Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The McDonnell Douglas UAP study


The Wilson/Davis notes of 2001, and comments by a number of the leading players, have directed our attention to private United States (US) aerospace companies, as the place to look for reverse-engineering opportunities in respect of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP.) 

Much has been written about the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) era, where employees were scouring the planet for information about UAP propulsion systems. However, other US aerospace companies have used the study of UAP, to provide them with intelligence on potential advanced propulsion systems. One such company was the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, in the time frame 1967-1970.

International UFO Reporter

In the July/August 1993 edition of the International UFO Reporter, former McDonnell Douglas employee, Robert M. Wood discussed, in part, a study conducted by his company between 1967 and 1970. Part of the article reads:

"I recommended to my management that a modest company funded Project be undertaken to explore break through in gravity propulsion. The Project included the exploration of unpopular theories, laboratory evaluation of hypotheses, field observations, witness interviews, and examination of the UFO literature. At one point there were four full-time and three part-time employees involved. The Project was terminated in 1969 at my recommendation due to our inability to identify the timing of the Payoff...The code name was "BITBR" - standing for "Boys in The Back Room."

MUFON Journal

The October 2008 issue (pp3-8) of the MUFON Journal carried another article by Robert M. Wood titled "McDonnell-Douglas studied UFOs in 1960's" This article provided details about the origin of the Project; the names of the employees involved, and their areas of expertise. The individuals named were: 

Dr. Joseph M.  Brown - full-time. PhD (Mechanical Engineering.) His theory may be read in full, in the 2004 book "The Grand Unified Theory of Physics" Basic Research Press, Starkville, MS. In the book, he describes his work on the UFO project at McDonnell Douglas. 

* Chan Thomas - part time - a psychic with an interest in geological catastrophes.

* Paul Wilson- retired detective - full-time - conducted interviews and worked on the field data acquisition.

Stanton Friedman - full time from June 1969 to June 1970.

Dr. Darell Boyd Harmon - PhD in physics - part-time. Harmon is also listed as a scientific advisor to NICAP.

Leon A. Steinert - mathematician - part-time.

* Harvey C. Bjornlie - experimentalist - part-time.


One comment which I found of interest was:

"The only contact with the Government about the Project came towards the end of the spring of 1970 when there was interest expressed by one of the intelligence agencies. This resulted in a draft proposal to "mimic, imitate or duplicate the observables associated with UFOs." We called this potential opportunity Project Skylite, and prepared a good deal of technical information in anticipation of contract work. It never materialised with McDonnell Douglas to my knowledge."

A footnote to that comment, read: "Wilson, P. "Charts Defining Parameters of Design." Six pages, dated June 2, 1970."


Jacques Vallee's "Forbidden Science: Volume 2" (FSV2) page 412 addresses the question of whether McDonnell Douglas as a company, did in fact continue its UFO work?

"Belmont. Thursday 5 January 1978

"...Yesterday I received a phone call from a fellow who works with McDonnell-Douglas Astronautics. He told me that, "on a private basis," he was compiling a new close encounter database. I am not stupid enough to believe his company has no corporate interest in the matter. They have an on-going secret project, well-funded, with the blessing and official monitoring of the CIA and they're discreetly connected with major UFO groups, all of which love the secret intrigue of a link to the spooks..."

On page 440 of FSV2 there is also the following:

15 October 1978.

"McDonnell Douglas is continuing their quiet but well-funded study with John Schuessler also monitored by the Agency. They seem to be looking for exotic alloys."

Indeed, looking back to FSV2 p. 156, in an entry of Vallee's dated 21 October 1972 he says:

"These so-called tycoons have also contacted Stanton Friedman, a physicist who was part of the secret CIA/Douglas aircraft study a few years ago.." 

Although I have looked for documentation concerning Project Skylite, I have not found any. Has any blog reader come across further information on Project Skylite?


Looking around for copies of documentation relating to BITBR, I located a 275 page PDF of project papers, in apparent random order, courtesy of US researcher Barry Greenwood, and a website which included18 PDFs of sets of Project papers. The website was particularly useful because it presented the PDFs in date order, allowing a chronological overview. 

I will present a brief overview of each of these 18 PDFs, and will extract information which seems most relevant to me.

1. Paper. Brown, J. M. 18 April 1967. 11 pages. "A Unifying Kinetic Particle Theory of Physics." "A unifying theory of physics is advanced..." 

2. Memo. Brown, J. M. to Wood, R M. 14 Aug 1967. 6 pages. "Space Propulsion Concepts." "Describes potential propulsion concepts which could be used primarily for propulsion in space..." 

3. Memo. Brown, J. M./Harman, D.  to Wood R. M. 20 Dec 1967. 8 pages. "Proposal for Electrostatic/Magnetic Experiments." "The Kinetic particle theory of physics has introduced the existence of several types of Electrostatic/Magnetic Phenomenon  which are not predicted to occur by Maxwell's electromagnetic equations..." 

4. Memo. Brown, J. M./Harman, D. 14 Feb 1968. 4 pages. "Currently Preferred Propulsion Concept." "...the purpose of this memo is to review the efforts of the past six months..." 

5. Presentation to McDonnell-Douglas management. 2 May 1968. 64 pages. "Advanced Vehicle Concepts Research."  Includes:

* The introduction contained a slide which included "What we've learned from UFOs - a DFO can be built - UFOs give clues." 

*"Are UFOs real? - Yes!"

* An overview of the size, shape, motion and field effects from UFO reports

* Field effects included very strong magnetic fields; some cases of electric fields, pressure on heads and lifting of water

* UFO "passenger" data sought from contactees


The idea that you could gain insights into the processes by which UAP move, seems to have also been a driving force behind Project VISIT. In 1976, NASA scientist John F. Schuessler, formed a group called Project VISIT short for Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team. One aim was to look at the internal systems of what Project VISIT called Unidentified Space Vehicles.

* Preliminary conclusions from the observables include "cannot escape the hypothesis that some UFOs are intelligently controlled vehicles (Aerospace companies must reflect this possibility in their planning.)" "Vehicles must be extraterrestrial."

* "Many "observed" vehicles are consistent with known science limits - such vehicles would be quiet valuable"

* "Many "observed" vehicles go beyond our known science limits - such vehicles would be phenomenal"

* "Other reported capabilities would be extremely valuable - ESP combat; disappearing capability; hand held anti-gravity devices'; pencil paralyzer"

* Presentation of the theory of J. M. Brown - experiments

* "Investigation of Unexplained Phenomena - Oregon vortex, "Haunted" houses, water divining, UFOs, psychic phenomena"


Note the mix of UFOs and psychic phenomenon, and especially with the employment of psychic Chan Thomas and his unconventional ideas.

* Vehicle approach - force generators schemes - matter/antimatter annihilation; matter annihilation, gravity manipulation, electric or magnetic field interaction

*Three way approach - 1. UFO data collection and analysis including measurements of UFO observables. 2. New science development. 3. Vehicle prototype R & D.


Note the repeated use of the term "UFO observables." 50 years later, we find Luis Elizondo of TTSA using exactly this term "observables." Interestingly, we knew of these same observable right back from the 1950's and they have been a constant factor in the UAP ever since. 

* Past years accomplishments included: ESP experiments in progress; unexplained phenomena investigations (Oregon vortex; haunted houses, UFO sightings; studying UFO and psychic books and magazines)

* "Competitor's efforts; Hughes (10 men at Fullerton under Meiers); Lockheed Sunnyvale; Rand has proposed project; Martin had (has) gravity project (As has several other companies.) Several companies have UFO related efforts. Raytheon (had a computer project from Condon/U. of Colo.) Other countries in business - Russia has UFO project."


It would be nice to know more about the UFO related efforts of other contemporary aerospace companies as mentioned here. Jacques Vallee's "Forbidden Science" Volume 1. 1992. North Atlantic books. Berkeley, CA, page 135, contains a diary entry dated 17 May 1965.

"A curious incident recently took place during a conversation with a Martin Marietta engineer who says he is compiling a reference book on UFOs..." The engineer circulated a black binder with material in it, and when someone turned a page "The engineer leapt out of his chair like a tiger and tore the binder away, tersely spitting out "...the other papers have nothing to do with that! We were left fairly shocked at the violence of his reaction. Of course we began to wonder what else might be in that binder. There are rumours that major aerospace companies are conducting their own secret studies of UFOs."

* Importance of effort to company: Vehicles - immeasurable; theory -significant; High magnetic fields - saleable; ESP - hearing aids - enemy intelligence

6. Memo. Brown, J. M. to Wood, R. M. 27 June 1968. 17 pages. "Proposed vehicle R & D Program (Project BITBR)." Includes feedback from May 1968 management presentation. "The principle approach consists of evolving the systems from basic physics and evolving directly from an analysis of UFO (Unidentified Flying Objects)  observations"

"The vast majority of the "vehicle" sightings indicate that strong magnetic fields are generated by the vehicles. These fields are presumed to be connected with the prolusion system." 

7. Memo. Brown J. M./Wilson, P. 1 Aug 1968. 1 page. "Interview with Barbara J Hickox." "Mrs Hickox reported...that she had seen and ridden in an aerospace vehicle manned by extraterrestrial beings. The purpose of the visit was to explore the possibility of obtaining useful technical information from Mrs Hickox. ...We did not discuss her observations made while aboard the vehicle...She talked about a unique method for producing a vacuum...I absolutely could not make sense of what she was saying..."

8. Memo. Brown, J. M./Harmon, D. B. to Wilson, P. 22 Aug 1968. 4 pages. "GA Propulsion System." "...a description of a GA (Gravity Amplification) propulsion system."

9. Memo. Brown, J. M. to Wood, R. M. 16 Sep 1968. 4 pages. "Current recommended tasks for 3-6 man effort." Discusses theoretical and experimental approaches. On the theoretical approach: "The principal concept we have been pointing towards is a scheme in which randomly moving particles are organized then directionally released for performing work. It is strongly believed that gravitation is produced by an organizational mechanism...The theoretical approach should be expanded...the experimental program is being expanded...Ancillary investigations of phenomenon, other unusual phenomenon and contactees are being minimized..."

10. Memo. Wilson, W. P. to Wood, R. M. 28 Oct 1968. 7 pages. "Experimental research and field data acquisition. - Project vehicle." mention a review and planning meeting held 24 & 25 Oct 1968. Proposes two next moves. 1. Certain laboratory experiments. 2a. Observe and record physical events coincidental to anomalistic atmosphere occurrences. 2b. Re-examine other natural physical events such as high energy lightning discharges for possible previously unobserved side effects. 

11, Memo. Thomas, C. to Wood, R. M. 22 Aug 1968. 20 pages. "A new communications mode." reports on experiments conducted in 1965 using a "transmitter" and "receiver" to transmit mind to mind card suits. Then follows up with what appears to be mental communications with entities of unknown origin, discussing space ships and their operation. 

12. Memo. Wilson, W. P. to Wood, R. M. 3 Jun 1969. 11 pages. "Field data acquisition requirements." "This memorandum discusses the sensor and operational requirements for a mobile and partially self-sustaining remote semi-permanent field data acquisition system designed to obtain the signatures of anomalous atmospheric phenomena unidentified flying objects ie UFOs." 


We learn from Wood's MUFON Journal article, that a van was outfitted with equipment, and that Paul Wilson, spent a week at the top of Red Mountain due to reported UFO activity there, but with negative results. 

13. Memo. Friedman, S T to Royer, D L, 18 Jun 1969. 1 page. Regarding searches in literature son round or lenticular shaped aircraft; and electrical and/or magnetic devices for propulsion or control of aircraft,

14. Memo. Bjornile, H. C. to Wood, R. M. 18 Jul 1969. 12 pages. "Light/magnetic field interaction experiment." Discusses the experiment and results.

15. Memo. Brown, J. M. to Wood, R. M. 17 Sep 1969 4 pages. "Fundamental constants of physics - speed of light." "In butino theory this speed is a constant with respect to the center of mass of the "local" background in which it is being transmitted."

16. Handwritten notes by Bjornile, H C. 2 Dec 1969. 3 pages. "Electron/gas analogy experiment."

17. Douglas Aircraft UFO reports. 52 pages. Sighting interviews; interviews with contactees; and analysis of material.

18. Wilson's notes 48 pages Various dates. Includes:

* Observables -- event documentation

* Memo 17 Feb 1969 to Wood R M "Field data acquisition requirements."

* Notes: "Field data acquisition" to be used by us and Atmospheric Sciences Department

* "Radiation and sub atomic particles controlled energy systems."

* "Particle radiation interaction experiments"

* "Report of field observations" 29 July 1968

* "Suggested standard format for tape interviews."

* "Plasma and universal gravitation."

Update 26 September 2020

I had a message from researcher Terence Bishop, who kindly extracted a whole batch of relevant quotes from Jacques Vallee's "Forbidden Science: Volume Two," as follows, which answer one or two questions I had left when I finished this blog. 

15 May 1976. "...got an interesting call from a vice-president with Environmental Systems in Van Nuys who'd read Invisible College belong to a UFO group at Douglas aircraft in Santa Monica as early as 1955. He worked there with Wheaten (now at Lockheed in the Submarine Division), Ted Gordon, Klemperer, and Dave Crook. They were asked by Douglas management to assess cases from Blue Book, complete with photos and films. Their conclusion which they were asked to "forget," was that the objects used multi-dimensional physics. " 15 October 1978. "A great deal of activity, if not research, is indeed going on about UFOs among government organizations. Kit has a friend in Houston who is close to Poher, and I've heard that Saunders was looking for correlations among the UFO data by plotting the sighting on a Forbidden sidereal time scale. Saunders works at Mathematica, a major computer contractor for the CIA. McDonnell-Douglas is continuing their quiet but well-funded study with John Schuessler, also monitored by the Agency. They seem to be looking for exotic alloys. Who is kidding? Why is the scientific community kept in the dark about these projects? Why all the secrecy? Where do the research results go? And what about the secret work in France? " 10 December 1974. "Kit reluctantly confirmed there was a group of 15 engineers in the Midwest (I assumed it was McDonnell in St. Louis) secretly doing UFO research for CIA under cover of “aeronautical research.” They're getting data through leaks from Cufos and other amateurs." - 16 April 1978 “That's what Mr. McDonnell said recently at the CIA. He came over to see the director, and told him point blank that he thought this was the most important area of research; he wanted a full briefing on our classified work in psi. Mr. Mac has just given a million and a half to the University of Washington School of Medicine to advance the state of the art in parapsychology, and he's also paying for a 7- million dollar building.”

“What did the Director say to that?”

“He asked him if he wasn't kept busy enough by the recent contracts he got from the government. As you may know, the U.S. has decided to sell lots of aircraft to Middle Eastern countries. McDonnell said he found time for parapsychology because that had the highest priority in his mind. As a result the Agency sent me to Kansas City to brief Mr. Mac for three days, on all American and Soviet work.” - 12 December 1978. "In Houston John Schuessler heads up McDonnell's operations at the Johnson spacecraft center, while another researcher, Dr. Richard Niemtzow, is doing cancer research in Galveston, one of the leading centers in the U.S. Both believe there are Alien bodies around, based on the elusive autopsy reports circulated by Len Stringfield." 21 October 1972. "Two rich fellows from Texas have come out of the blue with an offer to help Hynek. The so-called tycoons have also contacted Stanton Friedman, a physicist who was part of the secret CIA/Douglas aircraft study a few years ago and now lectures about UFOs." 5 January 1978. "Yesterday I received a phone call from a fellow who works with McDonnell-Douglas Astronautics. He told me that, “on a private basis,” he was compiling a new close encounter database. I am not stupid enough to believe that his company has no corporate interest in the matter. They have an on-going secret project, well-funded, with the blessing and official monitoring of the CIA and they're discreetly connected with major UFO groups, all of which love the secret intrigue of a link to the spooks even as they vilify “the government cover-up” in their public pronouncements. I am not playing that game; let others do it." 13 June 1978. "... men in black in Cufos investigation. Also, evidently the CIA has a contact inside Cufos, as it does among most UFO groups. Someone close to Hynek has leaked a pile of internal documents to Dave M. As soon as Dave got the Cufos papers his secure phone rang; a colonel requested to see them."


  1. Interesting that the “pencil paralyzer” mentioned above was also described in exactly that way by Charles Hall in his book “Millennial Hospitality”. Hall said it was a defensive tool used by “The Tall Whites” that he personally observed used against a soldier who had thrown a rock at one of the children of TTWs.

  2. https://books.google.com.ar/books?id=jyVEBgAAQBAJ&pg=PT158&lpg=PT158&dq=%22skylite%22+ufo+project&source=bl&ots=p8aNOddgbD&sig=ACfU3U3DKEs1EQxNUTb6eG1AoTjE4qRIbA&hl=es-419&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiqo-ii5_3rAhXcPH0KHTe4CDAQ6AEwDHoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22skylite%22%20ufo%20project&f=false

  3. Not a bad overview of the material. I honestly don't think that there is any more documentation in my possession on the vehicle simulation program beyond what I uploaded in 2004 but I can always check. (I thought the title of that project to mimick the UFOs was Project Vehicle in the documents and not Skylite but Dr Wood would certainly know better than I)

    As far as other programs at the time it becomes somewhat complicated by the fact there were other more conventional gravity research programs that were being conducted by Hughes and other companies which were aimed more at gravitational detection that control. These were immediately needed by the lunar orbiters so that they could adjust and correct for variations in the moon's gravitational field.

    It should be noted that there was already work going on earlier back in 1959 at Hughes Aircraft in Irvine to measure the speed of gravity. (The second volume of the 'Background Information on Antigravitational Technology' xerox compendium of Robert L. Forward's material released in 1994 by Atlantis Bookstore in Burbank includes a few of the relevant documents.) Whenever they get to trying to measure the speed-of-gravity you know it's the first stage of a research project aiming at finding a way of going faster than light speed. Joseph Brown's theoretical work for the Douglas program was trying to do the same thing. (He theorized it as being square root of 3 times the speed of light.)

    Then there were also enthusiastic amateurs whose efforts varied from antigravity research like C. N. Champe's Anti-Gravity Research down in Manhattan Beach/Los Angeles all the way to super-enthusiasts like Chris Guibor and his fandom/speculative engineering direct crossover project (obviously inspired by the fact that both Star Trek and Lost in Space were both in original syndication at that time

    And all of it taking place down in Southern California..

    1. Thank you for the added information. Much appreciated.

  4. I just checked Andrew's website and compared it with the documents that I have and yeah, it seems that I did not bother to upload any of the Project Skylite stuff in my possession. The material was written between May and June of 1970 and comprises more than a dozen hand written documents. Paul Wilson did not draft these write-ups as official Douglas draft proposals at least as far as I can determine from what I have of his although I wouldn't doubt that some official document may have been written up based upon them. As far as their quality goes most of them are photocopies that are too light so I'd have to darken and increase the contrast on some of them if I wanted to scan them in but I would only do it if people thought the material sufficiently relevant to justify it.

    Understand that the reason that I didn't bother with these to begin with was due to there perceived lack of relevance at the time. The focus of this material is the simulation of a UFO incident using weather balloons that carried lights and devices producing ultrasonic noise and magnetic fields. I don't know if he actually got to the experimental stage but there is an Edmund Scientific publication/handout on how to use the weather balloons that they sell in there with Wilson's documents. In any case, this material was all about staging a hoax event rather than the study of the phenomenon and its technology so I didn't consider it worth uploading.

    If there is any relevance to this material at all then it is specifically based upon the information in the quote that you provided from Jacques Vallee about "interest expressed by one of the intelligence agencies." Well b*** s***, you know GD well that's the CIA. I remember listening to researcher Dave Emory speculating in the 1980s and 1990s about the possibility of some UFO event being used as a staged event based upon the disclosure of how General Edward Lansdale came up with the idea of having a submarine surface off the shore of Cuba and fire some starshells into the air in order to simulate a Second Coming of Christ-type of event when he was in charge of Operation Mongoose back in the early 1960s. (Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders p. 142) To that extent the material might be relevant but not because it really has anything to do with the UFO phenomenon. But, in any case, if you wan't me to post these let me know and I'll upload them to my Pinterest site:

    1. Hi Louis, Thanks for this. I wasn't aware that Project Skylite was about staging a UFO hoax. I always imagined that it was about an intelligence agency wishing to undertake further work on the phenomenon. I think most people would also make this assumption. In this case, if you wouldn't mind spending the time enhancing and scanning those papers, I think people would appreciate it. I know I would. If you do post them at the link you mentioned, can you let me know when they are uploaded? Thanks. My email is keithbasterfield@yahoo.com.au if you'd prefer to let me know privately.

    2. OK, happy to oblige. I may have missed a page but otherwise they've been scanned and uploaded. It's probably worthwhile if for no other reason than the intelligence agency interest

    3. Thanks Louis, I will write a short blog post about the background to the papers and post a link to the documents so that others may have a read. Thank you very much for taking the time to scan and upload the docs. Much appreciated.


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