Disappearance of Felix Moncla
Disappearance of Felix Moncla
Jet scrambled to investigate a radar blip
On the evening of November 23, 1953, Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar operators at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan identified an unusual target near the Soo Locks. An F-89C Scorpion jet from Kinross Air Force Base was scrambled to investigate the radar return; the Scorpion was piloted by First Lieutenant Moncla with Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson acting as the Scorpion’s radar operator.
Wilson had problems tracking the object on the Scorpion’s radar, so ground radar operatorsgave Moncla directions towards the object as he flew. Flying at some 500 miles per hour, Moncla eventually closed in on the object at about 8000 feet in altitude.
Two blips appear to merge, then both vanish
Ground Control tracked the Scorpion and the unidentified object as two “blips” on the radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer, until they seemed to merge as one (return). Assuming that Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control thought that moments later, the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips. Donald Keyhoe reported that there was a fear that the two objects had struck one another “as if in a smashing collision.”
Rather, the single blip disappeared from the radar screen, then there was no return at all.
Attempts were made to contact Moncla via radio, but this was unsuccessful. A search and rescue operation was quickly mounted, but found not a trace of the plane or the pilots.
USAF Accident Investigation Report
The official USAF Accident Investigation Report states the F-89 was sent to investigate an RCAF C-47 Skytrain which was travelling off course.
The F-89 was flying at an elevation of 8000 feet when it merged with the other mystery radar return. Its IFF signal also disappeared after the two returns merged on the radar scope. Although efforts to contact the crew on radio were unsuccessful, the pilot of another F-89 sent on the search stated in testimony to the accident board that he believed that he had heard a brief radio transmission from the pilot about forty minutes after the plane disappeared.
Air Force investigators reported that Moncla may have experienced vertigo and crashed into the lake. The Air Force said that Moncla had been known to experience vertigo from time to time: “Additional leads uncovered during this later course of the investigation indicated that there might be a possibility that Lt. Moncla was subjective to attacks of vertigo in a little more than the normal degree. Upon pursuing these leads, it was discovered that statements had been made by former members of Lt. Moncla’s organization but were not first hand evidence and were regarded as hearsay.” Pilot vertigo is not listed as a cause or possible cause in any of the USAF Accident Investigation Board’s findings and conclusions.
Contradictions in official USAF explanations
The official accident report states that when the unknown was first picked up on radar, it was believed to be RCAF aircraft “VC-912” but it was classified as “UNKNOWN” because it was off its flight plan course by about 30 miles. This assertion was emphatically refuted by the pilot of this RCAF flight, Gerald Fosberg, when he was interviewed for the David Cherniack documentary “The Moncla Memories” produced for Vision TV’s Enigma series.
The USAF also provided an alternative explanation to noted UFO investigator, Donald Keyhoe. His 1955 book, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy provides detailed information of his investigation of the F-89’s disappearance which began the night of the incident when he received a phone call telling him of “a rumor out at Selfridge Field that an F-89 from Kimross (sic) was hit by a flying saucer”. A follow-up telephone call to Public Information Officer Lt. Robert C. White revealed that “the unknown in that case was a Canadian DC-3. It was over the locks by mistake”. The “locks” refers to the restricted air space over the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, on the US Canadian border at the southeast end of Lake Superior.