On February 1, 1950, a fiery object shot quickly west through the Tucson skies. A B-29 took off in pursuit of the object, but the plane could not catch up to the object.
This is one of the most bizarre cases in Tucson history, documented by the Tucson Daily Citizen (before the paper became the Tucson Citizen).
FLYING SAUCER OVER TUCSON?
B-29 FAILS TO CATCH OBJECT
February 2, 1950, Tucson Daily Citizen
Flying saucer? Secret experimental plane? Or perhaps a scout craft from Mars? Certainly the strange aircraft that blazed asmoke trail over Tucson at dusk last night defies logical explanation. It was as mystifying to experienced pilots as to groundlings who have trouble in identifying conventional planes.
Cannonballing through the sky, some 30,000 feet aloft, was a fiery object shooting westward so fast it was impossible to gain any clear impression of its shape or size. . . .
At what must have been top speed the object spewed out light colored smoke, but almost directly over Tucson it appeared to hover for a few seconds. The smoke puffed out an angry black and then be came lighter as the strange missile appeared to gain speed”
The radio operator in the Davis-Monthan air force base control tower contacted First Lt. Roy L. Jones, taking off for a cross-country flight in a B-29, and asked him to investigate. Jones revved up his swift aerial tanker and still the unknown aircraft steadily pulled away toward California.
Switchboards at the Pima county sheriff’s office and Tucson police station were jammed with inquiries. Hundreds saw the object. Tom Bailey, 1411 E. 10th Street, thought it was a large airplane on fire. [A later check showed no planes missing.] He said it wavered from left to right as it passed over the mountains. Bailey also noticed that the craft appeared to slow perceptibly over Tucson. He said the smoke apparently came out in a thin, almost invisible stream, gaining substance within a few seconds.
The next day, the Air Force gave the most ridiculous explanation for the incident. Tucson Daily Citizen reporter, Asa “Ace” Bushnell, interviewed witnesses for an article to be run following day, called: “Sky Mystery? Tucson People Differ Widely”. Following the interviews, Bushnell inserted the following sub-headline in response to the “official explanation”:
What’d you mean only vapor trail?
As though to prove itself blameless for tilting hundreds of Tucson heads skyward, the U.S. Air Force yesterday afternoon spent hours etching vapor trails through the skies over the city.
The demonstration proved conclusively to the satisfaction of most that the strange path of dark smoke blazed across the evening sky at dusk Wednesday was no vapor trail and did not emanate from any conventional airplane.
The Wednesday night spectacle was entirely dissimilar. Then, heavy smoke boiled and swirled in a broad, dark ribbon fanning out at least a mile in width and stretching across the sky in a straight line. Since there was no proof as to what caused the strange predark manifestation, and because even expert witnesses were unable to explain the appearance, the matter remains a subject for interesting speculation.
There is strong evidence that this story was deliberately kept off the press wires. The Associated Press and other wire services in Washington had no report. Requests for details by Frank Edwards, Mutual newscaster, and other radio commentators ran into a blank wall. At the Pentagon I was told that the Air Force had no knowledge of the sighting or the vapor-trail maneuvers.