Friday, September 15, 2017

The Cash-Landrum UFO Prime Suspect: The CH-47, Army Chinook

 “They were far away but yet they were low enough and we set there and watched them 'till they got over the car because I wanted to make sure if it was airplanes or if it was helicopters, which it was helicopters. I counted 23 of them. I don't know what color they were, I can't say. But I do know that they had a double deal on the top, propeller-like thing. And I could hear 'em just as plain as if they were right ready to land"
Betty Cash, from a taped statement made at Parkway Hospital, Feb. 1981
Witnesses, Betty Cash, Vickie and Colby Landrum described large helicopters with two rotors on top, which they assumed to be military. Later they were shown photos by investigators and identified the CH-47 as a match. Identifying the type of helicopters seemed to be a big break, since the CH-47 was primarily used by the US Army. Here's a look at some CH-47 data from (helicopter history site)

CH-47 specs.
The Boeing Chinook is a tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter that meets tactical and combat support mission requirements for military forces around the world. The Chinook is one of the world’s most reliable and efficient transport helicopter, capable of handling loads up to 28,000 lbs with a maximum gross weight of 54,000 lbs. (24,494 kg), greater than its own empty weight. Its tandem rotor configuration also provides exceptional handling qualities that enable the CH-47 to operate in climatic, altitude and crosswind conditions that typically keep other helicopters from flying. 
The first fully equipped U.S. Army Chinook designated the CH-47A first flight Sep 21th 1961 and entered service in August 1962 with a gross weight of 33,000 lbs. (14,969 kg). 
First flight:Sept. 21, 1961
Model number:Vertol 114
Classification:Military helicopter
Length:51 feet
Gross weight:33,000 pounds
Top speed:150 mph
Range:200 miles
Maximum payload:More than 7 tons
Power:2,220-shaft-horsepower Twin Lycoming T55-L-5 turboshaft engines, two 3-bladed rotors
Accommodation:3 crew, 33 troops or 24 litter patients and attendants

The article at Global Security discusses  the modifications made in 1980:
Prior to the introduction of the MH-47D and MH-47E, US Army special operations aviation units had used 12 CH-47Cs modified to allow for the use of night vision goggles (NVGs). These aircraft, assigned to Task Force 158, the predecessor to the 160th Aviation Battalion (which subsequently evolved into the 160th Aviation Regiment), came from the 101st Airborne Division in 1980 and entered active service in 1981. Their primary mission was to provide forward-area refueling operations in austere environments. Upon assignment to TF 158, the 12 aircraft received modifications that included radar altimeters (specifically added for safety during night-vision-goggle flights); long-range navigation and communication equipment; and 4 metal internal auxiliary fuel tanks (taken from M49C 2 1/2-ton fuel trucks).” 
With the extra fuel tanks, CH-47s could fly 330 miles without refueling. But the problem was always: Where did they come from, and where did they go? Part of the popularity of the C-L case in the 1980s was the mystery of the helicopters, since choppers were part of the emerging cattle mutilation lore, overlapping with "black helicopters" in sinister Government conspiracy theories of all persuasions.

The Choppers - and the Choppers: Mystery Helicopters and Animal Mutilations by Tom Adams

An Expert Opinion on the Cash-Landrum Copters

In 2014, I interviewed a veteran helicopter pilot, Russ Hunter, who was a Senior Instructor pilot, in Task Force 160 at Fort Campbell Kentucky. He joined a few years after the Cash-Landrum incident, but served alongside original members of the team and flew the same helicopters said to be involved in the UFO story. Russ assumed the witness testimony was genuine, but found many problems accepting the details of the story. The reported helicopter activity didn't match with the way the actual equipment used even in emergency situations. He tried to make the details fit by assuming the number of 23 helicopters was exaggerated, but even twelve CH-47s would have been detectable on radar and produced enough noise to have disturbed people for many miles around the Huffman area.

Report on the Cash/Landrum New Caney CEII Case by Allan Hendry

Part of the problem was the incident took place during the period between Christmas and New Year's Day, which would leave any military base understaffed for a massive helicopter operation. In early 1981, the Fund for UFO Research contracted Allan Hendry of the Center for UFO Studies to conduct an investigation into the origin of the helicopters in the Cash-Landrum case. His report was completed in April 1981 and delivered to FUFOR. Hendry’s turned up a lot of valuable information on the case, but he found no evidence to support the helicopters reported in the case:
"In closing,  the claim made by all three witnesses in the Cash/Landrum group implicitly implicates a large number of helicopters. This claim cannot be 'objectified' independently." At the time of Hendry's report, there were no additional witnesses to the helicopters, but following media attention, others were produced.

A link to a file containing Hendry's FUFOR report can be found at this link:
Report on the Cash/Landrum New Caney CEII Case by Allan Hendry

The DAIG Investigation of the Cash-Landrum UFO Incident

Due to the publicity from television coverage  of the case, (That’s Incredible!), Oregon Representative Ron Wyden launched an inquiry as to whether U.S. helicopters were involved in the incident. This resulted in the investigation by the Department of the Army's Inspector General’s office, conducted by Lt. Col. George C. Sarran. Concluding his report, Sarran stated, 
"Through the course of inquiry the DAIG investigating officer tried to concentrate on any reason or anyone in or organization which might have been flying helicopters that particular evening in the general area. There was no evidence presented that would indicate that Army, National Guard, or Army Reserve helicopters were involved."
Sarran stated in an interview with Florida Today reporter, Billy Cox that he also had investigated possible classified operations, but found negative results. Col. John B. Alexander participated in the DAIG investigation in an advisory role and confirmed that no Government helicopters were involved.

USS New Orleans
MUFON's John Schuessler held on to the secret helicopter hypothesis, suggesting that they were temporarily based on an aircraft carrier, the USS New Orleans. An imaginative solution, but once again investigation proved it implausible.

If Not Helicopters?

Despite many efforts from UFO investigator, journalists law enforcement and the US government, there was nothing tangible to support the presence of helicopters of any kind. UFO researchers found the witnesses credible, but faced with the evidence, some of them turned to some unconventional ideas. Dr. J. Allen Hynek was interviewed in the February 1985 OMNI magazine, and he considered some paranormal possibilities:
"Let us suppose that a very, very advanced civilization has, as a part of its everyday technology, the ability to project a thought form that, like a holographic image, temporarily assumes three-dimensional reality." 
 Referring to the Cash-Landrum case in particular he said,
"Where would twenty-three helicopters come from? First of all, it was Christmas week, and people at the bases said they would never conduct military exercises at a time like that... But perhaps Cash and the Landrums saw a holographic image of the helicopters. I could buy that more than I buy twenty-three solid, physical helicopters from some unknown base, when no baseman will admit seeing so many helicopters of that particular kind."

An alien projection? It's unlikely, but Hynek conceded that the helicopters were not real. Since the helicopters were reported initially only by the witnesses, and did not interact with the environment, Hynek's notion of a projected holographic image becoming three-dimensional reality is not necessary. It could be more like mental projection, with the advanced civilization transmitting the images telepathically. The helicopters may have been in the witnesses' minds.

The helicopter trial goes nowhere, but the UFO case remains. John B. Alexander states, "I am 100 percent sure it happened. However, it defies explanation..."


  1. Testing the comments function. Google+ has been turned off.

  2. Projections don't usually produce radiation burns they? Didn't think so.

    1. Be sure to read:
      Analysis of Betty Cash's Medical Records, Peter Rank, M.D. letter to John Schuessler ("complete summary report" of medical data) 4/29/1981 (5 pages). PDF pages 3-7
      The summary of original diagnosis does not include radiation injuries.

  3. It appears from a reading that chemical exposure was posited at the time. The review of the records by an outside radiologist does suggest possible cutaneous exposure to ionizing radiation. Is this not the case ?

  4. The best evidence is the original diagnosis, but all we have are summaries by people who've read it. Dr. Rank accepted Schuessler’s premise of UFO injury, but could not define it:
    “The conclusion I can make so far is that radiation damage occurred, type unknown, probably limited in severity, without evidence of systemic involvement.”

    Allan Hendry’s report summarizes Dr. Rank’s assessment of the original records:
    “All tests performed (white blood cell counts, eye examination, skin tests, a biopsy, etc.) showed nothing.”

    I'll try to gather a more thorough examination of the medical data in a future report.

  5. We had three witnesses in a high state of panic and fear. I think it's highly likely that none of them actually counted helicopters at the time of the sighting. There may have been only a couple that were circling and in a state of excitement the witnesses thought they saw a whole fleet as the helicopters kept coming around. I think the 23 helicopters is an after-the-fact confabulation based on a real memory of a few helicopters circling the craft or the area. So much recent psychological research has demonstrated that memory is fungible not fixed, and it begins eroding immediately after an event. Since one of the witnesses was a 7 year-old hiding on the floor of a car for most of the time, I think his helicopter testimony can be discarded as simply parroting the adults, not corroboration.

    It's entirely possible this was a test by a private sector contractor and the helicopters were not military but civilian, belonging to the contractor. Since information on this would be held in the private sector (and likely not released for reasons of legal liability), we'll probably never be able to identify the contractor or what was being tested. The Cash-Landrum sighting will remain an unknown, not because aliens were involved, but because given all the mergers and acquisitions in the defense industry in the ensuing interval, the contractor likely is no longer in business as an independent entity and many of its records were lost or discarded.

    1. Right, but the witnesses were more specific about the details of counting the helicopters than they were about other parts of the story. If we toss that out, there's not much reason to hang on to anything else they said.

    2. Again, the testimony of the 7 year-old is highly questionable. Be honest, as an adult how accurate is your memory of events that occurred when you were 7 years-old, even major events experienced firsthand? Childhood memories often are heavily influenced by the stories about an event told and re-told by parents and other adults over time. I strongly doubt he has an accurate memory of counting helicopters but rather confabulated it from what was repeatedly said over the years by the adults he accompanied in their attempts to get restitution from the government.

      I'm going to make a prediction. Nobody will ever identify those helicopters nor where they came from because a "fleet" of helicopters never existed. There were helicopters, but not 23. Given the fragility of all human psyches in times of extreme stress, if counting was done it’s unlikely it was done accurately, especially by two God-fearing women who initially thought it might be the end of the world or the Second Coming.

      This is one of Ufology's major problems and a huge weakness. It never wants to take into account the emotional state and pre-existing beliefs of the witness and how those might have distorted perception, interpretation, and memory of an event. Ufology also remains in stasis when it comes to recognizing psychological research that’s been done in the past 20-plus years, choosing to ignore all the studies that have demonstrated rather conclusively that human memory is indeed a very fallible thing that begins morphing immediately after an event. Rather than being an accurate record, human memory has shown itself to be a trickster.

  6. Curt,

    Not to drag it out but I find that logic faulty. It's the reason I brought up the documented physical injuries / illnesses sustained. If there was exposure to some sort of chemical involved, this could clearly alter perception, up to and including the number of helicopters. Also WADR from what we have learned about the Bin Laden raid, stealth helicopters exist. Who knows, but perhaps there were prototype versions back then. Understandably different models but still...Would'nt want to throw the UFO out with the helicopters.

  7. Well, if you want to perform "due diligence" on the helicopter issue, I've never ever seen anyone even mention the CH 46 Sea Knight, that are likewise double rotor, and that were used by the USMC, not the Army. That would mean checking to see if any unit of CH 46s was in Texas. Actually I was still stationed at NAS Dallas in 1980 where we had CH 53 Sea Stallions, but they are single rotor. In any case, getting many helos in the air at one time is a BIG deal, so I tend to go along with the "Oz" factor of seeing things that external forces were influencing the witnesses to see.

    1. The Sea Knights were part of the "New Orleans" scenario. Oz? Maybe so. I didn't mention it in the article, but some ufologist like Bill English proposed that it was a fleet of UFOs disguised as helicopters. Oh boy.

  8. "It could be more like mental projection, with the advanced civilization transmitting the images telepathically. The helicopters may have been in the witnesses' minds."

    That's what I'd intended by "Oz" not the Bill English proposal. Perhaps my usage is mistaken, and if so, sorry.

  9. Curt, I've mentioned before as others here have now, that the count of 23 must erroneous. A few helicopters circling could give panicked witnesses the impression of a larger fleet. Also, you should consider "private" air carriers funded by the CIA who are not subject to FOIA. CH-46 and CH-47 had civilian models, that while not widespread, were in use worldwide.

    1. Betty's number was 23, but the witnesses' count varied. When Vickie was asked if she was sure of the number, she said maybe some were counted twice, but insisted there were at least a dozen- and that that there were at least two different types of helicopters. In a 1985 (unpublished) interview, Vickie said as they were returning home to Dayton (twenty minutes or more after the initial sighting) they saw even more helicopters coming in, and she estimated that might bring the total to 40 or more.

      Yes, there's good reason to think that "the count of 23 must erroneous."

  10. Ha "be erroneous." Again, time to look at CIA fronts and their helicopters.