Introduction and background
Aerospace companies, particularly in the United States, have had a long history of interest in Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP.) It is a natural fit. UAP exhibit a number of “observables” which would be valuable to an aerospace company, in terms of understanding advanced physics; advanced propulsion systems, and in general, advanced technology.
It has also been suggested by some, that if you were looking to reverse engineer an advanced object, then why not bury such a project within a private aerospace company? The Wilson/Davis document, of course, implies that this has already been done.
The purpose of this blog post is to bring together some of the information about the interest of aerospace companies, and some of their employees, in UAP. It is not meant to be comprehensive but to provide a broad overview of the subject.
Firstly, though some basic information about the major players:
1921 Douglas Aircraft Company established.
1926 Lockheed Corporation established.
1939 McDonnell Aircraft Corporation founded.
1961 The Martin Marietta Corporation founded.
1967 McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and Douglas Aircraft Company merge to form McDonnell Douglas.
1995 Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta merge to form Lockheed Martin.
1997 McDonnell Douglas merges with Boeing.
1947: Lockheed statement
In an article in Volume 26, number 3 (pp3-9, 32) of the International UFO Reporter, by Joel Carpenter, titled “The Lockheed UFO Case, 1953,” Carpenter mentions a 7 July 1947 official statement from Lockheed on the subject of “flying discs.”
Hal Hibbard, then Lockheed’s Chief Engineer, is reported to have told the Los Angeles Times:
“They’re either reflections from planes flying singly or in formation, or mass hysteria and the desire of various persons to get their names in the paper. I know of no secret aviation project which would have the slightest bearing on these so-called phenomena.”
1949: Lockheed employee sighting
A May 2020 post on the blog “The Saucers that time forgot” led to an image of an interdepartmental communication from Clarence L. (“Kelly”) Johnson of Lockheed, to John L. Hill, dated 8 July 1949 reported a 17 June 1949 sighting by a Lockheed employee. Johnson wrote, in part:
“As you know, I have been very interested in the possibility of such things existing, and my discussions with certain people in the Air Force, as well as late newspaper reports indicate there is something to flying discs.”
There is an existing Project Blue Book (PBB) case file on this sighting. Below is an image of the PBB index card and the PBB conclusion.
1951: Johnson sighting
Also in Carpenter’s 2001 IUR article was mention of a sighting by Kelly Johnson himself, in “about November 1951.” Below are the available details, in Johnson’s own words, from 1953:
“I should also add that about two years ago Mrs. Johnson and I saw an object which i believed at the time, and still do, to be a flying saucer, flying west of Brents Junction, California on a very dark night. I did not see the object itself, but saw a clearly defined flame or emanation, as shown in the attached sketch. The object was travelling from east to west at a very high speed and with no noise. The flame or emanation was a beautiful light blue, having extremely well defined edges. My first impression was that it was an afterburning aircraft but the lack of noise and the pure speed of the plume eliminated that possibility completely.”
Thanks to an article in the blog “Saucers that time forgot” we know that Lockheed employee Nathan C. Price designed and then filed a patent, for a Vertical take-off and landing “saucer” shaped aircraft, in January 1953. The machine was designed for vertical ascents and descents, and for long range flights at speeds up to Mach 4, with a ceiling around 100,000 feet. It was never built.
December 1953: Johnson sighting
On 16 December 1953, Kelly Johnson and his wife observed a black silhouette, to the west of a ranch house near Agoura, California. For five minutes it was observed both by naked eye and through binoculars. It appeared stationary then dwindled in size and disappeared in 90 seconds in an apparent long, shallow climb.
At the same time, a group of Lockheed employees, aboard a Lockheed test aircraft, outbound from Burbank, California also sighted a sharp-edged black silhouette in the sky, over the sea. After about five minutes, it shrank from view.
The PBB Case file, which records the cause as a lenticular cloud, may be viewed here.
1954 – 1955: Douglas Aircraft Company study
In Jacque Vallee’s book “Forbidden Science: Volume 2” page 336 there is a diary entry which reads:
“Belmont Saturday 15 May 1976
…I got an interesting call from a vice-president with Environmental Systems in Van Nuys who’d read Invisible College. As early as 1955 he belonged to a UFO group at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. He worked there with Wheaten (now at Lockheed in the submarine division) Ted Gordon, Klemperer and Dave Crook. They were asked by McDonnell 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. He now claims they found no less than 2,000 sites in Owen valley alone, including one where objects seem to go in and out of solid ground.”
|Image from PDF on file|
I researched this 1955 study and ended up writing two blog posts about it, here and here. Ultimately, I was able to locate, thanks to Boston researcher Barry Greenwood, 100 pages of documents generated by the study, a few pages of which are available on the Internet here. The project was headed by Wolfgang Benjamin Klemperer, head of their Missile Division, and staffed by Elmer P Wheaton; Theodore Jay Gordon; Dave Crook and A M Rochlen. Given that the names Vallee provides are all in the 1955 documents, bar that of Rochlen, I wonder if Rochlen was Vallee’s informant?
|Courtesy of Barry Greenwood|
In the 2012 book “UFOs and Government” by Swords, M. et al (Anomalist Books, San Antonio) there is the following:
“Douglas’ Missile Engineering Department had made an analysis of the Great Falls, Montana, film of 1950 incidental to a study of publications dealing with unusual propulsion systems…The Douglas analysis was done by Dr. Robert L Baker.”
|Memo – Klemperer to Wheaton 1 March 1955|
The analysis was published in March 1956 as “Photogrammatic Analysis of the ‘Montana’ Film Tracking Two UFOs” by Baker, R.M.L.
“A curious incident recently took place during a conversation with a Martin Marietta engineer who says he is compiling a 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 took 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 wondered what else might be in that binder. There are rumors that major aerospace companies are conducting their own secret studies of UFOs.”
1967-1968: Study undertaken on behalf of President Lyndon B. Johnson
In the period 1967-1968, Frank F. Rand Jnr., became an assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Johnson had been contacted by researcher James E. McDonald about UFOs. President Johnson himself retained a long term interest in the subject. The President asked Rand to look into the topic and report back to him; and Rand and his team spent nine months conducting a scientific investigation of the topic, and concluded by providing a report to President Johnson.
By 2001, Rand had prepared a book length manuscript, both about his career and the UFO study. It was titled “UFOs…Fact or Fiction” and U.S. researcher Michael Swords acquired a copy, which I have read. The manuscript was never published and few have seen it.
Some of Rand’s team’s conclusions were:
“There is no doubt that “UFOs” exist and are under control. Nor, do I doubt that there may well have been some harmless probes sent to our Earth from other civilizations beyond our solar system.”
The other members of Rand’s team were stated to have been Arthur Lundahl; General James T. Stewert; Dr. Brockway McMillan; Dr. “Lee Brockings” (pseudonym); a Dr. Bleakley and a Dr. Losh; plus of particular interest here, Clarence “Kelly” Johnson.
1967-1970: The McDonnell Douglas “secret” study
In the July/August 1993 edition of the “International UFO Reporter,” a McDonnell Douglas employee, Robert M. Wood revealed that his company had conducted a “secret” study of the subject of UFOs.
|Image from PDF on file|
Wood recommended to management, a modest $M0.5 project to explore unpopular theories, conduct laboratory experiments and evaluate hypotheses, conduct field observations, and review the UFO literature. They agreed. At one stage the project employed four full time and three part time employees.
|Image from PDF on file|
A fuller description of the work undertaken, appeared much later, in an another article by Wood, this time in the October 2008 issue of the “MUFON Journal.” Individuals mentioned as taking part in the project were Dr. Joseph M. Brown; Chan Thomas; Paul Wilson; Stanton Friedman; Dr. Darell Boyd Harmon; Leon A. Steinert and Harvey C. Bjornlie. I wrote a lengthy piece about the project; its paperwork and its findings in a blog post dated 22 September 2020 If you would like to read 275 pages of the project’s documentation, you can go to this website.
Robert M. Wood in the 1993 article stated:
“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.”
Wood also revealed that:
“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 materialized with McDonnell Douglas to my knowledge.”
Researcher Lois Taylor contacted me and provided me with a number of documents dealing with this Project which I wrote about in a blog article dated 15 October 2020.
In an internal memo dated 2 May 1968, and titled “Advanced Vehicle Concept Research” by Wood, Brown and Harmon, there appears a section headed “Competitors efforts”:
“Hughes (10 men at Fullerton under Meiers); Lockheed Sunnyvale; Rand has proposed project (as have several other companies); Several companies have UFO related efforts. Raytheon has had computer project from Condon (U. of Colo.)”
1973: Sample from the 1897 Aurora, Texas “crash” analyzed
In the MUFON “Skylook” Journal, issue number 70, dated September 1973 (p.8) author Walt H. Andrus wrote a piece titled “Report on 1897 Aurora, Texas, Investigations.” Part of this reported that samples of materials found on the site of the alleged “crash” were sent to:
“John F. Schuessler, Deputy Director of MUFON and consultant in Aeronautics, on June 15. They have been submitted to laboratories of McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis for their expert analysis.”
As far as I can determine, results of analyzes were never published.
1974: UFO research for the CIA?
The 10 December 1974 entry in Vallee’s “Forbidden Science: Volume Two” includes:
“Kit reluctantly confirmed that there was a group of 15 engineers in the Midwest ( I assumed it was McDonnell in St. Louis) are secretly doing UFO research for CIA under cover of ‘aeronautical research.’ They’re getting data through leaks from CUFOS and other amateurs.”
Note: Kit refers to Christopher ‘Kit’ Green.
1978: McDonnell Douglas continues its studies
Two more pieces of information from Jacques Vallee.
a. Diary entry dated 5 January 1978
“Yesterday, I received a phone call from a fellow who works with McDonnell Douglas Aeronautics. 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 pretty 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.”
b. Diary entry dated 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. Who is kidding who? Why is the scientific community kept in the dark about these projects? Why all the secrecy? Where do the research results go?”
1979 -1986: McDonnell and parapsychology
Between 1979 and 1986 the McDonnell Foundation funded a permanent paranormal PSI laboratory in St. Louis, Missouri. James Smith McDonnell was Chairman of the Board of McDonnell Douglas.
1985: The ATP
The Advanced Theoretical Physics (ATP) Project was co-founded by John B. Alexander and Dr. Ronald F. Blackburn. Blackburn was a microwave specialist, formerly at the Lockheed “Skunk Works” and according to Jacques Vallee (“Forbidden Science: Volume 3” diary entry dated 11 April 1989) Blackburn hinted that he studied UFOs. I profiled Blackburn in a blog post in 2019.
The ATP had a number of participants, who met to discuss current and future research into the topic. For a look at a batch of ATP documents please click here.
Among ATP participants were at least five individuals who worked for aerospace companies. These were Ron Blackburn, Milton Jantzen and Don Keuble from Lockheed; and Bill Souder and Robert Wood from McDonnell Douglas.
Although Alexander briefed a number of high ranking U.S. government officials while ATP was operational, eventually no funding was forthcoming to support the ATP research agenda, and it was disbanded.
1986: Ben Rich
Over the years, much has been made of certain statements made by Ben Rich of Lockheed. In 1986 Ben Rich was Executive V.P. and General manager, Advanced Development Projects, Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company. In a letter dated 10 July 1986 from researcher John Andrews to Rich, Andrews asked if Rich’s beliefs covered both manmade and extraterrestrial UFOs? In a response dated 21 July 1986, on Lockheed letterhead, Rich replied:
“Yes, I’m a believer in both categories. I feel everything is possible. Many of our manmade UFOs are Un Funded Opportunities.”
I image the correspondence below from a PDF I have on file:
1992 – 2012: Robert Bigelow and Bigelow Aerospace
Las Vegas businessman Robert T. Bigelow has had a long-term interest in both UAP and the paranormal. He expressed this interest in a series of business entities, commencing with the Bigelow Foundation in the early 1990’s; the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS -1996-2004); and finally the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) between 2008-2012. I have reviewed each of these entities and their research in a series of blog posts which can be found by using the blog search function. Much of the information published by NIDS can still be found on their now defunct website using the Wayback machine. Bigelow Aerospace was founded in 1998 and BAASS in 2008.
BAASS received two years of funding, $M22 in total, from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency under a contract for the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP.) Robert Bigelow also reached into his own pocket to add to the DIA funds. Very little detailed information has been publicly released by either the DIA or BAASS concerning the AAWSAP.
Mid 1990’s: Project Greenglow
In the mid-1990’s aerospace engineer Dr. Ron Evans was working for British Aerospace (which became BAE Systems in 1999.) He asked management if he could investigate “gravity control?” They said yes; gave him an office and a small budget. He called the Project, Project Greenglow and worked on it until he retired in 2005. In 2015 he published a book called “Greenglow and the Search for Gravity Control.”
2001: Donald Phillips
According to Steven M. Greer in his 2001 book “Disclosure Project Briefing Document,” Donald Phillips is said to have been in the USAF, and also to have worked with Kelly Johnson at Lockheed. In his Disclosure testimony he speaks of how ETs met with Earth’s leaders in 1954; leading to the advancement of our technology. Phillips refers to Colonel Corso’s work as evidence to support his own testimony.
2014: Boyd B. Bushman
Boyd B. Bushman worked for Lockheed Martin, and held a number of patents, filed between 1989 and 2002, assigned to Lockheed. Before he passed away in August 2014 he was interviewed on video about his views on UAP. In the video he speaks of UFOs as being real; that they are extraterrestrial visitors and that bodies and craft have been recovered. He produced, and showed. photographs of UFOs and an alien, which he spoke of as if he had met them himself; and of the alien’s planet. He claimed that Russia and China were both working at Area 51. He also stated that he analyzed pieces of UFOs, which had the property of reducing the weight of anything near the pieces. Critics of his video account pointed out that the alien in the photograph strongly resembles a toy alien doll available at Wal-Mart.
2016: William Tompkins
A book titled “Selected by Extraterrestrials” authored by William Mills Tompkins, was published in 2016. The book is reportedly an autobiography, although reads like a B grade novel, by Tompkins who stated that he was a long-term employee of the Douglas Aircraft Company, back to 1953. He makes statements such as:
“After extensive study in 1953, Advanced Design concluded that UFOs were actually interplanetary spacecraft, piloted by extremely advanced extraterrestrial beings.”
For further information, please see my blog post dated 28 April 2016.
What of the now?
The demonstrated long-term interest in the topic by aerospace companies, would indicate to me that there is most probably some aerospace company, right now, conducting current research into UAP. With all the interest in the 2004 Nimitz encounters; the 2014/2015 off the East coast of the U.S. training area incursions; and other cases since, I would suggest that one or more of the major aerospace company players has its own UAP research program on the go. This is separate from the official U.S. government UAP Task Force.
There are undocumented claims by a number of UAP researchers, that they are aware of four other U.S. research programs dealing with UAP. However, there is no indication that these are lodged within private aerospace companies. Have any blog readers any insight into such a current aerospace company program?