented UFO Incident." 2014. The authors are Nick Pope, with John Burroughs and Jim Penniston. Pope is an English UFO researcher, while Burroughs and Penniston are Rendlesham witnesses. The publisher is Thomas Dunne Books. New York. ISBN 978-1-250-03810-4. There is a good index, but the book lacks a listing of the names, ranks etc. of the individuals written about in the book. With so many individuals being written about, I suspect many new readers will quickly lapse into confusion about who was who, and where they fitted into the scheme of things.

Here in one place are the detailed accounts of two of the central witnesses who say they were involved in a close encounter with "something" which left them deeply affected. Nick Pope provides details of official investigations ( or cover-up according to how you read it). For someone new to our subject, this book does provide a good overview of the events. However, for those already versed in the case, there are, in my opinion, some troubling aspects with the book.

A starting point:

The book makes some debatable claims, starting with: "Simply put, the Rendlesham Forest incident is by far the best-documented and most compelling UFO incident ever to have taken place." (p.xvi.) Some readers might disagree with this suggestion, citing Tehran (1976;) Socorro (1964;) the JAL case (1986;) or the Belgium flap of 1989/1990. I would suggest that the documentation on some of these cases is equal to, or exceeds that of, Rendlesham.

Another quote is "What follows is the inside story of a UFO incident that's bigger than Roswell..." (p.xix.) I would respectfully suggest that Roswell proponents will totally disagree with this statement. The Roswell saga proponents will say that there is more witness testimony; wider evidence of a cover-up, and with Roswell you can throw in stories of"alien bodies."

A third example is, "Ufologists ( as they label themselves) fall into two broad camps: true believers and die-hard debunkers." (p.89.) Researchers such as Eddie Bullard would disagree with this statement, having described a much broader ranger of views within the UFO research community. A question which arises in my mind is, which camp does UFO researcher and author Nick Pope, put himself in? A true believer or a die-hard debunker?

"Facts" not confirmed or sourced:

On several occasions the authors fail to provide a source for their statements. One example of this is the talk of "missing time" for Burroughs and Penniston. "The fact is our watches were behind and the shift commander said we were missing for 45 min." (p.10.) This "shift commander" is not named at this point, and I can find no evidence in the book that the shift commander was ever interviewed by Pope, and if so, did the shift commander confirm this 45 minutes? It was only 9 pages later that there is mention of a shift commander named Captain Mike Verrano. Again there seems to be no confirmation by Verrano that there was a loss of time to Burroughs and Penniston.

Another example is "...Staff Sergent Coffey recalls "My blotter was pulled and classified SECRET by the Base Commander" (p.146.) Yet I cannot find, in the book, a citation for this interview, e.g. Pope/Coffey 21 Aug 2010; or Burroughs/Coffey 27 Dec 1980 etc. There is no follow up comment as to how this piece of information was obtained.


The book contains numerous occasions when the authors qualify the information they provide, with statements, in the first 26 pages, such as:

"While there's some confusion over the exact time..." (p.3.)

"There's confusion about who arrived first." (p.5.)

In relation to floodlights which were ordered to be brought in, and why they malfunctioned: "There's confusion about this." (p.24,) with differing witnesses offering different accounts.

Regarding Halt's tape recording made at the time" " is the case with almost every aspect of this extraordinary story, there's controversy here..." (p.26.) Halt in 1999 referred to holding 4-5 hours of tape recordings, compared with the 18 minutes in the public domain.

By "confusion," I take it to mean that different people have provided different versions about a specific aspect of the events. In my opinion, the authors needed to detail and analyse these differences, for us,  in order to reconcile the varying accounts, where possible.

By "controversy" I take it to mean that different people hold different interpretations of aspects of the events.

Incomplete information:

It appears that some pieces of information are missing, such as "Somebody in the control tower checked the radar...The key piece of information that came back was that a "bogey"...had been tracked around fifteen minutes previously..." (p.4.) There seems to be no specific source cited for this piece of critical information that there was radar confirmation of the event. There was apparently an anonymous "somebody" involved.

From what is provided in examples such as this, I cannot tell whether the information is simply not known after an investigation; or whether no one had conducted an investigation at all.


I'd like to pick one specific aspect of the case, in order to demonstrate a difficulty I have in bold statements that the authors make. The specific aspect relates to whether or not, the medical records of Burroughs and Penniston are held in the classified-records section of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

On page 253, Burroughs himself states "I was medical records were classified..."

On page 256, the authors write: "We know that military medical records for John Burroughs and Jim Penniston are lodged in a classified-records section."

Yet, on page 224, in a section written by Mississippi attorney Pat Frascogna, there is "Evidently, John's records are classified..."

Yet again, on page xviii, "Burroughs's and Penniston's medical records appear to be held by a little-known classified-records section in the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Note the use of the differing words, "were classified;" "are lodged;" "Evidently," and "appear." Which, if any is correct? What is the original source of this information? The Frascogna quote comes from Burroughs; which states that a US Senator, Kyl, "...told him they felt my records could be located in the VA classified-records section..." (p.253.)

My reading of this aspect, is that Senator Kyl's "could" has been translated into "were classified;" "are lodged;" "Evidently;" and "appear" depending on who is telling the story.

There is no mention, that I could find, which tells me that anyone other than Burroughs checked with Senator Kyl to directly confirm that "could" is the correct interpretation.


For the reasons I outline above, I was disappointed with this book. Time and time again there were pieces of information, which had no sources cited; facts given that were not independently checked with the person that they attributed to, and it felt to me, that Pope, particularly, had failed in these areas.


Perhaps the most important issue for the ETH proponents of this case, is exactly what the two witnesses to the "close encounter" believe they experienced. ETH proponents have always lead us to believe that the case was a classic UFO. However:

" one sense Penniston is as cynical about aliens as he is about police cars, light houses...he talks about alien visitations not in terms of what was being covered up but in terms of it being the cover story..." (p.119.)

"Burroughs, too, talks about aliens in terms of a cover story: "I believe the alien part was planted by both governments at the beginning, to cover up what was really going on, both by people who know what they were doing and people who did not." (p.119.)

If the two central witnesses do not believe it was an extraterrestrial visitation, why should we?