The so-called "Kinross Case" focuses upon the strange – and still-unresolved - disappearance of a U.S. Air Force F-89C jet fighter that was scrambled late on the night of November 23, 1953. At the time, it was on an “active air defense mission” to intercept an “unknown aircraft” over Lake Superior. Kinross Air Force Base, which was closest to the scene where the “unknown” was initially tracked, quickly alerted the 433rd Fighter Interception Squadron at Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin, and the F-89C gave immediate chase.
Available USAF records demonstrate that the F-89 was vectored west-northwest, then west, climbing to 30,000 feet. While on its westerly course, the crew received permission to descend to 7,000 feet, turning east-northeast and coming steeply down on the target from above. Alarmingly, as the aircraft closed-in on the"unknown" it subsequently vanished into oblivion, along with its two crew-members. The last radar contact placed the interceptor at 8,000 feet, 70 miles from Keeweenaw Point, and about 150 miles northwest of Kinross AFB, which, today, is called Kincheloe AFB.
An extract from the official USAF Aircraft Accident Report outlines further details of the official story:
"Aircraft took off at 2322 Zebra 23 Nov 53 on an active Air Defense Mission to intercept an unknown aircraft approximately 160 miles Northwest of Kinross Air Force Base. The aircraft was under radar control throughout the interception. At approximately 2352 Zebra the last radio contact was made by the radar station controlling the interception. At approximately 2355 Zebra the unknown aircraft and the F-89 merged together on the radar scope. Shortly thereafter the IFF signal disappeared from the radar scope. No further contact was established with the F-89. An extensive aerial search has revealed no trace of the aircraft. The aircraft and its crew are still missing."
Although a search-and-rescue mission was immediately launched, no answers were forthcoming. The intriguing fact that the official records on the affair acknowledge the presence of the "unknown aircraft," as well as the equally intriguing fact that neither the aircraft nor its crew, pilot First Lieutenant Felix E. Moncla, Jr., and radar observer, Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson, were ever found has led to theories suggesting that crew and aircraft were abducted by entities from another world.
For its part, the Air Force eventually concluded that the "unknown aircraft" was a Royal Canadian Air Force C-47 aircraft and that the pilot of the F-89 had identified it as such as he closed in, but then crashed – "probably" as a result of "vertigo" - after abandoning the chase. Nevertheless, in both 1961 and 1963 the RCAF vigorously denied to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) that the object had been one of its C-47’s.
Harvard University astronomer Dr. Donald Menzel championed the Air Force’s position, but added that, in his opinion, the radar operators saw a "phantom echo" of the F-89 that had been produced by atmospheric conditions, and that the "echo" subsequently "merged" with the radar return from the jet and vanished with it as the aircraft crashed into the lake – thus creating the impression that two separate objects had become one, or that an abduction of the Air Force plane had occurred.
It is important, however, to note the important questions and issues raised by the late author and UFO researcher Richard Hall, who stated: "Exactly what happens that night remains unclear, as the Air Force acknowledges, and serious unanswered questions remain. How likely is it that a pilot could suffer from vertigo when flying on instruments, as official records indicate was the case? If the F-89 did intercept an RCAF C-47, why did the ‘blip’ of the C-47 also disappear off the radar scope?"
Hall continued: "Or, if Menzel’s explanation is accepted and there was no actual intercept, why did the Air Force invoke a Canadian C-47, which RCAF spokesmen later stated was not there? No intelligence document has yet surfaced that reports the radio communications between the pilot and radar controllers, and what each was seeing. Without this information, it is impossible to evaluate the 'true UFO' versus the false radar returns and accidental crash explanations."
Very curiously indeed, there is another intriguing aspect to this story that has been overlooked by many researchers of the case: only five hours prior to the disappearance of the F-89, another F89 from Truax Field – this one piloted by First Lieutenant John W. Schmidt and Radar Operator Captain Glen E. Collins – had crashed on the shores of Lake Wingra, approximately 400 miles from the site of the crash at Lake Superior.
In an article in the Wisconsin State Journal on November 24, 1953, it was stated with respect to this earlier crash that: "An Air Force clamshell crane was being used today to lift wreckage of the crashed Scorpion in the mud-filled hole of the University Arboretum in an attempt to find the bodies of Schmidt and Collins.
"Col. Shoup said he was convinced that the men had stuck with their plane in an attempt to keep it [from] crashing into densely-occupied areas of Madison. He praised the cooperation of police, fireman, members of the press and radio and others in trying to find the men.
"He added that an all-out effort will be made to salvage every bit of wreckage to present to an investigating board of experts so that the cause of the mishap may be determined. Officials were inclined to believe that a sudden mechanical failure caused the crash and the two occupants of the plane had no opportunity to radio that they were in distress or to bail out of the speeding aircraft."
Perhaps this event was indeed a tragic accident resulting from nothing stranger than "mechanical failure" as the Air Force suggested. However, taking into consideration the strange, second incident that occurred only five hours later over Lake Superior – and involving personnel from the same military base and in the same type of aircraft, no less – an open-mind should be kept on the possibility that there was a connection; even if it is one that remains unresolved.