Since it seems that some in the skeptical side of the UFO question are outraged at the lack of credible research at the other end of the spectrum, I thought it time to turn the tables. Yes, we all know that the Roswell Slides was a fiasco from the beginning but some of the things under discussion now seem to be a little less definitive. I mean, first claiming that we had UFOlogically increased the burns on the California police officer from first degree to second and third degree, and then wondering where the idea of second degree came from because the sheriff’s report only mentioned the third degree burns. Although Lance Moody suggested the idea of the third degree burns came from the sheriff that doesn’t really matter because the documentation for it existed and it was not an attempt by us to elevate the severity of the burns. It was reporting something that could be documented.
But this isn’t about the degree of burns on the officer, but about skeptics making leaps of logic and additional claims that are not supported by the evidence in the cases they have “solved.” Here I’m going to refer to the Lawrence Coyne helicopter case of October 18, 1973. I’m not going to discuss the merits of the case or argue for either an extraterrestrial or a conventional solution. I’m only going to talk about
some of the assumptions that Philip Klass made in his
analysis. I base this on my training and experience as a helicopter pilot in
the same type of aircraft flown by Coyne that night.
|Combat assault in a UH-1H helicopter.|
Coyne was, in 1973, an Army Reserve captain and the aircraft commander of the UH-1H helicopter flying northeast from Columbus, Ohio to Cleveland (though in the stateside environment he would be considered the pilot). With him were co-pilot First Lieutenant Arrigo Jezzi, Sergeant John Healey, seated in the left rear and Specialist Five (Spec 5, E-5) Robert Yanacsek, seated in the right rear.
Initially it was Sergeant John Healey who spotted an object or a red light off the left side of the aircraft (or the western side) at about 2300 hours [11:00 p.m.] and heading to the south. He thought it was brighter than the red navigation lights on an aircraft and he could see none of the other aircraft lights required by the FAA. This light disappeared behind the helicopter and Healy thought nothing more about it.
A few moments later at 2302 hours, Specialist Five (Spec 5, E-5) Robert Yanacsek, seated in the right rear, saw a red light on the eastern horizon. He, at first, thought it was a red warning light on a radio tower, but the light wasn’t blinking and it seemed to be pacing the aircraft. He watched for a minute or two. Finally the light seemed to turn so that it was coming toward the helicopter and when it did, he mentioned it to the pilot, Coyne. Coyne glanced out the right window (eastern side) and saw the light. He suggested that Yanacsek keep an eye on it, though there didn’t seem to be any real danger from it.
After about half a minute, Yanacsek thought that the light was coming at them and Coyne agreed. Coyne then took the controls of the aircraft from the co-pilot and believing the object might be on a collision course, pushed down the collective (or technically, the collective pitch, that is a lever on the left side of the seat of the pilot or co-pilot) which changes the pitch of the rotor blades so that the aircraft will gain or lose altitude. He entered a 500 foot per minute descent, which is not very rapid. They had been flying at 2500 feet which over that part of Ohio is about 1200 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).
Healey now left his seat and moved forward, crouching between the seats occupied by the Coyne and Jezzi. The light was getting brighter, or as Healey would later say, brighter than the landing lights of a commercial jet.
The red light was closing on them quickly and dangerously. Coyne again pushed down on the collective to increase his rate of descent, eventually pushing it all the way to the stop. Believing that he was not descending fast enough, he pushed the cyclic (think of the yoke on an airplane here) forward so that he would be descending even faster.
At this point Coyne looked up and said the light, which he could now see was an object, was covering the front of the windshield. Coyne said that there was a red light at the front of the object, a green light that seemed to reflect off the rear of the object, and a green light, like a searchlight coming from the rear. The overall shape seemed to be that of a cigar or cylinder and under the tail was a pyramid-shaped structure from which a green beam came. The overall object was not glowing, but Coyne, and his crew, could see the general shape against the bright, starry background.
According to Jenny Ziedman, who published the results of her lengthy investigation for the Center for UFO Studies in 1979, Yanacsek said:
The object may have hovered over us for 10 to 12 seconds. It seemed like a long time. It seemed like it was there for so damn long. It was just stopped, for maybe 10 to 12 seconds, and I mean stopped. It wasn’t cruising, it was stopped. It didn’t waver, it didn’t put on the brakes, it didn’t gyrate – it was just like in a cartoon. It was coming at us, and then, in the next frame, it was there, just like that. No noise, no flaps. It reminded me very much of a submarine. I really didn’t think we would collide, because the object was obviously completely in control of the situation.
The object hovered there for those long seconds and then took off toward the northwest. They could see the light at the rear of the object was bright white. Coyne glanced at the altimeter and realized they were at 3500 feet. Coyne said the collective was still full down and he couldn’t explain the ascent. With what he was doing, the helicopter should have been descending rapidly. Coyne then pulled up on the collective (which, of course, the opposite of what he should have done to stop an ascent but then the collective was full down so he couldn’t have pushed it any lower) and at 3800 feet, they felt a bump and the climb ceased. With the climb stopped, and Coyne now in control again, began a descent back to the cruising altitude.
Philip Klass, when he heard about the case decided to take a look at it. He was on a television show about UFOs with Healey, and he recorded another show that aired the next night that featured Coyne as the guest. Klass, in his book UFO’s Explained, wrote, “As I studied the transcript of my tape recording [of Coyne on the Dick Cavett Show] my attention began to focus on the possibility that the UFO might have been a bright meteor-fireball.”
Klass explained his long search for a meteoric explanation but found nothing to corroborate his idea. He did bring up the Zond IV reentry in 1968 where a number of people believed they saw a cigar-shaped craft with lighted windows as the rocket broke up. He seems to have confused Yanacsek’s sighting on the right side of the aircraft, with Healey’s sighting of the red light that was seen out the left that slid to the rear, heading south. If it was the same object, then that approach from the other side moments later clearly proves that it wasn’t a meteor.
He also reported that he had asked others in a position to have seen the fireball or bolide if they had, but there were no reports of anyone else seeing it. Given the time of day, meaning not all that late, and the area over which it would have flown, it seems reasonable to believe that someone else would have seen it. In today’s world, a fireball would be widely reported, often with video of the event. In that time, it would have made the news, though the reports probably would have been confined to the immediate area.
Klass mentioned that the cockpit was bathed in green light as the object passed overhead and reported that there are two Plexiglas panels set above the pilots’ heads and these are tinted green. They were called, cleverly by the flight crews, the greenhouses, but they are directly over the pilots and are not part of the windshield. Klass seemed to have confused these green tinted areas for something on the windshield (or canopy as he called it) much as cars used to have a green tint at the top of the windshield. The crew was not looking through the greenhouses and the light was not coming directly through them. Besides, the crew described other colored lights on the object which they were watching through the clear, Plexiglas windshield.
Klass admitted that the climb was the “real puzzler.” He discussed it with Dave Brown, an “experienced pilot with some hours in a helicopter [which tells nothing about his experience in a helicopter and it doesn’t say if those hours are as a pilot or a passenger and if there are very many of them]. Brown suggested that perhaps the pilot or co-pilot might have unconsciously pulled back on the collective [though the proper term here would be pulled up on the collective] and or cyclic-pitch control(s) as he leaned back in his seat to view the luminous object overhead.”
Lieutenant Arrigo Jezzi, the co-pilot, would never have pulled up on the collective in the way Klass speculates. Coyne and Jezzi had both gone through the same flight training as I had. Had Jezzi felt the aircraft was in danger and he needed to take over the controls, he would have put his hands on them and said, “I’ve got it.”
Coyne would have relinquished control taking his hands off and said, “You’ve got it.”
This was done so that the pilots wouldn’t be fighting each other for control. In similar circumstances, meaning if one of them in the cockpit saw something the other didn’t that might endanger the aircraft, this is what was done, and that includes combat assaults under enemy fire, which can easily be even more stressful than seeing a UFO. Every Army trained helicopter pilot followed this ritual even at times like that, so, it is clear that Jezzi didn’t take over control and didn’t touch the controls without alerting Coyne to that. In fact, it would have been quicker for Jezzi to say, “Watch your altitude.”
Could leaning back in the seat, trying to see the UFO above have caused Coyne to pull up on the collective (as opposed to have pulled back as Klass suggested)? Not really given the way the controls are configured. Could he have pulled back on the cyclic in such a circumstance? Maybe, but there would have been other consequences to that action, including a slowing of the airspeed, a change in the engine noise and a change in the orientation of the view in the cockpit which would have suggested that something had happened. Or, in other words, that would have been noticed because that is how the Army pilots were trained.
Klass, continued his speculation about all of this, based on the information he had collected, some of which he failed to report, and he concluded, “…we should all be grateful for the instinctive, if unconscious, reactions of pilot Coyne or co-pilot Jezzi in pulling their helicopter out of its steep descent barely four hundred feet about the ground.”
He then solved the case. He wrote, “…it will not be easy for them to accept the explanation that the UFO was merely a bright fireball, that the seemingly mysterious behavior of the helicopter was due to the unconscious, instinctive reactions of well-trained pilots…”
With absolutely no evidence of a bright meteor that night, Klass has created one out of thin air and the skeptics have not asked him to explain that position. They don’t ask him why Yanacsek’s account is not mentioned, or the confusion about which crewmember saw what and where. Finally no one asks him how it would be for the pilot to have lowered the collective to arrest the ascent when it was already at the bottom stop and couldn’t be pushed down any further. He just speculates, contrary to the pilot testimony, that one or the other had pulled up on the collective earlier (which he could have then pushed down, but said that he couldn’t, so he pulled up). It is clear that Klass does not understand the Army procedures, and that he reports his speculations as if they were facts. None of this means that Coyne and his crew saw an alien craft, only that Klass’ analysis of it is flawed by what others would call “Ufological thinking” if Klass was at the other end of the spectrum. So, now let the defense of Klass begin, regardless of the facts.