Saturday, October 1, 2016

Aliens among us!


It was late on a balmy summer evening. I was fifteen years old, hanging out with my friends and neighbors' kids on the street. The day's light was fading fast. Soon it was too dark to continue playing catch.

Someone glanced at the darkened sky "Hey guys, what the heck is that?"

We all looked up.

There, high in the sky, impossible to tell how high, but much too high to be a distant tower, too low and the wrong hue to be a star, about the height you'd expect to spot an aircraft, there shone a white-ish light.

Strangely it was motionless.

We stood there, craning our necks, eyes squinting. "Ah it's just a helicopter!"

"No it's not, listen, there's no sound. If it was a chopper, we'd hear it." "Norman's right. It's definitely not a helicopter."

We stood there, heads turned to the sky, mouths gaping. "So what is it then?" Ian said.

An eerie silence gripped our tiny band of stargasers. The street games stopped. Everyone stood there staring with growing wonder. Then an amazing thing happened that transformed the night. One of those things that sears a neural brand on your consciousness in an instant.

"WHOA!! DID YOU SEE THAT??" The mysterious thing had sped towards us with terrifying speed, IN TOTAL SILENCE!!! The distant spot of white light was now a clearly discernible band of lights in the sky, like jewels on a ring. It was obviously a flying saucer. It couldn't be anything else.

"I'm getting my Dad, someone should call the cops!!" Roger said, racing to his house as fast as his black canvas high tops could carry him.

I ran home too, entering the brightly lit living room to find my Dad reading the evening paper and smoking his pipe. "Dad, come quick, there's a flying saucer!!" I nearly dragged him out the door.

Dad joined the growing crowd. Kids, moms and dads, bystanders, dogs, cats, everyone was standing in the middle of the road. The crowd was a-buzz just frozen there, eyes wide, mouths gaping, like a picture from the Saturday Evening Post, all faces turned to the night sky. My Dad was in there with the rest of us, staring at the flying saucer, his pipe in his mouth, the bowl cradled in his right palm, a thin reedy plume of smoke rising. His eyes peered intently, keenly focused on the alien ship.

Then another crazy thing happened. As rapidly as the alien star ship had sped silently towards us, it now sped away in a perfectly straight trajectory, accelerating astonishingly, eventually leaving a dim red beacon as its only trace. It did this in perfect silence. No shriek of jet propulsion, no shattered sound barrier, not even the trace of an alien swhoosh!

The crowd gasped, and excited chatter erupted from all quarters as people gaped at each other, eyebrows arched, mouths frozen in oversize 'O's. All except my Dad. He thrust his chin forward as if he was trying to get a closer look at the alien ship. His eyes narrowed, focused on the dim red dot that the saucer had become. "SSSHHHH!!" he hissed. "Quiet everyone, please!!!" my Dad beseeched the bewildered gathering.

"Listen..." he said calmly. And we did.

Finally we heard the sound of the alien's warp drive. The space ship was powered by a lawn mower. There from high in the sky above us, the little red dot thrummed with the familiar thrum that Karl Stefan's fancy red self-propelled four-cycle Toro lawnmower would make if it were hovering four or five hundred feet in the sky above our heads.

"It's the blimp" my Dad said matter-of-fact-ly.

The evening's wonder deflated like a bicycle tire going flat. He was right of course. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the blimp came around again, turning on its axis. The crew switched on the light show and the word Goodyear lit up the side of the huge airship. The alien saucer was the blimp's gondola. The night sky conspired to hide the massive hull from view.

Friday night, all these years later, and thanks to my daughter Lauren who works in marketing for Goodyear Canada, I came face-to-face with the flying saucer I swore I saw on that fateful summer evening. I also finally got to meet the alien crew. They readily admitted that they were aliens, since, to a man, they were all Americans, and this after all, is Canada.


I had a fun time relating that incident from my long-lost youth to two members of the blimp's aircrew. The crew laughed at my story. "That happens all the time" they said, "someone always calls the state police to report a flying saucer when the blimp travels at night."

Seen so close, the Goodyear blimp lost all resemblance to an alien star ship.



The blimp was tethered to its mast. The prevailing winds at the Oshawa municipal airport were too strong to allow us to board the aircraft. A pilot was in the cockpit, gently maneuvering the flight surfaces to stabilize the craft. No longer summoning visions of aliens spying on Earthlings, the blimp seen so close made me feel like a scuba diver observing a whale, as the giant airship drifted back and forth, and up and down, a few feet above my head. The eerie sounds of the ballast pumps and aileron actuators were strange, like a whale's song beneath the waves.



The Goodyear blimp is no longer the model GZ19 that bamboozled us as kids. The blimp I saw was Wingfoot Two, one of three brand-new Zeppelin NT airships, that only recently went into service, this past April.


Susan picked up some blimp swag for our nephew.

Thank you Lauren, we really enjoyed our evening visiting a truly iconic aircraft.

10 comments:

  1. That was a pretty cool opportunity. Next time she needs to set you up with a ride! While growing up, the Goodyear blimp was a common sight in Southern Calif. I remember seeing it often docked next to the freeway in Orange County near the ocean (not sure what city). There was an article in Road & Track back in the early 70s where they tested the blimp at Orange County Raceway. Measuring 1/4 mile times and 0-60mph time. This was obviously a joke but it was a great article.

    Nice post and video.

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    1. Based on my daughter's experience so far, she was supposed to have the blimp in Vancouver for an event but it didn't make it on time. It seems that flying a huge balloon around and making it anywhere on any kind of a schedule is a real challenge. It kind of has a thing for going sideways. Kind of like a keel-less canoe on a wind swept lake. I'd love a ride in that thing. That blimp support team has a real cool job, that's for sure.

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  2. I was about ready to get mad at you for withholding the UFO story. Nice one.

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    1. Michael it's a true tale, the people are real, but the aliens were fake, as they usually are.

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  3. Great story David. I am glad you were able to meet your alien ship all these years later.

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    1. Brandy life is often weird like that. 49 years is a long time to wait to wrap up an interesting episode in your life.

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  4. Cool video. Up close and personal for sure. Too bad you didn't get to board her - that would have been interesting.

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    1. Given the opportunity I'd tag along for a week, or even better, coast to coast.

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  5. Unlike your story...I actually did see a UFO. I must of been about 12, playing out in the yard with my brother and some neighbor kids. It was the middle of the day when something metallic showed up in the sky, hanging quietly above the little league ball field over near the high school. It was silent, more football shaped than anything, no lights to be seen. We lived not far from the greater Pittsburgh International airport. We were used to planes and helicopters and small jets. We all stared at this strange metallic sight, and one of us pounded on the door of our next door neighbor, who his life as an Air Force pilot, he came out and glared at the object....and muttered "what the hell is that?". Then it slowly started to turn and climb away from us, silently. Then a flash of light and it was gone. To this day we still have no logical explanation.

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    1. Rob you are the first person I know who has an actual UFO experience. You hear about these things but it's never people you know.

      I think I feel more comfortable having been fooled by the blimp, rather than being in your shoes and faced with an unexplainable sight.

      Consider this though. Imagine a mirror held high in the sky. It is positioned so that you observe it reflecting the sun obliquely. It wouldn't glare, it might look bright grey. Now rotate the mirror on its axis slowly. As the mirror turns you would see less and less of your oblique view of its surface. You would perceive it to be shrinking, and interpret that to be the object speeding away from you. That was what we saw when the blimp rotated and the gondola went from perpendicular to our line of sight to parallel to it. As the mirror rotates, for a split second it reflects the sun directly at you resulting in a flash of light. Then the mirror is parallel to your line of sight and essentially invisible to you though still present.

      The blimp, with its formerly silvery skin, at the right altitude, rotating on its axis, could produce that bizarre effect.

      It's possible the blimp fooled you and your friends and neighbors like it fooled us.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.