Allan T. Brunt

(Investigator 15, 1990 November)

Alex Fragnito, a cameraman with Channel 7, was sitting at Montefiore Hill watching the unfolding dawn on Friday, 22nd November 1985. The sky was clear and visibility excellent. About 5.45 a.m. (C.D.S.T.), he saw a strange light with a short tail and quickly took a videotape of it. The tape and the photographs from it have been regarded by Ufologists as irrefutable evidence that Adelaide was overflown by a "classical UFO" with connotations of extra-terrestrial visitors.

The videotape showed that the light started approximately in line with Mt Bonython. It moved steadily from left to right as it sank towards the horizon and then disappeared in line with the TV towers. In other words, It was not moving north to south but rather in a NW to SE direction.

There are many causes for unusual lights in the atmosphere.

One possible cause was that the light was produced by an aircraft. On checking with the Department of Aviation, it was found that Qantas Flight 6, flying at 39,000ft from Singapore to Melbourne, was actually near Adelaide at the time. At 5.33 a.m. it was about 35Km NE of Adelaide and at 5.45 a.m. it was 150Km ESE of Adelaide (near Coonalpyn) with a heading of about 120o (True) towards Melbourne. It was one of many international and domestic aircraft which overfly Adelaide.

Bearings taken from Montefiore Hill on hill features in the videotape show that the light was first detected about 109° T (in line with Mt Bonython) and it moved through 113° (in line with Mt Lofty), disappearing in the distance about 115° (in line with the TV towers). The bearings, elevations and times of the light in Alex Fragnito's videotape agree exactly with the path taken by Qantas Flight 6 on 22nd November.

So the light was obviously caused by the plane. But why did it glow with the intensity of a very bright star? The secret lies in the position of the sun. When the plane was closest to Adelaide (i.e. to the NE) it was virtually invisible to an Adelaide observer, but when it reached roughly the same direction as the sun, the angles were just right to produce a marked reflection from the plane's under surface. The sun was just below the observer's horizon at the time but the azimuth at sunrise (114o) shows that the sun, the aircraft and the observer were approximately in the same mathematical plane. The aircraft was too far away for any shape to be discerned. It looked just like a golden star with a short tail, which tail has been identified as a short condensation trail. It is significant that condensation trails in the stratosphere, where this plane was flying are always short.

Such a phenomenon, with the sun just below the observer's horizon and a high flying aircraft lit up by its rays against a fairly dark sky is a good example of sun glint. Area Control Staff at Adelaide Airport say that they have seen aircraft (with known positions) up to 250Km away under sun glint conditions usually just before sunrise or just after sunset. So the 150Km is well within this range.

Are you convinced that the mystery light was Qantas Flight 6 (QF6)? Or do you believe it was a classical UFO case as claimed by Ufologists? If the latter, you will need to explain why the light followed exactly the same path at the same time as QF6. And if a UFO was pacing QF6, why were there no reports of the crew or passengers seeing anything unusual?

Based on my experiences with previous cases, I anticipated that many reasons would be put forward by Ufologists as to why the light could not have been QF6. Some of the arguments were:

1. The light was too high for a plane. Answer: How did they measure its height when only one observation site was available? Most high school students know it takes at least 2 observing sites and a bit of trigonometry to calculate the height of an object. The accurate observation of height was made by QF6's pilot who said he was flying at 39,000ft.

2. It was the wrong colour; planes are silver-coloured, not gold. Answer: It seems that these people have never seen a golden dawn.
3. The light could have been caused by sun glint on a UFO. Answer: Where, then, was QF6's light? Shouldn't two bright lights have been seen since QF6 was in the same position?

4. Computer analysis of the picture shows that it was not a plane. Answer: I don't know of any computer studies of sun glint on planes for comparison purposes, so how will this analysis prove it is not a plane?

5. Enlargements of the picture show that the light had a darker area in it. Answer: A plane is not a perfect mirror. Its wings form the best reflective surface under these conditions. The curved shape of the fuselage reflects light in different directions and consequently, when sun glint lights up the wings. the fuselage area looks darker.

I am sure that this case will be publicised in UFO literature as "Adelaide's famous UFO". It is a typical example of a UFO claim which ignores the wonders of our atmosphere and some of the known facts. It is easy to concoct a mystery when you omit some of the important facts.