Northrop F-89C Scorpion missing Nov 23, 1953


July 03, 1999

The 23 November 1953 “Kinross Case,” wherein a US Air Force F-89C jet fighter was scrambled from Kinross AFB Michigan on an “active air defense mission” to intercept an “unknown aircraft” and disappeared with two crew members aboard, is considered by many to be one of the “UFO classics.” Controversy remains over what the “unknown aircraft,” which was the target of the interception, was. USAF records presented here indicate that it was a Canadian aircraft. Canadian officials have denied that any of their aircraft was the target of an interception mission by the USAF on the date in question. The USAF seems to have changed its story over the years about just what Canadian aircraft was being intercepted and has been silent on the method by which they identified the aircraft. (See the UFO Evidence (Ref. Below) for an official Canadian statement)

It is the occurrence of the radar trace of the “unknown aircraft” and the F-89 appearing to “merge” on the Ground Control radar screen shortly after (voice) radio and IFF contact with the F-89 were lost that has made this case loom large in UFO circles. Some print references have the remaining single “blip” moving rapidly off the radar screens, but the USAF records presented here indicate that the “unknown aircraft” continued on its original course.

The weather, although stable as far as flight is concerned, was winter. Even if the crew survived a hypothetical crash, their chances for survival would be considerably diminished by the freezing temperatures, especially if they went into the water. Snow on the ground certainly hampered the search activities.

Whatever the case, no trace of the F-89 or either of the crewmembers were ever located even though an extensive search was mounted in the days immediately after the F-89 went missing.

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Another Unsolved Mystery: The Kinross Incident


The Kinross Incident is a famous aviation accident which many still believe shows proof of an extraterrestrial encounter. The story unfolds in late November in 1953 over the Great Lakes.

The Air Defense Command was activated in 1946 to offer air warning and air defence for the continental United States. The plan was to extend seaward the wall of powerful land-based radar with airborne early warning and control units. Within a short time the Air Defense Command grew from four fighter squadrons to 93 active Air Force fighter interceptor squadrons, 76 Air National Guard fighter interceptor squadrons, several Naval fighter squadrons, USAF and USN airborne early warning squadrons, radar squadrons, training squadrons and numerous support units.

First Lieutenant Felix Moncla Jr was a US Air Force pilot on temporary assignment at Kinross Air Force Base. He had over 1,000 hours of flight time. His last flight was an air defence intercept which was coordinated by the Air Defense Command.

On the 23rd of November 1953, radio operators at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan saw something unexpected at St Mary’s River. St Mary’s River flows between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, marking the border between Michigan, US and Ontario, Canada. Radar operators identified an unusual target in restricted airspace over the Soo Locks, the set of parallel locks on St. Mary’s River which allows ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.

An F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled from Kinross Air Force Base to investigate.

The Northrop F-89 Scorpion was an American jet-powered fighter designed for use as an all weather interceptor. The name “Scorpion” comes from the shape of the raised tail. The Scorpion has two engines, six guns (controlled by radar) and two crew: the pilot and the radar operator. The F-89A was a prototype: only eight models were ever made. F-89B entered service in June 1951; however these had considerable problems with engines and other systems and were replaced with F-89C. The problems with the engines persisted and the F-89 was grounded when structural problems with the wings were discovered. The F-89D entered service in 1954, a year after the events of the Kinross Incident.

U.S. Air Force Northrop F-89D-45-NO Scorpion interceptors of the 59th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons, Goose Bay AB, Labrador (Canada), in the 1950s. 52-1959 in foreground, now in storage at Edwards AFB, California. USAF Museum


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Over Lake Superior
Disappearance of Lt. Felix E. Moncla

The year 2003 marks the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of USAF 1st Lt. Felix E. Moncla, Jr., who, together with his fellow crew member, 2nd Lt. Robert L. Wilson, disappeared over Lake Superior on November 23, 1953, while pursuing in their F-89C “Scorpion” a UFO which was seen on radar. Radar data at the time of the incident suggested to witnesses involved in the pursuit that the object being pursued by Lts. Moncla and Wilson had suddenly reversed its course, approached the aircraft, and “merged” with it.


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1953: The Kinross Air Force Base Incident

Summary/Description: On the evening of 23 November 1953, an Air Force radar controller became alerted to an “unidentified target” over Lake Superior, and an F-89C Scorpion jet was scrambled from Kinross AFB. Radar controllers watched as the F-89 closed in on the UFO, and then sat stunned in amazement as the two blips merged on the screen, and the UFO left. The F-89 and it’s two man crew, pilot Felix Moncla and radar operator Robert Wilson, were never found, even after a thorough search of the area.



Press article, regarding the incident, in the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), Nov. 25, 1953.

Above image (top of page): 1st Lieutenant  Felix E. “Gene” Moncla, Jr., the pilot of the F89C Scorpion jet. Moncla was accompanied by Radar Operator 2nd Lieutenant  Robert Wilson in the rear seat.

“The Disappearance of Lt. Felix Moncla”

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Kinross AFB / F-89 Disappearance
November 23, 1953
Lt. Felix Moncla near his F-89

Richard Hall:
On the night of November 23, 1953, an Air Defense Command radar detected an unidentified “target” over Lake Superior.   Kinross Air Force Base, closest to the scene, alerted the 433rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Truax Field, Madison, Wisconsin, and an F-89C all-weather interceptor was scrambled.  Radar operators watched the “blips” of the UFO and the F-89 merge on their scopes, in an apparent collision, and disappear.  No trace of the plane was ever found.

US Air Force accident-report records indicate that the F-89 was vectored west northwest, then west, climbing to 30,000 feet.  At the controls were First Lieutenant Felix E. Moncla, Jr.; his radar observer was Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson.  While on a westerly course, they were cleared to descend to 7,000 feet, turning east-northeast and coming steeply down on the known target from above.  The last radar contact placed the interceptor at 8,000 feet, 70 miles off Keeweenaw Point, and about 150 miles northwest of Kinross AFB (now Kincheloe AFB).

The incident is not even labeled as a “UFO” case in Air Force records; instead, it was investigated by air-safety experts.  There were several layers of scattered clouds (one with bottoms at 5,000 to 8,000 feet) and some snow flurries in the general area.  Official records state, however, that the air was stable and there was little or no turbulence.

The Air Force later stated that the “UFO” turned out to be a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) C-47 “On a night flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Sudbury, Ontario Canada.”  The F-89 apparently had crashed for unknown reasons after breaking off the intercept.  In answer to queries from the NATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE ON AERIAL PHENOMENA (NICAP) in 1961 and again in 1963, RCAF spokesmen denied that one of their planes was involved.  Squadron Leader W. B. Totman, noting that the C-47 was said to be on a flight plan over Canadian territory, said “… this alone would seem to make such an intercept unlikely.”


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