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8:11 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Letter | Mike Hayes: UFO nonbelievers - maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not

If UFO reports are real, they must be due to extraterrestrial spacecraft. However, interstellar travel is impossible. Hence, UFO reports may be discounted” – Frank Drake, Cornell University astronomer, in a speech given at Stanford University

A week or two and forty years ago, on Oct. 18, 1973, a helicopter crew consisting of four members of an Army Reserve medical unit in Ohio had a most chilling experience while returning to their base in their UH1H “Huey” helicopter.

It was 11 p.m. on a calm, clear night, and a half hour after leaving Columbus one of the crew members noticed a brilliant red light rapidly approaching from the east.

They were flying north to Cleveland after having had their annual physicals. According to one crew member when asked, they were all anxious to get home, so there was no “beer stop” between the hospital, where they had their exams, and the airport where their helicopter was parked and waiting.

The red light continued its approach rapidly, the captain estimating its speed at close to 600 knots. When it got within about 500 feet of the chopper, it suddenly reduced its speed to that of the helicopter, its position now in front of and slightly above the helicopter.

A green light underneath the craft turned on, illuminating the chopper’s interior. The crew was now able to make out the shape of the craft. According to one of the crew, the craft appeared to be a “fat cigar shape,” gray in color.

The pilot, Lawrence Coyne, attempted to drop below the craft, but instead of descending, the helicopter began rising, out of his control.

After enduring several minutes of panic, the crew watched as the foreign craft finally and abruptly exited the area, heading almost due north at high speed. After the craft’s departure, Coyne was able to recover control of his helicopter,and flew it to their home base.

Interestingly, passengers and the driver of an automobile almost directly below the two craft saw the entire incident.

Their descriptions of the event were almost identical to that of the chopper crew – they saw the red light approaching from the east, then literally stopped in front of the helicopter. The car’s passengers gave interviewers the same information – brilliant red light in front, green light underneath and a white light in the rear.

Coyne died recently, but he and his crew stuck to their story to the end.

It took close to a month for Coyne to officially report the incident. Blue Book, the Air Force office that collected all UFO reports had been disbanded several years earlier. He did report and describe the event to the FAA representative at the Cleveland airport.

Members of the UFO fraternity, those who enjoy reading about the subject (whether or not they “believe”) are familiar with the name Philip Klass. Mr. Klass, a former writer of science fiction for pulp magazines and notorious debunker, had never become acquainted with a UFO incident he couldn’t explain away.

He was, however, stymied with this one. He first said it was a meteor, but when unable to verify a meteor’s existence in the area at the time of the incident, he offered no further explanation.

Incidents like this are what continue to cause many people to occasionally glance up into the sky or sit by a campfire in places like the desert outside Quartzsite or Kingman with binoculars in one hand, beer in the other, and scan the heavens for that something in which the Philip Klass’ of this world say isn’t there or doesn’t exist.

A cop in Socorro, New Mexico, Lonnie Zamora, had his own story to tell back in May of 1963. He’s gone now, but what happened to him won’t go away.

Numerous UFO reports have emanated from our neighboring state since July 1945 when the first atomic bomb was detonated south of Socorro. Zamora’s tale, and, of course, Roswell are among the best known, but certainly not the only events.

Scientists opine that if it can’t happen (given the knowledge they now possess) it hasn’t happened. Others say they’ll believe when they see one.

Maybe they’re right.

And maybe not.