One of the earliest recorded sightings by professional pilot – the story of Kenneth Arnold (1947)

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Hey all, I just came across this story that I wanted to share! I just highlighted some aspects which jumped out at me. I’ll link the .pdf file at the end. Enjoy!

“Kenneth Arnold, an experienced civilian pilot and fire equipment salesman based out of Boise, Idaho, spent the morning of June 24,1947 installing fire-control equipment at Central Air Service in Chehalis, Washington. Several employees informed him that a C-46 Marine transport plane had crashed somewhere in the Cascade Mountains. After installing the equipment, Arnold hopped in his plane, en route to another appointment in Yakima. Intrigued by a $5000 reward offered for the plane’s discovery, he took a slight detour over Mount Rainier and made a brief search for wreckage.

While making a 180 degree turn high over the town of Mineral, Washington, a “tremendously bright flash” illuminated the surface of his plane. Startled, Arnold searched the skies for the source of the flash but could see only a single DC-4 far to his left and rear. The light flashed again, and this time he was able to determine the direction from which it came. Approximately one hundred miles away from him and coming at a bearing that would pass them directly in front of his plane were nine peculiar crafts. At first Arnold thought that he was observing a formation of jets, until the craft drew closer and he could see they had wings but no tails. One of the objects was almost crescent-shaped, with a small dome midway between the wing tips. The others were flat “like a pie pan,” with a reflective surface. Their manner of flight was equally strange, “like speed boats on rough water” (Arnold & Palmer, 10-11).

The craft seemed to be coming from nearby Mount Baker area and stayed close to the mountain-tops, weaving around the higher peaks. Arnold managed to clock their speed at roughly 1,600 miles per hour; nearly three times faster than conventional aircraft in the 1940s.

When he landed at the Pendleton, Oregon airport, Arnold described the object for a corps of eager reporters. Most famous was the term he used to describe the objects’ flight-“they flew like a saucer would if you Bader 75 skipped it across the water.” The press latched on to Arnold’s description and created the phrase “flying saucer” to describe mysterious aerial objects. In recent decades, “U.F.O.,” or unidentified flying object has become the preferred term.

The Arnold sighting was not the first of a strange flying object in the Americas. As far back as 1492 Christopher Columbus logged his sighting of a strange light “like a bad waxen candle that rose up into the sky and went out” near the Bahamas (Hervey, 33). Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century there were isolated reports of strange flying objects.

In the 1800s the U.S. experienced its first major UFO wave. Although it was still several years before the first documented flights of airplanes and dirigibles, witnesses from northern California to Canada reported flying cigar-shaped objects. During one especially impressive sighting in November of 1896, a strange light, behind which some witnesses claimed to see a dark body structure, passed over Sacramento, California. The light was later seen about twenty miles west in Folsom and the San Francisco area (Story, 8-9). Although a few people claimed the “airships” were craft from another planet, the predominant theory in the 19th century was that they were the creation of a “secret inventor.” In most of the cases in which witness claimed to have seen a landed airship, they reported that the occupants were human in appearance.

As technology changed, so did the popular explanations for the mysterious crafts’ origins. During World War II, numerous Allied pilots reported strange objects tailing their planes, leading to fears that UFOs might be the secret weapons of an enemy power. However, after Arnold’s sighting of craft with capabilities far beyond that of conventional aircraft, researchers began to consider the possibility that UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin. His experience almost single-handedly brought UFOs into the space age.”

https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_articles

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