On May 14, 1978, a phone call was received by the Pinecastle Electronic Warfare Range Tracking Station. The call was from a worried citizen at 10:05, who explained that a number of strange lights were being displayed over the station, and thought possibly there was a fire, an explosion or military flares.
The Tracking Station is operated by the U.S. Navy, and it sits about 32 miles east-southeast of Ocala, Florida. What was actually happening was that a major UFO event was unfolding. To this day, the strange events have yet to be explained and remain a topic of discussion.
Eight Witnesses See UFO
The caller was a lady from Silver Springs. The officer on duty, SK-1 Robert Clark calmly denied any type of problem was being experienced, and all was well. Soon, however, a second call came in from a man who would later be identified as Rocky Morgan.
Morgan explained to the duty officer that he and seven other citizens traveling on Highway 19 near Silver Glen Springs had been shocked by the sighting of an oblong-shaped UFO. This object was described as being 50-60 ft. in diameter, and was the color of the moon.
Morgan said that the UFO had passed over his vehicle. The lights from the object were blinding, he added. This second call motivated Clark to call the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center and inquire if they had anything on their radar at this time. Their answer was "No."
Sighting from the Observation Tower
Still wondering what the callers were seeing, Clark contacted the base air traffic controller, Gary Collins, who accompanied Clark to an observation tower. This tower sat next to a van which housed the base's radar equipment. Clark contacted external security and directed them to contact TD-2 Timothy Collins, a radar technician, who immediately made his way to the tower.
The men at the tower were looking at a group of glowing lights to their west-northwest. The lights were sitting at eye-level. They speculated that the lights were sitting above an old Civil Defence tower which was about 3 miles away. The night was clear and quiet, yet no sound could be heard from the direction of the lights. Those in the tower believed that the lights were all part of one, large object.
Collins had watched the lights through his binoculars, and went down to the van to get the track radar operating. This normally took about 5 minutes. He also started the acquisition radar, which took 20 minutes get going. As he waited for the equipment to warm-up, He used the van's periscope to hone in on the object.Radar Observation
When the radar kicked in, the UFO was located at 0.2 degrees elevation, or just a hundred or so feet off the ground, at the assumed distance: "treetop level," Collins later explained. He added that the object was "as strong as or stronger than the image of the tower. The object appeared to be the size of a jetliner.
After 10-15 minutes, the object suddenly disappeared, only to reappear at 11:40 PM, this time 15 degrees to the north. Collins watched the object through binoculars and the van's periscope, but for reasons unknown, the radar could not locate it. After a few minutes, the object disappeared from Collins' view. But, right about midnight, the object, or another similar to it, was seen three miles to the northwest.
Object Moves at Great Speed
This time the UFO was in motion, flying at more than 500 knots on a deliberate course, then for a few seconds accelerated on a hairpin turn in one second, an incredible maneuver. The object was not 15 miles south of the facility. This calculates out that it had moved 15 miles in seven seconds. The majority of this move was within the last two seconds. They calculated the speed at 7,700 mph.
The hairpin move it had made was a radical reversal of direction; now the UFO was shooting northward and toward the observers at the base. Its speed had slowed almost instantaneously to a mere two knots. It was at this point that Collins' radar locked on to it. After a little more than a minute, the object vanished and the last of the UFO was seen.
After the dust settled, it was known that about a dozen personnel had witnessed the UFO. One of them, TD-AA Carol Snyder, told a newspaper reporter, "We saw three very blurry lights: red, white, and green. We watched them for about 30 minutes. We couldn't see how fast they were traveling. We were holding the binoculars, and the lights appeared to be bouncing."
The Navy conducted an investigation out of the Jacksonville center but came to no conclusions. Allan Hendry of the Center for UFO Studies interviewed several of the witnesses and gathered radar, meteorological, and astronomical data. He stated that this was a CUFOS case of "high merit."
This account has been adopted from the book The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the Beginning, by Jerome Clark (1998), Omnigraphics. Further details can be found in the articles by Allan Hendry "Navy Radar-Visual in Florida," International UFO Reporter 3 (6), June 1978: 4-5 and "A Second Look at the Ocala Sighting," Second Look 1 (7), May 1979: 29-31.