In early March 1997, an eyeopening feature appeared in the pages of the U.K.’s Independent newspaper. The title of the feature was “Secret US spyplane crash may be kept under wraps.” The feature included the following words: “A top-secret United States spyplane which flies on the edge of space at five times the speed of sound crashed at the British experimental airbase at Boscombe Down, Hampshire, in September 1994, according to a report in a leading military aviation journal. The SAS [Special Air Service], the report said, was scrambled to throw a cordon round the wreckage, which was flown back to the U.S. two days later. The hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft, called Astra or Aurora, is believed to have been developed in the 1980s as a secret U.S. government ‘black programme.’”
Attempts were made to try and diffuse the controversy that surrounded this curious affair, with claims from the military that nothing but a malfunctioning Tornado airplane was the culprit. The U.K.’s National Archives prepared this statement: “…the only flying that took place that night was the launch of two Royal navy Sea King helicopters in support of an exercise. Claims that members of the public were turned away by police roadblocks may have arisen from some confusion over dates. On August 12, 1994 a Tornado participating in a trial made an emergency landing there after the decoy target under trial failed to jettison. The Tornado landed with a trailing 375 ft steel cable and, for safety reasons, roads close to Boscombe Down were closed while the aircraft passed overhead. We are aware of press reports regarding an aircraft known as ‘Aurora’. The Ministry of Defense has no knowledge of any US aircraft with this designation operating in UK airspace. The existence of such a programme would, in any case, be a matter for the US Government to confirm.”
Note that the incident occurred in September 1994 (its 25th anniversary looms, as per the title of this article…), but the National Archives claimed it had occurred in August 1994. Maybe it really was all down to a Tornado. Perhaps it was something much weirder. Possibly , something that may actually have been flying around the U.K. countryside for a long time. Since the 1980s, sightings of large, triangular-shaped UFOs, usually described as being black in color, making a low humming noise, and very often with rounded rather than angled corners, have been reported throughout the world. The sheer proliferation of such reports has led some ufological commentators to strongly suspect that the Flying Triangles (as they have come to be known) are prime examples of still-classified aircraft, namely, the Aurora. It was one single wave of encounters in the U.K., in early 1993, which ultimately led senior military and defense personnel to liaise with their American counterparts to try and determine, once and for all, if the FTs are the Aurora or if they have extraterrestrial origins. The story comes from one of those at the forefront of the study into the aforementioned sightings: Nick Pope, who, for three years (1991-1994), investigated UFO incidents for the Ministry of Defense.
I’ll share with you the words Pope made to me in a 1997 interview: “I arrived at the office at about 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. on the morning of March 31, 1993, and my telephone was ringing. I picked it up and there was a police officer on the other end making a UFO report. Now, he was based in Devon [England] and told me an account of an incident that had taken place in the early hours of that particular day when he and a colleague who had been on night patrol saw a triangular-shaped UFO at fairly-high altitude. He said that the motion was fairly steady and that there were lights at the edges with a fainter light in the middle. To me, this was already a description that was becoming quite familiar both from one or two reports that I’d received at the Ministry of Defense over the years and from my own study and research into the UFO literature. In other words, I was aware that this was a commonly reported shape for a UFO.”
“I was also quite pleased to get a report from a police officer. I won’t say that it was rare, but it was slightly unusual to have reports from trained observers like police and military. I would say that, of the reports I received in my time at the UFO desk, less than five per cent came from, collectively, pilots, military officers and the police. I had spoken, socially, to numerous Royal Air Force pilots who’d had personal sightings, but who had never reported them for fear of ridicule. But that police report was very much the first of many that came in that day and over the next week or so. When taken together, the sightings described took place in a range of times – the earliest was about 11-11.30 p.m. on the evening of the 30th and the latest was about 1.45 a.m. in the early hours of the 31st. What was it precisely that made the police officer’s report stand out? He said to me: ‘I’ve been on night patrols for years, but I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life.’ Well, reports such as this came through thick and fast over the course of the next week or so; more and more reports came in from police stations, the public and local RAF stations. In fact, I would say that the total number of reports easily exceeded one hundred.”
It is clear from what Pope has to say that there were three reports in particular that stood out more than any other – the first of which concerned a family based in Rugeley, Staffordshire, England, who had viewed a remarkable aerial vehicle near the sprawling forest that is Cannock Chase. Pope reveals the facts: “This report was brought to my attention by the Community Relations Office at RAF Cosford [Shropshire]. The report had come direct from the family and sounded particularly interesting because, unlike some of the other sightings, this one was of an object flying at very low level. There had been a family gathering and several members of the family were out on the drive – really just saying goodbye to their relatives who were about to drive off. Suddenly, this large, triangular-shaped craft flew over them very, very slowly. This was a flat triangle, with a light in each corner and a larger light in the direct centre of the underside of the craft.
“But there was something else that I’d come across in my investigations that was also present in the Rugeley case,” says Pope. “This was a low-frequency humming sound coming from the UFO; a humming that they actually described as being quite unpleasant. Imagine standing in front of the speakers at a pop concert and almost feeling the sound as well as hearing it – that was the effect that they reported. Well, they were so excited and overwhelmed that two of them leapt into the car to give chase! As they did so, they came to a point where they thought the UFO was so low that it must have come down in a nearby field. Well, they parked the car, jumped out and looked around. But there was absolutely nothing there; the UFO had gone.
“The two most significant reports began at RAF Cosford shortly after the encounter at Rugeley. This was definitely the highlight and was one of the best sighting reports I received in my entire posting. The report itself came from a guard patrol at Cosford. They were on duty manning entrance points, checking the perimeter fence and such like. All the members of the patrol saw the UFO and, again, the description was pretty much the same as most of the others. In this case, though, the UFO was at medium-to-high altitude. Remember that these witnesses were people who see in a normal course of business all sorts of aircraft activity, meteorites, fireballs and so on, and they considered it absolutely out of the ordinary.
“They didn’t make a standard report: what they did was to submit an actual 2-3 page report which went up their chain of command and then the report was forwarded on to me. In that report, they stated that the UFO passed directly over the base and that this was of particular concern to them. They made immediate checks with various Air Traffic Control radar centres but nothing appeared on the screens. It was this factor that made them particularly keen to make an official report. This was at around 1.00 a.m. They noticed that this Flying Triangle was heading on a direct line for RAF Shawbury, which is some twelve to fifteen miles on. Now, the main concern of the Cosford patrol was to alert Shawbury that the UFO was coming their way; but they also wanted confirmation that they weren’t having a mass hallucination. They took a decision to call Shawbury and this was answered by the Meteorological Officer. You have to realize that at that time there was literally just a skeleton staff operating, so the Met. Officer was, essentially, on his own. So, he took a decision to go outside, look in the direction of RAF Cosford and see what he could see.
“Sure enough, he could see this light coming towards him and it got closer and closer and lower and lower. Next thing, he was looking at this massive, triangular-shaped craft flying at what was a height of no more than two hundred feet, just to the side of the base and only about two hundred feet from the perimeter fence. His quote to me was that the UFO’s size was midway between that of a C-130 Hercules and a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Now, he had eight years’ worth of experience with the Royal Air Force, and a Met. Officer is generally much better qualified than most for looking at things in the night sky. And there were other factors too: like the family in Rugeley, he heard this most unpleasant low-frequency hum; but unlike their experience, he saw the craft fire a beam of light down to the ground. He felt that it was something like a laser beam or a searchlight. The light was tracking very rapidly back and forth and sweeping one of the fields adjacent to the base.
“He also said – and he admitted this was speculation – that it was as if the UFO was looking for something. Now, the speed of the UFO was extremely slow – no more than twenty or thirty miles per hour, which in itself is quite extraordinary. As far as the description is concerned, he said that it was fairly featureless – a sort of flat, triangular-shaped craft, or possibly a bit more diamond-shaped. But if all the descriptions had been identical I would have been surprised. He said that the beam of light retracted into the craft, which then seemed to gain a little bit of height. But then, in an absolute instant, the UFO moved from a speed of about twenty or thirty miles per hour to a speed of several hundreds of miles per hour – if not thousands! It just suddenly moved off to the horizon and then out of sight in no more than a second or so – and there was no sonic boom.”
The mystery of what came down in 1994 lives on. And the anniversary will soon be right around the corner.