Kenneth Arnold and the dawn of UFO research

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 2 jul 2020, 6:22 por Plataforma Sites Dgac   [ actualizado el 3 nov 2020, 10:25 ]
There are certain milestones that mark the times and initiate currents, movements, revolutions and even paradigms based more on beliefs than on objective and verifiable facts.
Kenneth Arnold in 1947, with his plane in the back.

Kenneth Arnold years after his famous sighting, showing an illustration of one of the nine objects that he allegedly saw while flying.
In ufology, that founding milestone occurred on Tuesday, June 24, 1947, when the sighting that started the “modern age” of unidentified flying objects (UFO) took place.

Kenneth Arnold was a 32-year-old businessman and airplane pilot who traveled to different parts of the Northwest United States as the owner of Great Western Fire Control Supply, a company that installed systems for the prevention and suppression of fires established in Boise, Idaho, in 1940.

Shortly after 2:00 p.m. on that fateful day, Arnold started a flight from Chehalis to Yakima, both in the Northwestern state of Washington, on a CallAir A-2 plane. He made a brief detour during the flight after learning that a $5,000 reward was being offered for the discovery of a US Marine C-46 transport plane that had crashed near Mount Rainier. The sky was completely clear and there was a slight wind.

Unknown objects

Minutes before 3:00 p.m., when he was flying at about 3,000 meters of altitude, Arnold gave up the search for the wrecked aircraft and began to move East towards Yakima.

At that moment he saw a brilliant flash of lightning, similar to the reflection of the Sun in a mirror. He thought it might be another aircraft, but when he scanned the sky, he only saw a DC-4 to his left and about 15 miles behind.

About 30 seconds after seeing the first flash, he observed a series of bright flashes in the distance to his left, North of Mount Rainier, which at the time was about 25 miles away.

Those reflections came from nine objects flying in a long chain. Kenneth Arnold thought they might be geese, but dismissed that explanation due to the altitude they were at, their bright reflection, and their high speed. So, he thought that it could be a new type of aircraft. He tried to find some tail on the objects, but he couldn’t.

The objects approached Mount Rainier and passed rapidly in front of it. At one point, they passed behind a minor peak on Mount Rainier, so they were out of Arnold’s sight for brief moments. Since he knew his own position and that of that minor peak on Mount Rainier, he calculated that the objects were about 23 miles away.

Fantastic speed

Arnold compared the nine objects with the DC-4 in the distance and estimated that they had an angular size slightly smaller than that of the aircraft. As the objects passed Mount Rainier, Arnold turned his plane South on a more or less parallel course. He opened a side window and began to observe the objects without a glass in the middle. The phenomenon continued its flight Southward, continually moving ahead of its own position.

Then Arnold began to measure their speed. He saw them move from Mount Rainier to Mount Adams, where he lost sight of them, in one minute and 42 seconds, according to the clock on his instrument panel. The distance between the two mountains was 80 kilometers. Doing the calculations later, he determined that the objects were moving at 2,700 kilometers per hour, three times more than any other manned aircraft in 1947.

As he did not know exactly how far where the objects when he lost sight of them, Arnold estimated their speed at about 1,900 kilometers per hour, even faster than any known aircraft of that time. This was still just under 4 months before Chuck Yeager to broke the sound barrier aboard the X-1.

“Flying saucers” are born

Kenneth Arnold landed in Yakima around 4:00 p.m. and reported his sighting to the general manager of the airport, his friend Al Baxter. Before long, all the airport personnel knew the story and Arnold discussed it with some officials. Apparently his friend Baxter didn’t believe him.

So, Arnold flew to an airshow in Pendleton, Oregon, but was unaware that someone in Yakima had phoned before his arrival and reported that Arnold had seen some kind of new aircraft.

The witness related his sighting to several friendly pilots, who suggested that perhaps he had seen guided missiles or something new.

Arnold was only interviewed by reporters the next day, June 25, when he visited the East Oregonian newspaper offices in Pendleton. His testimony surprised reporters as sober and credible, and journalist William “Bill” Bequette wrote an article released by Associated Press that described what Arnold saw as “saucers”. This is how the term “flying saucers” was coined.

From then on, media around the world began to publish reports of sightings of “flying saucers”. The contemporary UFO age was born.


However, there's still some controversy about the true shape of the objects reported by Arnold. Some scholars claimed that he originally described crescent-shaped objects and that in describing the way they moved, he said that they did so “like saucers jumping over water” and that the press had misinterpreted this description of movement and wrongly attributed that shape to the objects.

But other scholars assure that in the first reports this description of movement does not appear, but that it was added by Kenneth Arnold several years later, and that indeed the mention of “saucer” was made in reference to the shape of objects.

However, it is also true that Kenneth Arnold was the first proper ufologist. Near the date of his sighting there was another widely publicized incident on Maury Island. After becoming a celebrity, Ray Palmer, the editor of Amazing Stories magazine, recruited Arnold to personally investigate the Maury Island case and later published an article about it in the magazine. Thus, Kenneth Arnold became the first person to be paid for researching a UFO story.

“Flying saucers” arrive in Chile

The review of Chilean newspapers and magazines does not show any article about the Kenneth Arnold sighting in Spanish. The first mention of “flying saucers” in Chilean newspapers was during the second week of July, 1947, due to the now well-known “Roswell Case”.

On July 8 and 9, 1947, the Roswell Daily Record newspaper published notes reporting and later denying the crashing of a “flying disc” in the vicinity of Roswell, New Mexico, in the United States of America. What was originally thought to be a flying disc was later identified as a weather balloon and the story was almost forgotten for decades until it was “rescued” and resurrected by American ufologists in the late 1970s.

In Chile, newspapers such as El Mercurio published articles on the Roswell case due to information that was received by the news cables, and later the local media began to report sightings of “flying saucers” in different locations in Chile, in a similar way to what happened in other countries.