Flying Saucer Working Party: Commentary > [prev ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ next]


The two remaining “reliable” reports both came from an experienced test pilot, who retired from the RAF as a Wing Commander. One morning in August 1950 he spotted a flat disc-shaped object resembling a shirt button, light pearl grey in colour, spinning through a series of S-turns at speeds of up to 1,000 miles per hour above the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Two weeks later the same test pilot, along with five other senior RAF officers, saw another disc-shaped object appear low in the sky in the direction of Guildford and Farnham. The group watched in amazement as the saucer performed a series of amazing high speed manoeuvres, stopping to perform a bizarre “falling leaf” motion before diving towards the horizon. All six were interrogated by MOD team and warned not to discuss what they had seen in public.

Despite the experience and calibre of the RAF witnesses, the Flying Saucer Working Party concluded that the test pilot’s first sighting was the result of an optical illusion. It was “impossible to believe”, they said, that an unconventional object could have flown at high speed and low altitude over a densely-populated area on a fine summer morning without anyone else having reported it. The five additional witnesses to the second sighting, they concluded, had already been influenced by the first report when they saw their saucer. This was probably a normal aircraft and only appeared unusual because it had been spotted “manoeuvring at extreme visual range.”

When the Working Party produced their final report to the Directorate of Scientific Intelligence in June 1951, a special guest at the meeting was the CIA’s chief scientist, H. Marshall Chadwell. Dr Chadwell was responsible for the US Government's policy of debunking saucer reports in an effort to remove the threat that belief in UFOs was seen to pose at the height of the Cold War stand-off. It was the CIA’s plan to strip the subject of its “privileged position” in the media by an “education programme,“ and the British were soon to become willing partners in this scheme.

The Flying Saucer Working Party's conclusions were set out in a six-page document, DSI/JTIC Report No 7, stamped with the security grade “SECRET.” Its title, “Unidentified Flying Objects” reflected American influence (the acronym UFO was coined by the USAF in 1950-51) as did its recommendations - debunk sightings and impose a tight security clampdown to ensure none of the more puzzling cases reached the public. This was the birth of belief in a Government conspiracy to hide “the truth” about UFOs from the public - that was to become a staple part of the X-Files mythology.

UFO believers have claimed that the cover-up of UFO data was imposed to hide the fact that the American and British Governments possessed hard, conclusive evidence of ET-piloted craft. Some of the more wild rumours suggested the Americans had captured a saucer that crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. The Flying Saucer Working Party report lays that myth to rest. It reveals how British Intelligence was informed by a member of the USAF investigation team that “the…sensational report of the discovery of a crashed 'flying saucer' full of the remains of very small beings, was ultimately admitted by its author to have been a complete fabrication.”

If the Americans did recover a crashed UFO at Roswell, then clearly even their closest allies did not have sufficient “need to know.” Furthermore, the British shared the American view that 'peaks' in UFO sightings closely followed periods of media publicity "indicating the extent to which sightings may be psychological in origin" or were the product of Cold War fears.

As for the possibility of Extraterrestrial visitors, the study was not optimistic. “When the only material available is a mass of purely subjective evidence,” the report concluded, “it is impossible to give anything like scientific proof that the phenomena observed are, or are not, caused by something entirely novel, such as aircraft of extraterrestrial origin, developed by beings unknown to us on lines more advanced than anything we have thought of.”

Rather than add weight to popular claims that UFOs were visitors from alien civilisations, the experts said they were satisfied that the vast bulk of reports could be accounted for “much more simply” as known astronomical or meteorological phenomena, mistaken identifications of aircraft, balloons, birds and other natural objects, optical and psychological delusions and deliberate hoaxes.

The report maintained that the only effective way to settle the question of UFO reality for good would be to “organise throughout the country, or the world, continuous observation of the skies by a co-ordinated network of visual observers, equipped with photographic apparatus and supplemented by a network of radar stations and sound locators.” Such a project, it concluded, would be an expensive and “singularly profitless enterprise.” The scathing conclusions continued in the committee's recommendations to the Chiefs of Staff:

“....we recommend very strongly that no further investigation of reported mystery aerial phenomena be undertaken, unless and until some material evidence becomes available.” »

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