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.
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
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
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
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.