Pilot Testimonials: The Chiles-Whitted Encounter
Every time a new UFO case is covered on Mysterious Universe, whether it sounds convincing or not, Ben and Aaron do an excellent job of reiterating a point which I believe cannot be stressed enough when researching UFO cases: no matter how amazing or convincing a UFO encounter may appear to be, its overall quality and credibility will always be tested by the evidence provided and the witnesses involved.
The poorer the quality of the witness(es) and evidence, the less credible the encounter will be (even if it actually happened). While this may seem so obvious and an accepted factor when exploring the multitude of UFO cases out there, my reason for bringing it up is always the same: the continued effort to remove the social stigma associated with the serious study and public acceptance of UFO’s is consistently impeded by such incredible cases. As such, I remain a stern advocate for bringing increased attention to those high-caliber cases which, based on their evidence and witnesses, are as close to irrefutable as possible, and I firmly believe they almost always involve testimony from commercial and military pilots.
Surprisingly (at least to me), there are many such high-caliber pilot cases with testimony, especially from the mid-twentieth century. These cases have very compelling evidence and testimony, right up there with the more well-known pilot cases like Captain Terauchi’s encounter in Alaska. The one featured in this article is the Chiles-Witted case that happened on July 24th, 1948 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Pilots Clarence S. Chiles and John B. Whitted took off from Houston, Texas in an Eastern Airlines DC-3 around 8:00 PM with twenty passengers on board. Both pilots had a wealth of flying experience from wartime military flying duty to commercial flight experience for Eastern Airlines (it was noted that at the time of the encounter, Chiles had at least 8500 recorded hours in the air). At around 2:45 AM, roughly twenty miles outside of Montgomery, Alabama and at an altitude of about 5000 feet, both pilots witnessed an object ahead of them that they first believed was a jet. It was heading toward them rapidly at about the same altitude and passed by their starboard wing at a distance of at least 1,000 feet. Although the pilots gave differing distances at which the object passed by their DC-3 (one said 1000 feet while the other said it was a few times that), both agreed that whatever passed by them was most certainly some sort of aircraft. They described the latter as being cylindrical (cigar, or rocket-shaped), having no empennage or wings and featured two rows of brightly lit windows or some other kind of portals that one pilot described as looking “like burning magnesium”. The pilots also described that the supposed nose of the aircraft was pointed and along the underside of the craft, from the nose to the aft, there emitted a bluish glow. Chiles turned the DC-3 sharply to the left right before the craft passed them and as it did, their aircraft allegedly experienced a bit of turbulence as though the craft produced some sort of wake. As Chiles was turning their DC-3, Whitted was the only one still able to observe the craft as it passed on their right side. He looked behind them in time to see the mysterious craft make a sharp ascent and then disappear.
The information of this article from which I am citing comes from Dr. James E. McDonald, a well-known proponent for the serious study of UFO’s in science. He interviewed both pilots in 1968 and made it a point to clarify that by Whitted’s report of the aircraft disappearing after its ascent, he did not mean that he lost sight of it in the clouds as it ascended, but rather that as he observed it making its ascent, it simply vanished into thin air (a characteristic not uncommon to some UFO sightings). Only one of the twenty passengers on board witnessed the event, and he only remarked that he saw a “strange, eerie streak of light, very intense” but provided no further detail as it happened very quickly and his eyes had not yet adjusted to the darkness.
Their encounter drew considerable attention, both public and military, and sparked much debate about the validity of their claims. The morning after their experience, Chiles and Whitted reported their observations to local reporters as well as the United States Air Force’s Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC), and even those military officials involved in Project SIGN. While the news reported the pilots’ encounter in local newspapers, the ATIC prepared an “Estimate of the Situation” (a report written by a member of the military intelligence community on matters of high significance) which despite being classified as top secret, allegedly reported the UFO in the Chiles-Whitted case as being interplanetary (again, that is what is alleged). Nonetheless, the very fact that this encounter was taken so seriously by military intelligence leads one to believe that this case was in fact a very significant one that received considerable attention from the Air Force.
The pilots’ testimony also drew criticism, and there were several attempts that tried to debunk the sighting (i.e. the pilots observed a mirage or a meteor), however the proposed explanations could not account for many of the characteristics of the encounter (i.e. the rows of lights, the abrupt, allegedly ninety degree ascension, etc). Furthermore, there was a subsequent, similar sighting shortly (it has been documented by different sources as minutes or a couple of hours) after Chiles and Whitted’s encounter. The follow-up sighting occurred at the Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, where ground personnel on duty at the time reported seeing a rocket-like object pass overhead at a very high speed. The Robins AFB’s proximity to the original encounter as well as the similar description of the sighting by the ground personnel serves to reinforce the pilots’ testimony.
While I have included most of the key information on this case, there is still so much more that has been left out and will further solidify the significance of Chiles’ and Whitted’s encounter. As such, I highly encourage any interested reader to look deeper into this case and get a better idea of just how dramatic and shocking this case was, especially since it took place in 1948.