the most dramatic conversion from skeptic to believer was
the experience of Captain E. J. Smith, a story that made
nearly every major newspaper.
early as June 26th, Captain Smith, a pilot for United
Air Lines, had been approached by reporters and asked
for his opinion on the flying saucers being seen over
the northwest, an area where he regularly flew airliners.
He told reporters: "I've never seen anything like
that (Arnold's flying saucers) and the boys (other pilots)
say they haven't either. . .what that other fellow (Arnold)
probably saw was the reflection of his own instrument
the evening of July 4th at Boise, Idaho, Captain Smith
was walking up the ramp to board his plane, flight 105,
for a trip to Seattle when someone mentioned the massive
wave of saucers taking place all day over the northwest.
Captain Smith joked: "I'll believe in those discs
when I see them."
United Airlines DC-3, like the one piloted by Capt. E.
J. Smith and Ralph Stevens
airliner lifted off at 9:04 p.m. and turned towards Seattle.
As Captain Smith remembers it, the control tower at Boise
bid him farewell by: "joshingly warning us to be
on the lookout for 'flying saucers.'"
after takeoff, five disc-like objects, one larger than
the rest, approached Captain Smith's DC-3 head on. Stunned,
Captain Smith and his co-pilot Ralph Stevens watched as
the objects quickly reversed direction and took up a course
that paralleled their own. For 45 miles, Captain Smith
was able to keep the objects in sight. Co-pilot Stevens
thought the objects were aircraft at first and flashed
the airliner's landing lights. The objects reacted by
changing formation from a very tight cluster to a more
open one. The cluster of discs then began to open and
close repeatedly before settling down into a loose formation.
This group soon vanished and another group of four came
into view. The new group soon merged and vanished into
the northwest. The airliner's stewardess, Miss Marty Morrow,
verified the sightings.
105's next scheduled stop was the airport at Pendleton,
Oregon, a place not unfamiliar with flying saucers. Captain
Smith radioed ahead, telling the Pendleton control tower
that he and his crew had just seen a whole flock of the
mysterious flying discs. Airport officials contacted the
press and had a newspaper reporter on the telephone as
Captain Smith taxied his airliner up to the Pendleton
airport terminal. Within moments of landing, a shaken
Captain Smith was relating all the details.
Captain Smith report was picked up by Reuters News Service
and sent around the world. Even some small eight-page
newspapers in India carried a lengthy account of Captain
Smith's experience, along with references to the massive
wave of UFO sightings that were exciting the whole of
UFOs: A History, 1947, pp.14-15, by Loren E. Gross, ©
1988, Fremont, Calif. Reproduced with permission.
Airlines Flight 105 - Dr. James E. McDonald
1. Boise, Idaho, July 4, 1947
about a week after the now-famous Mt. Rainier sighting
by private pilot Kenneth Arnold, a United Air Lines DC-3
crew sighted two separate formations of wingless discs,
shortly after takeoff from Boise (Refs. 8, 10, 22, 28).
I located and interviewed the pilot, Capt. Emil J. Smith,
now with United's New York office. He confirmed the reliability
of previously published accounts. United Flight 105 had
left Boise at 9:04 p.m. About eight minutes out, en route
to Seattle, roughly over Emmett, Idaho, Co-pilot Stevens,
who spotted the first of two groups of objects, turned
on his landing lights under the initial impression the
objects were aircraft. But, studying them against the
twilight sky, Smith and Stevens soon realized that neither
wings nor tails were visible on the five objects ahead.
After calling a stewardess, in order to get a third confirming
witness, they watched the formation a bit longer, called
Ontario, Oregon CAA to try to get ground-confirmation,
and then saw the formation spurt ahead and disappear at
high speed off to the west.
emphasized to me that there were no cloud phenomena to
confuse them here and that they observed these objects
long enough to be quite certain that they were no conventional
aircraft. They appeared "flat on the bottom, rounded
on top", he told me, and he added that there seemed
to be perceptible "roughness" of some sort on
top, though he could not refine that description. Almost
immediately after they lost sight of the first five, a
second formation of four (three in line and a fourth off
to the side) moved in ahead of their position, again traveling
westward but at a somewhat higher altitude than the DC-3's
8000 ft. These passed quickly out of sight to the west
at speeds which they felt were far beyond then-known speeds.
Smith emphasized that they were never certain of sizes
and distances, but that they had the general impression
that these disc-like craft were appreciably larger than
ordinary aircraft. Smith emphasized that he had not taken
seriously the previous week's news accounts that coined
the since-persistent term, "flying saucer."
But, after seeing this total of nine unconventional, high-speed
wingless craft on the evening of 7/4/47, he became much
more interested in the matter. Nevertheless, in talking
with me, he stressed that he would not speculate on their
real nature or origin. I have spoken with United Air Lines
personnel who have known Smith for years and vouch for
his complete reliability.
-- The 7/4/47 United Air Lines sighting is of historic
interest because it was obviously given much more credence
than any of the other 85 UFO reports published in press
accounts on July 4, 1947 (see Ref. 8). By no means the
most impressive UFO sighting by an airliner crew, nevertheless,
it is a significant one. It occurred in clear weather,
spanned a total time estimated at 10-12 minutes, was a
multiple-witness case including two experienced observers
familiar with airborne devices, and was made over a 1000-ft.
altitude range (climb-out) that, taken together with the
fact that the nine objects were seen well above the horizon,
entirely rules out optical phenomena as a ready explanation.
It is officially listed as a Unidentified.
Prepared Statement by Dr. James E. McDonald to the United
States House of Representatives, Committee on Science
and Astronautics, Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects,
July 1968. Washington, D.C. pp. 41-42.