Un Pilote de ligne - Bill Startup
Le Capitaine Bill Startup et son Co-Pilote Robert Guard
Des observations survenues les jours précédents (21 Décembre et autres), poussent une chaîne de télévision australienne à contacter un de ses reporters, Quentin Fogarty, et à lui demander d'enquêter sur cette affaire. Après une interview des témoins, Fogarty obtient avec d'autres journalistes l'autorisation d'embarquer sur la même ligne dans la nuit du 30 au 31 Décembre. Les journalistes et les 2 pilotes de l'avion observent de nombreuses lumières non-identifiées dans la région de Kaikoura, entre Wellington et Christchurch. Elles sont aussi détectées au radar.
Le 31 Décembre 1978 au petit matin, l'équipage de l'avion-cargo Safe Air (Argosy) est invité à se détourner pour essayer de repérer des engins très inhabituels suivis par le radar de l'aéroport de Wellington. Selon John Cordy, un contrôleur aérien, cela ne ressemblait à rien de connu. Le commandant Bill Startup dirige donc son Argosy vers la zone et voit alors une étrange lumière qui suivra l'avion pendant 19 km le long de la côte, avant de disparaître.
Enchainement des évenements - nuit du 30 au 31 décembre 1978 - Kaikoua Coastline, South Island, New Zealand
(23:50) The Argosy crossed the Cook Strait. Startup reported excellent weather conditions: clear with visibility over 30 nm. In fact they could see the lights of Christchurch, which was 150 miles away.
Wellington Air Traffic Control Center : 'There is another target that just appeared on your left side at about 1 mile...'
(00:05) The pilots first noticed lights near to the Kaikoura coast. These lights projected a beam downwards and then disappeared. The number varied from none, to one, to many. The pilots noted that the strange lights were above the town of Kaikoura but between the aircraft and the ground in the one o'clock position at a distance of 13 nm. (NB - the December 21st sightings above)
(00:12) WATCC radioed confirmation of these lights as targets on their scopes. Indeed those targets had been appearing and disappearing for the past half hour. On duty that night were Air Traffic Controller Geoffrey Causer and Bryan Chalmers, a radar maintenance technician. At this point another aircraft landed at Wellington and from then onwards the Argosy was the only plane in the sky south of Wellington Airbase. Not long afterwards WATCC reported that they had another target in the aircraft's three o'clock position but the crew could see nothing in that direction. The radar target disappeared.
(00:15) The camera crew came up to the cockpit to view the objects.
(00:16) WATCC notified them of a target in their twelve o'clock position at a distance of 10 nm. The crew confirmed - they saw a light in that direction. Startup: 'It was white and not very brilliant and it did not change colour or flicker. To me it looked like the tail light of an aircraft. I'm not sure how long we saw this for. Probably not very long. I did not get a chance to judge its height relative to the aircraft.' (RVE) The light disappeared and WATCC confirmed its disappearance on the next sweep of the radar but they reported a new strong target at their eleven o'clock position at a distance of 3 nm. The Argosy crew saw nothing. WATCC reported a target at nine o'clock at 2 nm. Again the crew could see nothing. Just after this they picked up a target at their ten o'clock position at a distance of 12 nm. The Captain requested permission to turn around to investigate the anomalous targets.
WATCC authorised him with the caution that: 'there is another target that just appeared on your left side at about 1 mile... briefly and then disappearing again.' Although the crew were still witnessing the lights near to Kaikoura, they could see nothing of the new targets reported by Wellington.
Startup put the Argosy in a turn. WATCC reported: 'The target I mentioned a moment ago is still just about 5:00 to you, stationary.' Once more nothing was visible to the crew in that direction. Causer had been picking up appearances and disappearances of targets on the scopes which correlated to the lights viewed by the crew close to Kaikoura.
'There is a strong target right in formation with you. Could be right or left. Your target has doubled in size.'
(00:27) With the Argosy now moving back along its flight path towards Wellington Airbase Causer reported another target in their twelve o'clock position three miles distant. Startup responded: 'We pick it up. It's got a flashing light.' He reported seeing: 'a couple of very bright blue-white lights, flashing regularly at a rapid rate. They looked like the strobe lights of a Boeing 737...' (NB - the Argosy was the only aircraft in the area at the time) (RVE)
(00:28) The Argosy turned back towards Christchurch and WATCC reported that all the targets were now 12 - 15 nm behind them.
(00:29) WATCC notified the pilots of a target one mile behind the aircraft in their six o'clock position, which soon vanished.
(00:30) Another target appeared on the radar at 4 miles behind the plane. It vanished. Next came a target at three o'clock, again at 4 nm.
(00:31) WATCC: 'There is a strong target right in formation with you. Could be right or left. Your target has doubled in size.' This is known as a Double Size Target (DST). Growing increasingly worried the Copilot (Guard) looked out of the right windows and saw a light: 'It was like the fixed navigation lights on a small airplane when one passes you at night. It was much smaller than the really big ones we had seen over Kaikoura. At regular intervals it appeared to flash, but it didn't flash on and off; it brightened or perhaps twinkled around the edges. When it did this I could see a colour, a slight tinge of green or perhaps red. It's very difficult describing a small light you see at night.' (RVE) Startup checked their environment, seeing: coastal lights, and the lights of Japanese squid boats on his far left (east) horizon. He saw no running lights of boats, which implies that there were no boats in the area. When Guard reported the light out of the right hand window, Startup turned off the green navigation light on the right wing to make viewing easier. The town lights of Kaikoura were now behind the mountains and not visible. (Claims were made after this incident that the light witnessed by the crew was a beacon light on the end of the peninsula, but the witnesses testified to the light being level with the plane - ie. well above ground level). Fogarty commented: 'I'm looking over towards the right of the aircraft and we have an object confirmed by Wellington radar. It's been following us for quite a while. It's about four miles away and looks like a very faint star, but then it emits a bright white and green light.' (RVE) Startup then told WATCC: 'Got a target at 3:00 just behind us.' WATCC responded: 'Roger, and going around to 4:00 at 4 miles.'
Au dessus de la péninsule de Kaikoura
(00:33) WATCC informed Christchurch Air Traffic Control (CATCC) that they had a target at five o'clock to the Argosy at a distance of 10 miles. CATCC could not confirm. WATCC said: "..not moving, not too much speed... It is moving in an easterly direction now."
(00:35) WATCC: 'The target you mentioned, the last one we mentioned, make it 5:00 at 4 miles previously, did you see anything?' Startup: 'We saw that one. It came up at 4:00, I think, around 4 miles away.' WATCC: 'Roger, that target is still stationary. It's now 6:00 to you at about 15 miles and it's been joined by two other targets.' (RVE) (NB - Uffindel's report from Blenheim - above)
(00:36) WATCC informed the Argosy that the three targets had now merged on their scopes. Startup requested permission to do another turn to investigate and permission was granted. Despite this brief investigation, the crew saw nothing.
(00:39) The Argosy continued on its way to Christchurch. CATCC reported to the plane that a target was pacing the aircraft to their west overland. Guard checked the window and saw a rapidly-moving light in that direction. (RVE) The Argosy went on to land at the airbase.
"It turned with us as I changed course... It was making definite movements in relation to us"
--Captain Bill Startup
La même nuit, lors du vol retour, une lumière brillante reste d'abord fixe avant d'accompagner l'avion puis de disparaître. Elle est filmée durant quelques minutes par Quentin Fogarty et repérée par plusieurs radars, qui indiquent en fait une formation de 6 objets. D'autres témoins se manifesteront dans la région.