Special Agent 707
by Bruce Cornet, Ph.D.
Table of Contents
On 24 September 1992 between 6:10 pm and 7:20 pm Dr. Cornet was driving home from work at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, NY. He lived in Middletown, NY, about 70 minutes from his job. He normally took the New York Throughway (I-87) north to exit 16 (Harriman), and then took State Route 17M west to exit 20 at Middletown. From there he drove about two miles east on Rte. 211E to his condo at Hillside Village. On this particular day he was about to enter the Twilight Zone as he approached the Harriman exit (16).
Sunset was quickly approaching as Cornet drove north towards his exit on the New York Throughway, but it did not set before he saw something that completely challenged his senses. Off to his right between the highway and Bear Mountain, which parallels the highway, he saw a large jetliner approaching in the distance. The only problem was its altitude. It was flying below the top of Bear Mountain, which has a maximum elevation of only 300 feet above the valley floor.
As it approached him it flashed its landing lights several times - on, off, on, off, on, off. By now the jetliner was less than a half mile away, and it clearly had his attention. Then the aircraft began to bank to its right. It slowly crossed the highway just in front of him in plain view. It was not much higher than 200 feet above the highway as it crossed less than 500 feet in front of him. It just reached the other side of the highway as he passed it. It had the distinct shape of a Boeing 707, but was painted solid black. There were no markings on it whatsoever. Even the windows seemed to be blackened out. It did make a sound like a jetliner as it passed near him.
Simulation showing AOP (Anomalistic Observational Phenomena: Baker, 1968) as it crossed highway just south of Harriman exit on NY I-87
OK, now. Let's here from the skeptics. What could explain a large jetliner flying well below minimum altitude of 1,000 feet (FAA regulation outside airport control) and the pilot flashing his landing lights? Was the pilot in trouble? Was he trying to alert drivers on the highway as he attempted to make an emergency landing on the highway?
FAA regulation 91.515 Flight altitude rules: (a) Notwithstanding 91.119 and except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate an airplane under VFR at less than -- (1) One thousand feet above the surface, or 1,000 feet from any mountain, hill, or other obstruction to flight, for day operations; and (2) The altitudes prescribed in 91.177 for night operations. (b) This section does not apply -- (1) During takeoff or landing; (2) When a different altitude is authorized by a waiver to this section under subpart J of this part; or (3) When a flight is conducted under a special VFR weather minimum of 91.157 with an appropriate clearance from ATC.
FAA regulation 91.177 Minimum altitude for IFR operations. (a) Operation of aircraft at minimum altitudes. Except when necessary for takeoff and landing, no person may operate an aircraft under IFR below - (1) The applicable minimum altitudes prescribed in Parts 95 and 97 of this chapter; or (2) If no applicable minimum altitude is prescribed in those parts -- (i) In the case of operations over an area designated a mountainous area in part 95, an altitude of 2,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of 4 nautical miles from the course to be flown; or (ii) In any other case, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of 4 nautical miles from the course to be flown (AIM/FAR 1994 airman's information manual / federal aviation regulations).
These were some of the thoughts running through Cornet's mind as he prepared to take his exit at the Harriman toll exchange. What disturbed him the most was his observation that there were no engine pods on the wings or body of the aircraft. He dismissed that observation as probably mistaken (it made no sense whatsoever, given that he heard the distinct sound of jet engines). He continued on his journey, now traveling west on Rte 17M. But no further than a couple miles from the toll booths he saw the same aircraft again. This second time it crossed the highway from left to right about 1/2 mile ahead of him. It was again very low to the ground, and travelling at a slow speed: It took about five seconds to cross the highway. He became very concerned, because there was now the distinct possibility that the pilot was in serious trouble and preparing to make a crash landing. Even though the area seemed under-developed, Cornet knew that just beyond the trees along the highway there were large residential communities. And several hills jutted up on both sides of the highway, making any low altitude flight there very hazardous.
Cornet continued to question his eyes regarding the apparent speed of the aircraft. It seemed to be going much too slow to stay in the air. The map below shows four locations of his truck when the AOP crossed in front of him over the highway.
About a mile or two further west on Rte 17M Cornet saw the aircraft again about 1/2 mile ahead of him. This third time it crossed the highway from right to left at a similar slow speed and low altitude. He gave a sigh of relief that it had not crashed into the residential community, but where was it going and why? It was now becoming more apparent to him that whatever this thing was, it was putting on a show just for him. No one in front of him or behind him on the highway had been there for all three shows. But it couldn't be targeting him, he thought. Who would ever believe him if he told such a wild story without evidence? Anybody knows that a Boeing 707 can't fly without engines, and it would drop out of the air like a rock much below a stall speed of about 150 knots.
Cornet drove another mile shaking his head and wondering if anyone else who saw this aircraft was asking the same questions. Then ahead of him there it was for the fourth time crossing the highway, but this time from left to right. He had a hard time staring at it, because the Sun was just beginning to touch the horizon directly behind the aircraft. The highway at this point was oriented exactly east-west. This would be the last time he saw the aircraft in daylight, but not the last time that evening. The best was yet to come.
About 32 minutes later he was approaching his exit at Middletown, NY. The time was 7:12 pm. It was completely dark by then. As he approached the exit for Rte 211E, he saw a jetliner with all its night lights on approaching from the west-northwest (Truck 5 location on map below). Because commercial jets on their way to Stewart airport 23 miles away commonly flew over Rte 211E, which is aligned with the main runway in this area, it is not uncommon to see a low-flying jet with landing lights on fly over this intersection. But even jetliners on a glidepath did not fly as low as this aircraft flew that night. As the AOP got closer, Cornet had a distinct sinking feeling that it was the same aircraft he had observed before (perhaps because of its low altitude). He was not sure until it got over him. By the time it reached his location, he was driving down the exit ramp to a stoplight at Rte 211E. He glanced back and saw the jetliner just to his left out of the corner of his left eye as he slowed to a stop. It was nearly above him. But when he got to the light and stopped (Truck 6 location on map below), the jetliner did not appear ahead of him. He looked all around. It was nowhere to be seen.
The light changed about five seconds later, and he made a right turn onto the road to his condo. As he turned the aircraft appeared directly above and in front of him. It moved slowly ahead of him, but he caught up to it as he accelerated. In hind sight he realized that it must have stopped with him at the light. The aircraft was so low to the ground that its wings spanned the four lane road containing a grass divider.
Picture taken looking north from Middletown Motel, which is located at the intersection of routes 17M and 211E.
Not too many people would have paid much attention to it at this busy intersection, because of so much commercial airtraffic in the area. As he drove east on Rte 211E the aircraft remained just ahead of him. But he was traveling at only 45 mph! Then he had to slow down for traffic in front of him. He watched in total amazement as this huge aircraft (without any apparent engines) slowly moved down the road and eventually disappeared from sight.
Now do you believe me? Now do you understand the question: Have you ever been followed home by a Boeing 707?
When Cornet got home he ran inside and got his camera and tripod. Something told him that more was to come, and he wanted to get pictures so that he could prove that this thing was real and not an hallucination. He set up his equipment on the lawn next to Rte 211E, and pointed his camera west, in the direction the aircraft had last traveled. Then he waited. It was now 7:23 pm.
His Minolta camera was mounted on an aluminum platform. In front of a 300 mm zoom lens sat a three-bladed wheel mounted to a small electric motor. A pressure sensitive switch to that motor was mounted on the bottom of the platform in front of the tripod mount. Cornet used this device to chop a time exposure of a moving object at a known rate, which enabled him to calculate relative speed, and actual speed if he had a known measurement for the object. At night he photographed mostly the lights of flying objects. That night the chopper device proved to be worth its weight in gold.
The chopper device is not required to calculate the speed of an object. Rutledge (1981, p. 49-64) used FOV (lens type), size of film (35mm x 23 mm), and the time of the exposure to calculate possible speed and size of the objects he photographed. So long as the movement recorded on the film is contained within the margins of the image, and does not run off the edges, the total time of the exposure can be used. The chopper device was not used for all of the pictures taken of the Boeing 707-like AOP. When the light traces run off the top and/or bottom of the image, speed cannot be accurately calculated. The chopper device allows the calculation of speed when the exposure is not timed, but it also alters the image through the loss of recorded data during each chop. Click on image for chopper specifications.
At 7:39 pm Cornet spotted an aircraft approaching from the direction of Middletown, NY. It was flying over Rte 211E at an unusually low altitude of only 300-400 feet. When it was above him he could see that it was the same aircraft, because it did not have any engine pods on its wings. He then began taking time exposures. He took four pictures on the first pass. The aircraft appeared to be traveling at a snail's pace, taking at least 30 seconds to travel the distance represented by those four photographs. A set of bright parking lot lights can be seen to the far lower left of the fourth image. In that picture the aircraft can be seen to make a fishtail maneuver without banking.
During the last three pictures he used the rotating chopper blade to segment the light traces formed by solid lights. It segmented the traces three times a second. The second picture shows that the aircraft took 33 segments or 11 seconds to traverse the field of camera view. If its wingspan duplicated that of a real Boeing 707, the distance between the outermost wingtip lights would be 146 feet. By measuring the width of those lights at the beginning and end of the aircraft's path on the photo, taking their average, and dividing that distance into the length of the central trace, one gets 2.78 wing lengths traveled in 11 seconds. By multiplying 2.78 times 146, one gets 406 feet, or about 2,214 feet per minute. That computes to only 25 mph!
Below: Time exposure #1, chopper not used; note pulsating energy pattern on either side of the central lights (enlarged in another image below).
Below: Time exposure #2, chopper used. Calculated speed = 25 mph (406 feet in about 11 seconds).
Below: Time exposures #3 & #4. Chopper used for #3 and for part of #4. Calculated speed for #3 = 17.4 mph (425 feet in about 17 seconds).
The chopper device provided critical data for the calculation of the aircraft's speed (given that one could use the wingtip measurement of a Boeing 707, which this object most closely resembled). For the calculated speed to have been greater, the wingspan would have to be increased proportionately. Consequently, it can be safely concluded that unless one wants to use a wingspan measurement of 800 feet or more (which is preposterous), this aircraft was probably flying at less than 1/5th the stall speed of a Boeing 707. And that is aerodynamically impossible for a conventional jetliner - especially one which did not have any visible engines on its wings or body.
Good science requires redundancy and experimental duplication of results. After the AOP disappeared in the distance, Cornet did not pack up his camera and go home. He felt that the evening had just begun, and he was right. This aircraft returned 15 minutes later and gave him even more critical data for analysis, which will prove that it possessed a type of propulsion system unlike anything humans have invented (or displayed publicly if humans have this technology). Following the Boeing-like performance he was then treated to another even more bizarre performance, which will have to be the subject of another webpage. During that latter performance a brilliant ball of spiraling golden plasma light gradually transformed into what looked like and sounded like a single engine airplane. His camera caught spectacular and detailed images of that transformation. Upon calculating various trends and patterns, and graphing the results, he discovered just how much an illusion that performance was. But let's not get sidetracked. We have a story to finish here.
At 7:55 pm the Boeing-like AOP returned. This time Cornet wanted to get a picture of it as it approached the camera. He braced himself as the aircraft slowly approached him, taking the exact same route it had taken before (over Rte 211E). As its image filled the lens of his camera, he opened the shutter. But to his surprise the aircraft momentarily stopped in midair, backed up, and then proceeded forward in a slight saltatorial motion (jumping or bouncing: Its movement resembled a drunk stumbling along as he walked). He saw this happen, but forced himself to concentrate on getting a quality image. He estimated when the object would be in the middle of the picture frame and gently pushed the button to the chopper device. The latter half of the image became segmented, and from that data he was able to calculate additional velocity information. Following that first picture (of fly-over #2), he took two more time exposures of the object leaving.
Below: Time exposure #5, chopper used only during second half of exposure. Calculated speed = 53 mph. A labeled version of this image is given below.
Below: Time exposure #6, chopper not used.
Below: Time exposure #7, chopper used during last 2/3rds of exposure. Calculated speed = 32.7 mph (192 feet in 4 seconds).
Note the decrease in apparent speed during each fly-over:
Calculation for first image
Calculation for second image
7:39 - 7:40 pm
7:55 - 7:56 pm
Note also that the white lights visible from a frontal view become golden colored when the AOP is viewed from the rear. The light pattern is different from that of conventional jetliners in that the lights that simulated landing lights (wing-mounted lights on either side of the fuselage) become smaller and golden colored. On conventional jetliners the landing lights are shielded so that they cannot be seen from the rear. Also, a small white light was situated on the belly just behind a larger white light, which is redundant. That light has an unusual bluish tint to it. Usually the belly light is red, not white or bluish white. In addition, the forward white belly light in time exposure #5 became several closely-spaced smaller golden-colored lights in time exposure #6. Lights on conventional aircraft do not change like this.
And finally, as the AOP approached Cornet in time exposure #5, the set of lights intended to simulate the red and green navigation lights on the wingtips are not shielded from a set of white lights usually located directly behind them on conventional jetliners. These sets of lights are always shielded on conventional aircraft so that pilots can determine if an aircraft is approaching them or moving away from them. Therefore, both sets of wingtip lights should not be visible in time exposure #5. Both sets can be seen clearly only when a jetliner is directly above the observer. The intensity of each set rapidly changes as the shielding between them unblocks the rear set as the forward set becomes blocked with changing angle of view.
with more photos
Copyright B. Cornet 1999
Date this web page was last modified: 08/19/13