July 28, 1978
Location: Tranquillity, California, United States
the witness: "That sighting of 28 July made a very
deep and lasting impression. I can still see the glowing
orange, flattened sphere as vividly in my mind as it appeared
on that early morning many years ago. I have no doubt
that the device (or whatever it was) was real - there
is absolutely no way that it could have been a product
of my imagination."
Brian Vike, HBCCUFO Research (hbccufo.org)
to original source]
the summer of 1978, I was flying for a crop dusting operation
near Tranquillity, California. At that time, I had been
a duster pilot for over sixteen years, and flying nights
since 1965. In central California during the summer months,
certain fields are treated after dark, mainly to protect
workers and honeybees from exposure to AG chemicals.
the early morning of 28 July, just before three a.m.,
I was sitting in the cockpit of my airplane, a Rockwell
Thrush Commander. The aircraft was parked, with its engine
shut down and all interior and exterior lights off, at
the south end of a one-half mile dirt runway, located
about five miles southwest of Mendota, a small town in
the San Joaquin Valley, about thirty miles west of Fresno.
The Thrush was lined up with the runway, facing due north.
had just finished spraying a quarter-section cotton field,
and was getting ready to spray another. My two girl flaggers
were already in place on the field I was about to treat,
and my loader was busy mixing a batch of pesticide to
be applied on it.
was a calm, cloudless night, typical of midsummer in the
San Joaquin Valley. The air temperature at ground level
was around seventy degrees, and the visibility was good.
Although I was somewhat tired, I was not at all sleepy.
I had drunk several cups of coffee from my thermos during
the previous six hours, and I have always been sensitive
to caffeine as a stimulant.
I sat in the cockpit, waiting for the first load to be
pumped into the hopper tank, I glanced over to my right
at the crescent moon rising in the east, and then turned
back to again face north. At this time, I noticed a dim,
diffused orange glow, low in the sky to the northwest,
about forty-five degrees to the left of the aircraft nose.
first thought was that a house, barn, or other nearby
ranch building had caught fire, but I discarded that possibility
almost immediately. I knew the area quite well (an absolute
necessity for safe night AG flying) and the glow was in
the direction of the field that I was about to spray.
I had flown this same field several times before, and
knew there were no buildings in the immediate vicinity.
I decided that if it was a fire, it had to be much farther
possibility was discarded a few seconds later, when the
orange glow began to slowly rise. When it was about thirty
degrees above the horizon, it started moving toward the
east. At first, this movement was quite slow, but within
a few seconds, it speeded up. The glow then began to take
on an elongated form, markedly longer in the vertical
plane than in the horizontal. It reminded me of a segment
of searchlight beam, except that the entire light column
moved laterally, while oriented nearly straight up and
down, rather than in a radius around a fixed light source.
The length of the column seemed to be about ten to twenty
degrees of vertical sky coverage.
the light column passed through due north, straight ahead
over the airplane nose, it continued accelerating and
becoming brighter. I then realized that I was viewing
something that was totally different from my many other
nighttime sightings of missile launches, satellites, planets,
and other aircraft.
yelled for my loader to look, but the noise of the mix
rig engine drowned out my voice, and because his attention
was focused on opening cans of pesticide on the opposite
side of the mix tank, he didn't see my frantic signals.
I climbed out of the cockpit onto the left wing, planning
to jump down and run around the trailer to alert him.
Then I had the thought that if I did, I might miss a vital
part of the display, so I remained standing on the wing.
passing abeam of the runway end, the object continued
accelerating for a short time, perhaps five to ten seconds.
It then climbed slightly, and at the same time, abruptly
slowed. During this phase, the glow was becoming brighter,
while the vertical beam was shortening, forming itself
into a more compact mass of light.
about forty-five degrees off to my right, the object,
now considerably brighter, and resembling a glowing ball,
came to a stop for several seconds. It then reversed course,
and once again began moving, this time back to the west.
seconds after starting its westward movement, and without
slowing, the ball of light instantly assumed the shape
of a well-defined, flattened sphere with pointed ends,
which emitted a steady orange glow. At this time, it began
a shallow descent, gathering speed and leveling out around
twenty degrees above the horizon. It flew with its pointed
ends parallel to the ground. From my position, the size
of the object looked to be about that of a large pea or
small marble when held at arms length.
the glowing, flattened sphere was directly over the Thrush's
nose, it abruptly halted, going from a high rate of speed
to a dead stop almost instantaneously. It remained stationary
for no more than a few seconds - five at the most. Although
this would have been the best opportunity to determine
the object's true size, I was unable to make an estimate,
since its distance from me was unknown. On the report
which I later submitted, I placed it at one to three miles
away, but that distance is highly speculative.
its momentary halt, the object again accelerated. Within
a few seconds, it had resumed its previous high speed,
but appeared to have turned ninety degrees, and was now
climbing directly away from me at a very steep angle.
Its heading was due north, and as it rose, it attained
what looked to be the highest speed reached during the
entire time it had been in view.
of the unknown size and distance of the object, and the
fact that it was climbing at an angle directly away from
me, this speed was impossible to estimate accurately.
Judging from the rate at which it seemed to grow smaller
though, it looked to be travelling about three to five
times faster than a jet airliner at an altitude of around
thirty thousand feet, as seen from the ground.
this climb, the object also reached its maximum brightness,
only very slightly less than that of the crescent moon.
As it continued to rise, it began to dim. It finally vanished
from my sight high above the horizon (about sixty to seventy
degrees), over the glow of the lights of Firebaugh, another
small town about 12 miles due north of my position.
total time which the object remained in view, from my
first sighting of the diffused mass of light until the
final disappearance of the flattened sphere, seemed to
be about 40-50 seconds, but an accurate estimate is quite
difficult. It could have been somewhat shorter, but almost
certainly wasn't longer.
the episode, I remained relatively calm, but was filled
with awe when I realized that I had just witnessed a phenomenon
about which I had previously only read, and, up to that
time, was not at all certain actually existed.
soon as the object disappeared, I jumped off the wing
and asked my loader if he had seen anything. He had not,
and when I told him what I had witnessed, he was disappointed,
to say the least. He finished mixing the batch of pesticide,
and I sprayed four loads on the field. I then sprayed
another quarter-section located northeast of the strip
without further incident.
returning to Tranquillity, I sought out my two flaggers,
and asked them if they had seen anything unusual the previous
night. They were both very evasive and reluctant to answer
my questions, and kept trying to change the subject. I
finally got them to admit that they had also seen the
object. Their view of it had been better than my own,
since they described it as somewhat larger and brighter
than it had appeared from my location. From this, I estimated
that they were closer to it than I had been, although
it had still remained to the north of them.
further questioning, the fact emerged that they had also
seen the same object on the previous two nights, while
flagging for another pilot. The girls described it very
aptly as "a little, flat, flying football."
They had told no one else of these previous sightings,
and remained very reluctant to discuss them with me. I
later talked with the other pilot, who stated that he
had seen nothing out of the ordinary on either night.
nights later, at around midnight, I was in the air, returning
to Tranquillity from the western edge of the valley. I
was heading almost due east, flying at about five hundred
feet. Suddenly, to the south, just off my right wing,
at what seemed to be considerable distance away, I again
sighted a column of diffused light. This time, the glow
was more yellowish than orange. It appeared to move very
slowly to the west, and I waited for a few seconds to
see if another bright, oval shape would materialize from
it. This did not occur. I then turned the airplane toward
the light column, and flashed my two field lights of six
hundred watts each. It immediately disappeared, and I
saw no further evidence of the phenomenon.
few days afterward, I wrote to the National Investigative
Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), and reported the
first sighting. Since the second light column had seemed
rather far away, and was visible for only a short time,
I didn't mention it. I later made out a NICAP report form
and returned it. There was no reply from the organization,
and I later learned that NICAP became non-operational
the next year.
sighting of 28 July made a very deep and lasting impression.
I can still see the glowing orange, flattened sphere as
vividly in my mind as it appeared on that early morning,
many years ago. I have no doubt that the device (or whatever
it was) was real - there is absolutely no way that it
could have been a product of my imagination. Twelve years
previously, I had flown in the Sudan with some AG pilots
who mentioned seeing somewhat similar objects in Arkansas
that same time, many persons in the Mendota-Tranquillity
area claimed to have seen, over a period of several nights,
a gigantic, black object, with strange, multi-colored
flashing lights. It moved slowly, making no sound, and
was so huge that it obscured a significant portion of
the night sky. (This fits the "mother ship"
description of which I later read in various UFO accounts.)
I never saw this vehicle, so I can't verify its existence,
but it was the talk of all of the little towns on the
west side of the San Joaquin Valley for many weeks afterward.
the years, I have seen two other unusual objects during
night AG flying operations in the same general area. I
once observed a bright blue light descend slowly to the
ground from a high altitude, and watched, for a minute
or so, a group of several bright white lights in a perfect
"L" formation. They were flying very high and
very fast, much faster than any known conventional aircraft.
Neither of these incidents had the visual and psychological
impact of the 1978 sighting however.
I write this, I have spent over 35 years in agricultural
aviation, and accumulated more than eleven thousand hours
of AG flying time, several thousand of these at night.
During the many thousands of hours I have spent outdoors
after dark, I have seen hundreds of satellites, about
thirty missile launches from Vandenberg AFB, all of the
visible planets under widely varying sky conditions, and
many thousands of military and civilian aircraft in all
modes of flight. What I saw on that early July morning
was totally unlike anything else I have ever observed
in the night sky.
then, I have read hundreds of books dealing with all aspects
of UFOs. Many of them contain accounts that are inconsistent
and contradictory, while others are obviously outright
fantasy. A few, however, seem to be authentic. Unlike
most other UFO researchers, my search for the truth behind
the many thousands of documented appearances of these
phenomena is driven by the certain knowledge that they,
in fact, exist.
date, despite many years of research, I am still unable
to form a definite opinion as to the substance and meaning
of these mysterious and logic-defying objects. I hope,
however, to somehow correlate the mass of at-times conflicting
information, and determine their true origin and purpose,
before I make that last flight West."
the above article was first published, (removed by HBCC
UFO) received a letter from a 25,000 hour commercial pilot
who had sighted what was essentially the same phenomenon
on a night in January of 1978, six months before my own
was on a charter flight with several passengers aboard
and cruising at 8,500 feet when, at about 9 p.m., he looked
to the west of his course and saw a similar cycle of light
begin. He started to turn toward it to get a better view,
but his passengers had no desire whatever to get any closerthey
became quite agitated and "strongly objected,"
so he reluctantly turned away from the spectacle so as
to calm them down. By the time he got back on his original
heading, the light show was over. He also mentioned that
he had seen a flight of "silvery disks" somewhere
over north central Washington sometime in the 1950's.
by HBCC UFO) also got a letter from a distinguished professor
at a northern California university, who dismissed my
sighting as "only the aurora borealis, or northern
lights." I have seen the northern lights a number
of times. Once, when they were exceptionally strong, they
even appeared on the horizon in southern California. Of
course, they bear no resemblance whatever to what I saw
in the sky that morning, and anyone reading the article
who has also seen the northern lights should have been
able to comprehend that there was a vast difference between
them. Some professor! Some aurora borealis!
the article first appeared, I have had one more sighting
of something that remains unexplained in my mind. My wife
also saw it, and is likewise at a loss to explain it.
an early summer evening, we were lying on our backs on
a lawn, watching the passage of the linked space shuttle/space
station as they passed overhead. It was a very bright
object, and had appeared exactly at the time forecast.
15 seconds after it had passed directly above us, we saw
a bright white, flashing light on approximately the same
track as the linked vehicles, but some distance behind
them. It was nearly directly overhead also. The light
didn't move in the same direction however. Instead, it
flashed, disappeared, and then flashed again in another
location some distance away from its original position.
This cycle repeated itself about five or six times, with
the light appearing at a different part of the sky each
time, then the object disappeared.
mailed an account of this sighting to the National Aviation
Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, an organization
which gathers reports of unexplained aerial object sighting
from all over the world. They mostly come from airline
pilots. The reply stated that this same "flashing,
disappearing/reappearing light" was one of the most
common objects reported by a large number of pilots, none
of whom were able to explain it. Neither was NARCAP.
I have been searching for 40 years, I myself am no wiser
as to the origin or purpose of these various unidentified
flying objects which are being reported with increasing
frequency all over the world. However, since there is
nothing in the universe that is "supernatural,"
I am convinced that they are a part of some larger phenomena
yet to be discovered."
Unexplained Sighting Over Northern Alabama
(Published in - Removed by HBCC UFO - September 1995 as
sidebar to "A Little Flat Flying Football")
I travel by airline, I always try to get a window seat,
because I like to look out on the ever-changing clouds
and sky and watch the ground passing below. Thus, on 21
April 1994, at approximately 1310 EDT, I was in the rearmost
right window seat of a Delta Lockheed L-1011. The aircraft
was nearly full of passengers, heading west/northwest
on a flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City.
were in a climb to cruising altitude, passing through
approximately 18/20,000 feet, when I suddenly saw, almost
directly below, two seemingly circular bright, glowing
white objects, with no visible wings or tail surfaces,
moving toward the northeast at a very high speed. I spotted
them just after they had passed under the airplane.
I have no knowledge of their size, or their distance from
the aircraft, it's hard to say how far below they actually
were, or at what speed they were traveling. I can tell
you that they were moving very fast though...much faster
than the fastest military fighter aircraft would be capable
of flying, especially at that relatively low altitude.
Besides that, with only a few exceptions for test and
tactical ranges in several of the western states, supersonic
flight is forbidden over the continental US, and these
machines were traveling at a speed which was obviously
much higher than the speed of sound would have been at
that altitude. And of course, all military aircraft of
all the services are now coated with either radar-absorptive
or camouflage paint, and thus are either a uniform dull
grey or a dull gray/green mottled color combination.
these objects were flying together, they were not in a
close formation, such as tactical military aircraft would
normally be, but approximately 3-5 degrees apart. As they
moved away below, they seemed to drift a little farther
away from each other.
watched them disappear in the distance, and then looked
forward along the row of seats to see if anyone ahead
of me was pointing, gesturing, or giving some indication
that they had also seen the objects. No one was...all
of the other passengers had the window shades down and
were watching some dumb Whoopee Goldberg movie. Evidently
I was the only one looking out the window.
this didn't have the same impact as my previous sighting
of July 1978, it was still an exciting experience. I only
wish I had seen an indication that someone else on that
airplane had sighted the machines...or whatever they were."