Captain Les Horn, United States Navy (retired), lives in Eagle River. Here he tells his story about a fateful flight in 1966 when he and his radioman were chased by a UFO. Captain Horn has extensive background in flight and airborne weapons systems testing, 26 years of service, 5,600 hours flying time in 34 aircraft types and models, and is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He holds advanced degrees in physics, nuclear engineering, and energy resources.
We were flying a version of the A-4 that was used for carrier training. There was room for two pilots. You kind of team up with the guy you worked with and youíd take turns on the radios or flying the airplane.
We flew to Bunker Hill Air Force Base in Missouri. This was a late afternoon/evening flight to try to get some night time. We departed right about at sunset, and I was driving. As we launched out of there, we started our usual climb.
So, climbing out of Bunker Hill, we were passing 16,000' for flight level 470. Usually when youíre in the more powerful military aircraft, you can take the higher structure, because the 30s are usually crowded with airliners, but up there we know we probably only had military pilots to deal with.
We were passing through the 20s going into the 40s. And as we started out, we were talking to departure control and he handed us off to Indianapolis center. And that was about 30 minutes after sunset.
And so Indianapolis called up and they said:
We have Delta departing Chicago Midway, Heís passing through 16,000 on route 330 passing your nine oíclock position, will clear.
And I look over and say:
Tell your traffic.
And we continue to climb.
Meanwhile, I picked up a blue dot of light. I expected him to call that traffic sooner or later because itís kind of crowded in the Indianapolis-Chicago axis.
Then, finally, this light was getting a little lighter, brighter, so I said:
Do you have my traffic? Heís at my 10 oíclock passing, left to right.
And I wait one minute. Silence.
And he replies:
Well, traffic in sight. Heís at my nine oíclock, passing to my six.
And a different voice came up, probably his supervisor. And he said:
Triple five, the plane identification number, say youíve had contact?
And I said:
Well, heís now in my 10 oíclock position, level, appears to be closing, distance unknown.
I didnít have it. I flew an attack airplane. We didnít have inflight radar, we had air to ground.
But he kept asking me and I kept telling him.
Iím still flying on my departure heading and this light, I didnít know what it was, came around behind me and then in front of me.
Mind you, I couldnít tell because I had no point of reference. This is at night, black night, the moon wasnít up yet. That light could have been right outside of my instrument, right outside of my canopy, or it could have been 10 miles away.
I didnít know where it was, but it maintained, it looked like to me, kind of a constant distance, but it came around me.
I was talking to center all the time and telling them, and it came around and it took a position on my wing. And I say on my wing, but I didnít know how far away it was. And there it sat.
I kept on talking to center and was a little upset that he wasnít painting this contact, seeing it on their radar, because it could hit me, you know, it was an airplane. And we kind of went along like that for a while.
The area of lights was kind of diffuse. I couldnít really tell what it was. We were just proceeding along there when by now I was in the 40s on course, and this guy was still there. Itís obviously formating on me, tracking as if in formation.
And I asked my back seater:
Jim, are you seeing what Iím seeing?
I sure as hell do.
Then I asked him the fatal question. I said:
Would you like me to check out the contact?
Wait, one, another voice came up.
I know that this is like the triple supervisor. And he said:
Youíre clear to cruise.
You have a contact in sight?
Roger, still no joy here.
Youíre cleared to cruise.
Thatís something when youíre flying on instrument readings you seldom hear from the FAA. Cruise means that you can go anywhere, fly any speed, go any altitude, and they will follow you and they will keep anybody from hitting you. So that freed me to do what I had to do.
When you are formating, especially when you donít want to have extreme length rates of closure at night because you donít have the depth perception. I just dropped a wing for a second and so that maybe will change my direction about two degrees.
And weíre just sailing along like that. I was trying to keep a line of chatter up just to maintain that I had good communications.
So as this thing started coming into focus, it didnít have navigation lights. Normally you can tell from an airplane, theyíre required to have like a red and green light defined. You can see the span of a wing, and usually military aircraft have dim lights in the fuselage so you have formation lights, but of course it didnít have that.
If it was an airliner, it would have had window lights and you could get some perspective from that. I didnít see anything within my realm of experience to help me identify what this was,
As I got closer, I said:
It appears the lights are moving in a clockwise direction, and thereís a dome light.
All of a sudden I started to get some perspective about the hard structure of this object. I never used the words UFO. In the Navy itís a bogey, and they picked up and used that terminology with me.
I never really went along with all the UFO stuff I heard about. You know, like:
I was taken away by an alien who gave me a proctological examination.
I didnít go along with any of that, but now this was happening. This was different. Now something that I didnít understand was in my world and it was kind of uncomfortable.
I knew that this was a large object. And if the guy, in a plane, next to you puts on power or takes off power, you can hear it immediately because youíre close to that very high velocity stream of theirs. It turns out that the sound pressure level varies as the seventh power of the exhaust velocity, so you can imagine when somebody applies a lot of power and maybe goes into afterburner, your airplane actually shakes, and you can hear the roar of that engine through the space between you.
I have gone dry just talking about this, really.
What Iím going to tell you now happened in about three seconds.
Itís pulling ahead.
And then I stopped talking because it started accelerating and then climbing and then it went straight up. All those lights, dome lights and rotating lights around the craft, just disappeared in a point and then disappeared in the starfield and it was gone.
And I said:
Itís pulling away.
And I stopped talking for a long time.
And then the older guyís voice came up and says:
Five five, radio check. Are you still there?Ē
And I said:
Roger. The bogey just pulled away and I have no contact with it.
The FAA never saw this object.
Then it was kind of very businesslike and nobody ever said anything about aliens. We were very professional.
They knew things that I didnít know. And thatís why I think there was a lot of interest on the ground.
Basically, I knew that I was looking at a very non Newtonian object.
When this object was formating on me, and I closed with it, thatís when it started that rapid departure. But I did notice that his motions were not like the way an aircraft would fly.
First of all, when I said non Newtonian, there were no wings suspending or holding this object up against the forces of gravity. And it also moved in very jerky motions, especially when it started accelerating away from me.
Any structure that I was familiar with would have just torn itself to pieces pulling away like that.
Captain Horn got home about 2:00 a.m.
I just couldnít sleep thinking about this. I got up and went to the dining room table and started going through some paperwork. That was about 3:00 a.m.. At 5:00 a.m. there was a thud on the front door and it was the Washington Post. I picked up the paper and went back to the table and opened it up. What do you think that headline said?
Many UFO Sightings Reported Over Indiana, in 48-point type.