by Richard Hoffman
Alabama State Director
In mid-August, both of the authors were notified that the Science Review Board had identified one of our cases – CMS Case 46515 – as a candidate for the 2013 Top Ten cases in MUFON. This sighting consisted of a set of cylindrical-shaped craft moving in a step-up echelon pattern with no apparent tail and wings. The witness, a male in his late 50s, was driving from his home in Columbus, Georgia, to his workplace in Sylacauga, Alabama, where he is a 30-year railroad engineer. He has a BS degree in engineering and is of good health, wears glasses, and is active in model railroading, his avocation. He wishes to remain anonymous. It is also worthy of noting that he reported this sighting to both MUFON and NUFORC. It was noted in the NUFORC entry that NUFORC Director Peter Davenport stated he spoke with the witness and may have referred him to report this to MUFON as well.
What follows is the synopsis of the case.
CMS Case # 46515 – near Kellyton, AL, March 28, 2013, 10:35-10:39 a.m.
On the morning of March 28, 2013, (not the 29th which he incorrectly stated in his case synopsis in the report) from 10:35 until 10:39 a.m. CDT the witness observed two white, cylindrically-shaped objects fly from north to south, making a broad sweeping turn to the west. They stayed in view, ascending slightly until they finally just faded out. The event was observed from his automobile as he was driving in his 2007 Ford Mustang to work, between Kellyton, AL, and Goodwater, AL, on U.S. Highway 280, about 10 miles west of Alexander City, AL.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION: Both objects were cylindrical, white in color, did not have wings or tails and were not tapered at either ends. The witness described a flat front and back. After gathering the measurements, the size of the objects was approximately 180 - 220 feet long (depending on exact distance) – This corresponds to aircraft size. Both objects moved at approximately the same speeds as aircraft and in a straight line with the witness describing a slight increase in altitude as it moved across the front windshield and onto the other side windshield. The objects faded out after the four minutes and were no longer visible.
WEATHER INFORMATION: 57 degrees, clear skies with winds NNE at 5.8 mph. The witness reports it as a nice sunny and clear day.
LOCATION: The sighting location was on Highway 280 near Kellyton, AL. The witness was travelling in a northwest direction and this was prior to the Kellyton exits. He lost sight of the objects as he got to the Route 9 exit two miles west of Kellyton. The sighting covered four miles of highway. Traffic was light at the time and it is very rural.
An appreciation of this area’s geography can be seen in Figure 3. You have Kellyton marked by the letter A. To the north is the Talledega National Forest which includes mountainous areas. To the southeast is a large set of lake areas while the rest of the terrain is relatively flat and heavily wooded.
The largest city is Alexander City which the witness had already gone past. Considering the witness believed the objects moved from the north to the south, when you look at airports in the area, there are very few with the largest in Birmingham (70 miles to the northeast) and the next largest in Montgomery, 65 miles to the south west.
EVIDENCE/INVESTIGATION: The witness was extremely cooperative and was very perplexed by what he had seen. He stated that despite years of seeing commercial and military aircraft, he had never seen anything like this before. Its lack of appendages, abrupt ends, color and what he stated was a slow speed, puzzled him.
He could not even guess what these objects were and made every attempt to determine whether a light reflection was coming into play by shifting his head and looking to see if possibly a car behind him may have been throwing off a light, but considering that the objects moved across two windows (the front and side), he ruled out the reflection notion.
Over a period of a month, the witness conversed and exchanged emails and spent much time trying to analyze and consider every detail of this case. He was very cooperative!
Despite all checks in various databases and newspapers we could not locate any other witnesses to this event or having filed a report of anything unusual in the area.
It is worthy of note that during a 30-day window we have three other reports of cylinders being witnessed on the opposite side of Birmingham to this sighting. In checking these cases, there were no similarities other than being cylindrical and having flat ends but that is where the similarities stop. Colorations, lighting, size and more differed significantly.
Measurements: The witness reported the following critical pieces of information.
He initially reported them to be at 35 degrees above the horizon but as we discussed this further, they were actually 15 degrees.
We discussed this point as he was sitting in his 2007 Ford Mustang. The angle would not conform to the position he referenced by the interior mirror. He stated he first saw the object at the two o’clock position and last saw it at the 10 o’clock position and out of his side window. He reasoned that they were a mile away but could not be sure. He believed that they remained the same angular size over the four minutes being observed while he continued to move northeast on Highway 280 at an average speed of 60 mph. As they moved (what he believed to be south) the objects moved up on his windshield. This could likely be due to the fact that his forward momentum was actually getting him closer to the objects thus putting him in a position to be below the objects.
Utilizing an Excel tool called Trig7 v. 7.2 that was provided to me through MUFON by Jim King a number of years ago (email address firstname.lastname@example.org), I began inserting some of the data collected thus far. Here are the various metrics based on what was provided concerning size and distance estimates.
Assuming the objects to be a mile away, here are the measurements (Figure 4) obtained:
15 Degrees elevation
5,280 feet = 1 mile
Yields an air distance of 5,466 feet and an altitude of 1,415 feet.
Next, the witness described the objects being the size of a penny which is 1.9 degrees but he later refined this to the size of a quarter at arm’s length making it 2.4 degrees. When adding this to the tool where we supply the 2.4 degrees and the air distance derived earlier, we derive that the object’s size is 229 feet in length (Figure 5) – give or take several feet (the arm length is based on 22.6 inch in length arms).
Using the same tool and evaluating a distance of 1 ½ miles yields – the altitude at 2,122 feet and the object’s sizes to be 364 feet in length, placing them much larger than most commercial aircraft (e.g., a Boeing B757-200 is 155.4 feet – Figure 6).
When trying to deduce speed of the object based on the approximate distances and the positions of two (30 degrees) and 10 o’clock (-30 degrees) from direction of travel, we then get an additional set of information we can now look at (assuming it is accurate that the objects stayed at the same angular size, of course).
At the initial sighting location position, an object a mile to a mile and-a-half away places the objects just above the north end of the town of Kellyton. As the witness moved four miles down the road near the intersection of Route 9, the objects being again a mile to a mile and-a-half away at a -30 degrees position from straight ahead, places the objects in a position about four miles directly west of the city of Kellyton.
The path of these two positions would indicate that the objects were moving more westward than true north to south.
In fact, if the witness noted the slight upward angle of the objects and we assume that he was actually closing in speed with the set of objects, the objects could have been more southwest as he continued to drive.
Figure 7 illustrates the position and movements of the object over the four minutes of observation.
The Formation: In trying to evaluate known objects that move in an echelon pattern, one would consider a military refueling operation and in a check of both Birmingham and at Maxwell AFB, you do find the 117th Air Refueling Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard is located at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport.
The only operational flying unit at Maxwell is the Air Force Reserve Command’s 908th Airlift Wing (908 AW) and subordinate 357th Airlift Squadron (357 AS), which operates eight C-130H aircraft.
As an AFRC airlift unit, the 908th is operationally gained by Air Mobility Command (AMC).
The problem with the refueling explanation lies with the fact the lead plane is above the other aircraft with the trailing aircraft in a step-down position.
Usually, the fueling boom comes out of back end of the leading aircraft and descends downward.
This position is maintained until the refueling is completed.
Objects Proximity (to each other): Commercial flights do not generally have aircraft that fly as close to each other as these objects.
In a check with both Birmingham and Montgomery airports, no aircraft could be identified over this area at the time and on the date of the observation, let alone two aircraft.
Military aircraft do move close to each other as we have seen from air shows and even in movies such as “Top Gun.”
A wingman may fly behind or even adjacent to another lead aircraft.
We could not get any response from either of these military installations.
Radar would be of benefit and ultimately needs to be pursued, if the radar is yet available.
Conclusions/Disposition: Obviously, when trying to deduce an unknown from the known, you use as much logic as possible.
In looking at the facts as made available to us at this time, it becomes quite apparent that we are as perplexed about this sighting of two cylindrical, large craft in this odd formation as he was.
For the many reasons cited (size, position, speed, appearance), there is little explanation for these objects other than UFO-Unknown, which is how this case is classified.
Pending further information and review, it remains as such in CMS today.