During the evening of Sunday, May 14, 1978, the Pinecastle Electronic Warfare Range Tracking Station, a restricted facility operated by the United States Navy 32 miles east-southeast of Ocala, Florida, witnessed the sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) incident that is still unsolved and extremely puzzling.
The bizarre occurrence began when a common citizen from nearby Silver Glen Springs dialed the installation’s phone number at approximately 10:05 p.m. to inquire whether the firing flares were shot by the station. Robert J Clark, the duty officer, assured the woman that there was no such operation taking place at the time of her inquiry.
Rocky Morgan, a caller who was later identified as the source of the second call, came through just a few minutes after the first call alerting the duty officer. When the duty officer arrived, Mr. Morgan informed him that he and seven other people, who were all traveling on Highway 19 near Silver Glen Springs at the time, had just witnessed an oblong-shaped object in the sky.
Morgan estimated that the UFO was 50 to 60 feet in diameter and that its color was “almost the color of the moon.” It was claimed that the unidentified object had a flashing light at its center that was extremely bright, and that it passed directly over the top of his vehicle.
Upon arrival, duty officer Clark checked with the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, which informed him that there were no aircraft in the vicinity. Clark and Gary Collinson, the air base controller, climbed to the top of an observation tower next to a van containing the base’s radar equipment to take in the view.
Clark contacted external security and directed them to contact TD-2 Timothy Collins, a radar technician, who was on the other end of the line. Collins dashed to the top of the tower in record time. The personnel who had already arrived were all keeping an eye out for a cluster of glowing lights off in the west-northwest distance.
The lights were at eye level and appeared to be just above an old Civil Defense tower three miles away, which was visible in the distance. No one heard any noise coming from the lights, which according to the witnesses were coming from a single object, despite the fact that it was a quiet night and the sky was clear. In the meantime, Collins went back down to the ground to warm up the tracking radar (which took five minutes) and the acquisition radar (which took twenty minutes), which took a total of thirty minutes.
While he was waiting, he used a periscope on his van to search for the UFO, and he was able to locate it once more. The target was identified by radar at approximately 11:20 p.m. The object was located at 0.2 degrees elevation, which means it was 50 to 100 feet above the ground, or what Collins would refer to as “treetop level.”
Its radar image was “as strong as or stronger than” the image of the tower, according to the report. The object appeared to be about the size of a commercial jetliner from a distance. Approximately 15 minutes later, the object vanished from both visual and radar surveillance completely. On the other hand, at approximately 11:40 a.m., the same or a similar object appeared 15 degrees north of the original location. Because of some technical difficulties, Collins was able to detect it visually, but the second, computer-assisted radar was unable to do so.
The object was visible for several minutes before it suddenly vanished from both instrumented and visual observation once more. Around midnight, a UFO, possibly the same or a different one, was spotted three miles to the northwest, in the same area. The object traveled along a course at a speed greater than 500 knots for five seconds, then accelerated for two seconds before executing a hairpin turn in one second.
That turn occurred 15 miles south of the base, which meant it had traveled 15 miles in seven seconds, with the majority of that distance being covered in the final two seconds. The UFO made a complete 180-degree turn, speeding northward and toward the observer’s base as a result of the change in direction.
The speed of the object had dropped to just two knots almost instantly, and it had stopped moving altogether. During this time, Collin’s radar locked onto the object once more, but only for a brief moment before the object vanished completely and the sighting came to an end, as it had done previously.
A total of 12 or so members of the crew had witnessed the UFO. Carol Snyder, TD-AA, was one of them, and she told a newspaper reporter:
“We saw three very blurry lights – red, white, and green. We watched them for about 30 minutes. We couldn’t see how fast they were travelling. We were holding the binoculars, and the lights appeared to be bouncing.”
From the Jacksonville center, the Navy conducted a thorough investigation into the Ocala UFO incident but came up with no definitive answers as to what the objects were.
In addition to conducting interviews with several eyewitnesses and gathering radar, astronomical, and meteorological data, Allan Hendry of the Centre for UFO Studies (CUFOS) conducted research. A number of plausible explanations were considered and rejected by him before declaring this Ocala UFO incident of “high merit” in the CUFOS publication International UFO Reported (International UFO Report).
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