Two helicopter police officers on routine patrol had a close encounter with two UFOs that left one officer admitting it “scared hell out of me."
The UFOs were tracked on radar at the nearby municipal airport with one fleeing UFO from the chopper at about two hundred miles an hour. During the encounter, one object and the copter flew circles around one another.
"It seemed to be playing games with us," said the chopper pilot, Patrolman Ronald K. Arey, then thirty-nine.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this was intelligently controlled. I can't say whether anybody was in it. I don't know… It evidently knew what I was doing because it appeared to me like it was trying to get on my tail and I was trying to get on its tail."
With Officer Arey was Patrolman Howard Douglas Dellinger, then thirty-one, his observer in the Bell Jet Ranger 206B police chopper, which was named Snoopy II. They were on patrol over the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, on the night of December 27, 1977, when the encounter occurred.
"This was approximately five or six minutes before eleven," Arey said. "We were flying over Independence Boulevard on the east side of Charlotte. The dispatcher gave out a call to Ninth and College, a car being pursued by police officers.
“We turned to a northwesterly heading and headed toward Ninth and College.On the way, approximately over Hawthorne and Central Avenue, we observed what looked like two aircraft flying in formation. They were headed southeast at about two thousand feet.
“As we got close to them I observed that there were no navigational lights, no rotating beacons, no strobe lights or anything on the aircraft. I pointed them out to my partner and we went under them."
Arey, who was six-foot-three and a thirteen-year police veteran, had been flying for seven years and had been flying the police chopper for five. Before that he had been an Army radar operator assigned to a Nike Hercules missile unit in California.
"We went on up to Ninth and College and it turned out there was nothing to the call," Arey continued. “So I turned back to the southeast toward the Coliseum to see who was flying out there with no navigational lights or anything.
UFO GETS ON CHOPPER’S TAIL
“Nobody is supposed to fly over the city at less than a thousand feet above the highest obstacle. The field elevation in Charlotte is seven hundred feet above sea level, so they would have to fly at at least seventeen hundred feet, just about where they were.
"And there were no navigational lights or anything. It kind of worried me if somebody's up there with us. We’re out there on a mission and on a mission both of us have to look at the ground and you can't look for aircraft that close.
"As I got to the Coliseum, I didn't see anything. I went to the south of the Coliseum and circled to the left and headed back toward the north. As I made my turn, I observed two objects still flying in formation and still at about eighteen hundred to two thousand feet.
“I started slowing down and climbing. I climbed to about fifteen or sixteen hundred feet and was approximately two hundred feet under them. As they went by they passed on my left, so I automatically turned to the left.
“The one to my left made a left turn. That put him directly on my tail. The one that was furthest from me went up to about four thousand or five thousand feet in two or three seconds. I was trying to get around to see the other one and it seemed to keep circling me. It looked like it was playing games.
"No aircraft will turn as sharp as a helicopter, because you can do a pedal turn and you can spin the rear end of that thing right around. And that's what we were doing.
“He was approximately a hundred fifty to two hundred feet behind me and he had a larger circumference to go around. He had a lot more distance to travel than I did – and as soon as I could get a look at it, it was right back on my tail.
"I asked the tower, 'Have you got any targets on the scope out here?' And he says, 'Yeah, I've got two targets painting on the scope right there at the Coliseum.' As I was turning to the left I was talking to the tower too.
“As I swung toward the tower I flipped the landing light on on the helicopter and he told me, 'I have visual contact.' And the controller said 'There's one appears to be right behind you and the other one is heading towards Monroe.’
"I was circling to the left and it started circling to the left. We were just standing up there doing tailspins. I slowed my airspeed down to approximately twenty-five or thirty miles an hour and I was kicking the pedal, spinning the rear end around. As soon as I would spin it around, it seemed like it was right back in behind me!
"We did two or three 360-degree turns. It seemed like the thing was just playing games with me. It gives you a little bit of an eerie feeling. I mean, is this thing going to run into the back of me? I mean, we're close together!
BRIGHT ORANGE LIGHT
“So I kicked the right pedal and immediately flipped it back to the right – and that's when I got a good look at it. It paused, just for a second. It was a light... a bright orange-white or orange-yellow light.
“It appeared to be about twelve inches in diameter. It was not the type of light that penetrated, like an automobile headlight or a landing light on an aircraft. There was no beam to it. It just glowed and the light reflected up over it and down.
“The front portion was all I could see, because the light was only reflected on that part. It was an oval-shaped top, a silver-looking type object. It looked like it had ribs in it, like seams where it was put together.
“I was kind of flabbergasted. I said to Doug, 'What in the hell is that?' And he said, 'You've got me – let's get out of here.' The object immediately turned to an easterly or southeasterly direction, a ball of fire as big as your fist came out from underneath and dropped down, and the object headed off.
"I gave chase to the object. I pulled ninety to ninety-five percent torque on the chopper, which would put me up to about a hundred forty miles an hour. Top speed is one fifty. The object ran off and left me.
“It looked like it was two or three miles ahead of me. We were getting it pretty good down through there and all of a sudden the light went out and we couldn't see anything else."
During all this, Arey was in constant contact with the traffic control tower operator at Douglas Municipal Airport seven to nine miles west of the Coliseum.
"At my first observance to all this I told the control tower operator I was over the Coliseum and asked him if he had any targets painting on his screen in proximity to me," said Arey. "He stated that he had an aircraft that just went over that way, headed toward Albemarle. I observed that aircraft, a Cessna about five or six miles from me.
“The controller said he had two more targets there in proximity to me. He said one was headed in a south or southeasterly direction and the other was right there in proximity to me.
‘SCARED HELL OUT OF ME’
“I told him we had something out there flying without any navigational lights or anything. He said, 'I'll follow it (on radar) and see if you can catch up with it.' We were unable to catch it. After we lost it, the control tower told me he had an aircraft south of me between South Park shopping Center and the Coliseum.
"We turned south and there was an object in the sky, the same thing we had sighted before. We headed towards it. It appeared to be two or three thousand feet high.
“We got about a mile or a mile and a half and the light disappeared. Just went out. We could see nothing. I immediately came on the radio and asked the control tower operator, 'Do you still have the target on the scope?’ And he says, 'No, I just dropped it."'
Patrolman Dellinger, six-foot-two and a police officer for eight years, said that in the beginning he thought two aircraft were just coming across the sky. "I didn't pay too much attention to them. I'd been in this unit only two or three months. I just kept my eyes on them. They came on by and went over us and Ron turned the helicopter around.
"I said, 'What was that?' And Ron said, 'I don't know – we’re going to find out.' He started getting close to them and one shot way up there about four thousand feet. I was busy watching the other one. It was over on my side.
"It scared hell out of me. I didn't know what it was. I haven't flown that much and it just scared me. It was a light with ribs in it with sides coming down like the sides of a parachute. Ron kept trying to get in behind it and get it where we could put our spotlight on it to see what it was. Never could do that.
"I told Ron, 'There's some things you fool with and I don't think this is one or them.' That thing bothered me. I don't know what it was and I'm just not used to that stuff. I wanted him to get the hell out of there.
“It was a little bit scary. It makes you wonder. If it is something from outer space and hasn't bothered anybody and you start bothering them, and if they're intelligent enough to get down here, no telling what they could do to you."
Ray Bader, then one of two air traffic controllers for the Federal Aviation Administration on duty at Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte that night, said: "It was about ten fifty-five on the date in question that Snoopy II, the city helicopter, called in and asked if I had any targets in his vicinity. A target is a radar paint of an aircraft or object in the sky.
“I said yes and tried to identify the one that I knew, which was a Cessna eastbound. I had a general idea where Snoopy was. He was over the Coliseum. And he said, 'No, no, there're two other ones.' And at that time I saw two other targets in the vicinity of the Coliseum. I saw three targets in the vicinity of the Coliseum and a Cessna eastbound. Two of the targets were very close to each other.
“I asked Snoopy to show his light towards the tower so I could get an idea where he was and see if I could visually see the other aircraft by using binoculars. Snoopy turned toward the tower and put his light on and another fellow in the tower and I were looking with binoculars to the east and we didn't see anything other than the light.
"A little later he (Arey) said he had lost the target he was following and was looking around for it and saw a light to the northeast of the Charlotte airport, which I identified as an inbound Eastern jet.
“He asked me it I saw anything else and I said yes I did, about a mile and a half south of your position. He turned around and proceeded down that way and he said he saw it again. And then he said he lost it.
"About twenty or thirty minutes later, the two policemen came to the control tower and we talked about what had happened and got other details, such as at one point he said the unknown climbed to four thousand feet and was tracking southeast bound.
“At that time we had seen a target head southeast and then disappear from the screen about five to seven miles northwest of the Monroe Airport. When Snoopy said he had lost the second aircraft, we didn't see it any longer on the screen either."
Bader had been a control tower operator for four years at that time, and for years before that was a ground control approach controller at Cherry Point, North Carolina, Marine Corps base.
"This one object went off at about two hundred miles an hour," said Bader. "This was approximately the same time Arey said one was just pulling away from him.
"I don't remember seeing Snoopy chase it. I remember seeing the targets all together. He might have chased it for a mile or two but that wouldn't give me a good return."
Bader said he did not know what the objects were. "At the time I didn't think of trying to contact anybody. I wasn't just watching Snoopy. I had other aircraft at the time.
“The other controller in the tower was Tom Carmody. He was busy with something else most of the time but he confirmed that he saw a target southeast bound when I did and he was looking through the binoculars trying to get visual contact.”
Bader said neither the Cessna nor the Eastern jetliner would have been close enough to see the objects near Snoopy.
“The Cessna wasn't real close,” said Bader. “He was either right over them or had already passed them when Snoopy started calling in. He was at thirty-five hundred feet, so he was above and it would have been hard to see something like that. He was at least five miles further east and going away so he probably would not have seen them. The Eastern jet was still twenty miles out so he wouldn't have been able to see much either.
Tom Ginn, then administrative assistant to the chief of police for the Charlotte
Police Department, said in commenting on Officers Arey and Dellinger:
At least one other person is known to have seen something strange in the sky that evening. He is Eric Moore, then twenty-two and an announcer for radio station WRPL in Charlotte.
"It was around nine o'clock," Moore said. "I got gas across the street and as I was leaving I saw what looked like a light bulb hanging up in the sky. It looked a little strange. It didn't look like an airplane or anything. It was traveling pretty slow too, and it was relatively close.
“I buzzed down the road a little bit and the thing went right over the car and I could see something hanging down below it. It looked like it was transparent but it was not any kind of gas or vapor. It was solid.
"The thing went on over and was heading southeast, like it could have been following traffic or possibly power lines.
“I went on across Independence Boulevard and got over near Central Piedmont College, trying to keep it in sight. I had to stop at a few red lights and kept watching it. I got up to Central Piedmont and looked over and the thing had disappeared by then, and I saw another one over near the Coliseum. It wasn't moving at all, or didn't appear to be. I just took them to be a couple of weather balloons and didn't really follow them."
WORD LEAKS OUT
He described what he saw as "a bright, white light. It didn't appear to have any depth, just a glow. It was pretty large and appeared to be about the size of a silver dollar in the sky. Something definitely was hanging down.
“The glow from the light reflected off it. At first, I thought something has happened to the balloon or it might be some type of indicator or equipment. It was a grayish or transparent color. It was not shiny."
Although the sighting occurred on a Tuesday night, it wasn’t until the following Saturday that the first story about it appeared in the Charlotte newspapers.
"I didn't tell anybody about this until I saw the Saturday morning paper," Moore said. "And Then I remembered and thought, 'Wow! I might have seen the same thing.’”
Officer Arey said he deliberately did not say anything about the objects over the police radio during the encounter. “All the newspapers in Charlotte monitor our frequency and the first thing I thought about was keeping my mouth shut. I told Doug, 'You say anything to anybody about this, I’ll shoot you.’”
After talking with Bader at the tower, he and Dellinger returned to police headquarters to report to the duty officer in person.
"We didn't want anything to get out, to start with, so we came back and talked to the duty officer and told him exactly what we'd seen," said Arey. "He has to log everything that goes on. He puts it in his log.
“I was trying to keep it quiet. I didn't want it on the police radio. People think you're a bunch of kooks. They really will. And I know if we'd come back and landed, the whole roof of the police department would be full of reporters and I didn't want that.
“So we told the duty captain and, I don't know, it got out over the station. The next duty captain saw it. All the duty captains read it and the next thing we knew the newspapers had it."
The object was bigger than the chopper, Officer Dellinger said. "I would say it was about one and a half times as large as the helicopter. There was some kind of a shape above the light.
CIRCLE DANCE WAS ‘TOO LONG’
“You had the main light, the solid part, and then the glow around that. And then you could see in the glow and over the top of the glow a little bit that was like a funnel, like the sides of a parachute. It had ribs in the middle there and kind of a dome like over it."
Arey added: "The light itself appeared to be about twelve inches in diameter... It would have been much larger if we'd gotten up close to it, but you couldn't see the whole thing.”
The two officers said the entire encounter, from the first moment they spotted the objects while answering a dispatcher's call to Ninth and College streets until the last one disappeared, was about five minutes.
Dellinger estimated the close encounter with the object they circled with lasted “twenty to thirty seconds."
"Long enough to do about two or three 360-degree turns," Arey said.
Too long," Dellinger added.