Air Intelligence Training Bulletin

20 February 1951

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   The advent of flying saucers is not so surprising as the fact that so many people seem able to recognize them. Or are they? From published reports the names "disc" and "saucer" seem to have been applied to every unfamiliar object seen in the sky, but in many cases so-called "saucers" appear not to be anything like saucers. Descriptions of them have been extremely imaginative and have ranged; from "pint bottles" to "balls of fire" and "circular saws." Others have been reported as "dust-bins," "rocket ships" "cigar," "rings." The most unimaginative description was of a silver "thing." Perhaps the most spectacular was of "ice cream cones with red tops" or of "five silver doughnuts rotating round a sixth." Someone also saw "a grey tadpole traveling at lightning speed," and another, we believe a housewife, "wash tubs -- about the size of a five-room house." One seen over South Africa had a glowing white tip, a green body and a red tail. This list is not exhaustive. Doubtless many experienced observers could add to it if they were so minded.

   A flying-machine in so featureless a form as a saucer would probably be one of the most difficult things to recognize as such, even in ideal observing conditions. Consider its outline. With its greatest area exposed it can show only as a disc; at a minimum, it is half an ellipse. In all other views it is a roughly elliptical. Any object (including the largest aeroplane) tends to become a blob or a speck and may actually look disc-like in certain conditions if far enough away. A polished object in sunlight is often more difficult to recognize, even when quite close, because of glitter. There is, as any observer will tell you, nothing so vexatious and delaying to recognition, nothing so disruptive of an aeroplane’s outline as glitter. The largest "saucer" under these conditions could appear star-like or as a shapeless sparkle - so could an F-80, a Meteor, or B-50.

   In considering the published reports, one must make allowance for the eyesight, training and experience in observing, and the emotional characteristics of those seeing the "saucers." It is a well-known fact that persons under the influence of emotion will often attach, in all sincerity, an imaginative interpretation to what they see. They may often see things which do not exist and they are prone to be influenced by previous suggestion. Almost all reports of flying saucers, except the first one, could have been influenced by previous news. Incidentally, we find it interesting to conjecture upon what people would now be reporting if the first sighting had referred to some other form of domestic earthenware.

   Disc-shaped aeroplanes have been built and flown in the past. It is possible that they exist today, though not in the numbers suggested by the reports of flying discs. Many readers will be familiar with the most recent and well-known example, the Chance-Vought V-156. This is not now flying, according to reports, but other disc-shaped aeroplanes will appear from time to time in the ordinary course of aeronautical progress upon this earth.

   The whole business of "flying saucers" would have been rather entertaining had it not been turned  into tragedy by the loss of three lives of American Air Force Officers; one in pursuit of a "saucer," the other two while they were returning from investigating a report.

   It is significant that in Britain, where there are thousands of trained and experienced observers, very few" saucers" have been reported. No Royal Observer has sighted, much less reported one, and, until they do, we think everyone may rest assured that flying-machines, celestial or supernatural, do not exist. The lesson of all this is obvious. Learn to recognize aeroplanes and you will not be troubled by "flying saucers."

   Our advice to anyone who may think he sees flying saucers is to do what General Hoyt Vandenberg, Air Chief of Staff, USAF, did when he was flying a B-17 bomber one night in 1947 when the "saucer" scare of that year was its height. A strange, disc-shaped light was observed to pass by at great speed. Instead of calling the nearest tower and reporting the "saucer," the General gently moved his head about and found that he could bend his "saucer" to his will, making it appear and disappear as often as he wished. It was merely the reflection of a light upon the windshield.

Aircraft Recognition Journal, June 50


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