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   Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday 16th September, 2002

YORKSHIRE ALIEN ABDUCTION

Wreckage of an RAF aircraft

Britain’s most plausible alien abduction happened off the East Yorkshire coast, according to some UFOlogists.

The incident happened in September 1970. Foxtrot 94, an RAF Lightning fighter jet crashed into the North Sea.

UFOlogists claim its pilot, Captain William Schaffner was abducted by an alien spacecraft after he’d scrambled to intercept it off Flamborough Head.

Wreckage

The Lightning aircraft was recovered three months later from the seabed. Remarkably, it was virtually undamaged.

The cockpit canopy was shut but there was no sign of Captain Schaffner’s body.

The unusual condition of the wreckage fueled UFOlogists speculations of an alien abduction.

These claims are the talk of UFO Internet sites, as are bogus transcripts of the Captain’s last radio conversation with RAF Patrington.

Family trauma

Captain William Schaffner
Captain William Schaffner

Captain William Schaffner was a 28-Year-old American exchange officer.

His family were never told the results of the official inquiry into the crash.

The Ministry of Defence has previously insisted that the report on the crash was shredded.

His sons, Glenn and Mike Schaffner, have been trying to discover the truth about their father’s disappearance for years.

Their efforts have not solved the mystery. Until now.

Breakthrough

Secret documents and classified photographs of the RAF fighter have been exclusively obtained from the Ministry of Defence by the BBC’s Inside Out team.

The following will finally give the brothers the information they desire and deserve:

  1. A copy of the inquiry report
  2. A transcript of the Captain's final conversation with ground controllers
  3. Pictures showing the aircraft’s empty cockpit

The inquiry report makes the following points:

  1. It was not a UFO but a slow moving Shackleton recconaissance aircraft that the Captain was trying to intercept on an exercise
  2. Its crew had lost radio contact. Then, by the light of a flare, they’d seen the aircraft in the water.
  3. The Captain had simply flown too low trying to get beneath his target and hit the sea.
  4. Captain Schaffner had not been properly trained to carry out the exercise he had been asked to undertake.
  5. When he tried to bail out, his ejector seat failed to operate.

Accident

An RAF jet being retrieved from the sea bed
Wreckage is hauled from the North Sea

These points appears to suggest that the crash was an unfortunate accident with a plausible explanation.

This should destroy some of the alien abduction rumours, which have angered and upset Captain Schaffner’s sons for years

Opposition

A few budding UFOlogists may still not accept this explanation, due to distrust of the Ministry of Defence documentation.

Former North Yorkshire policeman Tony Dodd told Inside Out, "I don’t think that we will ever get to the bottom of what happened because the RAF would never accept that a UFO could be involved."

Reporter Sophie Hull said, "Some aspects of Capt. Schaffner’s disappearance can’t be explained.

"But we believe this is as close to a detailed explanation of what actually happened that anyone will get."

It appears to be enough for Captain Schaffner’s sons.

They can now concentrate on enjoying their father's memory in peace.

The last conversation

Transcript of tape recording at RAF Patrington concerning incident to Mission CPM45 at 20:45 Hours on the 8th September 1970.

Fighter Controller:
Time check 20:30
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52
Fighter Controller:
Is the target heading about 250° again?
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
Affirmative but I shall not have enough fuel to accompany to land if he does cross territorial waters.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 52.
Fighter Controller:
Assistant controller please - will you tell him that his fighter 45 is airborne at 20:30. I think that’s him there.
Cont / Asst:
20:30? Yes - OK thank you.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 check about 45 miles from point alpha?
Fighter Controller:
52 that’s affirmative and 45 is south of you at this time range 35 not on channel yet.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
52 on this heading Flamborough Head is dead ahead of you, range 20 miles.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52.
Fighter Controller:
52 is the target still at 1500 feet?
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
Affirmative.
Fighter Controller:
Roger.
Capt. Schaffner:
Mission 45 airborne at one zero zero.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 45 Patrington port 335 over.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger understood on a port turn 335 a heading of 100.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 45 have you weapon contact and the target is north-west of you range 35 at this time and his height is at 1500 feet.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger 45 copied - level 100 until close.
Fighter Controller:
45.
Fighter Controller:
45 the OHH is 986 - 52 is with the target at this time shadowing and your task will be to take over from 52.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
Buster buster target range 28.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger buster
Capt. Schaffner:
Target heading?
Fighter Controller:
45 the last target heading was 250. 52 Patrington confirm target heading?
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 affirmative and the target speed I estimate at no faster than 160 knots.
Fighter Controller:
Roger - did you get that 45?
Capt. Schaffner:
Got it.
Fighter Controller:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 on 335 target is 10 right to you range 21.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger descending.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 45.
Capt. Schaffner:
45 will descend to five.
Fighter Controller:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 target is holding at 10 to 15 left and the range 17½.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger looking.
Fighter Controller:
45 one instruction was if the aircraft crosses the International Boundary Line he is to be ordered to follow you back to Binbrook.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 the target is now 35 left range 13½.
Capt. Schaffner:
45 roger at 5,000.
Capt. Schaffner:
45 is armament safety check complete.
Fighter Controller:
45 say again.
Capt. Schaffner:
45 is armed safe.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 45.
Fighter Controller:
45 the target has moved 45 left range 10.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 Port 310 over.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger Port 310.
Capt. Schaffner:
52 check height.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 is at 1,500 feet with the target at 2,00 yards.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 make speed decimal 95 over.
Capt. Schaffner:
45 roger? That’s pretty fast.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 45 make it a speed commensurate with your endurance then, that target range 10 at this moment. I think we’ve got enough to catch up at this peed, he’s only 160 kts.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 be leaving the target in about 2 minutes.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 52 understood.
Capt. Schaffner:
45’s now at 2,000.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 45.
Fighter Controller:
52 your pigeons to alpha 200 range 32.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
200 32 copied.
Fighter Controller:
45 on 310 targets at 40 left, range 7½.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 be advised the targets about 12 miles off Flamborough Head on his present heading.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 port 250 over.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger turning port 250.
Fighter Controller:
45 target range 6½ - 7.
Capt. Schaffner:
Contact with a set of lights in that area.
Fighter Controller:
Say again.
Capt. Schaffner:
Set of lights in that area - closing.
Fighter Controller:
Roger.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 I’ve got my probe light on now.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 12 o’ clock range 5 - 5½.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
The target speed 160 kts.
Capt. Schaffner:
45.
Fighter Controller:
52 you’ll be approaching my clutter in another 10 to 30 secs could you keep a look out for strangers all round.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
Wilco.
Fighter Controller:
45 closing nicely now 12 o’clock 4½ to 5.
Capt. Schaffner:
45.
Fighter Controller:
45 call when in firm contact with target then we can commence recovery for 52.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger still looking.
Fighter Controller:
Roger.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
Target still at 1,500 feet heading 255.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger 45 - I’m slowing down I’ll be weaving and then I’ve got 2 one white and one red flashing.
Fighter Controller:
45 I’m beginning to lose you on the R/T now say again.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger 45 has contact with 2 aircraft.
Fighter Controller:
That’s affirmative 52 is with the target as well.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger hang on one I’m going to have to do some manoeuvring to slow down her a little bit.
Fighter Controller:
Roger and a reminder that Flamborough Head is 12 o’clock and the target range 7½ to 8 miles.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger and 45 as soon as I get all thing speed burned off 52 is clear to depart.
Fighter Controller:
52 did you get that.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 affirmative.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 52 your pigeons to alpha this time 190 range 28.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52.
Capt. Schaffner:
Okay 52 I got it, I’ll turn port and you’re clear to port too.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
52 Roger. I know you know but do you remember about the flaps down.
Capt. Schaffner:
I got 'em down Babe.
Capt. Schaffner’s Wingman:
Roger 45. Patrington 52 turning port this time.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 52 make your heading now. 170 keep you clear of the coast line.
Capt. Schaffner Wingman:
Roger and it looks like the target might be turning port also.
Fighter Controller:
Roger 52
Fighter Controller:
45 get that?
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger I’ll be over the top of both of you.
Fighter Controller:
45 your in a clutter area of mine at the moment - keep a sharp look out please.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger I’m watching em.
Fighter Controller:
Keep a close look out for Flamborough Head it’s about range 6½ now.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington changing controllers.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Capt. Schaffner:
45 the target looks like he’s heading about 180.
Fighter Controller:
Roger.
Fighter Controller:
45 estimated range from the coast now 5 miles - if he comes within 3 miles he is to be escorted to Binbrook.
Capt. Schaffner:
Roger.
Capt. Schaffner Wingman:
52 steady 180 - 5,000 ft for recovery.
Fighter Controller:
52 Northern Radar have you contact would you squawk ident and call them on stud 4 - if no joy back to me.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington amendment to previous instruction - if target aircraft approaches within 3 miles of the UK coast line he is to be directed to land at Waddington - I say again - directed to land at Waddington.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington be advised you’re dark to me at this time.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington you are dark to me this time - check target’s heading and your own over.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington nothing heard.
Fighter Controller:
C45 C45 Patrington do you read over.
Fighter Controller:
C45 C45 Patrington - over.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington do you read.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington nothing heard.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington if you read me your standby channel fighter stud 30 - call Bawdsey fighter stud 30 - over.
Fighter Controller:
45 Patrington still nothing heard if you’re this frequency would you call Bawdsey fighter stud 5 or 30 fighter stud 30 call Bawdsey.

Background noise ceases on this tape and the remaining 16 minutes of tape bear no recording.

See also ...

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Internet stories about the accident
Alternative accounts

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

John Smith, Scarborough
I can remember the incident well as I was stationed at RAF Binbrook when it happened. I was on duty in the Flying Clothing section and issued Capt. Schaffner with his Flying Clothing, ie. his helmet, oxygen mask etc. One thing I can remember was that he did not want to take his anti-g suit. The anti-g suit used to stop the pilot blacking out during high g-turns.

Colin Smale, Cleethorpes
A friend of mine who used to plot aircraft on screen at RAF North Cotes, Lincolnshire said it was a common sight to see objects on screen fly south down the Humber Estuary and over the Wash at speeds way in eccess of anything we could match. They all thought they were UFOs but talked about it only to their friends. I was wondering, if this pilot decided to swim for it, why did he close the cockpit canopy after him? The RNLI man at Flamborough said the pilot would only last 30 mins in the sea, in September? No, I don't buy that, pilots have lasted much longer than that in much colder water.

Jamie Tumber, Leeds
I lived near Binbrook until (and after) its closure in the late 1980s. Interestingly, the mystery of this accident was never really discussed even in the aviation enthusiast fraternity, which at Binbrook in the 70s and 80s was huge ..

Paul Oxley, Sheffield
The Lightning flies at twice the speed of sound, and its stalling speed must be pretty high too. Can someone explain how such a machine can fly into the sea with so little damage?

Michael Schaffner, Ohio, USA
My name is Michael Schaffner. I am the youngest son of Captain William Schaffner. I would like to thank Ian Cundall and the rest of the Inside Out team for helping us put an end to this "mystery". Having read some of the comments that have been posted I would like to take this opportunity to respond.

For many, this has become a complicated question of conspiracy theories, allegations, deceptions and the like.However, I think that this is a situation that best illustrates Ockham's Razor: the simplest answer is usually the best. It is an unusual stretch of the imagination to believe that UFOs and government coverups are responsible for the tragic death of my father. This is especially true having read the Summary Report of the RAF concerning this accident. Contrary to the assertions made by UFO "enthusiasts", it is far simpler, and more logical, to understand these events in their factual context.

My father simply did not notice that he had lost altitude while trying to decelerate to the proper intercept vector. Given the inclement weather, poor instructions, improper training, and overall stress of flying at high speed and high G, it is no stretch of the imagination to believe that he simply made a mistake. I am completely satisfied that my father died because of a chain of unfortunate events, none of which had anything to do with someone's subjective need to believe in UFO's.

Although I do not doubt that there is life outside of our terrestrial realm, there has been no substantial evidence demonstrated by these "enthusiasts," such as Tony Dodd, to support their claims concerning my father. Not one single, solitary shred of objective proof. I challenge any of these enthusiasts to support any element of their claim with germaine evidence. Their assertions that "they will (n)ever get to the bottom of what happend because the RAF will never accept that a UFO could be involved," is only begging the question. They should be ashamed to call themselves UFOlogists, a name that insinuates professionalism and qualified academic study. I would suggest that they are no more qualified to study UFOs than the average public school student. To say anything more is a waste of breath.

To those of you who still doubt, rest assured that there is no story here. Only the tragic death of a beloved father who is truly missed and who will never be forgotten.



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