Jan 07, 2023 I Nick Redfern

It's Almost Thirty Years After One of the Most Controversial "Flying Triangle"-Type UFO Events Occurred

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, the development of which was secretly begun in the 1980s by elements of the U.S. Department of Defense. In March 1993 a series of earth-shattering Flying Triangle encounters occurred in British airspace that went on to have a profound effect on high-ranking sources within both the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defense. More importantly, it was that single wave of encounters that 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 of terrestrial or 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 - at an official level - UFO incidents on behalf of the Ministry of Defense. Long-since retired from the MoD, Pope reveals his role in – and his knowledge of – the March 1993 UFO encounters over the United Kingdom:

(Nick Redfern) The late ufologist, Omar Fowler, holds a model of one of the Flying Triangles.

“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 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.” Pope continues: “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.”

In fact, not unlike the report filed by the police reports from Devon? “Exactly. 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 night’s activities had barely begun: “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.”

(Nick Redfern) The U.K. Ministry of Defense was concerned about the 1993 Flying Triangle affair.

Pope makes an important observation: “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.” Whatever the origin of the unknown vehicle, it appeared that its activities were far from over. “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.” Bearing in mind the fact that the Meteorological Officer at RAF Shawbury could be considered a reliable witness, and someone well-trained in recognizing numerous types of aerial phenomena, was he able to gauge the size of the object? Pope says: “Very much so: military officers are very good at gauging sizes of aircraft and they’re very precise. 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.

Interestingly, and just as an aside, Rugeley is on the Canncock Chase woods, a place that is saturated with bizarre activity, such as Bigfoot sightings, werewolves, flying humanoids and more. Back to Pope: “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.”

(Nick Redfern) The Cannock Chase: a hotbed for weirdness.

Perhaps the most eye-opening and revealing aspect of the RAF Shawbury encounter was the way in which the object made its exit, as Nick Pope reveals: “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. Well, of course, when I received this report and the one from Cosford, I launched as full an investigation as I possibly could.” As Nick Pope now makes abundantly clear, that investigation proved to be extraordinary, to say the least. “Even though it was fairly obvious to me that there were a number of things that this object was not, I still made the checks anyway to try and eliminate absolutely every possibility." Pope also notes:

“I had a feeling that this one was going to go right up the chain of command.” He was not wrong. “Checks were also made with various Air Traffic Control Centers, with Air Defense experts and Air Defense radar systems; and although at one point we thought we had caught the UFO on radar, it eventually turned out that there was nothing. After these checks were made and we were able to establish that the UFO hadn’t been caught on radar, the Royal Air Force was quite interested. There isn’t really a corporate view on UFOs; it really does go down to the belief of the individual. But, enough people realized that there was something exciting and out of the ordinary going on and they, too, got caught up in all that excitement.”

Initially, suggestions were put forward that all of the sightings were simply the result of a satellite re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere: “I spoke to the Space Information Officer at RAF Fylingdales; this is the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Centre. They’ve got very powerful space tracking radar that can pick up and track all sorts of objects at orbital heights. Now, they raised the possibility that we were looking at the re-entry of one of the Russian Cosmos satellites. “Contrary to what some people have said, however, Fylingdales were very unsure as to whether or not the satellite would even have been visible from the U.K. at all during that time. But even if there was a re-entering satellite in the skies, it certainly couldn’t explain the very close encounter at RAF Shawbury. Don’t forget, too, that a satellite burn-up is very much like a meteor shower with a few tracks of light flashing across the sky. In this sighting, however, it was a case of one military base actually reporting to another and saying: ‘It’s coming your way…’ So this rules out a satellite burn-out.” Pope then took his investigation to another level. “My next step was to get a map and plot out the various locations where the UFO – or UFOs – had been seen. Well, that didn’t work out. I was confronted with a map of haphazard sightings all around the country. There was certainly a concentration of sightings in Devon, Cornwall, South Wales and the Midlands. But there were also sightings from Southampton and Yorkshire; and I knew that there were reports from Ireland, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe. And these were just the tip of the iceberg.

“One interesting point that then occurred to me was that we were dealing with activity on exactly the same night – but three years later  - to a very famous wave of sightings of very similar craft seen over Belgium. And my favorite theory about this or at least an idea I floated about – was that this was a deliberate move on the part of whoever was operating the craft.” Pope explains his line of thinking: “For example, if the media had got a hold of this, it would have been too late to get it in the newspapers on March 31; so, the earliest date that the story could have run would have been April 1 – April Fools’ Day! Again, a little indicator, perhaps, of an intelligence and possibly even some form of humor.” Of course, it could be argued that this would serve as excellent cover if the Flying Triangle that was seen near RAF Shawbury was a terrestrial aircraft (albeit a distinctly secret one) as opposed to something extraterrestrial. Pope acknowledges this. Almost thirty years later, the mystery remains exactly that: a mystery.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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