The three UFOs of operation Mainbrace

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Skeptical British UFO researcher Dr. David Clarke published a wonderful and admirable summary of a truly puzzling radar-corroborated sighting having involved two English pilots in 1952.

David Clarke. A funny UFO can be seen behind him.

British scholar Dr. David Clarke.

I advise everyone to take a look at the whole post I linked above. In what immediately follows, I’m going to quote the most striking elements.

 In our interviews, Swiney described how, as the Meteor jet punched
through a layer of cloud at around 15,000 feet he suddenly “ the
fright of my life because there appeared to be, smack in front of the
aeroplane three white, or nearly white, circular objects. Two of them
were on a level keel, and one of them was canted at a slight angle, to
one side. I thought ‘God Almighty this is three chaps coming down on
parachutes,’ and I literally took the stick or pole, as we used to call
it, out of David’s hand so we didn’t tear through these parachutes. He
issued some sort of expletive, I don’t know what it was, and said ‘What
on Earth is going on?’ and I said: ‘David, have a look at this!’

“It was something supernatural. I immediately thought of
course, of saucers, because that’s actually what they looked like. They
were not leaving a condensation trail as I knew we were. They were
circular and appeared to be stationary. We continued to climb to twice
that height [to 30,000 feet] and as we did so they did in fact change
position. They took on a slightly different perspective. For example the
higher we got they lost their circular shape and took on more of a
‘flat plate’ appearance – like when you hold a tea-saucer above your
head and look at it, and then bring it down to your eye-level, it loses
the circular shape and becomes a flat plate.

“At one time the objects, which were still very much in view,
appeared to go from one side of us to the other, and to make quite sure
it was not an illusion caused by us in our aeroplane moving to one side,
I checked that we were absolutely still on a very steady heading, and
sure enough they had moved across to the starboard side of the

 David Crofts’ account corroborates Horsley’s memory. In 2002 he told us:

“I remember doing the 35,000 foot check and Mick, who was
in the front seat,  said: ‘David, did you have anything to drink at
lunchtime?’ and I said: ‘No, why?’ and he said: ‘Is your oxygen on?’ and
I replied: ‘Mick, we’ve just done the 30,000 foot check and you checked
with me that your oxygen was alright and I checked with you that my
oxygen was alright’…then he said: ‘Well, look at that – straight ahead!’

“Mick [who was in the front seat] put his head to one side and I looked straight through the D-window and there were three dots ahead…[initially] they wouldn’t have been bigger than my thumb-nail at arm’s length and there were certainly three of them. I looked up from
time to time and saw they were approaching and getting further and further apart. What I saw looked like the bottom of a stemmed glass.
They were lens shaped, like an ellipse and the sun was behind them, and there was no cloud at that height. It was impossible to tell the size of
them or how far away they were.

“I was thinking all the time that I’ve got to make this a good exercise and didn’t want to muff it by looking around at extraneous things…but Mick kept talking about them and saying that he thought they were UFOs so I thought: ‘Oh yes, well let’s go after them!’ thinking well now we can stop doing the exercise and we can officially say we are
off the hook. But he didn’t, he said: ‘Oh Lord no, don’t you remember something that happened on the West Coast of America where a couple of
pilots went after one of these things and they all got vapourised and they have never been seen since.’  I then asked him what he intended to
do, and with that he called Air Traffic Control at Little Rissington and said what he could see and within a very short time he said: ‘I have
control’, he turned the aircraft and we headed back to base.”

Swiney recalled what happened at this stage:

“We got to the top of the climb and I decided that really there was nothing much we could do. I was too shaken by what I had seen
and decided to call the exercise off and go back to base. I called up Air Traffic Control at Rissington and said I had three unidentified objects fairly close and gave them my course. I understand later that there was a certain amount of pandemonium on the ground because they weren’t used to having their own staff instructors calling up saying ‘we
have got three unidentified flying objects in front, what do we do?’
They didn’t know what to do either.”

 During our research at the PRO we came upon an entry in the
Operations Record Book of CFS Little Rissington, dated 21 October 1952.
It read:

“Flight Lieutenant M.J.E. SWINEY, instructor, and
Lieutenant D.CROFTS, R.N., student, sighted three mysterious,
‘saucer-shaped objects’ travelling at high speed at about 35,000’ whilst on a high level navigation exercise, in a Meteor VII. Later, A.T.C.C.
Gloucester reported radar plots to confirm this, but Air Ministry discounted any possibility of ‘extra terrestrial objects.”

You can read more here ,thereby learning Swiney’s final words on his experience.

Shooting down some conspiracy theories

Little Grey Alien greeting Hitler. A conspiracy theory among many others.

Any conspiracy theory is very hard to defeat.

I was truly dumbstruck as I recently stumbled across people asserting that Dr. Clarke would be paid by shadowy governmental organizations for hiding the existence of putative (Grey?) aliens among us.

This post of him should put to rest these groundless, crazy, ridiculous and morally offensive accusations. If this were really the case, David Clarke would obviously not deserve his wage. For he presented here a very strong evidence for the reality of anomalous phenomena in the atmosphere.

Granted, I find he often considerably overestimates the explanatory power and scope of the psychosocial hypothesis. But he comes across as he very honest man not hesitating to recognize the existence of genuinely unexplained incidents (which is NOT, please note, a synonym for alien visitors).

A truly anomalous sighting?

I’m under the strong impression that this sighting can’t be explained rationally according to our current knowledge.
There are few things which come into question as an explanation of this event.

Die-hard Debunkers might perhaps shout that the witnesses had a shared hallucination while the radar wasn’t working properly.

My only response would be that if military authorities were to seriously entertain this kind of far-fetched hypotheses as real possibilities, their land could be rapidly infiltrated by hostile vehicles they’d be utterly unable to recognize.

A more serious hypothesis would involve conventional earthly aircrafts.

The presence of three helicopters hovering at such an altitude can be rejected as extremely unlikely, not least because they wouldn’t have been seen as „flat plates“.

The other possibility would be that of three conventional planes. At that time, the cold war was spawning a lot of tension in Western Europe so that the RAF (Royal Air Force) was extremely reluctant to recognize the reality of unexplained phenomena, fearing this might cause panic reactions the enemy could take advantage of. Maybe quite rightly so. Therefore it stands to reason they’d have clearly written or communicated the results of their investigation if civil or military planes on an officially allowed mission had been identified.

Thus, we can be pretty confident that these putative planes would have either been

  • soviet vehicles or
  • allied vehicles on a secret mission.

But there are several facts which strongly speak against this explanation.

1) The speed of the crafts entering British territory. 

„The radar station called up saying that three objects had entered our
airspace, going at a fantastic speed, approximately 3,000 miles per
hour. We had nothing that went that fast, and neither had the Russians
or the Americans.“

2) The duration of the sighting. 

It was estimated as having lasted 10 minutes and both pilots flew upwards from 15000 to 30000 feet approximately.

Yet, the three objects staid during the duration of the sighting not far from where they had been made out initially. Supersonic planes flying that high would have quickly passed by and left the visual field of Swiney and Croft. Or at least a considerable movement would have been perceived.

Their remaining visible implies an implausibly low speed quite dangerous at such an altitude. And it’s hard to conceive of a valid motive for doing so.
3) The form of the objects.

The shape of the things doesn’t fit at all that of known planes:

“ I immediately thought of course, of saucers, because that’s actually
what they looked like. They were not leaving a condensation trail as I
knew we were. They were circular and appeared to be stationary. We
continued to climb to twice that height [to 30,000 feet] and as we did
so they did in fact change position. They took on a slightly different
perspective. For example the higher we got they lost their circular
shape and took on more of a ‘flat plate’ appearance – like when you hold
a tea-saucer above your head and look at it, and then bring it down to
your eye-level, it loses the circular shape and becomes a flat plate.“

„As the Meteor levelled out at 35,000 feet the three strange objects
remained clearly visible. They were saucer or plate shaped, slightly
off-white in colour and emitted a fuzzy or iridescent light from their
edges. There were no visible signs of propulsion: no portholes, turrets
or other tell-tale signs that might have identified them as conventional
aircraft viewed at an unusual angle.“

In other words, the plane theory would predict a-priori a sighting radically different to that actually experienced by the witness. I think we have very strong grounds for shoving it aside unless empirical evidence (or results from flight simulators) showing that such misperceptions aren’t implausible surface.

It’s also worth mentioning that the incident took place in a time period during which several other puzzling sightings were reported by military personnel.

No evidence for anomalous aerial phenomena?

What the hell happened then?

The answer is that I don’t know. I think we’re facing something which can’t be accounted for via our current knowledge. But let us speculate a bit into the realm of the unknown.

Could they have been secret drones? If this had occurred in 2014, I’d consider it a remote possibility. But back in 1952 this truly stretches my imagination too far.

Was it an unknown physical phenomenon involving electromagnetism or plasma? Maybe. But it is really strange that Mother Nature would generate such an event resembling real objects identifiable as such on radar.

Still, this cannot be ruled out.

In all cases, I believe we’re justified to think that something genuinely unexplained occurred back then.
Ufology debunker and astronomer Carl Sagan famously said that „the reliable cases are uninteresting and the
interesting cases are unreliable. Unfortunately there are no cases that
are both reliable and interesting.“

There are different ways to understand this statement. If it was supposed to mean that there are no cases allowing us to reliably conclude that we’re being visited by ETs, then I wholeheartedly agree.

But I do believe that we have decent evidence that anomalous phenomena are really taking place. And by decent evidence, I mean evidence which would be deemed reasonably conclusive in a judicial context.

You can see several other intriguing examples here: [1], [2], [3].

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2 Antworten zu The three UFOs of operation Mainbrace

  1. weetam schreibt:

    quick thought on this one.

    height of the cold war, the craft moving at 3000mph, including vertically for 15k feet…

    its not impossible that it was an unladen balistic missile test

    Gefällt 1 Person

    • lotharson schreibt:

      An interesting suggestion 🙂

      But they would not have staid as long (10 minutes) in the visual field of the ascending pilots.
      The shape of the objects doesn’t fit as well.
      And Russia could have started WW3 with such a reckless action.

      Like Sceptical inquirer Dr. David Clarke, I have no problem calling this case a mystery. Just that, a mystery.

      The elements we dispose of aren’t easily and seamlessly compatible with any conventional explanation. At least now.

      Friendly greetings.

      Gefällt mir

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