BY KENNETH ARNOLD
The following story of what I observed over the Cascade
mountains, as impossible as it may seem, is positively true. I never
asked nor wanted any notoriety for just accidentally being in the right
spot at the right time to observe what I did. I reported something
that I know any pilot would have reported. I don't think that in any
way my observation was due to any sensitivity of eye sight or judgment
than what is considered normal for any pilot.
On June 24th, Tuesday, 1947, I had finished my work
for the Central Air Service at Chehalis, Washington, and at about two o'clock I took off from Chehalis, Washington, airport with the intention of going to
Yakima, Wash. My trip was delayed for an hour to search for a large
marine transport that supposedly went down near or around the southwest
side of Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington and to date has never
I flew directly toward Mt. Rainier after reaching an altitude of about 9,500 feet, which is the approximate elevation of the high
plateau from which Mt. Rainier rises. I had made one sweep of this high
plateau to the westward, searching all of the various ridges for this
marine ship and flew to the west down and near the ridge side of the
canyon where Ashford, Washington, is located.
Unable to see anything that looked like the lost ship, I made a 360 degree turn to the right and above the little city of Mineral,
starting again toward Mt. Rainier. I climbed back up to an altitude of
approximately 9,200 feet.
The air was so smooth that day that it was a real pleasure flying and, as most pilots do when the air is smooth and they are flying at a
higher altitude, I trimmed out my airplane in the direction of Yakima,
Washington, which was almost directly east of my position and simply
sat in my plane observing the sky and the terrain.
There was a DC-4 to the left and to the rear of me approximately fifteen miles distance, and I should judge, at 14,000 foot elevation.
The sky and air was clear as crystal. I hadn't flown more than two
or three minutes on my course when a bright flash reflected on my
airplane. It startled me as I thought I was too close to some other
aircraft. I looked every place in the sky and couldn't find where the
reflection had come from until I looked to the left and the north of
Mt. Rainier where I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft
flying from north to south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and
going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees.
They were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed
they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the
reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds
would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to
strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane.
These objects being quite far away, I was unable for a few seconds
to make out their shape or their formation. Very shortly they
approached Mt. Rainier, and I observed their outline against the snow
I thought it was very peculiar that I couldn't find their tails but
assumed they were some type of jet plane. I was determined to clock
their speed, as I had two definite points I could clock them by; the
air was so clear that it was very easy to see objects and determine
their approximate shape and size at almost fifty miles that day.
I remember distinctly that my sweep second hand on my eight day
clock, which is located on my instrument panel, read one minute to 3
P.M. as the first object of this formation passed the southern edge of
Mt. Rainier. I watched these objects with great interest as I had
never before observed
airplanes flying so close to the mountain tops, flying directly south
to southeast down the hog's back of a mountain range. I would
estimate their elevation could have varied a thousand feet one way or
another up or down, but they were pretty much on the horizon to me
which would indicate they were near the same elevation as I was.
They flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were linked together. They seemed
to hold a definite direction but rather swerved in and out of the high
mountain peaks. Their speed at the time did not impress me
particularly, because I knew that our army and air forces had planes
that went very fast.
What kept bothering me as I watched them flip
and flash in the sun right along their path was the fact that I couldn't make
out any tail on them, and I am sure that any pilot would justify more than a second
look at such a plane.
I observed them quite plainly, and I estimate my distance from them,
which was almost at right angles, to be between twenty to twenty-five
miles. I knew they must be very large to observe their shape at that
distance, even on as clear a day as it was that Tuesday, In fact I
compared a zeus fastener or cowling tool I had in my pocket with them
- holding it up on them and holding it up on the DC-4 - that I could
observe at quite a distance to my left, and they seemed smaller than
the DC-4; but, I should judge their span would have been as wide as the
furtherest engines on each side of the fuselage of the DC-4.
The more I observed these objects the more upset I became, as I am
accustomed and familiar with most all objects flying whether I am close
to the ground or at higher altitudes. I observed the chain of these
objects passing another high snow-covered rIdge in between Mt. Rainier
and Mt. Adams
and as, the first one was passing the south crest of this ridge the
last object was entering the northern crest of the ridge.
As I was flying in the direction of this particular ridge, I
measured it and found it to be approximately five miles so I could
safely assume that the chain of these saucer like objects were at least
five miles long. I could quite accurately determine their pathway due
to the fact that there were several high peaks that were a little this
side of them as well as higher peaks on the other side of their
As the last unit of this formation passed the southern most high
snow-covered crest of Mt. Adams, I looked at my sweep second hand
and it showed that they had travelled the distance in one minute and
forty-two seconds. Even at the time this timing did not upset me as I
felt confident after I would land there would be some explanation of
what I saw.
A number of news men and experts suggested that I might have been
seeing reflections or even a mirage. This I know to be absolutely
false, as I observed these objects not only through the glass of my
airplane but turned my airplane sideways where I could open my window
and observe them with a completely unobstructed view. (Without sun
Even though two minutes seems like a very short time to one on the
ground, in the air in two minutes time a pilot can observe a great many
things and anything within his sight of vision probably as many as
fifty or sixty times.
I continued my search for the marine plane for another fifteen or
twenty minutes and while searching for this marine plane, what I had
just observed kept going through my mind. I became more disturbed, so
after taking a last look at Tieton Reservoir I headed for Yakima.
I might add that my complete observation of these objects, which I
could even follow by their flashes as they passed Mt. Adams, was around
and one-half or three minutes -- although, by the time they reached Mt.
Adams they were out of my range of vision as far as determining shape
or form. Of course, when the sun reflected from one or two or three of
these units, they appeared to be completely round; but, I am making a
drawing to the best of my ability, which I am including, as to the
shape I observed these objects to be as they passed the snow covered
ridges as well as Mt. Rainier.
When these objects were flying approximately straight and level,
they were just a black thin line and when they flipped was the only
time I could get a judgment as to their size.
These objects were holding an almost constant elevation; they did
not seem to be going up or coming down, such as would be the case of
rockets or artillery shells. I am convinced in my own mind that they
were some type of airplane, even though they didn't conform with the
many aspects of the conventional type of planes that I know.
Although these objects have been reported by many other
observers throughout the United States, there have been six or
seven other accounts written by some of these observers that I can
truthfully say must have observed the same thing that I did;
particularly, the descriptions of the three Western [Cedar City,
Utah] Air Lines employees, the gentleman [pilot] from Oklahoma
City and the locomotive engineer from Illinois, plus Capt Smith
and Co-Pilot Stevens of United Air Lines.
Some descriptions could not be very accurate taken from the
ground unless these saucer-like disks were at a great height and
there is a possibility that all of the people who observed
peculiar objects could have seen the same thing I did, but,
it would have been very difficult from the ground to observe
these for more than four or five seconds, and there is always
the possibility of atmospheric moisture and dust near the ground
which could distort one's vision.
I have in my possession letters from all over the Unites States
and people who profess that these objects have been observed over
other portions of the world,
principally Sweden, Bermuda, and California.
I would have given almost anything that day to have had a movie
camera with a telephoto lens and from now on I will never be
without one - - but, to continue further with my story. When I
landed at Yakima, Wash., airport I described what I had seen to my
very good friend, Al Baxter, who listened patiently and was very
courteous but in a joking way didn't believe me.
I did not accurately measure the distance between these two
mountains until I landed at Pendleton, Oregon, that same day where
I told a number of pilot friends of mine what I had observed and
they did not scoff or laugh but suggested they might be guided
missiles or something new. In fact several former Army pilots
informed me that they had been briefed before going into combat
overseas that they might see objects of similar shape and design
as I described and assured me that I wasn't dreaming or going
I quote Sonny Robinson, a former Army Air Forces pilot who is
now operating dusting operations at Pendleton, Oregon, "What
you observed, I am convinced, is some type of jet or rocket
propelled ship that is in the process of being tested by our
government or even it could possibly be by some foreign
Anyhow, the news that I had observed these spread very rapidly
and before the night was over I was receiving telephone calls from
all parts of the world; and, to date, I have not received one
telephone call or one letter of scoffing or disbelief. the only
disbelief that I know of was what was printed in the papers.
I look at this whole ordeal as not something funny as some
people have made it out to be. To me it is mighty serious and
since I evidently did observe something that at least Mr. John
Doe on the street corner or Pete Andrews on the ranch has never
heard about, is no reason that it does not exist. Even though I
openly invited an investigation by the Army and the
FBI as to the authenticity of my story or a mental or a physical
examination as to my capabilities, I have received no interest
from these two important protective forces of our country; I will
go so far as to assume that any report I gave to the United
and Associated Press and over the radio on two different occasions
which apparently set the nation buzzing, if our Military
intelligence was not aware of what I observed, they would be the
very first people that I could expect as visitors.
I have received lots of requests from people who told me to make a lot of wild guesses. I have based what I have written here
in this article on positive facts and as far as guessing what it
was I observed, it is just as much a mystery to me as it is to the
rest of the world.
My pilot's license is 333487. I fly a Callair airplane; it is
a three-place single engine land ship that is designed and
manufactured at Afton, Wyoming as an extremely high performance,
high altitude airplane that was made for mountain work. The
national certificate of my plane is 33355
/s/ Kenneth Arnold
They seemed longer than wide, their thickness was about 1/20th their width
They did not appear to me to whirl or spin but seemed in fixed position
traveling as I have made drawing.