High-Speed Chase At 30,000 Feet: The RB-47 UFO Encounter

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
November 17, 2023
Estimated Reading Time
6 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Close Encounters

While on a routine training exercise just off the coast of Mississippi, the crew of an RB-47 military airplane would suddenly find themselves in the middle of a UFO encounter at over 30,000 feet. An encounter that was not only witnessed by two of the crew visually but was also picked up on sophisticated equipment onboard the plane itself, as well as on radar by the control tower on the ground.

For almost an hour, the unknown aerial anomaly disappeared and reappeared on several occasions, all the while seemingly keeping track of the military vehicle before simply disappearing into the night. Perhaps of further interest, after having submitted detailed reports upon request, the six crew members had the distinct impression that their superiors were attempting to not only distance themselves from the encounter but to suppress it entirely.

Whatever the truth, the incident remains of great interest to UFO enthusiasts and researchers today almost three-quarters of a century after it unfolded. Was this object an alien spacecraft? And if so, what did it want with this military aircraft? Or could this be another case of experimental military aircraft, and if that is the case, just why would they be so brazen as to approach and shadow another military vehicle?

A Strange Reading On The Equipment

At some point during the early hours of July 17th, 1957, the six-man crew of an RB-47 aircraft on a training exercise with sophisticated and advanced electronic countermeasures equipment onboard would experience one of the strangest events of their lives. [1] The crew – consisting of pilot, Lewis Chase, copilot, James McCoid, navigator, Thomas Hanley, as well as three monitors, John Provenzano, Frank McClure, and Walter Tuchscherer – had set off from Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas, and after climbing to an altitude of around 30,000 feet, headed south over Texas and into the southern states to the east and over the Gulf of Mexico.

It was around 4 am, as the aircraft just off the coast of Gulfport, Mississippi, when McClure picked up an anomalous object on his ECM equipment, just to the right of the plane. To begin with, particularly because of the motion of the scope, McClure thought he was witnessing a signal from the ground that had confused the equipment and caused it to malfunction. And when he saw the signal move from one side of the aircraft to the other – ultimately suggesting that something circling the plane – he believed this to be the case even more. Because of this, he made no mention of the events to the other members of the crew, although he was now intrigued as to what he was watching. Eventually, the signal faded from the screen.

At this point, the RB-47 made a turn to the west, taking them over Jackson, Mississippi. The crew began to prepare for another series of tests, this time, simulated ECM operations against Air Force radar units on the ground. As they were doing so, each of them, including McClure, was unaware that their night was about to unfold into one of the most explosive of their lives.

Confirmation Of Something Strange In The Sky

Shortly after making the turn towards Jackson, at around 4:10 am, pilot Lewis Chase saw a suddenly-appearing bright, white light in front and to the left of them. It appeared to be at the same altitude as they, and of more concern, it appeared to be closing in on them.

He quickly issued orders to the rest of the crew to prepare for “evasive maneuvers”. However, before any such action could be taken, the light had passed directly in front of them, from left to right, and had done so in a matter of a second. It then simply “blinked out” – like a light bulb that someone had turned off, a detail, incidentally, that shows up in many other similar encounters.

As well as Chase, his copilot, James McCoid also witnessed the strange light. And he too was at a loss as just what it was. At this point, Chase informed the crew of what had happened, which, in turn, prompted McClure to inform Chase of his own rather strange ECM reading.

McClure went back to tracking the area around them, and, around 20 minutes later at approximately 4:30 am, he once more detected an aerial anomaly in the same location to the plane as where Chase had first noticed the strange light.

McClure, along with fellow monitor, John Provenzano, monitored the object for several moments. They could see, despite the RB-47 moving at a speed of around 500 miles per hour, that it was maintaining the same distance from the plane, meaning it too was moving, seemingly purposely at this speed. This realization dispelled any notion that their equipment was returning false readings. There was something in the sky with them. And whatever it was, it was a solid, nuts-and-bolts craft.

A Cat And Mouse-Type Incident

By just before 4:40 am the RB-47 was near Duncanville in Texas, and at this point, Chase noticed the light once more. This time, it was to the right of the plane and was approximately 5,000 feet below them. Once more, however, it appeared to be maintaining its distance from them. A moment or two later, McClure reported having two unidentified objects on his equipment. When Chase and McCoid scanned the scene in front of them, they could each see a glowing red light that matched the position of the object on McClure’s equipment.

Chase contacted the control tower and requested permission to deviate from his planned course in order to pursue the mysterious objects. By 4:48 am, he received permission to do so, with the control tower also confirming that they too had the anomalous objects on their radar screens.

Although Chase did attempt to intercept one of the objects, he simply couldn’t seem to gain on it. Then, at precisely 4:52 am, the light “blinked out” once more and disappeared. At the same time, it disappeared from McClure’s screen and the radars of the control tower. A second later, however, it reappeared in front of them while appearing on the respective equipment at the same time.

Chase estimated he brought the plane to within five miles of the object before it made a sudden drop to around 15,000 feet before “blinking off” once more. Chase then confirmed to the control tower that he was breaking off the pursuit, not least as they were now in danger of running low on fuel. The night’s events, however, were not quite over yet.

Only minutes after breaking the pursuit, at 4:57 am, McClure notified Chase that he had the apparent same mysterious object on his equipment once more. A minute later, Chase himself had visual confirmation of the object. However, due to the issues with low fuel, he maintained his original course, heading toward Oklahoma.

McClure continued to monitor the object on his ECM equipment, noting how it now appeared to be settled behind the plane. After several minutes, it faded from the screens and wasn’t seen again. Just what it might have been, however, remains a topic of great interest.

A Decade To Enter The Public Arena

Ten years after the encounter in June 1967, at a UFO conference in Boulder, Colorado, Lewis Chase approached Roy Craig (an investigator with the Condon Committee) and told of the encounter. [2] Upon looking into the claims further, they discovered that there was no mention of the incident in either the Blue Book files or those of Air Defense.

This is particularly strange given that each of the six men was ordered to write as detailed as possible report on the encounter upon landing. It is also worth noting that following the men writing these reports, none of them heard anything about the incident again. It was almost as if it never happened.

Ultimately, the encounter is one that would appear to have been suppressed by the powers that be. [3] Its non-inclusion in the Blue Book files despite the multiple witnesses and both visual, radar, and electronic confirmation of its presence should perhaps alert us to the fact that the sighting was of more concern to the military than they let on.

An Outside Chance Of New Information?

Although the RB-47 encounter of 1957 is not one of the most dramatic UFO incidents, it is still a little surprising that it hasn’t embedded itself deeper within the UFO community given all the elements that surround it. Perhaps the initial work of the authorities, if there is any truth to the suggestion, in suppressing knowledge of the encounter achieved its goal. And if there is any truth to this suppression, then we have to ask just what was so important about it that forced the authorities into such a course of action.

What is perhaps almost certain is that the incident appears to be one of the most credible of the era, with each of the key witnesses appearing to be equally as credible.

Given that the incident was, at least at the time, detailed and recorded through the crew members’ reports, we might imagine, however unlikely it might be, that there could still be further information to enter the public arena at some point in the future. Only time will tell. For now, we are left to contemplate where the RB-47 incident fits into the bigger UFO and alien picture.

The short video below examines this encounter a little further.


1 RB-47 – Case Report for the AIAA, James E. McDonald, PhD., Astronautics & Aeronautics, July 1971 http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/CaseSubarticle.asp?ID=667
2 Condon Report Case Study: RB-47, UFO Evidence http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/CaseSubarticle.asp?ID=669
3 RB-47 UFO Case Study, Twenty-Two Years of Inadequate UFO Investigations, James E. McDonald, 1969 http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/CaseSubarticle.asp?ID=666

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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