Details of Sighting

Date 21st April 1979 Time 6:50PM Place Palmerston North

Date 21st April 1979 Time 6:50PM Place Palmerston North

Date 21st April 1979 Time 6:50PM Place Palmerston North

There was no possibility of the light emanating through a lens or from a jet pipe, as the intensity of the light remained evenly spread

Enclosed Letter

Department: OXO OHAKEA
File No: AIR 39/3/3 13 18
Date: 23 APR 79



Herewith the report implied of our conversation today the Carter Observatory informed that at this time of year UFO reports are generated by sightings of satellites. The altitude of the satellite puts it in sunlight while the ground observer is in the dark and then the satellite may disappear in the Earth’s shadow. I will write to the US Satellite tracking station at Tekapo and ask for a schedule of satellite passages; if it looks useful I will send you a copy.



telephone 71 383


1.At approximately 1850 hours, local, on Saturday, 21st April 1979, my thirteen year old son walked from the back door of our house, a distance of some ten metres to the side door of our workshop garage, wherein I was working, in order to call me for our evening meal. Before reaching the door, he called me, in an urgent voice, to ‘come and have a look at this light in the sky.’ Aware of his youthful penchant about UFOs, I was somewhat sceptical, but nevertheless went to the door.

2.It was completely dark, civil evening twilight being at about 1800 hours, and the immediate area was unlit. I looked in the direction that he indicated and, against the cloudy night sky, saw a steady white light, moving slowly from left to right. Initially, because a Cessna 206 had been seen earlier, engaged in skydiving manoeuvres from Milson Airport, I assumed this to be the same aircraft embarking on a night drop, or maybe a James Aviation Cessna 402, in a right hand climbing turn after taking off from Runway 07 and with landing light illuminated.

3.However, this light had none of the characteristics of any aircraft light of which I am aware. Both my son and I moved to our back door and called for my wife and my mother to observe this phenomenon. I then requested that my son fetch my binoculars. These have a magnification of eight and, as they had been used earlier in the day to observe the skydivers, were correctly adjusted to my vision. Thus, I was immediately able to study the light.

4.Initially, with the naked eye, it appeared as a small ball of fire, similar in appearance to the tailpipe view of a single engined jet aircraft with reheat engaged. This is a sight with which I am most conversant, having flown such aircraft for seventeen years. As it was a single light, I could only assume its course by the steady angle of its approach. This I have ascertained, by use of NZMS 1, 17, and 242A Lands and Survey maps, aerial photographs of my house and a service Marching Compass, to be 235º True or 215º Magnetic. The visual appearance of this single light gave the impression of flight on steady heading, at a height of about 2000 feet and, tracking from the direction AOKAUTERE, when first sighted, towards HOKOWHITU; more precisely 40º20'S 175º42'E to 40º22'S/175º39'E. This approximates overflying the general axis of the MANAWATU River, upstream of PALMERSTON NORTH, for a distance of 6.5 kilometres. Our house is situated at 40º20'51"S/175º36'47"E, or 1100 metres north of the centre of PALMERSTON NORTH.

5.Although the light was seen initially on a True Bearing of 080º from our position, its progress slowed as it moved to a bearing of 130º True. During this period, its angle of elevation increased from 25º steadily to 35º above the horizon.

6.Just prior to its motion ceasing, the light was studied with the aid of the binoculars. The magnified image appeared to be an unflickering, naked flame, with KELVIN characteristics similar to the flame of a kerosene Hurricane lamp. The light source was quite circular and was large enough to present itself as a disc and not as a pin-point of light. In no way did it resemble a reflected image as no mirage ‘trembling’ was evident. To either side and above the disc was a small area of red light. The definite impression gained was of an oncoming, aerially mounted 6 volt old car headlight, shining alongside a red painted surface. The closest comparison that I can draw, to a personally observed source is of an RAF Support Command, scarlet painted Whirlwind helicopter, with only its belly spot light illuminated and shining forward, partly illuminating the under fuselage. Another valid comparison would be of a waxen night light flame, at the bottom of a sherry glass, the far side of which was painted red and illuminated by the flame.

7.At this time, I left my mother, wife and son on the back steps, and decided to investigate further. I rang RNZAF base OHAKEA and asked for Air Traffic Control, in order to check for aircraft movements and radar echoes. I noted the time as 1854 hours. With no answer, I then rang Palmerston North tower. No answer, so I rang Ohakea again and identified myself as the Operations Flight Commander, asking to be connected to the Radar Supervisor at the WELLINGTON Air Traffic Control Centre as quickly as possible. I then returned to the back door.

8.My family informed me that, in my absence, the light had remained stationary for a time, then had moved back on its original track slightly before growing dimmer and changing its position in elevation. I noted the time as 1900 hours.

9.The light, indeed much dimmer, was still on a bearing of 130º True but now about 30º above the horizon and growing noticeably less bright and smaller as it apparently climbed away on a heading of about 130 True or 110 Magnetic towards PAHIATUA. As it, apparently, climbed, the light was seen to vary or pulse in intensity. This, I assumed, coincided with transit of the thin layer of Altostratus cloud at about 10,000 feet. At this time, the pulsing light was surrounded closely by a slight halo effect, such as a light seen through thin mist. Again, there was a marked similarity to an aircraft climbing directly away from the observer whilst in reheat. Eventually, after another minute or so, the light became so faint that it was lost in the reflected glow from the city. At that time, an occasional sight of stars was made through the thin cloud. At no time was the sound of an aircraft heard, only the muted noise of nearby road traffic, in itself infrequent.

10.At 1905 hours the telephone rang and, after a short delay, I was connected to the Radar Supervisor at Wellington and to whom I gave brief details of our sighting. He stated that no aircraft was airborne in our area, that Ohakea had closed watch earlier and that he would enquire of Palmerston North tower.

11.I next informed the Ohakea Orderly Officer of our sighting and checked weather conditions with the duty meteorologist. These were estimated to be broken Altostratus cloud at approximately 10,000 feet with half cover of Cirrus at 28,000 feet; calm conditions and unlimited visibility.

12.My wife and my son studied the phenomenon through my binoculars.

13.With twenty seven years experience in aviation, I consider myself to be an unbiased, expert witness. Using my personal experience as the only criterion for this opinion, I consider that the phenomenon observed was a sphere of steady flame, of comparatively low temperature, below 1000º Celsius, less than 2 metres in diameter and backed closely on one side by a crimson coloured material. There was no possibility of the light emanating through a lens or from a jet pipe, as the intensity of the light remained evenly spread and the circular appearance did not become elliptical as the source changed its relative position and direction.

14.I have no objection to this report being made available to the media.

Squadron Leader


4 May 1979

Commanding Officer
RNZAF Base Ohakea
Private Bag

Report on Unidentified Flying Object From Squadron Leader G.R. Allin

1.Squadron Leader Allin’s reported sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object on the night of 21 April has been passed to me in accordance with standard action procedure.

2.From the description and behaviour of the light, it appeared to have the characteristics of a radar balloon carrying a lamp attached to the radar reflector. This is supported by the Superintendent of Physical Meteorology in the Ministry of Transport and although a balloon had not been launched from Ohakea at the time approximate to the sighting, it is not uncommon for these balloons to be found in the hands of others outside the Meteorological Service.

3.It should be explained to Squadron Leader Allin that the investigation carried out by the RNZAF earlier this year on the sightings off the Kaikoura coast, was an isolated case and that the RNZAF does not normally undertake detailed investigations of Unidentified Flying Object sightings.

4.However, as with this sighting, the RNZAF consults a number of Government agencies in an endeavour to eliminate any obvious explanations.

Squadron Leader
RNZAF Public Relations Officer


Department: Air Staff
File No: 39/3/3
Date: 1 May 79


1.They’re coming thick and fastas you can see!

2.In view of the second copy passed through to Ohakea, may I suggest that you also send a letter to CO Ohakea (or just send one to him) asking that S/L Allin be de-briefed on the Air force position. That might be more appropriate than getting to involved in a dialogue with S/L Allin who is obviously rather keen on these ‘phenomena’. It would also serve to put CO off in the picture and enable him to take appropriate action at base level.

BC DOPS (2754)

Report taken from file number
AIR 39/3/3 Volume 3