The Performance
by
Bruce Cornet, Ph.D.

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Page 8 of 15
No Camera Jerk

For those readers who think that what I photographed is a camera jerk, take a close look at the width of the light traces at the jump. I cannot see any significant attenuation when compared to the width of the light traces before and after. In a camera jerk the film moves relative to the lights, and the emulsion has less time to react to the light, so the width of the light trace narrows proportionate to the rate of movement and intensity gradient of the light. But there is little if any appreciable decrease in light trace width through the jump. If this is the same craft, the time exposures from the previous night also show similar deliberate upwards jumps (Figure 13a). Thus, on two adjacent nights a similar-shaped craft with similar night lights in front of multiple observers made, should I say, an impossible maneuver for any conventional aircraft. Then on 6 May 1995 what may have been the same FT flew over Cornet and Marc Whitford at the same West Searsville Rd. location, once again traveling east, and once again making a pair of right angle moves, the second of which was breathtaking! Whitford captured this maneuver on film (Figure 13c). Unlike the previous two examples, where there is a sliver of space for skeptics to squirm through in order to avoid the unacceptable (Phil Klass is an excellent example of that process, which is even more amazing considering his measurements), the photo by Whitford, which was examined by Bruce Maccabee, leaves no room for a credible alternate explanation short of declaring it a manufactured hoax, which it is not. I was there. I witnessed it. To paraphrase FAA regulation 91.303: No pilot may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight over any settlement (these right angle turns or stunts were performed over a residential area on West Searsville Rd.), or make an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in aircraft altitude (or position), fly at an abnormally low altitude (below 1,000 feet), or make an abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.


( Figure 6)

(Figure 13a)

(Figure 13c)

When one measures the distance between strobes in Figure 6 for UFO5 on 29 April, something very interesting emerges: The jump comes at a time of a sudden increase in velocity. The measurements between strobes in mm (measured off the monitor) were 2.45, 2.55, 2.65, 2.75, 2.85, and 2.95 before the jump. The slight increase in distance for each measurement of 0.1 mm might be explained by perspective: As the craft banked, it came closer to the camera. But the distance between the red and green outboard lights decreases by only 0.05 mm over that distance, indicating that what is being measured is an acceleration. The jump occurred between strobes, and measured 3.35 mm in length. But after the jump, the measurements between strobes were 3.40, 3.55, and 4.05 mm. Had this been a camera jerk, the first measurement after the jump should have been 3.15 mm instead of 3.40 mm. There is a clear increase in apparent velocity when one compares the 0.15 mm increase per strobe interval before to a 0.50 mm increase per strobe interval after the jump. Therefore, the double-right-angled jump could not have been produced by camera jerk.

Airspeed Below Stall?

When these measurements are converted to airspeed, given that 1) the running lights are spaced approximately equal to the wingtip measurement (70 feet estimate for the TR-3A Black Manta: Douglass 1997), and 2) the strobes are firing no faster than once a second (FAA regulation), one gets: 31.2, 32.4, 33.7, 35.0, 36.3, 37.5 feet per second before the jump (= 1.26 ft. per sec. acceleration), 42.3 feet per second at the jump, and 42.9, 44.8, and 51.1 feet per second following the jump (= 4.5 ft. per sec. acceleration). This computes to an average airspeed of 23.4 miles per hour before the jump, and an average airspeed of 31.5 miles per hour after the jump! If the width or wingspan of the FT was less than 70 feet, the calculated airspeeds become proportionately less, because they are dependent on that measurement.

Either the strobes were firing much faster than once a second (against FAA regulation), or the airspeed of this craft was well below the stall speed of everything but the likes of a Harrier jump jet. When the video tape is played and the strobes are counted, it was determined that they are firing at approximately three times per second, which is unusual because at that rate they become too distracting to other pilots and give a false sense of apparent airspeed. But at three times a second, the calculated velocities for UFO5 triple to a more reasonable average airspeed of 70.2 mph (61 knots) before the jump, and to an average of 94.5 mph (82 knots) after the jump. These velocities (60-80 knots) are at the lower range of possible airspeeds while making a turn, but are above stall speed only if the bank angle is less than 60 degrees (Figure 18). As the FT increased its bank angle from 27 degrees to 55 degrees (Figure 12), it accelerated to at least 80 knots, which is important. That airspeed is above stall for a bank angle of 55 degrees in Figure 18, and indicates that this FT was complying with the laws of aerodynamics and using its wings for primary lift. Because the turn angle is critically high, and the calculated airspeed critically low, the wingspan of this FT could not have been much less than 70 feet without some additional source of lift.


(Figure 12)

(Figure 18)

The question now becomes, could the newest GR-7 version of the Harrier make a 19 foot right-angle jump at 70 mph (61 knots) forward airspeed? At 23 mph maybe, but at 70 mph the 'g' force would be nine times greater, and that would kill any pilot. It would be the equivalent of an automobile hitting a brick wall traveling at 70 mph. If a Harrier pilot attempted to jump that high, he would have to point his lift nozzles downwards, and then goose the throttle for sudden lift. But would such a stunt by a Harrier look like what I captured on film? I strongly doubt it. Therefore, I conclude that something other than aerodynamics was involved in producing the double-right-angled jump (Figure 6), and camera jerk has already been ruled out.

It should now be clear to the reader that whatever this aircraft was, its behavior and movement, both on the 29th and 28th of April (given that what Cornet photographed was the same type of aircraft), was highly unusual for a routine approach to Stewart airport, if that is what it was. The Omega-shaped turn or loop which UFO5 made (Figure 12; also see Figure 9) appears to have begun below 1,000 feet (observe light near ground level), and evolved into a climb with an increasing bank angle from 27 degrees to at least 55 degrees.


( Figure 6)

(Figure 9)

FAA regulation 91.515 Flight altitude rules: (a) Notwithstanding 91.119 and except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate an airplane under VFR at less than -- (1) One thousand feet above the surface, or 1,000 feet from any mountain, hill, or other obstruction to flight, for day operations; and (2) The altitudes prescribed in 91.177 for night operations. (b) This section does not apply -- (1) During takeoff or landing; (2) When a different altitude is authorized by a waiver to this section under subpart J of this part; or (3) When a flight is conducted under a special VFR weather minimum of 91.157 with an appropriate clearance from ATC.

FAA regulation 91.177 Minimum altitude for IFR operations. (a) Operation of aircraft at minimum altitudes. Except when necessary for takeoff and landing, no person may operate an aircraft under IFR below - (1) The applicable minimum altitudes prescribed in Parts 95 and 97 of this chapter; or (2) If no applicable minimum altitude is prescribed in those parts -- (i) In the case of operations over an area designated a mountainous area in part 95, an altitude of 2,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of 4 nautical miles from the course to be flown; or (ii) In any other case, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of 4 nautical miles from the course to be flown (AIM/FAR 1994 airman's information manual / federal aviation regulations).

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