This Mysterious Sighting of 7 UFOs Near San Angelo Was Never Solved
SAN ANGELO, TX — An aircrew flying an RB-36 reconnaissance aircraft spotted seven strange “donut”-shaped objects at dusk south of San Angelo. The crew took pictures and filed an incident report.
That report can be found in the national archives. It is about a UFO sighting on a May 1952 flying mission from Kelly Field in San Antonio towards the west.
According to the report, as the crew flew just northwest of Sonora, a series of seven “donuts” appeared in the sky.
The RB-36, a variant of the B-36 strategic bomber named “The Peacemaker,” had an operational crew of 22, according to reports at the time.
The report states the bomber was headed on a 301-degree heading at 18,000 feet, cruising at 189 knots indicated air speed (KIAS). The winds aloft were relatively calm for that altitude at 35 knots in the face. At 8:05 p.m., on May 19, 1952, the objects appeared just to the left of the bomber’s nose at a range estimated by the crew to be 50 to 75 miles ahead. The objects were stacked vertically from approximately 25,000 feet to 60,000 feet.
Above: The drawing by a crewmember of the RB-36 of the strange UFOs they observed in May 1952 that was included in the crew's report. (National Archives)
Individual crewmembers recorded their observations. According to the marked aeronautical charts enclosed in the report, the mysterious objects could be seen from the plane by the crew as they flew from just northwest of Sonora to almost Big Lake.
“…I observed seven unidentified glowing objects ahead, on course. We continued on course and approached them for about an hour. On closer observation they appeared to me to be vapor trails, the highest at approximately 40,000 feet spaced down at 1,000-foot intervals as sketched,” wrote one of the crew. The names of the crewmembers are redacted in the report.
Above: A terrible copy of the photograph contained in the National Archives. In the center, you can see a hand-drawn arrow pointing towards the 7 unidentified objects observed by the RB-36 crew. (National Archives)
The U.S. Air Force investigated the sighting and placed the report into their most common category of “possibly a balloon.” According to NASA scientist Dr. Richard F. Haines, in an undated article about the incident, “the U.S. Weather Bureau launched both pilot and rawin balloons from the Midland, Texas airport during the summer of 1952.” The scientist did not conclude the sightings were connected to balloon activity from Midland.
The Convair RB-36D is the jet-augmented version of the intercontinental strategic bomber. The aircraft has four General Electric J-47 jet engines, mounted in pairs under outer wing edges, that supplement six Pratt & Whitney piston engines.
The RB-36 was a slightly modified version of the bomber, the B-36, so it could carry cameras and extra fuel in its bomb bays instead of bombs.
WATCH A Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Air Force Museum video describes the B-36:
At the time, RB-36s provided long-range strategic reconnaissance for Strategic Air Command, or SAC. They were intended to fly over the Soviet Union, and some missions did, to include missions assigned to the squadron that this crew was given. As Soviet air defenses improved, the service ceiling of the bomber was not high enough to avoid detection.
All of the B-36s were retired by 1959 as the newer B-52s replaced them.