Reference Map of the Great Lakes

Reference Map of the Great Lakes

The Kinross Incident may be one of the most mysterious cases of vanished aircraft over the Great Lakes Triangle. Flying a routine intercept over Lake Michigan on November 23 1953, Lieutenant Felix Eugene Moncla and radio operator Robert Wilson were lost without a trace, complete with his F-89 fighter jet, with no explanation.  No witnesses on the ground could attest to the fate of the F-89, and so the only ground control witnessed the F-89 converge with an unknown bogey only to disappear from radar screens…

The same F-89 Model flown by Moncla

The same F-89 Model flown by Moncla

The Kinross Incident has been dubbed so simply because Moncla departed from the Kinross Airspace on the US side of the Border, in pursuit of an unidentified bogey that had wandered into US territory after travelling along the Saint Mary’s River that forms the border between Canada and the US. The bogey itself is a highly contested aspect of this case, as two conflicting accounts of the incident exist between the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF).  Shortly after the disappearance, the USAF claimed that the unidentified bogey was actually a RCAF C-47 jet that had wandered 30 miles south into American airspace. However, the RCAF as well as the veteran pilot Gerald Fosberg of the C-47 jet, refuted this claim. A public statement from pilot Fosberg reads as follows:

Lt. Felix Eugene Moncla, Date Unknown

Lt. Felix Eugene Moncla, Date Unknown

“I remember the flight reasonably well, and just checked my log books to confirm the date. It was a night flight. We were probably at 7,000 or 9,000 feet over a solid cloud deck below and absolutely clear sky above.

Somewhere near Sault Ste. Marie, and north of Kinross AFB, I think a ground station (can’t remember whether it was American or Canadian) asked us if we had seen another aircraft’s lights in our area. I do think I recall them saying at that time that the USAF had scrambled an interceptor and they had lost contact with it. We replied that we had not seen anything. A few days later I received a phone call from somebody at Kinross who was carrying out an investigation on a missing aircraft. I could only tell them that we had seen nothing. That was the last I ever heard of the incident.”

*** the pilot of the Dakota C-47 is quite clear that he was never 30 miles off course and that he was never told that the missing aircraft had been trying to intercept him.

Unfortunately, no record of the communications between Moncla’s f-89 Scorpion was kept that would reveal whether Moncla had established a visual with the C 47, so there is no way to confirm whether the Scorpion established contact or identified the ‘UFO’ before disappearing…

Another bizarre crash occurred over the Great Lakes in 1965 over Lake Michigan. Normal flying conditions were reported for the routine flight with United Airlines Flight 289 en route from New York to Chicago. Oddly, no radio communications were interrupted throughout the duration of the flight up to the time of the crash. The pilot and co-pilots were preparing for a landing maneuver with no reports of bad weather nor equipment malfunctions when the plane suddenly plummeted into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. The last thing heard over flight recorder was the pilot's voice as he was examining the altimeter when the crash occurred.

united airlines boeing 727.jpg

During the course of research for this episode, we came across the accident report from the National Transportation Safety Board that describes the events leading up to the crash including a plethora of detail regarding the position of the plane in the minutes and seconds before its demise. Especially of interest was a paragraph that describes what was picked up on radar screens from ground control in the minutes before the crash:


“The USAF Air Defense Command radar system and the SAGE[4] computer were monitoring and recording certain high altitude tracks by position,[5] altitude,[6] time,[7] heading,[8] and ground speed.[9] The SAGE data were reviewed and showed two tracks in the area of concern at the time UAL 389 was approaching O'Hare. The first track, identified by the computer as track A039, began at 0157.8Z (2057:48) at a point approximately 17 nautical miles west of the Salem, Michigan VORTAC (83°58' West - 42°17' North) and was dropped by the computer at 87°10' West - 42°17' North at 0217.3Z (2117:24). The second track, identified as K047, was initiated at 0218.6Z (2118:36) at 87°23' West - 42°15' North and dropped at 0222.8Z (2222:48) at 87°52' West - 42°15' North. There was no other high altitude traffic observed by ARTCC or SAGE in the area of concern at the time UAL 389 passed through it. The track over the ground, ground speed and positions observed by SAGE were compatible with the intended flight path of UAL 389, and within the normal operating envelope of the B-727. In addition to the tracking information obtained by SAGE, two height finder readings were obtained.

The first, at 0214.6Z (2114:36) indicated the target was at 16,500 feet m.s.l. The second, at 0219.9Z (2119:54) indicated the target was at an altitude of 2,000 feet m.s.l. This latter altitude was considered by the Air Defense Command to be accurate within outside limits of +500 or -1,000 feet (1,000-2,500 feet m.s.l.). During the time of this latter altitude reading the aircraft was in voice communication with approach control and had an altitude clearance limit of 6,000 feet m.s.l.”

Of course, much of this technical language was above my liberal arts brain, so we decided to contact someone with the credentials to give us an idea of what this meant. My main questions revolved around the possibility of two ‘tracks’ in the vicinity of Flight 389 – could this be a similar instance to that of the infamous Kinross Incident of 1953…?

So we sent the information over to PhysicistChris to get his opinion on the matter. Chris is much more qualified to handle the information as he works in Radar and holds a B.S in physics, M.S space studies as well as hosting the entertaining and informative podcast A Dash of Science. Well, let's just say Chris went above and beyond, going ahead and plotting the information into a Google Earth graph to illustrate the potential flight path (within a mile accuracy) based on the information given in the report. This is what Chris had to say:


              “So essentially what they are saying is that they were monitoring a certain airspace at a certain time, and at that time there were two objects in that airspace. looks like they dropped the first track (which means they were no longer receiving data from it, not that it wasn't there) about a minute before they picked up the second track.

“Something I don't understand is why whoever made the wiki page only gave lat/long in degrees and minutes. Standard for that format is degree.minute.second. Without seconds, the precision of those locations are only within 1,591 meters. That is almost an entire mile.

“Forgive me if you understand already but that is essentially saying they only know where the plane is within a mile. Even just one decimal of seconds would increase that precision to 90 ft.

UA flight 389 flightpath 2.png

“[...] it seems pretty likely these are the same object and that they just lost and reacquired the target, which isn't abnormal over bodies of water, as there is much more water in the air over large bodies of water which can scatter RF which is one form of what we call Attenuation. basically, signal loss.  So I made a best guess flight path assuming it was one object. Keep in mind again precision is like 1 mile in any direction, and the altitude points are estimated as they correlated them with time instead of with location.”

With this information, it appears as though there was only one object picked up and dropped by ground radar, which potentially takes the wind out of the sails for my UFO theory. However, without the complete set of data in degree/minutes/seconds, the trajectory of the plane is a ‘guestimation’ within a mile in all directions, which leaves some room for say… some more paranormal ideas. Be sure to tune into the podcast to get all the details on what we had to say as far as outlandish hypotheticals and the rest of it!

This episode was an especially intriguing one for us here at Into The Portal, however, just like in Part I with the tragic events that occurred on the surface of the Great Lakes, we must always remember the lives that were lost on those fateful occasions. Remember the brave souls like Felix Eugene Moncla, Robert Wilson, Robert Joy Jr. and many other pilots and passengers now lost to the chilling depths of the World’s Deadliest Freshwater Graveyard.