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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Nov > Nov 15

Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

From: Don Ledger <dledger@istar.ca>
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 16:24:41 +0100
Fwd Date: Sat, 15 Nov 1997 20:27:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony


> Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 21:52:21 -0500
> From: James Easton <pulsar@compuserve.com>
> Subject: UFO UpDate: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony
> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>

> Regarding...

> >Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 12:44:42 -0500
> >From: bruce maccabee <brumac@compuserve.com>
> >Subject: UFO UpDate: Re: Kenneth Arnold's testimony

> Bruce wrote:

> >>Bruce merely pointing out that Arnold's estimates are subjective.

> >I appreciate James' use of my research to support his arguments.
> >However, I was not "merely pointing out" that Arnold wasn't perfect.
> >Imperfection of visual estimates is a "given." What I was trying to
> >do was make the best estimate of length to width ratio based on all
> >of Arnold's information.

> Bruce,

> My comment was an acknowledgement that you were not being
> critical of Arnold's ratio claim, simply noting it was open to
> debate.

> It was understood you were offering an alternative estimation.

> >>Mistaking the altitude of the objects by some 4000 feet, doesn't
> >>inspire confidence in any of Arnold's other observations or
> >>estimations.

> >WHOA THERE!   Losing confidence in Arnold's observations?

> It's not suggested you were! Just a general comment on my part.

> >How big was his error in estimating the angle of the sighting line?
> >The objects were 20 miles away. An error of 4000 ft in 20 miles is
> >the ratio 0.0379 radians which corresponds to 2 degrees. It is
> >difficult to estimate the horizon from an airplane. To be within 2
> >degrees of the actual value is good accuracy. To me, this is evidence
> >in favor of Arnold's accuracy!

> Your point is appreciated and helps to place the issues in
> perspective, that's what I'm always looking for.

> Nonetheless, a possible variance of 4000ft remains a significant
> ratio in a range of 0-9500ft.

Hi James and list,

Perhaps you missed or had not received my email concerning the
discussion of altitude on yesterdays UFO Updates. If you have not
read it than you missed the fact that Arnold's altimeter setting
was the station pressure at Chehalis and not the true pressure
fifty miles away in the mountains. Nor was it temperature
corrected as private aircraft in '47 did not enjoy some of the
expensive equipment available to the commercial and military
aircraft. For instance, Arnold was not radio equipped. You cannot
ignore this fact. It could have put Arnold's altitude out one way
or another by 1,000 feet or more. Mountains further complicate
estimates of altitude because of the varience in terrain. Also
the ratio mentioned above [4,000 feet out of 9,500] is not out of
0-9500 feet but 0-11,500, 2,000 feet one way or the other.

> >>This also of course means the altitude of the objects would not
> >>preclude geese as a conceivable explanation.

> >Yes, geese flying around the mountain tops 20 MILES AWAY!

> But were the objects really 20 miles away? This is central to the
> case.

> In "Resolving Arnold - Part 2: Guess Again", Kottmeyer summarises
> the debate:

> "The absence of a large population of corroborative witnesses
> near Mount Rainier seems sufficient grounds for wondering if the
> event was much more localized than Arnold surmised.

> [...]

> What of distances closer than Mount Rainier's vicinity? It has
> been pointed out that Arnold spoke of the objects having "swerved
> in and out of the high mountain peaks." This would seem to put a
> lower limit to the distance if one could first determine which
> peaks they swung around and if they were broad enough to have a
> transit time to regard the observation as secure. Arnold was
> slightly more specific in later recountings of the event. In The
> Coming of the Saucers he said they momentarily disappeared
> "behind a jagged peak that juts out from Mount Rainier proper."
> In his memoir for the First International UFO Congress he says,
> "When they turned length-wise or flat-wise to me they were very
> thin and they actually disappeared from sight behind a projection
> on Mount Rainier in the snowfield."26 These are not exactly the
> same thing, but they give a fair indication of what to look for
> on the geological survey maps.

> Arnold estimated the crafts were at an altitude of 9,200 feet
> plus or minus 1,000. The task at hand is thus to locate some
> feature extending above the 8,200 foot level. This yields a neat
> little surprise. There are no such peaks between Mount Rainier
> and Mount Adams. The closest thing I could find was Pyramid Peak
> which stands only 6,937 feet tall in front of Mount Rainier's
> base.

I'd almost bet you dollars to donuts that Pyramid peak or another
such mountain in front of and lower than Rainier was what Arnold
saw rather than an outcropping. The number of airplanes that have
smacked into mountains [in broad daylight with excellent viewing
conditions] in front of other mountains because they blended into
the background of the larger mountain behind is sinful. The US
and Canadian airforces did a study back in the eighties using
computer simulations of known mountain impacts by military
fighters and bombers etc. (the recent B-1 bomber crash in
mountainous terrain is an example) which was a real eyeopener for
all pilots who saw it. A major contributing factor in these
accidents was underestimating the height of the mountain in
relation to a preceived horizon. The peak behind looked higher,
so therefore it was.

> There is a sharp little projection called Little Tacoma
> which sticks out around the 10,000 foot level, but it is on the
> wrong side of the mountain to be seen from Arnold's flight path.
> It would be badly stretching things to suggest he got either his
> position or altitude that far wrong.

> Normally one prefers early accounts to later ones, but the
> Congress memoir may provide the clue to what happened here. When
> the object turned flatwise, the optical thickness likely dropped
> below the 1/2 minute resolution limit and briefly dropped from
> sight. The rough surface of the mountain provided opportunities
> for an illusory correlation of the disappearance to some feature
> of the mountain. The disappearance seemed to be caused by an
> intervening feature where none in fact existed. With no firm
> lower distance estimate, the way is opened for the objects being
> closer to Arnold than he had surmised".

> Can we accept this as a possibility, or is there some reason it's
> unacceptable?

> >For example, geese at 1 mile from the plane (9,200 ft) would be at
> >an altitude of about 9,100 ft.

> Which wouldn't seem to pose a problem with geese being a conceivable
> explanation.

> >>>As Arnold points out: "Even though two minutes seems like a very
> >>>short time to one on the ground, in the air in two minutes time,
> >>>a pilot can observe a great many things, and anything within his
> >>>sight of vision probably as many as fifty or sixty times".

> >>And apparently still make significant errors of judgement.

> >WHOA THERE! Sounds like a skeptic trying to put the worst foot
> >forward, or to shine the "light of darkness" on a witness' testimony.
> >It is obvious from Arnold's report that he did a number of "tests"
> >during his sighting time, such as comparing the angular size of the
> >UFOs with the angular size of a distant aircraft using a cowling tool
> >as a reference.

Actually the fastener referred is not a tool unless for instance
you would refer to a shirt button or a coat snap as a tool. The
fastener referred to was a Dzus fastener [ pronounced like the
greek God Zeus only with a D in front} It's a push in button that
you twist into a spring loaded socket to hold a vibration prone
panel cover, or in this case a cowl cover, in place. Some have
just a screw slot while others have a butterfly head on them for
easy twisting. The head on the type Arnold had on his aircraft
cowling was slotted and was the size of a dime.'

> Nothing terribly sceptical in my comment.

> Arnold notes that two minutes is sufficient time to make many
> observations, that does not preclude Arnold making judgemental
> errors.

Everybody makes mistakes of course, but pilots are used to making
estimates of size and distance and speed. It's important to know
if that dot on you wind screen, that is staying in the same place
(a sure indication of a collision course), is going to hit you
sooner or later. Later is better because you have more time to
react. Incidentally, in the cool air of the mountains and it
appears stable air, Arnold's airspeed (depending on favourable,
cross or adverse winds) would have been about 120 mph indicated
for that aircraft...or two miles a minute. Without knowing the
winds, ground speed would be difficult to determine.

> As you write in "The Complete Sighting..." paper:

> "Is it reasonable to assume that he could have made an error of
> several thousand feet in estimating their altitude?

> [...]

> So the answer is yes, he could easily have made an error of 4,000
> ft in estimating the altitude of the objects. Perhaps if he had
> looked up the actual altitudes of the mountain peaks south of Mt
> Rainier he would have revised his statement".

You are assuming something here that is a laymans perception of
flying fed by the BS in movies and TV. You don't just hop into
your machine, fire it up then go happily off into mountainous
terrain, or any terrain for that matter. He would have flight
planned, unless he was crazy. Arnold would have had VN Charts
indicating the heights and hundreds of other details of the
mountains and terrain he was going to fly through. Since he
flew these areas regularly on business he would have
experience and knowledge on his side and in particular the
height of the highest terrain marked on his chart.

> I was referring to those same errors.

> We're perhaps both a little harsh in calling them "errors", as
> you say, he probably achieved the best he could under the
> circumstances.

> Even if Arnold had observed a flock of geese and was correct in
> originally believing he recognised it as such, but was then
> deceived, that's no blemish on his character.

> >>Not that I'm suggesting for a moment Bruce argues in favour of
> >>Arnold watching a flock of geese.

> >You got that right!

> I hope you detected a wry smile behind my remark.

> >>At present, that's not my argument either, I would simply like to
> >>discuss whether there are grounds for accepting it as a possible
> >>explanation.

> >Grounds...... or quicksand?

> Depends on whether Arnold could have been mistaken about the
> distance of the object. If that's possible, so are a number of
> other things.

> The main reason I would give any credence to the misidentified
> flock of geese scenario, is Arnold's own initial observations. If
> it flies like a flock of geese, quite distinctive, then maybe it
> was.

> Alternatively, what else would have the characteristics of a
> flock of geese in flight?

> Basically, why couldn't it have been.

> Which leads into your comments from separate mail:

> >Several years ago I got into a letter-writing argument with Kottmeyer
> >over the "goose hypothesis".

> [...]

> >He came on strong, until I pointed out that Arnold said he turned his
> >plane and opened the (left hand side) window. At this time Arnold was
> >flying south, the same direction as the UFOS. Had they been geese
> >Arnold would have overtaken and passed them. At any rate he wouldn't
> >have been puzzled at their "high speed" even if they could fly as
> >fast as 50 mph, as Kottmeyer suggested. (Arnold's plane was probably
> >traveling 100 mph or faster but certainly much faster than 50 mph).

> Understood and noted.

> This all comes back to how reliable Arnold's overall judgement
> was during that brief encounter.

> If his calculations were perhaps out by some 50% on the length to
> width ratio, maybe by a relative 35% on the altitude of the
> objects, is it likely that his estimate of the objects' speed was
> similarly inaccurate under these difficult conditions?

> A question which Kottmeyer asks; if the objects were travelling
> at the speed Arnold indicates, how can we account for the
> apparent lack of a "sonic boom"?

Come, come now. Let's not bring out that old chestnut. Since when
was anyone concerned about sonic booms where UFOs are concerned?
The books are filled with objects zipping about at speeds well in
excess of Mach one with no sonic booms. In Paul R. Hills book
"Uncoventional Flying Objects" he goes into great detail
explaining from an engineering and physics point of view, why
UFOs seem to enjoy "Silent Supersonic Operation" in Section XIII,
pages 181-207. Don't let the math scare you.

I've got more if you want to hear it.

Don Ledger


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