Whilst re-reading Leslie Keane's 2010 book "UFOs" (Harmony Books, New York) I came across reference to the 22 August 1968 Australian, Zanthus case which involved an aircraft. There are many references in the UFO literature to this event. The usual summary they provide goes something like this:
"Captains Smith and Gardin were flying near Zanthus, Western Australia when they spotted "a formation of aircraft," which appeared to be keeping station with their plane. There was one large object and several smaller ones. Local air traffic control advised the pilots that there was no known traffic in the area. For several minutes the aircraft was unable to communicate with air traffic control. During this time the larger object split into two, and the smaller objects seemed to move around. Finally, the whole formation joined together and departed at tremendous speed."
Few people are aware of the full details of this intriguing event. I found a two page report written by Captain Smith on file series A703, control symbol 580/1/1 part 10 pages 145, 160 and 218-223. This was a RAAF Department of Defence file. The Captain's statement reads as follows.
"Captain Walter Gardin and myself were returning from Adelaide to Perth on a charter flight. The aircraft was an 8 place Piper Navajo, registration VH-RTO, and were returning empty from Adelaide. At the first sighting I was asleep in the cabin, Walter was at the controls. We were cruising at 8000' with a true airspeed of 190-195kts, tracking 270 degrees magnetic.
"At 0940GMT (1740WST) Walter abruptly woke me up in great excitement and asked me to come into the cockpit quickly. I did so, and he asked me if I could see what he was looking at. At first I didn't because I was still suffering from the effect of sleep, however after about 30 seconds I could see what he was excited about. Some distance ahead at the same level and about 50 degrees to my right (I was in the right seat) I saw a formation of aircraft. In the middle was a larger aircraft, and formatted to the right and left and above were 4 or 5 smaller aircraft. We were on a track of 270 degrees (M) and these aircraft appeared to be maintaining station with us.
"Because we hadn't been notified of this traffic I radioed Kalgoorlie D.C.A. communications centre asking them what traffic they or RAAF had in our area. The answer was none. So I then notified Kalgoorlie that we had this formation in sight, and they in turn notified some eastbound traffic of the danger of unidentified traffic 130nm East of Kalgoorlie.
"At about this time we lost communications with Kalgoorlie on all frequencies. We were getting Kalgoorlie carrier wave with no voice propagation, only a hash and static.
"In the next ten minutes I transmitted about 7 times and I believe Walter did about 6 times with no results. Also at about this time we noticed that the main ship split into two sections still maintaining the same level, and the smaller aircraft then flew out left and right, but staying at the same level, and coming back to the two main halves of the bigger ship. At this time there appeared to be about 6 smaller aircraft taking turns of going out and coming back and formatting on the two halves. Sometimes the two halves joined and split, and the whol cycle continued for ten minutes.
"The shape of the main ship seemed to have the ability to change, not dramatically, but a change from say, spherical to a slightly elongated form with the colour maintaining a constant dark grey to black. However, the smaller craft had a constant cigar shape, and were of a very dark colour. Their travel out and back had a peculiarity not associated with normal aircraft in fact they appeared to travel out and come back without actually turning like a normal aeroplane would have to.
"At 0950GMT the whole formation joined together as if at a single command, then departed at a tremendous speed. Not disappeared as say, gas would, but departed in about 3 or 4 seconds, diminishing in size till out of sight.
"The weather at the time of sighting was fine, with no haze above 6000' and about 2/8 altostratus cloud to the south of us and the other aircraft."
In the next post I will outline what the two pilots thought they had seen.