Monday, June 22, 2015

October 18,1973: The Coyne Helicopter Case and Philip Klass

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
Combat assault in a UH-1H helicopter.
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.

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.


Lance said...


Once again, you operate with the flawed idea that UFO believers and skeptics are on the same footing when it comes to proving their cases.

We aren't.

UFO believers need to provide clear and convincing evidence for their proposition.
And in that endeavor, their efforts are laughable.

If Klass got something wrong here (and I definitely think he got stuff wrong), it doesn't matter in the big picture. Unless you are claiming that this case is the one big one that proves the whole UFO myth is true.

Is that your position?

Skeptics get stuff wrong sometimes. But the vast evidence is that UFO sightings are comprised ENTIRELY of getting stuff wrong.


ufodebunker said...


This story always ran shivers down my spine! I believe it has a high degree of credibility because I doubt either of the pilots would risk being grounded if it were not true. One question I have though - When the pilot pushed down on the collective to avoid a potential collision, was he aware that the chopper was climbing and not descending as expected or did he determine that by looking at the altimeter? I'm a private pilot and was thinking about the old diddy: Low to high clear blue sky, high to low look out below. Translation for non-pilots: When going from a high pressure area to a low pressure area, if you don't reset your altimeter you will be lower than the indicated altitude and vica versa going from a low pressure area to a high pressure area. Night flying has its share of optical illusions and sometimes changes in the terrain give the false impression of climbing or descending. I recall once taking off from a well lit area and runway toward unlit terrain and I had to confirm by instruments that we were climbing. Needless to say the initial impression was nerve wrecking. Also, I concur with you. No pilot would grab the controls without saying, "I've got aircraft". In his analysis I believe Klass shows his lack of familiarity with flying and his arrogance is more like Mr Krass LOL

Best Regards!

ufodebunker said...


I think Kevin's point is Klass's dismissal of this case is not warranted. This is typical Klass - come up with an explanation by force fitting a round peg into a square hole. It's true - the burden of proof is on the believer. But how you interpret Kevin's post to be an issue of burden of proof is beyond me. I think you are out of line.

Best Regards!

KRandle said...

Lance -

Of course I understand that the burden of proof is on those of us who make the claim of alien visitation. I have always understood that, even if you don't believe that I do. The point here was that Klass offered a solution that is invalid. Even those of you who are skeptical of alien visitation can't just make up explanations out of whole clothe. My point was that skeptics are held to a lower standard which means they can say things that are not justified by the evidence, testimony, documentation, or anything else and not be challenged on those points.

I'm not saying that this is the super-duper, prove it all case, just that the reasons Klass gives to reject it are not valid. He was making it up, inventing explanations that do not fit the facts, overlooking the testimony that did not confirm his belief, and provided somewhat inaccurate information about what went on in the cockpit by not talking to any Army Aviators who could have helped him out. Hell, he could have called me and I could have told him about this.

I am suggesting that this was not the only example of Klass inventing information to prove his point, which does nothing to advance the cause of skepticism. I did not mention, for example, Klass' dismissal of the witnesses on the ground because at the time he wrote his book, they were not known to a large number of people and a witness who is unavailable to be interviewed, for whatever reason, is not a witness at all.

So, no, Lance, I don't think we operate on the same level, and get that we have to prove what we say. That does not provide a pass for the skeptics to invent explanations. They too, must prove what they say and in this case, Klass is way off base.

Are there good reasons to dismiss this case? I haven't seen it, which doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I'm merely saying that it can't be dismissed for the reasons Klass gave.

KRandle said...

ufodebunker -

In Army flight school, we were always told to "get your head out of the cockpit," which meant, of course, look at what was going on outside. Since the night was clear, with no evidence of haze or fog that would have obscured the ground, I would say that Coyne was using both his instruments and the sight outside. I make this guess, again, based on the training we all have received. I think that Coyne had the collect at the lower stop, attempting to descend faster, and that he would have been aware of how close to the ground he was. He'd be watching that and what was happening around him. He would have situational awareness and would have avoid target fixation. But these are my guess and we all can cite examples of pilots flying into the ground because they weren't paying attention.

Based on the testimony, it would seem that Coyne knew they weren't descending fast enough but he would also know where the ground was. Please note the qualifier... I don't know for sure, but given the testimony, he would have been focused on descent rather than ascent, and with the ground not getting closer, would have had no reason to pull up on the collective. Since the ground wasn't an immediate issue, Coyne was probably looking at the light above him...

But, having not been in the cockpit, I don't know exactly what was happening in those few seconds. I know what the procedures would be because I had been taught the same things.

Lance said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Kevin. I think then that we are in agreement.
I see no reason to suppose that Klass didn't get this one wrong.


ufodebunker said...


Thanks for the reply. This would be one bogey I wouldn't blame the pilot for fixating on LOL A WTF moment for sure! What is they say about flying? Hours of boredom separated my moments of sheer terror. LOL I've been there done that as I know you have. This is one case that is very hard to dismiss. BTW I have some 30 hours of seat time in a Blackhawk while I was integrating a commercial satellite terminal for the Army. We did testing while flying nap of the earth....that was fun and I'm not ashamed to say scarey too LOL

Jim Robinson said...

Fireballs don't hover or change directions.
Best regards

Lance said...


Your response shows a typical lack of understanding of how witnesses get their accounts of lights in the sky spectacularly wrong.
I could point you to the literature on this if it might help?


Frank Stalter said...

The Coyne case is a favorite of Professor Peter Sturrock:

Tom said...

Interesting case. Shows we are all human - believers, skeptics & agnostics(me). Research and subsequent conclusions can often be faulty. True for Ufologists. True for skeptics. I believe this, or something similar, is the thesis of Kevin's article.

And, I see no reason why reasonable people cannot have a civil discussion on this topic. Just because there are opposing points of view does not mean we should squash the discussion and ridicule the other side. Where the hell does that get us?

But what do I know? I'm just a civilian that is open to the idea that perhaps either Jacque Vallee's Interdimensional UFO Theory, or the ETH Theory, has some validity to it. I must add that these theories, in and of themselves, interest me more than 99% of all sightings reports.

Gurkenstein said...


Honestly, I think Kevin soft-peddles most of these cases and is just about as reasonable as can be conceived on toeing the line presenting these cases for the sake of fair-mindedness.

Military pilots are exposed to virtually every conceivable man-made phenomena imaginable. NAP Kevin? You forget night NVG / NVD formation flying... live weapons firing... fire weapons at night with NVDs... deployment of flares, deployment of chaff; observing guided weapons launched from every conceivable distance under every conceivable circumstance. In my short 3-and-half years in the army I saw all this and more. And never in all that time did someone return the unit and start going on about unexplained phenomena or flying disks. Most of us who have observed things that can't be fit into any neat little hole chalk it up to an unknown. Not even a flying object. Simply "unknown." Is a parachute flare observed from 1-2 kilometers distance through NVDs but not properly identified a "flying object?" I would describe it as a falling object. My point is... skeptics have it exactly backwards. BEFORE you chalk up a sighting of something to little green men you rack your brain to every conceivable phenomena you possibly can. Ever see a shooting star through NVDs? A full moon? Flares? Tracers? The range of things you see as a military aviator or army aviator is enormous.

Then there is the considerable stigma attached to an aviator stepping forward and making a claim of that nature in the first place.

In sum... when an army aviator, let alone an entire crew of army aviators, step forward with a report of this nature, I sit up and pay attention. I don't know what this crew observed, but I am certainly not dismissing their description of what they saw as a misidentification of some sort. I frankly wouldn't fly with someone who couldn't make a proper visual identification of something like that.

Neal Foy said...

Klass is gone but his methods live on. The debunkers will tell us over and over that most of the sighting reports are mis-identifications. We get that, some dogs are brown but not all dogs are brown. The debunkers want us to believe otherwise.

Like it or not a double standard does exist. When an explanation is offered the same standard of evidence should apply no matter which side of the fence the explanation comes from.

Tony Stark said...


Is this latest post yet another attempt by you to deflect awareness of the lame "Roswell Slides" con-job that your BFFs Carey, Schmitt, Bragaglia and Dew tried unsuccessfully to foist upon us all?

A simple yes or no will suffice, dear boy...

KRandle said...

Tony -

There is no simple answer... I have received emails and complaints about all the coverage of the Roswell Slides fiasco. Some are tired of reading about it and there isn't much new to report. One of Jaime Maussan's scientists has deflected, saying that the image is of a mummy. There just isn't anything new to report.

But, no, it's not. Just a moving on to other things.

So I can't win here. If I cover it, I'm keeping the hoax alive and if I don't I'm trying to deflect awareness.

The image on the slides is a mummy and all those involved blew it with their secrecy. We should all remember that.

cda said...

This is one of those cases where we would like to have an exact record of what took place in the 'copter, i.e. as recorded by a black box flight recorder. Who did what and some time measurements, etc. As it stands, we only have the memories of the witnesses and these can easily be affected by the excitement of the occasion. What distance did the object(s) appear to come to the helicopter anyway, and is any such distance estimate at all reliable, considering the sighting took place at night?

It is probably best to regard it as an unknown, which doesn't really say much. I agree that a fireball/meteor should have been seen by some ground observers, but even if they had seen it, would their descriptions have been the same as, or similar to, that of the crew? Almost certainly not, in which case more debate would ensue and little or nothing would be proved. Klass 'had a go' at it, but in the end his solution is stretching it a bit. But as you point out, the case is quite useless as evidence of ETH.

Brian Bell said...

I recall as a kid reading this incident in the Omaha World Herald the week it happened. Back then UFO reports often got good press coverage. This one had a lengthy article and illustration.

I may be skeptical of some cases, but not all cases - some remain unexplained. This is one of those cases.

Klass was frequently wrong on many accounts. I personally never liked his explanations.

This incident did happen, but it doesn't prove ET exists. Obviously something else was flying that night and took at least a casual interest in the helicopter.

Given the overall and relative low altitude. It sort of rules out any other type of conventional aircraft. The crew did not report any noise although maybe they couldn't hear for obvious reasons.

I presume the explanation for the helicopter's unexplained upward ascent is an antigravity effect from the object above it?

Neal Foy said...

Klass deserves a lot of criticism but we can't forget some of those writers on the other side who are just as guilty of leaps in logic. Von Daniken would make the Frogs of Calaveras County cry for shame with some of his leaps. Corso was beating his chest and patting himself on the back to the point that I thought the old guy might injure himself. That's just the short list.

My point being that in this field none of us should leave home without a finely tuned BS meter. Even with that we might expect to step on a liar mine occasionally.I believe that this is the main reason that for those on the outside looking in it looks like a subject to be avoided.

Jim Robinson said...

Lance -

As a retired astronomer with 76+ years in the field, I am well aware of all the crazy ways people see things in the sky. However, in this case, with four presumably competent observers who apparently agreed on what was seen and experienced, there is no way a fireball could account for any aspect of the incident.


KRandle said...


What makes you think there was any black box flight recorder in the helicopter? The Army didn't use black boxes in the helicopters at the time.

However, Jenny Zeidman did a lot of work in her investigation of the case, reconstructing as best she could the time line. According to that work, the sighting lasted from four to five minutes...

cda said...


I did NOT say such a black box was aboard the helicopter. I wrote that if such a thing had been available it would, or might, have provided the vital clues as to what the flight crew actually did and the elapsed time. As it is, we have only their memories which, as I said, could easily have been affected by the excitement of the incident.

Recall the Chiles-Whitted incident of 1948. How close did that object really get to their plane? It was at one time claimed (or was it?) that the DC-3 was 'rocked' by the exhaust from the UFO! Would you trust ANY distance estimate in the Coyne case? I wouldn't. Nor a time estimate either. Despite this, I would agree the case is best left as an unknown.

albert said...


Von Daniken is a theorist. The Ancient Astronaut theory is not new; Carl Sagan mentioned it in one of his books. Von Danikens problem is he goes too far. Corso said he was dealing in _facts_, which aside from being ridiculous, were never proven. The Corso Affair was strange. Was he a huckster, a disinformation agent, or did he really believe his story?

KRandle said...


In none of the official documents did Chiles/Whitted say that the plane was rocketed by the close approach of the object. There are newspaper articles, and later books, that do say this... but again, in the official documents and the first interviews after the incident. That statement came later. I think it is clear that they saw a bolide...

And your statement about black boxes was confusing.

Neal Foy said...


I find the ancient astronaut theory to be very interesting. Is it true? I don't know. The way it was presented by Von Daniken left something to be desired. His cause and effect relationships were questionable to say the least. I read some of Sitchin too, naturally, he came under attack by the skeptics. I don't know I can't read Sumerian text. Some say neither could he.

Corso is indeed a puzzle, his credentials were impressive. Some would nit pick actual titles and such but in essence he was who he said he was. The tone of his book put me off the most he a came off as a combination superhero and behind the scenes puppet master. I really don't know what to make of him.

KRandle said...

Neal Foy -

I was tempted to delete this because it is not relevant to the post. You are off onto too many tangents...

However, you made one comment that is annoying to those of us who have served in the military and that is, "Some would nit pick actual titles," which I believe is a reference to the colonel/lieutenant colonel debate. In the military, that is a big deal and there is no evidence from his records that he was promoted to colonel upon retirement. While a 'brevet' promotion was given and is given in certain circumstances, Corso did not fall into those categories.

And, in the military, the different between colonel and lieutenant colonel is a big deal. Almost everyone who enters as a second lieutenant will be promoted to first lieutenant and the vast majority of those will reach captain. There is a bump between captain and major, though not a huge one and the same between major and lieutenant colonel. There is a big step to colonel, and then another huge one to brigadier general. Corso's claim to be a colonel is resume inflation at best and an undeserved promotion... I would assume from your comment that you have not served, or if you did it was the minimum service of two years, otherwise I think you would understand the difference.

Neal Foy said...

My apologies for going off track. I was actually referring to Corso's claim to having a closer association to the NSC than he actually had.

As for the military I grew up around the military, my father was a civil service employee of both the Army and the Air Force. I entered Penn State on a NROTC scholarship in 1969, just in time to be called a baby killer and often being the target of spitting while in uniform. That was nothing compared to what the guys who served went through. I didn't graduate so no, I didn't officially serve. I do have great respect for those who did and I'm greatly relieved that the public opinion of the military has changed so much since 1969.

Steve Sawyer said...

"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."

Yep, I'd have to agree with Klass, that certainly sounds like a meteor to me.


starman said...

Brian Bell, I also remember reading about this case soon after it happened. It was just one of many reports of October 1973, a very eventful time in many ways.
So you presume the cause of the chopper's "upward ascent" (redundancy) is an "antigravity effect" from the object above. What natural or manmade object produces an antigravity effect of the sort observed? It's odd to insist it doesn't prove ET when there's no alternative. At the very least, it's highly suggestive. :)

Brian Bell said...


The interesting thing about this case is the ascent/decent aspects of what the crew experienced. While pilot error is always possible, the mechanics involved and the control apparatus indicate there was no pilot error.

My suggestion that the helicopter "rose upward" while in a decent is just a wild guess. But one would have to come up with a plausible explanation for this - while weather effects could account for this - they don't seem to be a factor here either.

My "hunch" would be that they were somehow close enough to be impacted by a gravitational field effect. Can't prove it though. Just a guess.

While it might suggest ET it can't prove it either. I would not discount the craft being "one of our own". While most here tend to think that "we" don't have such technology there is more than suggestive evidence to indicate we actually do...and have for many decades now.

starman said...

Why would "one of our own" harrass Coyne like that? Or, if was a test, why not do it in a restricted area and inform Coyne in advance? They would want the gravitational technology to be secret wouldn't they, instead of having Coyne describe its effects to the media? And if the US had such technology as far back as '73, why hasn't it replaced conventional aircraft, or at least become more visible, in the 42 years since then? ET seems so much more parsimonious and plausible.

cda said...

"ET seems so much more parsimonious and plausible."
Oh really? I remind you that ET does not exist, period. You are trying to invoke something completely unknown to science to explain the Coyne case, when there is nothing remotely suggestive of such in the evidence.

True, Brian Bell is also trying to invoke a technology still unknown to the public.

So which is preferable? Or isn't it far better to suppose the object(s) seen and described by the helicopter occupants was a natural phenomenon plus a good bit of over-reaction and over-excitement? The witnesses 'saw' and experienced things that possibly weren't there at all.

Kevin mentioned this case to point out the probably fallacious Klass explanation. Kevin may be right, but has offered nothing better in its place, not even an ET solution.

Larry Holcombe said...


You said, "Oh really? I remind you that ET does not exist, period."

I am dumbfounded how you, an intelligent person, can make such flat statement of fact unless you have solid evidence. If so, what is that evidence? Now I admit I'm assuming that by ET you mean extraterrestrials as that's the accepted abbreviation for extraterrestrials, but you are saying that there are no ET's anywhere in the universe. I don't think Klass would have even gone that far. Perhaps you meant ET's visiting earth...well then that's an area for reasonable debate.

You said that "Kevin offered nothing better in its place" well either you can offer backup to your statement or we are dealing with a double standard, which of course we are.

KRandle said...


I take it from your statement that Klass' explanation, no matter how ridiculous, is the default because I offered no other explanation. How about just saying that we don't know what happened here. It seems to be the classic definition of an unknown. Do I need to offer something else to dismiss Klass' explanation?

cda said...


It turns out that there were five ground witnesses to the incident, all from the same family. This was in response to an article in the MANSFIELD NEWS JOURNAL of Aug 19, 1976. Unfortunately their testimony, whilst useful, does nothing either to bolster the meteor hypothesis or to suggest anything like an ET craft. These five saw both the helicopter and the UFO (whatever it was). Klass never mentioned this, but I found it in the book UFOS 1947-87 (Fortean Tomes, London, 1987), in the chapter by Kim Hansen, p.82-85.

So, yes it is best left as an unknown.


You cannot expect anyone to provide "solid evidence" (as you put it) that there is no such thing as an ET. Maybe I should have been more careful in my wording, but if we don't take care we shall be treading on Stanton Friedman's oft-repeated quote that "absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence". You are asking for "evidence of absence". A bit difficult regarding the existence of ETs, wouldn't you say?

cda said...

Since writing the above I have discovered that Klass DOES mention the 5 witnesses above. This is in his book UFOS, THE PUBLIC DECEIVED, chapters 16-17. He did not do so in his earlier book.

You can read Klass's account for yourself and decide on its merits. But it will not prove anything one way or the other.

starman said...

So there is nothing "remotely suggestive" of ET in this case? Exactly what natural phenomenon explains it?? An object displaying capabilities beyond ours is certainly suggestive of ET.

albert said...


Experiments have shown that gravity can be shielded, but the shielding object needs to be _between_ the masses in question. This implies an attractive force between masses. The only way an object above the chopper could influence its attitude would be to apply a stronger (than earths) gravitational force causing it to rise. Making the chopper 'fall' would require an 'anti-gravitational' (push away) force. 'Active' gravitational technologies are in the realm of science fiction at this time.

Steve Sawyer said...

Even though this incident occurred post-Blue Book, there must have been some "after action" reports, investigatory documentation from the military, and/or analysis of the incident from a military perspective, I assume.

Is this kind of documentation online anywhere that one might check out for themselves? Can someone provide a link here to any such files and related docs?

This is an intriguing case, and I'd like to do a little follow-up investigation of my own into the documented details, and what the military may have concluded about this sighting.

William Strathman said...


Since the 50th anniversary of the Exeter sighting is approaching, and since this Coyne-Klass post is about the failures of skeptics to investigate properly, I thought I'd add this link to a report by Martin Shough who dissected the claim of Nickell and McGaha a few years ago to have solved Exeter, and, in a most professional manner, Shough finds their claim wanting, severely wanting.

Marc L├╝ttingen said...

Dear Kevin, what is the earliest report about that case?
I think it is important to determine this in order to rule out the possibility of false memory in a rigorous manner. But I agree with you that Klass' explanation seems pretty far-fetched.


Ron S. said...

Since about 1980, this has been one of my personal top 3 cases. As a former U.S. Naval Aircrewman with over 2000 hours of flying time - I find it impossible to believe that the witnesses mistook a fireball (or anything else) for a metallic, UFO. I mean, they saw it close up. Close enough to see detail. I mean, I doubt the 4 of them were flying & said "I have an idea, do you want to make up a story about almost having a midair collision with a flying saucer? I think it will really help our Army careers. (other guy) "Yeah, that sounds great!"

I just cannot imagine when I was flying in the Navy of looking out the window & going "Holy cow! A flying saucer so close to our plane I can almost touch it! Oh wait a minute, that's just a meteorite (or any other prosaic object)."