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Martin SHOUGH [1]

This classic observation was made by crew and passengers of a 4-engine Boeing Stratocruiser [2] of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Flight 510-196 was a luxury flight bound for London on the "champagne and caviar run", departing New York at 17:03 local (21:03 GMT) on June 29, 1954 with 51 passengers aboard. Four hours later at sunset, 19,000 ft (5,791 m) over Labrador, Newfoundland, and en route for Goose Bay, an apparently huge shape-changing UAP [3] and a swarm of small attendant objects was seen against the bright sky off the left wing. The strange display persisted for 18 minutes.

After a refuelling stop at Goose where they were met and questioned by US Air Force intelligence officers the crew proceeded to London, where the story rapidly appeared in national papers and magazines. Capt. James R. HOWARD was filmed for BBC TV and cinema newsreels. It became big news and went around the world within days via the Associated Press syndicated wire. The standing of the witnesses, in particular 33-year-old Capt. HOWARD, a highly respected former RAF Squadron Leader with 7500 hours commercial flying on 256 Atlantic crossings to his credit at the time of the sighting, has never been called in question. They were convinced that their airliner was followed for 80 miles by a formation of solid flying objects under intelligent control. To this day the case is still hailed by many ufologists as unexplained and one of the most significant "British" cases.

Several theories have been advanced. Were these objects spaceships, a giant flock of migrating starlings, balloons, or perhaps a mirage? Whilst the evidence is not conclusive, we present evidence that the most likely explanation seems to be an unusual mirage of a type which, whilst rare, appears to have been observed several times in similar conditions in other parts of the world.


The author acknowledges in particular Dr. Andrew T YOUNG (San Diego State University, Dept. of Astronomy) for invaluable expert advice and assistance; Belgian researcher Wim VAN UTRECHT (CAELESTIA) for information and many stimulating and constructive discussions; Dr. Ronny BLOMME (Royal Observatory of Belgium); Herbert L. TAYLOR; G. David THAYER (formerly Environmental Science Services Administration, Boulder, Colorado, and CONDON Committee); Brad SPARKS; Dr David CLARKE (Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Sheffield Hallam University); Eric RUSH; Lt. Col. Al KRAMER USAF (ret.); Claude MAUGÉ.

 Notes & references

[1 - CAELESTIA] is a UK Research Associate of the US National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, NARCAP.

[2] Boeing 377-10-28, construction number 15945, received British CAA registration mark G-ALSC on June 15, 1949, was operated by BOAC as RMA Centaurus and sold to US operator Transocean Airlines on January 8, 1959, subsequently acquiring FAA registrations N101Q and N406Q. Current status: Scrapped.

[3] UAP = Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon.