UFO Case 1: The 1973 Army Helicopter-UFO Encounter

Just after 11 p.m. on October 18, 1973 a U.S. Army reserve crew was flying a helicopter from Columbus to Cleveland, Ohio. They included Captain Lawrence Coyne (19 years flying experience), Lt. Arrigo Jezzi, Sergeant John Healey, and Sergeant Robert Yanacsek. At 2,500 feet and good visibility, the crew noticed a red light to the west, slowly moving south. They assumed it was probably an F-100 out of Mansfield. Very abruptly, however, the light changed course and began to head right at them. Captain Coyne put the helicopter into emergency evasion in a controlled descent. When he tried to confirm the existence of a craft out of Mansfield, his UHF and VHF frequencies went dead. (Mansfield later confirmed there were no aircraft in the area.) The red light continued to close, becoming brighter, while the helicopter descended at the rapid speed of 2,000 feet per minute.

At 1,700 feet above the ground, the crew saw the object streak in front of, then above, the helicopter. It stopped dead for about 10 seconds, filling the entire windscreen. All four crewmembers saw it clearly: it looked like a grey cigar with a small dome on top. One member thought he saw windows. The red light was still there, in the front of the object, and there was a white light on the side and green one on the bottom. The green light swung around like a searchlight and shone into the cabin, bathing it in green light. The object then accelerated to the west, soon appearing as nothing more than a white light. It made a sharp turn and moved northwest where it was lost above Lake Erie.

Meanwhile, the helicopter’s magnetic compass had been spinning at a rate of four revolutions per minute. More seriously, and for no clear reason, the altimeter showed an altitude of 3,500 feet and a climbing ascent of 1,000 feet per minute. Yet the stick (for descent) still pointed down. Coyne had not attempted to ascend, but his aircraft climbed to an altitude of 3,800 feet before he regained control. A few minutes later, radio frequencies returned. A complete inspection the next day found nothing wrong, and the event received a thorough investigation.

By itself, it was an amazing story. It was strengthened, however, by the presence of ground witnesses. A woman while driving with her four children claimed to have seen the entire encounter, including the green beam, which she said lit the ground around her.

Philip Klass said the crew misidentified a meteor or fireball, and suggested the ground witnesses were lying. Jerome Clark dismissed Klass’s theory as “fantastic,” since none of the testimony was even remotely consistent with it.

This brief summary is taken from chapter 9 of “UFOs and the National Security State: An Unclassified History. Vol. 1: 1947-1973” by Richard Dolan. A detailed discussion may be found in the Center for UFO Studies report “A Helicopter-UFO Encounter over Ohio” by J. Zeidmann (1979), and also in The UFO Enigma: A New Review of the Physical Evidence, by Prof. Peter Sturrock.