The Brazilian Flying Saucer Review Part Two

By Dr. Olavo T. Fontes MD

During the last three weeks of October, 1954, almost without warning, the first flying saucer’s large-scale reconnaissance of Brazil was started.  From the press records and from Air Force files it is quite clear that this country began to experience a thorough inspection which equaled in intensity any saucer visitation to any part of the world.  Sufficient observations were made to give the impression that the whole country was subjected to a careful and methodical investigation, which was carried on for four months.  The viewings were so numerous that in this necessarily brief review I shall choose only the most outstanding cases.

At first, from October 12th to November 3rd, for some unknown reason, the saucers took a special interest in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.  By this time reports started to come in from all over the country, chiefly from the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.  Some were caused by the growing excitement.  But most of the cases were caused by true UFO’s.

In November the saucer activity over Europe stopped suddenly, but at the same time the sighting curve was rapidly raising upwards in Brazil.  November and December were the peak months.  In January however, the survey slowed down and came to an end in the middle of February.

The Gravatai Air Force Base Incident

Gravatai AFB, Now  Base Aérea de Canoas

Gravatai AFB  Base Aérea de Canoas Brazil

Maps showing location of Gravatai AFB, Brazil, now Base Aérea de Canoas

In the early stage of the operation, the most remarkable sighting report came on October 24th, from the Gravatai Air Force Base in Rio Grande do Sul.  Maybe it was the most important of all, because it changed the attitude of the Air Force on the subject.  It was witnessed by one hundred persons from the Air Force military personnel officers, sargeants (sic) and soldiers.  And also by civilians.  The thing was too big, it was clearly impossible to hide or to “explain away” the incident.  Colonel Hardman, the Air Force Base Commander, after a careful evaluation of the situation, decided to tell the TRUTH!  It was a courageous decision, but he had no choice.  Too many people were involved.  It would have been hard to find a group of better qualified and reliable observers.  He released to the press an official statement, which was the first Air Force admission that the saucers existed.  (This statement was published in the May, 1956 issue of Flying Saucer Review.)

He requested the population to report to the Air Force Command all information on similar sightings, and asked for an investigation about the incident.  Later, on November 16, 1954, the Air Defense Command at Rio de Janeiro, released for publication summaries from five of sixteen reports on sightings over Rio Grande do Sul in October by Air Force personnel.  Two of the summaries were concerned with the Gravatai Air Force Base incident.  I do not intend to discuss here these summaries because, on December 2nd a full account of the incident was made at the Arm (sic) Technical School at Rio.  There, after a conference entitled “Flying Saucers”, by Colonel Adil de Oliveira, head of the Air Force investigation on UFO’s, two witnesses came to the witness-stand.

 Colonel Adil de Oliveira, Brazilian Air Force, FAB


They were Lieutenant H, Ferraz de Almeida, jet pilot, and Major-aviator Joao Magalhaes Mota.  To a quiet, motionless and startled audience they reported in full the Gravatai incident.

These reports are transcribed below, in the witnesses' own words, according to the account published a few weeks later.  The publication of the reports had been authorised by Colonel Adil de Oliveira, and the material published had been previously submitted and approved by him.  The reports were made as follows.

Report from Lieutenant H. Ferraz De Almeida, jet pilot...On October 24, 1954, I was the duty officer at Gravatai Air Force Base near Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul.  It was about 1:00 p.m. when a sergeant called me to see a flying saucer that was flying over the base.  I said, “Good, I want to get a look at this thing”.  We left the office, crossed the airport and approached some buildings around the base soldiers quarters.  Then he pointed to the sky.  I looked and saw an object hovering over the base.  It was silver-dull in color, like the aluminum-dull color of our jets, and reflected the sunlight.  It appeared to be moving in a very strange way.  The movements were circular but, at the same time, it maneuvered from one side to another in an erratic “zig-zag” course.  To the observers on the ground these motions seemed to be slow. But, as a jet pilot, I know that a supersonic jet plane flying at the high altitude the object appeared to be, between 40,000 and 45,000 feet, would give the impression of a very slow motion.  For this I am induced to believe that the object's speed was tremendous, far beyond anything known to me.  It was hard to believe but I was not alone.  Ten sergeants and the same number of soldiers were now at my side witnessing the sighting.  But I understood it would be wise to call for the opinion of more skilled observers.  In so doing, I found Major Magalhaes and reported: “Major, there is a body over the base.  I would like you to have a look at it and give me your opinion.”  He agreed and I drove him to a place where he could see the object.

Report from Major-Aviator J. Magalhaes Mota...This object was sighted from several places by a number of observers.  At 2:00 p.m., a few moments after my arrival at the base, I was asked by the Lieutenant to observe it.  When he showed me the object, I saw it distinctly with the naked eye, silhouetted against the blue sky.  It was making tight turns and moving from one side to another.  The motion was too fast for any aircraft because the object was very high in the sky.  At the altitude it was placed, the speed had to be fantastic to convey such impression of motion, so clearly defined.  For 15 or 20 minutes we observed, studied and discussed the object and its strange performance and finally decided to go to the officers canteen to get more people to see it.  But at that moment this was superfluous because the base was already in full alertness.  There was a great number of soldiers and sergeants and maybe five or six officers gathered in front of the hangers following the object.  The activity was great all over the base.  Then I approached a group of officers to discuss the sighting and Lieutenant Ferraz left for the meteorological station to verify the possibility of a weather balloon.  At that hour the object was moving slowly in a position about 90 degrees from the horizon.  Now the Lieutenant will report what happened in the meteorological station.

Lieutenant Ferraz... After leaving Major Mota, it occurred to my mind that the most important thing was to be sure about the shape and


movements of the object.  And so, I headed first towards the Air Base Control Tower.  There at the tower, I joined some air traffic operators and we got some binoculars, very potent, the latest type.  At the same time I tried to verify the motion lying flat down and looking at the object against a reference point, the roofs of the buildings in the area.  I was right, the object was moving.  The motion was circular, at one time to one side, at the other time to another side.  Through the binoculars I got a good look at the object and started to make a drawing on the back of a match box.  The shape at first seemed to be like a five pointed star, at an angle of 45 degrees.  Then it was not like a star, the five points faded away, and I saw the right shape very clearly, no more doubt.

I finished my drawing, reproducing accurately what I was seeing.  Not satisfied, I left the tower and headed towards the meteorological station.  We have on the base a section operated by Americans that launched weather balloons to check the winds.  An American sergeant was there, and I talked to him and asked him for a theodolite.  I estimated the object to be higher than 40,000 feet but I wanted to establish the exact altitude.  He said he couldn't help me because it was Sunday and the instrument was locked into a radar car and he didn't have the key to open it.  Next, I asked if he had sent up a weather balloon that day and the answer was “no”.  I asked him to come with me to the 8th hanger to see a very interesting object flying over the base.  He did so and was very surprised seeing the object and said, “This thing is impossible.” I said to him, “Why impossible, can't you see it?  What exactly are you seeing right now?”  The American sergeant said, “In fact, I am observing an object bright aluminum in color, round shaped and moving in a circular motion from one side to another.”  That's exactly what I see, I said, and left to look for the Major.

When I found the Major I told him that there were no balloons in the air.  The object could not be a balloon of any kind because a balloon has a spherical outline if you look at it in the sky, and the spherical shape always looks the same, round or circular, at any angle or perspective you look at it.  Now, the object changed shape according to its position in the space in relation to the observers.  It was star-shaped, circular or oval shaped at different times.  I also told Major Mota that the object was now being observed at the hanger by a number of officers, pilots, civilians and soldiers.

Suddenly I saw another object approaching the Base area at a terrific speed.  For a few hours we have had only one object, hovering more or less stationary over the base with little circular movements.  Now we had two craft, the first one in the same position as before, and the second one moving swiftly across the sky.  In a few seconds this object approached the other one and stopped at its side above our heads at 90 degrees from the horizon.  In a few moments it started to move again at a fantastic rate and reversed its course abruptly, drawing an arc of 60 degrees in the sky and disappearing at an angle of 30 degrees.  It disappeared into infinity in the same strange manner as it seemed to have dropped out of nowhere.  As before, the sky was blue and clear with no clouds and visibility was very good.  As the second object was pulling away, I saw it distinctly change in shape.  At first it was round but gradually became cigar shaped, as the object raced away.

But the most astounding fact was the speed. I've never seen such


a thing with such a tremendous velocity.  I estimated the time the object took to go from the vertical to the 30 degree angle as 8 or 10 seconds, no more than ten seconds.  As the object moved in the sky it brought into being and was surrounded entirely by some kind of mistiness, cloudiness or halo.  This halo disappeared when the object stopped in the air.  When it started to move again the halo reappeared and got stronger as the object increased in speed.

I witnessed the sighting until 4:30 p.m. when I left to fly on a training mission and it was the last time I saw the object.  I saw it for three and a half hours, clearly silhouetted against the blue sky. At 9:00 p.m. on the same day I showed my drawing of the object to Major Mota.  I had never read about flying saucers.  My drawing was identical to an alleged photo of a disc like object published in the magazine “Cruzeiro”.  The Major compared the drawing with the photo and reached the same conclusion: They were identical.  My report is finished. I have nothing more to say."

Major Mota...I am also going to finish my report.  When the Lieutenant left me and was going to the control tower and meteorological station I remained in the same place near the hanger door and observed the arrival of a second object.  It was heading northeast and it flashed towards us at a terrific speed.  It slowed down abruptly and stopped dead for a brief time, near the other object.  It came to a stop from a tremendous speed, all in about three seconds.  It started to move in circles around the other disc that remained stationary over the Base.  Suddenly one of the disc-shaped objects took up an east-west heading and went from an 80 degree height in eight seconds.  I marked the time with a chronometer.  Then it reversed course and came back.

The chronometer registered the time, ten seconds.  To climb from a stationary position to that height — between 40,000 and 50,000 feet — it required only three seconds.  The same time was required in the first maneuver, to come down.  If my numbers are right, the maximum speed reached by the object varied between seven to eight thousand miles per hour.  This estimation is true if my computation of the altitude was right.  But maybe I was wrong.  If I was wrong by the double, the speed would be half.  If I was wrong by the half, the speed would be doubled.  But I think it improbable to be wrong by the double or the half on a computation of altitude by the habit and training we have on that.

The apparent diameter of the object — using as reference point the apparent size of a Meteor jet plane flying at forty or forty five thousand feet — was three to four times the size of a Meteor jet.  As the size of a Meteor from wing-tip to wing-tip is of 10 meters and 70 centimeters, I estimated, the diameter of the objects to be about 30 to 40 meters, (about 130 feet.)

I also observed the halo described by Lieutenant Ferraz in his report and got the same impression.  When the craft was motionless it diminished and almost disappeared.  When the craft was moving, the halo seemed to grow, expanding uniformly around the object.

Through binoculars I was able to establish clearly the shape of the objects and get some details about the structure.  The shape was circular, ovoid or like a disc, according to the relative position of the objects in relation to the observer.  The strange crafts seemed to have some kind of dome on the upper part and two or three swellings or protuberances on the lower part.  I cannot explain better what these


unfamiliar structures could be.  But I saw them distinctly.  The color was not the bright silver color of polished metal; it was a painted silvery, aluminum-like color.  As the observation near the hanger door was in course we discussed the hypothesis of a collective hallucination.  To check this possibility I went to the other side of the building, 60 meters away and there in front of the other hanger door, I found a few sergeants and a number of soldiers and civilians.  I asked them, “What do you see?”  They said, “Major, we see two objects, one is stationary and the other is now going slowly in a west-east direction.”  I went quickly to the other side of the building and asked the first group of men the same question.  The answer was identical.  As the two groups were not in contact with each other at any time I discarded the hypothesis of a collective delusion.

One of the craft disappeared towards the southeast after a number of erratic maneuvers, hovering, accelerating for swift climbs and descending again, etc.  The other craft disappeared in the heavens.  It started to climb on a straight vertical line at tremendous speed, diminishing in size gradually.  After a few seconds it vanished in the blue sky.  No jets had been scrambled to go after the craft and try to intercept them.  We had discussed the matter and had decided against it.

No photos had been taken during the sighting.  The base photographic section was closed.  It was Sunday.  Nobody had a camera at hand, and nobody had thought of this in the excitement of the moment.  Anyway, the observation had been absolutely clear and accurate.  We have observed two round, disc-shaped craft.  Through binoculars they presented a distinct oval-shaped outline, with one projection on the upper surface like a dome, and three small protuberances on the lower one.  No smoke, flames, propellers, engine noise or other visible means of propulsion were noted.  When moving they were surrounded by a strange halo or cloudiness, which almost disappeared when the motion stopped.  The objects were not rotating, but changed form at intervals as if they were oscillating as they flew.  I think it impossible to mistake them for any known man-made machine or device.  Definitely they were not jet planes or aircraft.  They were not some secret weapon, because we have none like it.  They were not balloons.  At the time of the sighting no meteorological balloon was in the air over the region, aside from the fact that balloons do not maneuver in tight circles, nor can they slow down abruptly, reverse their course, or accelerate suddenly at great speeds.  Some people suggested it might have been the planet Venus, or it could have been Venus and a balloon.  As I said, all balloons were grounded that day.  We checked Venus too.  The answer was NO!  First, it was not in the same location in the sky as the objects.  We had computed the azimuth of the first object as about 350 degrees at an elevation of about 30 degrees.  The azimuth at the elevation of Venus did not coincide.  Second, Venus would have been a pinpoint of light in the sky and the chances of looking for a pinpoint of light in the sky on a clear day are very small, unless you look at the right spot.  It is most unlikely that so many separated persons should at that time have chanced on Venus in the daylight sky.  It is impossible that so many people should have chosen this one day to be confused to the extent of reporting the matter.  Third, nobody can see two Venuses in the same place at the same time, side by side, one circling around and stopping.  And the color of Venus, at daylight, does not conform with the color of the objects observed.  So, the answer was not Venus.  We also checked the possibility of hallucination and the answer was negative.

I don't know what we saw.  I only know it could not have been


anything familiar to us.  And the speed was far beyond the possibilities of any man made device.  I have finished my report.


Authors note: I would like to point out to the reader that, in the case narrated above, the sources of the reports were trained military airmen with excellent reputations.  They were sincerely baffled by what they had seen.  They had no conceivable motive for falsifying or “dressing up” their reports.

One of the Brazilian Air Force officers involved in the sighting was interviewed by the US air attaché.  See his report here.

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