Details of Sighting

Date 1st November 1955 Time 8:06PM Place Waitara, Taranaki

Date 1st November 1955 Time 8:06PM Place Waitara, Taranaki

Date 1st November 1955 Time 8:06PM Place Waitara, Taranaki

It was changing its light intensity from a bright hard light to a brilliant light


Squadron Leader Golding,
Director of Intelligence,

Dear Sir,

On the night of the 1st of November, 1955, I was Captain of Flight 108 proceeding from Wellington to Auckland. We departed from Paraparaumu in excellent weather, and conditions remained so until we ran into a warm front which was lying across our track at Raglan Reporting and extended out to the west where it lay in a N.E. S.W. direction.

After sunset, visability [SIC] was excellent, due to a full moon and little cloud over the air route. At 2006 hrs. as I was looking towards the south-west direction, a very brilliant light caught the corner of my eye. This light was positioned above 8 / 8ths cloud, the tops of which appeared to be about 6000ft. and also below scattered middle cloud.

My first impression was that it was a meteor, or a planet setting in the Southern declination, but after closer investigation I could see that it was moving by about 2000ft above the cloud tops, and it was changing its light intensity from a bright hard light to a brilliant light in a cycle of approximately 3 secs and changing colour from white-yellow-orange to red.

It appeared to be to the west of Waitara and at the same altitude to us. I then asked the co-pilot F/O S. Trounce, to have a look towards our tail and to tell me what he thought the light could be. At first his impressions were the same as mine, but he could not understand the change of brilliance in the light, its colour, or the fact that it was overtaking us at the same altitude. He also suggested that I open the window to eliminate any refraction error, but it made no difference to the object.

I then asked him to go to the cabin and ask a Mr. Tuckett who is an [SIC] Civil Aviation Officer and an experienced pilot, to watch the light and to ask if he thought it was a planet. During the co-pilot’s absence I called Wellington Control and asked if there were any known aircraft to the west of New Plymouth, and their answer was negative. I next called them and told them there was a bright light to the west of New Plymouth and to ask Flight 135 if he could see it; the last part of my message was jammed by Wellington Control who were at that same time just doing that. I next called up and said that this bright light was changing colour, and passing to the West of us at a distance, of, if I remember rightly, of 1015mls, and at the same time giving them incorrect call sight flight 135.

F/O Trounce then returned to the cockpit, when at this time the object was just west of our wingtip and still at the same altitude as ourselves. Our Auto-pilot was engaged on the same course of 330 degrees compass as it had been for the last 10 mins since Ohura check point, and this I checked to ensure that I was not turning towards the west and so explain the object’s changed position in relation to our course. I could also see the object flying in and out of a few tops as the cloud which was now building up as we approached the front. After a further close look and discussion with the co-pilot, I then told him to go back to the cabin and waken Air Commodore Cohen and to get him to have a look at this object and so confirm what we were seeing. As the co-pilot was in the cabin, we entered the front, and knowing that there were no aircraft on the air-route I climbed up to the 9900 where-upon the object was easily picked up below us and ahead. After several more mins observation I obtained our clearance down the 4000ft and so lost contact upon entering cloud again.

During the descent, the co-pilot returned to the cockpit and informed me that the Air Commodore stated that it was a planet and took no further interest and went back to sleep. I then went back to the cabin and spoke to Mr. Tuckett and asked if thought it was a planet, and to this he said no, and that he had not seen anything like that before. He also noticed the object overtaking us and changing its position in relation to us. A Mr. Hume in the seat ahead of him also confirmed all that Tuckett, Trounce and myself had seen. I then approached the Air Commodore and asked his opinion, to which he remarked that it was a planet low down on the horizon, but he made no further comment when I said that it had definitely passed us at 8000ft.

Upon arrival at Whenuapai, I notified the officer on duty at Whenuapai, and as far as I was concerned there the matter rested.

Points of interest concerning the ob ject:

It was a small bright light then increasing to brilliant in a cycle of 3 seconds, but this change of intensity did not appear to be constant during the whole observation.

It changed colour from white-yellow-orange (gold) to red.

It did not appear to have any tail or trail behind it.

It did not appear as a soft reflected light.

It travelled from west of Waitara to a position approx west of Waikato river mouth during the same time as we travelled from approx 3mls south of Albatross point to just North of Raglan reporting point.

It maintained a steady altitude and overtaking speed.

The light appeared to be revolving such as a beacon on the top of the Whenuapai Control Tower, at a distance of 10 miles.

If it was there during the previous 3045 minutes we would have seen it ahead of us approaching Ohura due the excellent visability [SIC] in that area, in other words it just appeared in our view from the south.

A planet does not overtake at a steady altitude from the S.S.W. and disappear to the N.N.West.

At 2006 hrs. we called Wellington concerning this light, and the planet Venus was below the horizon at 2010 hrs. therefore for the previous hour and its 15 degree travel the planet was below and behind the Cold Front lying out to the west, and it would account for us not seeing this planet during the night. This would also apply to flight 135, southbound. We still had this object in sight after the time that the Planet Venus was below the horizon.

A similar object was later seen in the same area 2 hrs. later by two men.

This object was in view for approx 510 minutes and was seen clearly by 3 pilots and one civilian and then seen briefly by Air Commodore Cohen.

A planet’s light could change its intensity due to the proximity of cloud, but this object was well clear of any cloud at first and still it did not appear as a steady light.

On FLGT 135 Venus was visable [SIC] from 07300835 in the same approx position but at a far greater arc.

The object when at minimum intensity was far smaller than Venus.

Venus at no time appeared as close to our aircraft last night, as on the night of 1st Nov when this object was to port.

W.J. Rainbow

Following Letter

116 St. Johns Road,

11th November, 1955.

Squadron Leader Golding,
Air Deparment,

Dear Sir,

Since our last conversation I have read in the newspapers a statement from the R.N.Z.A.F. Authorities, that they consider the bright light may be the planet Venus, but that they cannot understand its change of position because I stated that we did not alter course.

To me, this appears to be now, that my ability as a pilot, and also my reputation, is being questioned. I did not wish to be involved in this inquiry; I saw a bright object; it passed my aircraft and I notified A.T. Control, and as far as I was concerned that was the end of the matter. After watching this object, and after having read reports from overseas, the answer appeared quite simple. As you are no doubt well aware, there are hundreds, and I do not think that is an exageration [SIC], of similar reports by airline, military and private pilots, and as I see it this is just another report of a sighting.

I have been an airline pilot for ten years, eight of which are as captain, and have over 7,000 hours to my credit, and if the R.N.Z.A.F. authorities can believe that I could in moonlight conditions, in full contact with the ground, allow an aircraft on the auto-pilot to turn towards the West by 60º70º to regain my track, and still report the incident to A.T.C. upon arrival, then obviously I am a most incompetent pilot, plus a prize idiot for my behaviour.

Points that I wish to confirm, and as far as I am concerned are accurate, are:

We maintained a steady course on the auto-pilot of 330º.

That the object passed our aircraft, at the same altitude as ourselves.

The object was in itself radiating a light, and it was no reflection from any cloud effects, because when sighted it was clear of any cloud.

It is difficult to believe that the authorities can believe that two airline pilots cannot tell the difference between an object passing between 515 miles from the aircraft, (that is allowing for F/O Trounce’s belief that it was more like 5 miles than 15 mile estimation), and a planet on the horizon.

After observing the planet Venus six nights after sighting this object, I kept a continuous watch on the planet for 65 minutes under similar conditions, and at no time was there any comparison, especially in regards to the distance and the size of the object. When the object was at its minimum brilliance it was far smaller than Venus, but at its maximum brilliance, it gave an impression of being far brighter and larger.

A point that I would like you to investigate is, at the time I received my clearance to descend to 4,000ft., the object was still in full sight, slightly ahead and below, and above 8/8th cloud. Now the time of obtaining this clearance was not given, therefore could you please check and see if it was after the planet had set, when this clearance was obtained. This is apart from the facts that at that time it was close in, above 8/8th cloud, ahead of us, and below, and appeared to be west of Waikato River mouth.

Mr. Gibson sated that we would receive the fullest consideration if any pilots reported any further of these objects, but personally after all the newspaper reports, phone calls, R.N.Z.A.F. statements plus personal embarrassment, I would have to have the little men waving to me before I made any further report of this nature.

Please do not consider this at all personal; I do not refer to you when I mention authorities, but I wonder what other excuse they would make up if the planet Venus was not in this area at the same time. Please include this in my personal report.

Enclosed you will find a typical letter, one of the many received.

Yours faithfully.
W.J. Rainbow

One of the Letters Sent to RAINBOW


Captain W.J. Rainbow

Dear Sir,

May I reply to your account in the ‘Herald’ today. In Luke 21st9th to 28th there is the last account. 11th verse. Great signs from Heaven. 25th verse. Signs is Sun, Moon & Stars. 26th verse. Men’s hearts failing. 28th verse. And when ye see these things begin to come to pass lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh. I’ve read this account for 60 years & many of us have. We rejoice because Christ is coming to take us Home. Believe it Brother & peace will fill your Heart.

Report taken from file number
AIR 39/3/3 Volume 1Parts 1 and 2