Friday, November 23, 2007

Before The Phoenix Lights . . . There Was The Trenton Triangle

UFO Over Trenton Mo
After 27 years, only speculation remains regarding identity of North Missouri UFO

By Travis Miles and Gregory Orear
The Kirksville Daily Express
11-23-07

     KIRKSVILLE - As a Missouri State Highway Patrolman, Don Altes has seen some strange things.

But nothing could top what he saw in the north Missouri sky Nov. 18, 1980.

"It was the weirdest looking thing I've ever seen," he said.

Altes was one of hundreds of people from Trenton, Mo., to Edina, Mo., who reported seeing a UFO flying across the sky that Tuesday.

According to an article published in the Daily Express the next day, calls started coming into the Kirksville Police Department around 9 p.m., from people claiming to have seen lights and a strange object traveling from west to east. Many of the callers described the object in the same way, noting it had lights similar to a car's headlights.

Reports of the object were not limited to Kirksville. At approximately 8:30 p.m., residents near Trenton were calling the local radio station to give similar accounts to those in Kirksville.

Shortly after 9 p.m., police in Kirksville contacted the Air Force radar base in Sublette, Mo., seven miles north of town and were told the object was an airplane. More than an hour later, police received a phone call from the radar base saying it was not an airplane.

The FAA in Columbia, Mo., said several private pilots reported seeing some type of lights from an undetermined object.

With that many witnesses there was no doubt something was in the sky that night, but exactly what it was is still up for debate 27 years later.

"Nobody could really explain what it was... but enough people saw something, they couldn't have been dreaming it up," Hank Janssen, the Daily Express reporter who covered the story said. "It shook people up in the area a little bit. It created a buzz for a time."

Altes and his partner received reports over the radio of something odd in the sky and drove west of Trenton to examine it for themselves.

"I know it had a lot of lights, and a lot of different colored lights," he said. "It was really slow moving and then it just took off."

The slow speed of the craft is something that many eyewitnesses noted.

"It was a series of lights and it was slow moving," Charles Cooper said.

At the time Cooper was an Adair County Deputy Sheriff who saw the object north of town when he was called out that night.

"It seemed to me it took quite awhile to move out of the area where we couldn't see it," he said.

Rick Hull, a Truman State University student living in Trenton at the time remembers the same thing.

"It was moving so slowly, and airplanes don't stay in the air and move as slowly as it did," he said.

Hull has some experience in aviation, having spent time flying a crop duster where he says 55 miles per hour is about the slowest speed a plane could travel and still maintain flight.

"I have still yet to see an airplane stay in the air at 25 miles per hour, especially one as big as it was."

Some reports have estimated the craft to be the size of a football field.

Most of the visual interpretations all describe the same characteristics, noting the lights, and referring to the object as triangular, diamond-shaped, or kite-like, and having a domed top.

Mike Leavene, another trooper stationed near Edina has developed his own theory.

"I can remember seeing what I thought was cabin lights that look like today's B-2 stealth bombers," he said. "After all these years, it is my opinion it was some sort of stealth technology."

Missouri's own Whiteman Air Force Base is the home of the B-2 stealth bomber today, but 509th Bomb Wing Historian Dr. Margaret DePalma said the plane didn't arrive there until 1993.

That's not to say stealth technology was not around earlier. The dream of stealth aircraft was a goal of the military as far back as the 1940s.

"The idea was always there but the actual technology began in the 1960s," DePalma said.

Have Blue, the program that would eventually lead to the development of today's modern stealth fighters and bombers began in 1974. By 1978, full-scale development of stealth aircraft was underway.

The first recorded flight of the F-117 stealth fighter occurred in 1981, and while the B-2 did not become a reality until later in the decade, plans for the plane where announced by President Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential campaign.

"I would definitely say that it was some kind of experimental aircraft," Cooper said.

He also cites the conflicting reports from the radar station that maybe members of the Air Force knew more about the situation than they were admitting at the time.

DePalma said it's logical to assume some form of early stealth technology might have been in the sky that night. And even though early stealth programs were located in California, if would not be uncommon to test fly a plane all the way to Missouri.

"That would probably be par for the course," DePalma said. "You're testing the plane and testing the pilots."

FAA officials at the time said no military aircraft was scheduled to be in the area at the time of the event. Leavene said it was not unusual for the military to contact local law enforcement to inform them when low-level bombers would make test flights, but there is no indication of that happening on the night in question.

"Military said nothing with that kind of lighting configuration matched up with anything they had," Janssen said.

Altes still doesn't know what to make of the craft after all of these years. He said he has been to some football games where the B-2's have made flyovers and that does not make him think that's what he saw back in 1980.

Even after his close-encounter, Altes is not convinced he saw something extra-terrestrial.

"I have a hard time believing in them, but I have a hard time not believing in them," he said

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