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The Knutsford Flying Triangle Incident:  21st October 2000

By Bill Bimson and John Hall  

Introduction

Reports of flying triangle (FT) UFOs appear to be increasing. Throughout the latter half of the 90ís and now in the new millennium, reports are common place on an almost global basis, although most reports still come from North America, Europe and the Middle East.  The increase in reports may be partly due to the ease of communication between UFO groups and witnesses, brought about by e-mail and the internet.  In this particular case, the witness, John Hall is a long-standing member of MARA and this sighting would certainly have been reported even if the internet hadnít existed.  John lives only a couple of miles from Liverpool airport and has an interest in conventional and military aircraft which makes his account of the incident more credible than average.  You will see from our conclusions that it is impossible to make a definite identification of the UFO that was sighted, but we are able to rule out the vast majority of objects which are often mistaken for UFOs.  Both John and myself (Bill Bimson) have done our best to reach conclusions which we believe are unbiased and objective, but of course, we will never be able to agree with everyoneís idea of what they think John saw.  Especially those investigators and enthusiasts who promote ideas about FTs which are on the fringes of UFO investigation.

Description of incident

On Saturday the 21st October 2000, at about 6:50 am, four people were traveling in a car southbound on the M6 motorway at approximately 70 mph.  This incident occurred a couple of miles North of Junction 19.  John Hall was sitting in the rear left hand seat of the car and despite the early hour, he was wide-awake.  About 5-10 minutes before they reached the Knutsford services, John had observed several conventional aircraft, many of them low flying due to the proximity of Manchester Airport.  His attention was caught by one particular aircraft which looked at first like a bright white light on the West side of the motorway traveling apparently slowly in an Easterly direction.  His initial thought was that the bright light was the landing lights and illumination from passenger windows of a commercial aircraft (figure 1). 

First witness drawing of UFO  

Figure 1   First view of the aircraft before it crossed the Motorway.   

As the aircraft flew over the top of the car, He lost sight of it because of the roof, but he was able to see it again when it reappeared on the left hand (East) side of the car.  There was an embankment at the left of the motorway which restricted Johnís view of the aircraft to a couple of seconds, once it had gone over the top of the car.  However, John was able to get a good look at the aircraft and this was enhanced by the aircrafts own illumination.  The illumination consisted of three white strobes which flashed in unison, and a large white light which ran the full length of the trailing edge of the aircraft.  John only saw one flash of the strobes but this was enough, along with the rear light to clearly display the shape of the aircraft. 

The shape was described as triangular with sharp corners (see figure 2).  The shape was not apparent before the aircraft had passed overhead because John had not seen the strobes flash at this point and the brightness of the remaining rear light masked his vision of the rest of the aircraft when it was further away. The colour was described as merging into the dark sky and it had no commercial markings or numbers visible.  The size was considered to be similar to a small commercial jet airliner.  The altitude was described as low, being approximately twice as high as a pylon that the aircraft passed over.  The speed was described as being slow but John has stated that aircraft often appear to be traveling slower than they actually are when viewed from a car moving at 70 mph.  I am sure that most readers would agree with this statement as I do.  The only noise heard was that related to the car.  

Second witness drawing of UFO

Figure 2   The underside view of the aircraft as seen by the witness after it had crossed the motorway and flown over the top of the car.

Three other people in the car had the potential to see what John saw but one of them was asleep, another was driving and hence concentrating on the road and the other witness saw nothing unusual about the aircraft.  However, John saw nothing unusual about the aircraft until it had passed overhead and he caught a glimpse of the underside.  None of the other people in the car saw this view.  The only reason that John saw this view was because of his interest in aircraft and the fact that he deliberately moved his head back and to the left to get a final view out of the side rear window.  John immediately realized the importance of his sighting and after a brief discussion with the other occupants of the car, started to make notes to assist in memorizing as much detail as possible.  Within a few days, he had hand written a full report.

  John and the other occupants arrived at Knutsford services on the M6, 5 to10 minutes after the sighting where they met up with other people who were making the same journey South to Telford.  While at the service station, John keenly watched the sky in case there was anything else unusual, but all that he noted where other commercial aircraft and a red low flying Jet Ranger helicopter.

Evidence

No physical evidence was left at the scene of the incident, no photographs or video footage were taken and to the best of our knowledge nobody else saw anything unusual about the aircraft.  Even if a camera or camcorder had been available in the car, it is unlikely that they would have been switched on and focused in time to get a clean shot of the underside of the aircraft. 

Letters were sent to Airstaff  2A and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to make enquiries about possible military exercises and commercial air traffic in the area at the time.

Air Staff 2A sent a written reply which stated that ďMilitary aircraft do not conduct low flying training (below 2000 feet) near civil airports or over large built up areas.  This area is therefore not overflown at low level due to the proximity of Manchester Airport and the large built up areas of Manchester and Liverpool.Ē  This would appear to rule out military aircraft unless tests were being undertaken in secret.  It is our opinion that the density of air traffic in this area would make it a very unlikely place for the MoD to test new aircraft in secret.  Hence we have no reason to disbelieve Airstaff 2A on this occasion.  We did not consider it practical to ask Airstaff 2A if anything unusual was picked up on radar because we know that in the event of something unusual, they would not tell us anyway.

  John Harrington at NATS replied via e-mail and stated that their logs show that no unusual aerial activity took place at that time, but the area in which the aircraft was observed was in a portion of airspace for which no control of the aircraft is necessary, i.e. free airspace.  As such Manchester would have no record of the aircraft.  He also stated that aircraft are increasingly using multiple strobes which flash in unison and when they have these lights, red and green port and starboard lights are not required.  He had spoken with a colleague who suggested that the aircraft may have been a Piper Pawnee crop spraying aircraft (see figure 3) because this aircraft often has a long bar at the back for the purpose of crop spraying.  We have several problems with this theory.

          The aircraft looks nothing like John Hallís drawings.

          The size of the Pawnee is tiny compared to Johnís estimates.

          Such a small aircraft is unlikely to have 3 strobes.

          There would be no reason to illuminate the crop spraying bar at the rear of the aircraft.

          We have never heard of crop spraying taking place during the hours of darkness.  

Piper Pawnee crop spraying aircraft

Figure 3   NATS suggested that what John Hall had seen was a Piper Pawnee crop spraying aircraft.  A picture of a Piper Pawnee is shown opposite. Compare this with one of John Halls diagrams, figure 2.   Can you see the striking similarity.  J


We believe that the response from NATS is a desperate attempt to categorize an aircraft which is unknown to them.  They probably felt that if they could not come up with an answer, then they had failed and hence an answer had to be found at any cost. 

Both replies from Airstaff 2A and NATS were terse and NATS stated that they were unwilling to help with future enquiries because of a lack of resources to deal with this type of enquiry.

The weather as described by John was totally overcast with a low cloud base and intermittent rain.  This ties in with the weather report obtained from The Proudman Oceanographic Institute at Bidston Observatory.  It is impossible for temperature inversions to produce optical illusions or reflections of lights over the horizon under these conditions. 

Conclusions

Both John Hall and myself believe that the best way to come to a conclusion is to first of all eliminate what it could not have been and then focus on what is left.  This is what we have eliminated.

Astronomical objects. The object has undoubtedly moved during the short duration of the sighting which rules out all astronomical objects except meteors, but the entire description of the object including flashing strobe lights rule meteors out too.

Meteorological phenomena. Ball lightening and inversion layers causing reflections of the moon or other bright astronomical bodies are ruled out for the same reasons as astronomical objects.  Effects from inversion layers are ruled out by total low cloud cover.

Airship / blimp. The triangular shape of the object when viewed from underneath almost certainly rules out an airship or blimp.  This is further confirmed by the large white light at the back and the lack of any markings on the aircraft.  Some investigators will point to secret military style blimps for transporting troops but these are very unlikely to be tested in areas with such a high degree of commercial air traffic at an altitude which brings it dangerously close to pylons.

Microlight aircraft. The estimated size of the aircraft rules out Microlight aircraft.

 The possibilities we are left with are:

       A misidentified conventional aircraft. Arguments in favour of this include the fact that the other three people in the car saw nothing unusual, other low flying aircraft were in the area and Manchester airport is only about 7 miles from the location of the sighting.  Arguments against this include the fact that John Hall lives a couple of miles from Liverpool airport, he is used to seeing low flying aircraft in the dark on a daily basis, he saw no markings on the aircraft at the time that it was illuminated, the other witnesses did not see the underside view that John saw and the large tube like light on the trailing edge is not known as a feature of any aircraft that we know.

       A secret military aircraft. There is still a camp of followers who proclaim that all triangular aircraft are military. In favour of this argument, we can include the fact that military aircraft have been made to a triangular shape in the past and it is believed by some that new aircraft are under development with a triangular airframe.  Amongst these are thealleged Aurora aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which are flown by remote control.  Stealth technology has led to military aircraft being built with unconventional shapes, well known examples include the F117 Stealth Fighter and the B2 Spirit bomber.  When these aircraft are viewed from an angle whereby the main projection of the aircraft is either a forward or rear aspect, they can look vaguely triangular in shape.

There are several arguments against this theory. Amongst them is the fact that it would be stupid of the military to fly such secret test vehicles over areas where there is a high likelihood that they would be observed and photographed when there are perfectly good test areas out in the Irish Sea and the North Sea, which are well away from prying eyes. The danger of a mid air collision in such dense air traffic or a crash into the pylons would also tend to rule out military exercises in this area. John Hall has attended many airshows, the last one being the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in 1999. At this show he observed theF117 and B2 stealth aircraft and as such is used to seeing unconventional shapes of aircraft, but he insists that the aircraft he saw did not look like either of the two aircraft mentioned. Click here for our view of that airshow and photographs of the F117 and B2. 

    An extra-terrestrial (ET) craft. This is one of the most controversial conclusions but probably just as likely as the other two.  It is well beyond the scope of this article to go into the arguments for the existence of ET life forms and the likelihood of them visiting Earth so we will not attempt to do that here.  However, the absence of markings on the underside of the craft indicate that it would be either secret military or ET and its presence amongst dense air traffic and close to pylons suggest that it is not secret military. Against this argument, we can state that the aircraft was not beyond the size of conventional aircraft (in fact it is quite a typical size). In addition the aircraft did not perform any maneuvers which could be considered outside the envelope of conventional fixed wing aircraft.

    Illusion caused by the effect of high-tension cables. John Hall filled in a witness environmental health census.  The census was designed by Albert Budden who is a researcher and author with a particular interest in the effect of electric and magnetic fields on witnesses to UFO and paranormal events. There are 29 questions in the census which relate to the witnessís sensitivity to environmental conditions such as electric fields, magnetic fields, pollutants and health.  For an average person in good health, you might expect them to answer yes to about five of these questions and donít know or not applicable to another five. You would expect the rest of the answers to be no. John answered yes to 21 question, donít know / not applicable to 7 and no to 1.  This is an extraordinary rating by Budden standards.  In addition, one of MARAís own experiments in remote viewing gave John a higher score than any other member of the group who took part, although it must be stated that only one experiment was performed and it was done under less than scientific conditions.  Nevertheless, all the indications are that John is sensitive to environmental conditions that would not effect the majority of us.

At the time that John had his underside view of the aircraft, he was directly underneath a set of high-tension cables carrying electricity at 11,000 volts (see figure 2).  If the theories of Budden et al are correct, then John may have been susceptible to sensory illusion at the time of his sighting. 

Recent research has indicated that there may be one or two clusters of the incidence of Leukemia in children who live near to electrical sub-stations.  If these findings are reproduced elsewhere, then we have definite proof that long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields at 50 Hz can have effects on the body. 

Scientists have embarked on a further field of electromagnetic research known as Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).  In this research, undertaken by psychologists and neurologists, a coil of wire is held close to the subjectís cranium while a high pulse of current is sent around the coil.  The resultant magnetic field causes temporary optical illusions and distortions.  The point must be made that the field that John Hall experienced while going under the high-tension cables would be several orders of magnitude lower than that experienced by TMS subjects.  However, we have already demonstrated that John appears to be particularly sensitive to some environmental conditions.   

I (Bill Bimson) do not subscribe to the theory, that Johnís perception was altered by the high-tension cables but this investigation would be incomplete without  mentioning these points.  If anyone has further information on this sighting please contact John Hall by e-mail on j.l.hall@livjm.ac.uk

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