I do a lot of date-specific Google searches to see what was going on exactly 50 years ago, and I’m amazed at how many of the results for the Fall of 1961 concern UFO sightings. Americans either had flying saucers on the brain due to numerous appearances in popular fiction at the time or there were, indeed, a whole lot of unidentifiable objects zipping through America’s airpspace 50 years ago. On the heels of the August, 1961 Betty and Barney Hill “incident” (Right), came this report from a Utah pilot to NICAP (the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena) about an encounter on October 2, 1961.
Source: NICAP / Richard Hall (1964) from NICAP case report
A grayish disc-shaped object which hovered, wobbling on its axis, then evaded pursuit, was sighted October 2, 1961 at Salt Lake City, Utah airport.
Private pilot Waldo J. Harris, a real estate broker, investigated the object in his light aircraft as 8-10 ground personnel at the airport watched. Mr. Harris signed a NICAP report form on October 10, and later answered additional questions by a NICAP Subcommittee member. His report: “I was preparing to take off in a Mooney Mark 20A from the North- South runway at Utah Central Airport when I noticed a bright spot in the sky over the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley. I began my take-off run without paying much attention to the bright spot as I assumed that it was some aircraft reflecting the sun as it turned. After I was airborne and trimmed for my climb-out, I noticed that the bright spot was still about in the same position as before. I still thought it must be the sun reflecting from an airplane, so I made my turn onto my cross-wind leg of the traffic pattern, and was about to turn downwind when I noticed that the spot was in the same spot still.
“I turned out of the pattern and proceeded toward the spot to get a better look. As I drew nearer I could see that the object had no wings nor tail nor any other exterior control surfaces protruding from what appeared to be the fuselage. It seemed to be hovering with a little rocking motion. As it rocked up away from me, I could see that it was a disc shaped object. I would guess the diameter at about 50 to 55 feet, the thickness in the middle at about 8 to 10 feet. It had the appearance of sand- blasted aluminum. I could see no windows or doors or any other openings, nor could I see any landing gear doors, etc., protruding, nor showing.
“I believe at the closest point I was about 2 miles from the object, at the same altitude or a little above the object. It rose abruptly about 1000 feet above me as I closed in, giving me an excellent view of the underneath side, which was exactly like the upper side as far as I could tell. Then it went off on a course of about 170 degrees for about 10 miles where it again hovered with that little rocking motion.
“I again approached the object, but not so closely this time, when it departed on a course of about 245 degrees climbing at about 18 to 20 degrees above the horizon. It went completely out of sight in 2 or 3 seconds. As you know I can keep our fastest jets in sight for several minutes, so you can see that this object was moving rather rapidly.
“All the time I was observing the object, after getting visual confirmation from the ground, I was describing what I saw on radio unicom frequency. I was answering questions from the ground both from Utah Central, and Provo. The voice at Provo said that they could not see the object, but at least 8 or 10 people did see it from the ground at Utah Central Airport.
“As to seeing it again, I was returning to the field after it had departed when I was asked over radio if I still could see the object , and I reported that I could not. They said they had it in sight again. I turned back and saw it at much greater distance only for about a second or two when it completely vanished. The guys on the ground said it went straight up as it finally left, but I didn’t see that departure.”
On the NICAP report form, Mr. Harris pointed out that the UFO at one time “passed below the horizon in front of mountains to the south.” This fact rules out any astronomical explanation.