Strange Universe released its top-ten list of UFO sightings. As I will show here, most of them have been identified: This list updated 07/03/2006 due to new solution!
This is a case of substituting a balloon that was not secret for one that was - the Mogul. The original "flying disc" release was an attempt to sidetrack the issue - the hoopla the press made of the flying disk story was unexpected. The original purpose of the Mogul balloon was to spy on Soviet nuclear tests using a microphone. This later turned into the successful Skyhook upper atmosphere research balloon system. Why do we even consider this to be a crash-retrieval?
Kenneth Arnold's estimates of size, distance, speed, and duration do not match even fairly close. It has now been shown to be possible that Arnold witnessed a flight of geese. Since Arnold was working with Ray Palmer, it is also possible that the whole thing was a stunt to sell magazines. Palmer published a similar story years earlier as fiction. If it was a stunt, it sure left a lot of debris to clean up.
This was basically a case of several unrelated events put together by witnesses into one sighting. A fire balloon definitely caused the original sighting. New information confirms this. A gust of wind tilted the balloon, catching the bag on fire and dropping it into the sea. The froth on the sea may have been the remains of the combusted fire balloon. Meanwhile, unrelated lights on the sea were combined into the sighting by witnesses. What the fishing boat captain saw was unrelated to the other events, being almost 200 miles away.
This has been shown to probably have been started by a spy-satellite film drop to RAF Bentwaters. The Iran hostage crisis was almost at an end on this date. All of the other effects were probably caused by one of the following:
The fire balloons might have been launched as part of a cover-up for the spy satellite drop. It is now known that the military has repeatedly used "UFO" as the explanations for sightings of various secret devices, including the U2 spy plane.
This was undoubtedly the results of a mild temperature inversion combined with staff unfamiliarity with the newly installed Moving Target Indicator (MTI) on the RADAR sets. This device had the ability to delete stationary ground targets from the RADAR display, but in doing so, it amplified weak weather targets into clear planelike blips. The visual sightings were common objects (including the planet Mars) turned into UFOs by crewmen in "UFO mode." One fighter pilot found himself repeatedly aimed at a steamboat in the Potomac each time he approached a RADAR unknown.
UPDATE: There was an adjustment on the RADAR set that was originally the master-gain control for the receiver. When the MTI was installed, that function was moved to a new knob, and that old knob became the calibration control for stationary target rejection. By force of habit, operators often forgot, and turned the old knob for gain. This decalibrated the set, making stationary targets appear in MTI mode. This same misadjustment was also responsible for the 08/13/1956 Lakenheath-Bentwaters and 09/06/1967 Kincheloe AFB cases.
This was a manned hot-air balloon. The modern propane-powered hot-air balloon was only two years old at the time, originally developed for a Navy program. The sport was publicized about a year earlier in Popular Mechanics. Hynek was looking for a thrust-powered craft, but aerostatic lift better fits the evidence found at the scene. The fire was caused by the balloon burner aimed sideways to refill the aerostat.
This was a parachute flare training exercise during training of the Maryland Air National Guard, combined with another case of pranksters releasing clusters of fire balloons in the night sky. The major sighting was recorded by at least four different witnesses with camcorders on the night of 03/13/97. Triangulation of these recordings definitely places the UFOs over Luke Air Force Range, near Yuma AZ. Meanwhile, the trainees returned to Maryland before the story hit the papers. When they found out about the sighting in August, they reported their involvement then.
The original sightings were geese or plover, reflecting the light of the new mercury-vapor streetlights. I have seen this effect myself. The photos, when examined carefully, show a very underexposed image of a choir and balcony structure behind the lights. I suspect a financial motive for reporting the photos to the press.
This could have been sun halation off of the two F-94s. If they were far enough away, or bright enough, the shape would have been obscured, as it is in the Takeda photo of a silver plane reflecting the sun. Halation expands the bright image on the film. The objects disappear by fading, not in the distance or behind something. Again, I suspect a financial motive behind the report.
I have seen this myself, and it looked just like the film. Seagulls riding a thermal make a beautiful effect. I know mine were seagulls because, one time in Florida, I saw a man getting onto his boat accidentally drop a loaf of bread on the deck. He was immediately inundated by seagulls. As they left after consuming the bread, they produced the effect shown in the film. It was heightened by the thin veil of gray haze darkening the blue sky beyond the birds.
UPDATE: The same effect is also seen in the photos Newhouse took of his family before he filmed the sighting. Nobody seems to have noticed the objects in that footage.