From my investigation of the F-89 disappearance, there are at least three key questions that form the core of the mystery as it relates to what happened to the F-89 and crew on that snowy night in November, 1953.
What merged on radar?
A second unanswered question is what was it that the F-89 merged with on radar before contact was lost with the F-89?
According to the report documenting the USAF Official Accident Board's Investigation, the F-89's radar return was observed to merge with the return from the RCAF C-47 before contact was lost with the F-89.
Keyhoe reports he was told that the F-89 radar return didn't merge with anything on radar. The source told Keyhoe that the F-89 was miles away from the other blip when it crashed into Lake Superior.
Since that time, others have made claims that the F-89's return must have merged with the return from a flock of birds or perhaps a phantom radar echo from the F-89.
Keyhoe's account suggests that it the F-89 was chasing a UFO when it observed to merge with the UFO on radar.
F-89 Merged with RCAF C-47
The official report from the USAF Accident Investigation Board states the following on page two of Form 14, referring to the F-89 and the "unknown aircraft":
After the turn was completed, the pilot was advised the unidentified aircraft was at 11 o'clock, ten miles distant. Radar returns from both aircraft were then seen to merge on "Pillow's" radar scope. The radar return from the other aircraft indicated it was continuing on its original flight path, while the return from the F-89 disappeared from the GCI station's radar scope.
A few paragraphs later, under "Investigation and Analysis" the report identifies the unknown aircraft:
The unknown aircraft being intercepted was a Royal Canadian Air Force Dakota (C-47), Serial No. VC-912, flying from Winnipeg to Sudberry, Canada. At the time of interception it was crossing Northern Lake Superior from west to east at 7,000 feet. This flight path was approximately 30 miles south of the intended flight path.
The only supporting information contained with in the report for the accounting of the identity of the unknown is contained in the statement written by 2nd Lt. Douglas A. Stuart, the GCI controller at "Pillow". His statement opens by identifying the unknown which was the target of the intercept:
When A-27-T was picked up by Pillow (P-16) it was believed to be VC-912, but because the aircraft was off the flight plan course by about 30 miles, it was classified as 'UNknown'.
From the information I have obtained during the course of my investigation, I have concluded the following with respect to this aspect of the official explanation.
- The RCAF C-47, VC-912, was flying over Lake Superior from west to east at the time of the intercept, on a flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba to its home base at Rockcliffe Air Force Base, near Ottawa, Ontario.
- The pilot of this aircraft was Gerald Fosberg, who states that his aircraft was never off course during this flight. He states the maximum error of the radio based navigation system as being about 5 miles.
This evidence suggests that the purpose of the intercept contained in the report, is likely a USAF fabrication and brings into question the truthfullness of the statement made by 2nd Lt. Douglas A. Stuart.
The USAF account of the purpose of the intercept mission has also been brought into question in correspondence by RCAF officials in response to queries about the Kinross incident.
What Stuart's statement does suggest is that the identity of the RCAF C-47 was known throughout the intercept. The USAF GCI controllers were tracking its course. Is it possible that the RCAF and the RCAF pilot were unaware that their plane was off course and was being tracked by the F-89?
What is revealed in the accident report and other correspondence is that the USAF never once indicated to the RCAF or the RCAF pilot of the C-47 that his plane was the target of the intercept mission. If the plane was in fact "off-course" as stated, you would think the USAF would have mentioned this to the pilot of the aircraft and/or other RCAF authorities, but there is no evidence this action was ever taken. If the RCAF had been informed about the off-course status of its aircraft, then it would seem likely that some sort of follow-up investigation would have followed to determine the cause and search for remedial action. My correspondence with RCAF pilot, Gerald Fosberg indicates that no investigation of the sort was ever made by the RCAF.
It is possible that the USAF was just using the C-47 as a pretext for a "mock intercept" training mission. But why would they need to lie about this if this were the case? During the 1950's, all kinds of Air Force planes crashed on routine training missions.
If the statement made by Lt. Stuart contains a factual error about the purpose of the intercept mission, I believe this quite possibly indicates the whole investigation report might be a deliberate fabrication to cover up something more sinister, such as a UFO pursuit which ended with the disappearance of the F-89 and its crew.
F-89 Merged with Nothing
This account of the disappearance of the F-89 is contained within UFO investigator, Donald Keyhoe's book "The Flying Saucer Conspiracy". During his investigation of the Kinross F-89 disappearance, Donald Keyhoe made several telephone calls to First Lt. Robert C. White, a Public Information Officer, at the Pentagon's Air Force Press Desk.
When Donald Keyhoe asked Lt. White about the official statement made by Truax Field, that the F-89 had merged with an object 70 miles off KeWeenaw Point, Lt. White was reported as replying, "Thats not true." When Keyhoe asked if the AP story was wrong, White is reported to have replied:
Well ... no. Truax made the statement. But the 'merging' part was a mistake. That second blip was from some object actually miles from the F-89.
When Keyhoe asked why the GCI had stated they had merged, Lt White responded "They just read the scope wrong."
It is important to note that the merging of the returns on the scope, does not necessarily imply actual physical contact. Firstly, the F-89 could be flying at a different altitude and could pass above or below its target. Secondly the resolution of the radar screen is such that the returns are displayed larger than actual scale size, otherwise, the returns would be impossible to represent on the screen. However, it is quite a leap to suggest that the GCI operators would state the returns had merged when the targets were "miles apart". If the equipment and operators were that unreliable, it would be impossible for the radar system to be of much practical use in guiding the pilot's to intercept an unknown.
Lt. White's statement may indicate that Air Force officials at the Pentagon were worried about the implications of an intercept with a UFO which resulted in the disappearance of their aircraft. Whether the disappearance was from the capture of the aircraft, or a collision and crash of the F-89, it would imply an inability to prevent penetration of the air space by an intruder. It might also suggest a hostile intent by the unknown intruders flying the UFOs. The Air Force was already worried about public alarm over the possibility that the UFOs might be vehicles from a technologically superior civilization from another planet. Clearly, they would not want the public to be alarmed by awareness that the USAF was vulnerable in its sorties of UFOs in US air space.
F-89 Merged with Radar Reflection
This theory has mainly been advanced as an alternative explanation by skeptics who use this as a theory to discount witness testimony of radar images from UFOs.
To my knowledge, this was most famously advanced as a theory to explain the "UFO waves" recorded at multiple radar sites over Washington on at least two nights in July, 1952.
Radar "ghosts" are a real anomoly which is caused by reflection of the radar return from an atmospheric layer. This can create a secondary return from the radar target which is displayed in a different position from the real return on the radar.
Some persons, seeking to discredit the witness testimony of radar operators, suggest that radar unknowns that are not identified as actual aircraft, are merely ghost reflections of a real radar target, or alternatively, returns from flocks of birds or other airborne anomolies.
Such misidentifications do occur, but they are sometimes invoked inappropriately by those who overreach to try to find an easy explanation for soem unsolved UFO cases.
In the case of the Kinross Incident, the "radar ghost" explanation apparently appears in a project Blue Book file on the case. It is important to note that there never was an actual investigation by Project Blue Book into the Kinross Incident apparently because the incident was never reported to the Blue Book office as a potential UFO encounter. The Blue Book file was only opened due to a response from the public who had made inquiries to the Air Force about the accounts that the F-89 disappearance was related to its pursuit of a UFO.
The opening of the file was done for the purpose of providing an explanation for the event to those who made inquiries to the Blue Book office. Apparently, the main entry was a speculation from UFO official debunker, Donald Menzel, that the incident was probably caused by a radar ghost.
It is highly unlikely that the GCI operators guided the F-89 over 150 miles out over Lake Superior in pursuit of a flock of birds or the reflection of the F-89 from an atmospeheric layer.
If the account of the information contained in the Blue Book Kinross file is correct, this would be very strange. Why wouldn't the Air Force supply the explanation contained it its own accident investigation report? Is it because the Air Force knew the report was itself false and was just clinging to anything for a possible explanation?
F-89 Merged with UFO
It was in Donald Keyhoe's book, "The Flying Saucer Conspiracy" that it was suggested that the F-89 had merged with a UFO on radar.
Oddly, in his book, there is no mention of the RCAF C-47. The only other aircraft referred to is a Canadian DC-3 which PIO Lt. White at the Pentagon reported was over Soo Locks by mistake. According to Keyhoe's book, this is what caused the alert.
It was only later, after the book was published that Donald Keyhoe seemed to encounter the explanation that the UFO was an unidentified RCAF C-47. The C-47 is a military version of the DC-3.
In Keyhoe's book, the two pilots of the DC-3 were interviewed on Frank Edwards radio program. On this program, they apparently denied that they were ever over Soo Locks.
What is mysterious about this version of the story, is that I have found no mention of this explanation for the intercept in any of the newspaper accounts that were published the day after the F-89 crashed. All of them refer to the RCAF C-47 as the target of the intercept. What accounts for this anomoly?
Is it possible that Keyhoe was reporting about an interview on Frank Edwards radio program that never took place? Or is it possible that Frank Edwards interviewed two pilots from a Canadian DC-3 jetliner in response to what was merely a rumor that was never officially issued by the Air Force to the press. Was the DC-3 explanation deliberate disinformation fed to Keyhoe and others, possibly to discredit their story or was the USAF temporarily confused about the actual events that occured that night?
According to NICAP (the UFO organization headed by Donald Keyhoe), there were two explanations for the unknown provided by the USAF. The first being a Canadian commercial DC-3 airliner which was over Soo Locks by mistake. The second being an RCAF C-47 flying 30 miles off course from its flight plan from west to east over Lake Superior.
The second explanation is clearly more believable than the first as there is no way to explain why the F-89 was over the middle of the lake pursueing a DC-3, that had initially been reported as "over Soo Locks".
On the other hand, if the USAF was really confused about the identity of a UFO, then it would make some sense that they possibly had some trouble explaining the purpose of the intercept.
The Keyhoe book suggests there was a third UFO or unidentified aircraft, which had caused the alert when it appeared on radar over Soo Locks. If an identified aircraft had penetrated restricted air space over Soo Locks, the first action would probably be to alert the pilot of the aircraft, although it would also make sense for EADF to send a jet interceptor to the location in case the aircraft had hostile intentions.
If an actual unidentified aircraft had penetrated restricted air space over Soo Locks, then it would certainly make sense to send a jet interceptor to identify the aircraft and take appropriate actions. If the F-89 had in fact pursued an unidentified aircraft from Soo Locks out over the middle of the lake, and then disappeared from radar after merging on the screen with the unknown aircraft, then this would be a real mystery.
If the USAF failed to identify the intruder, it is possible that they would want to cover up this story, even if the intruder was just an unidentified aircraft. Thus it would make sense that they might fabricate a false story about the target being an RCAF C-47, even though they knew this was not true.
If the aircraft was never identified, this suggests two possibilities:
- The USAF and RCAF were never able to identify aircraft because they lost radar contact with it sometime on its journey before it landed.
- The USAF and RCAF were never able to identify the aircraft because it was not an aircraft that needed to land at an airport or air strip. Perhaps it was a helicopter which could land anywhere, although it seems highly unlikely that a helicopter could outrun an F-89 for such a long distance.
This does once again suggest a possibilty that the unknown might have been a craft of unknown origin and technology - a UFO by definition and possibly a vehicle of extraterrestrial origin.