Date: October 18, 1973
Location: Mansfield, Ohio, United States
The Coyne case (or “Army helicopter incident”) stands out as, perhaps the most credible (in the “high strangeness” category) of the 1973 wave. An Army Reserve helicopter crew of four men encountered a gray, metallic-looking, cigar-shaped object, with unusual lights and maneuvers, as they were airborne
On October 18, 1973, at approximately 10:30 PM a UH-1H helicopter of the United States Army Reserve left Port Columbus, Ohio, for its home base of Cleveland Hopkins airport, ninety-six nautical miles to the north-northeast. In command, in the right-front seat, was Captain Lawrence J. Coyne, thirty-six, with nineteen years of flying experience. At the controls, in the left-front seat, sat First Lieutenant Arrigo Jezzi, twenty-six, a chemical engineer. Behind Jezzi sat Sergeant John Healey, thirty-five, a Cleveland policeman who was the flight medic, and Coyne was the Crew Chief, Sergeant Robert Yanacsek, twenty-three, a computer technician. The helicopter was cruising at 2,500 feet above sea level at an indicated airspeed of ninety knots, above mixed hills, woods, and rolling farmland, averaging 1,200 feet elevation. The night was totally clear, calm, and starry. The last quarter moon was just rising.
About ten miles south of Mansfield, Healey noticed a single red light off to the west, flying south. It seemed brighter than a standard aircraft port-wing light, but it was not considered relevant traffic, and he does not recall mentioning it. An estimated two minutes later, at approximately 11:02 PM, Yanacsek noted a single red light on the south-east horizon. He assumed it was either a radio-tower beacon or an aircraft port-wing light – most likely an aircraft, since it was not flashing – and he watched it “for a long time, a minute to ninety seconds” before calling it to Coyne’s attention. Coyne, smoking, relaxing, glanced over, noted the light, assumed it was distant traffic, and told Yanacsek casually to “keep an eye on it.”
After an estimated additional thirty seconds, Yanacsek announced that the light had turned toward the helicopter and appeared to be on a converging flight path. Coyne verified Yanacsek’s assessment, grabbed the controls from Jezzi, and put the UH-1H into a powered descent of approximately 500 feet per minute. Almost simultaneously, Coyne established radio contact with Mansfield control tower, ten miles to the northwest. Coyne thought the flight was an Air National Guard F-100 from Mansfield. After an initial acknowledgment (“This is Mansfield Tower, go ahead Army 1-5-triple-4”), radio contact failed. Jezzi then attempted transmission on both UHF and VHF frequencies without success. Although the channel and keying tones were both heard, there was no response from Mansfield; and a subsequent check by Coyne revealed that Mansfield had no tape of even the initial transmission, the last F-100 had landed at 10:47 P.M.
The red light continued its radial bearing and increased greatly in intensity. Coyne increased his rate of descent to 2,000 feet per minute and his airspeed to 100 knots. The last altitude he noted was 1,700 feet. Just as a collision appeared imminent, the unknown light halted in its westward course and assumed a hovering relationship above and in front of the helicopter. “It wasn’t cruising, it was stopped. For maybe ten to twelve seconds – just stopped,” Yanacsek reported. Coyne, Healey, and Yanacsek agree that a cigar-shaped, slightly domed object substended an angle of nearly the width of the front windshield. A featureless, gray, metallic-looking structure was precisely delineated against the background stars. Yanacsek reported “a suggestion of windows” along the top dome section. The red light emanated from the bow, a white light became visible at a slightly indented stern, and then, from aft/below, a green ‘pyramid shaped” beam equated to a directional spotlight became visible. The green beam passed upward over the helicopter nose, swung up through the windshield, continued upward and entered the tinted upper window panels.
At that point (and not before), the cockpit was enveloped in green light. Jezzi reported only a bright white light, comparable to the leading light of a small aircraft, visible through the top “greenhouse’ panels of the windshield. After the estimated ten seconds of “hovering,” the object began to accelerate off to the west, now with only the white “tail” light visible. The white light maintained its intensity even as its distance appeared to increase, and finally (according to Coyne and Healey), it appeared to execute a decisive 45 degree turn to the right, head out toward Lake Erie, and then “snap out” over the horizon. Healey reported that he watched the object moving westward “for a couple of minutes.” Jezzi said it moved faster than the 250-knot limit for aircraft below 10,000 feet, but not as fast as the 600-knot approach speed reported by the others. There was no noise from the object or turbulence during the encounter, except for one “bump” as the object moved away to the west. After the object had broken off its hovering relationship, Jezzi and Coyne noted that the magnetic compass disk was rotating approximately four times per minute and that the altimeter read approximately 3,500 feet; a 1,000 foot-per-minute climb was in progress. Coyne insists that the collective was still bottomed from his evasive descent. Since the collective could not be lowered further, he had no alternative but to lift it, whatever the results, and after a few seconds of gingerly maneuvering controls (during which the helicopter reached nearly 3,800 feet), positive control was achieved. By that time the white light had already moved into the Mansfield area. Coyne had been subliminally aware of the climb; the others not at all, yet they had all been acutely aware of the g-forces of the dive. The helicopter was brought back to the flight plan altitude of 2,500 feet, radio contact was achieved with Canton/Akron, and the flight proceeded uneventfully to Cleveland.