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When I read about a UFO sighting or encounter, one of the first things I consider is the credibility of the witness.  I know you can’t judge someone by their occupation, background or age but some witnesses are a little more credible than others.  What makes the Coyne Helicopter Incident an interesting one is that the crew of the aircraft were four Army Reserve guys.  But what did they see that night in 1973?

The incident

Coyne Helicopter Incident

UH-1H – the type of helicopter the crew were flying

According to the official report that was signed and submitted by the crew after the incident, the four men were flying over Mansfield, Ohio around 11pm on the night of November 4th.  They reported that they ‘encountered a near mid-air collision’ with what they described as an ‘unidentified flying object’.

Major Larry Coyne was the commander of the helicopter that night and in his report, he said that they were flying at around 2,500 feet when the crew chief of the aircraft noticed a red light on the east horizon.  It appeared to be closing in on the helicopter on a crash course.

Their initial instincts were that they were seeing a radio tower beacon but the light grew bigger and brighter.  Coyne moved the helicopter downwards in an effort to avoid the collision.  But like a missile with target lock, the light tracked the helicopter and was now on a perpendicular path, looking as if it would hit them on their broadside.

Close encounter

One of the crew members called out “Look up!” and the crew saw the light stop and hovering right above the helicopter.  At this point, the men realised that another light was coming from the aft end of whatever they were looking at and this light then swung around 90 degrees to shine into the cabin.  The men described it as a bright green light and it was sufficiently bright that it drowned out the running lights inside the helicopter.

When asked what they thought they had seen, their first reaction was that this was some kind of high performance fighter but quickly realised this couldn’t be the case.  The craft was cigar shaped and had no wings, no stabilisers and was around 60 feet in length.

By this time, both craft were around 1700 feet in the air and the cigar shaped UFO began to slowly move away from them.  Coyne was concerned that the helicopter had begun to fall but their instruments showed the opposite – they were moving upwards at a rate of 1,000 feet a minute and were actually at 3,500 feet.  Then there was a bump and suddenly, they had control again.

Nor were the four men the only people to witness the encounter.  On the ground there were eyewitnesses who backed up what the men said.  Unusually, the US Army didn’t prevent them from discussing the incident and the men even spoke to the United Nations in 1978 under the sponsorship of Grenada about what they had seen.


The Coyne Helicopter Incident is interesting not only for the credibility of the witnesses and the fact that they were allowed to speak out but that the incident raise attention to what is known as unidentified aerial phenomena or UAP.

According to one researcher, Richard Haines, in a report in 1999 there are dozens of incidents each year where aircraft encounter something unexplained and are placed in real danger by the UAP.    He created the National Aviation Reporting Centre on Anomalous Phenomena or NARCAP to collect details with the aims of better understanding what pilots and flight crews are seeing.