In 1954, a British Overseas Airways Corporation Stratocruiser was flying between New York and London when it encountered a large, shape changing UFO surrounded by smaller objects off the left wing while over Labrador, Canada. At a refueling stop, the crew was questioned by members of the US Air Force, and the encounter became a media sensation.Captain James R. Howard, a former RAF pilot, claimed that the strange formation of objects had followed his aircraft for 80 miles.
Apparently, the objects were also tracked on radar at the USAF Cartwright Air Station in Labrador. Howard gave this report to the British magazine Everybody’s Weekly on December 11, 1954:
WE WERE SHADOWED FROM OUTER SPACE
Maybe it wasn't exactly a flying saucer. What I saw, on a recent New York to London flight, was more of a flying arrow, I guess you'd have called it at one stage. It seemed to keep changing its shape as it flew beside me, very much like a jellyfish assumes varying patterns as it swims through the water. Or maybe the apparent changes in shape were due to the different angles we viewed it from as it banked and turned about 5 miles off.
Whatever it was, a giant flying wing, jellyfish or saucer, of these things I'm quite certain: It wasn't a trick of light or a figment of the imagination. It wasn't any sort of electrical, magnetic or natural phenomenon. And it certainly wasn't a mirage. No, it was something real and substantial; something that kept station with me for 80 miles and only sheered off when I got a radio call from the Sabre jet fighter which had been sent up from Goose Bay to intercept the thing. It was something, the idea gives me slight goose pimples when I think of it, which was keeping my Boeing Stratocruiser, Centaurus, under observation.
The date was June 29 this year. Just before sunset. Over Labrador. The sky was crystal clear.
I had taken off from Idlewild airfield at 5:00 p.m., New York time, on what we British Overseas Airways Corporation pilots have nicknamed the champagne and caviar run, the North Atlantic crossing from New York to London. It's a luxury flight used by film stars, stage personalities, diplomats and not so tired businessmen who can chalk it up to the expenses account. Normally, we do the trip nonstop, but on this occasion there wasn't very much of a tail wind and I had a pretty heavy load aboard 51 passengers and a good deal of freight, which meant a touchdown some place for refuelling.
The Great Circle Route which we follow takes us roughly midway between Gander airfield in Newfoundland and Goose Bay in Labrador. Gander, this time, was out as a refuelling base on account of foggy weather. But Goose Bay was wide open. So I was headed north east across the St. Lawrence River. Dinner had been served on board about an hour earlier, and some of the passengers had already taken to their sleeping berths.
We crossed the St. Lawrence and flew over Seven Islands, the small settlement rapidly becoming a latter day boom town on account of the new railway being constructed from there to the mining centers of Labrador. There was low cloud at about 5,000', but up where we were at 19,000', cruising along at about 270 miles per hour, it was perfectly clear. The sun was just beginning to set, away to the left. At that height there is very little colored tint on account of the rarefied atmosphere. The sky was almost silver in its clearness, perfect visibility.
It was 9:05 p.m. Labrador time and we were about twenty minutes flying time northeast of Seven Islands when I first sighted the thing.
At first it looked like no more than an indeterminate dark blob in the distance, with several smaller blobs dancing attendance on it. The whole setup looked, at first glance, like a cluster of flak bursts such as I had encountered several times over Europe during World War II while bombing invasion barges lined up along the Dutch and Belgian coasts. But the biggest blob was much bigger than any flak burst I had ever encountered, and in some strange way it seemed to have definite shape. It didn't look, somehow, as though it was going to disintegrate into thin air, the way flak burst does. As near as I can describe it, it was something like an inverted pear suspended in the sky. I was on the port side of the control cockpit, looking out of the window nearest the thing. Beside me was my co-pilot, First Officer Lee Boyd, a 33 years old Canadian from Saskatchewan who flew with the famous Pathfinder Force during World War II.
I gave Lee a nudge.
What do you make of that? I asked.
I just noticed it, he said. What in tarnation is it?
As near as I could judge, the group of things was about five miles off, stretched out in a line parallel with our own line of flight. The big one was roughly center of the group, with the smaller ones extended fore and aft like a destroyer screen convoying a battleship. Watching puzzled, the Stratocruiser was flying by auto pilot at the time, I realised something else, too.
The damn things are moving, I said.
Even as we watched, the big central thing began to change shape, or maybe it altered its angle of flight, giving the appearance of changing shape. I wouldn't know. What I do know is that during the entire 18 minutes it flew along with us it changed shape continually while the smaller attendant things switched position around it.
This is something lots of people are going to want to know a deal about later, I told myself. There's going to be a lot of questions fired at me once I make my report. I'd better know some of the answers. How many small ones, for instance.
I counted, re-counted, counted again. Six. Always six. Sometimes there were 3 stretched out in front of the main thing and three behind. Sometimes 5 stretched out in line ahead and only one behind. I had the impression that just before I got round to counting them there were more than 6, which ties in with Lee Boyd's idea that they were flying in and out of the large central object like aircraft entering and leaving a flight hangar.
Lee said, as though he didn't believe it himself: There's a lot of Air Force traffic in and out of Goose Bay some days. Maybe it's a formation of fighters way out in the distance. Want me to call up Goose and check?.
It didn't look like any formation of fighters I'd ever seen, but I told him to go ahead. He called up Approach Control at Goose Bay, told them what was going on.
Hold it a moment and we'll check, they said. A minute later they reported back. No other traffic in your area.
Well, there are a number of very strange objects flying parallel with us some distance off, Lee said. There's one large one and about 6 smaller ones. "Can you identify them?.
No. Okay. We'll send a fighter up to take a look-see.
Now, from the inverted pear shape the big thing had looked when I first saw it, it turned into what looked like a flying arrow, an enormous delta wing plane turning in to close with us. There was a nasty moment as we watched the thing seeming to grow larger as though drawing closer.
It's coming towards us, I said.
But it wasn't. We watched, tense expectant, but it didn't come any closer. Suddenly the delta wing appearance started to flatten down, stretching out, until it was now like a giant telephone receiver lying on its back in the sky, still with the smaller objects changing formation around it. Stretched out like that, assuming it was about five miles off, it looked about the size of an ocean liner. I grabbed paper and began to sketch. My memory might play tricks with me later about this.
The 4 other members of the crew in the cockpit with us had got the gist of what was going on, had caught something of our own expectancy and tenseness. They crowded forward now to look out of the windows with us:
George Allen, navigating officer.
Doug Cox, radio officer.
Dan Godfrey, engineering officer and a grizzled old veteran flyer.
Bill Stewart, the other engineering officer.
They all saw it. So did the steward and Daphne Webster, the stewardess, a 27 year old Londoner. They both popped their heads inside the cockpit to tell us that some of the passengers had seen it too and wanted to know what it was.
Their guess was as good as mine.
The objects were still parallel with us, still keeping station with us at the same altitude.
George Allen, angling himself so that he could line them up with the window frame, said that at one time they went a little ahead of us and then dropped back exactly parallel again.
I was tempted to change course and take a closer look at the things, but I didn't. After all, I didn't know what the blazes they were and I had 51 passengers to consider. I also had a hunch that the things might sheer off if we showed too much interest, and, with a fighter coming up to intercept them, I wanted to be in the audience to see what happened.
Soon the pilot of the intercepting fighter came through on the radio: Those things still with you?.
I said they were.
Okay. I'm about 20 miles off, heading towards you at a slightly higher altitude.
I looked out of the cockpit window again. The things were still there.
How do they look now? the fighter pilot radioed.
Even as he said it, I realised that the things were no longer there, not all of them. The half dozen attendant things had suddenly vanished.
What happened to the smaller ones? I asked.
George Allen, who had had his eyes on them the whole time, said: It looked to me as though they went inside the big one.
At that moment the big one itself began to get rapidly smaller as though it was sheering away from us at terrific speed.
They're getting smaller, I told the fighter pilot over the radio.
I looked out again. The big central thing was streaking away into the distance, getting smaller and smaller. In a matter of seconds it was no more than a pinhead. Then it was gone altogether.
And that was that.
What was it? Search me. It wasn't anything natural, I know that. And we had the whole group clearly in view for a full 18 minutes, entered in the navigation log as appearing at 0105 Greenwich Mean Time and disappearing again at 0123, a flying distance of 80 miles, the strangest 80 mile journey of my life.
20 minutes later we landed at Goose Bay where a U.S.A.F. Intelligence Officer interviewed Lee Boyd, George Allen and myself. We told him what I have told you here.
Belgian researcher Wim Van Utrecht suggested that the sighting may have been a large flock of starlings backlit by the setting Sun, which would explain the shape changing behavior. However, the birds would have been flying at an unusually high altitude. Also, it would have been impossible for starlings to keep pace with the aircraft for the 18 minutes that the alleged object did.
US researcher Brad Sparks suggested that there may have been an anomalous bird migration affected by freak climatic conditions.
The standing of the witnesses, in particular 33 year old Capt. Howard, a highly respected former RAF Squadron Leader with 7500 hours commercial flying on 256 Atlantic crossings to his credit at the time of the sighting, has never been called in question.
They were convinced that their airliner was followed for 80 miles by a formation of solid flying objects under intelligent control.
To this day the case is still hailed by many ufologists as one of the most significant unexplained cases.
4 more members of the crew and 12 passengers signed sworn statements about their sighting.