The mystery surrounding the identity of a hedge-hopping ‘ghost plane‘ that puzzled motorists in the Yorkshire Dales has been solved.
Photographer Anita Skinner captured two dramatic images of a ‘large matte grey plane’ as it swooped dangerously low over Wharfedale towards Buckden Pike, site of a WW2 plane crash tragedy.
‘We both looked up to see [the plane] flying very low above us,’ she told me. ‘I had my camera with me ready to shoot so I managed to capture two shots…neither of us heard any sound coming from the engines, this struck us as being very strange as a plane of that size [with] four propellers should make a great deal of sound.’
It was the third time that Anita and her husband, both keen photographers, have spotted the phantom flyer in the past few years.
Anita sent her pictures to me after reading about similar unexplained sightings of weird ‘ghost fliers‘ in the Derbyshire Peak District near Ladybower dam on Journalism and Folklore (see my webpage here). I wrote about the Derbyshire mystery planes in the Sheffield Star and my 1999 book Supernatural Peak District.
But on seeing Anita’s photographs Sgt Joe Belcher, who deals with low-flying complaints at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, laid the aerial ghost story to rest.
He said the aircraft ‘is a C130-J Hercules aircraft and considering the colour and markings, or lack-thereof, it is highly likely that it belongs to one of our squadrons.’
Sgt Belcher said it was impossible, given the lack of a time and date, to confirm the precise identity of the aircraft ‘but at the time the photos were taken [in August 2010] the C130 Hercules fleet were stationed at RAF Lyneham [in Wiltshire].’ He said:
‘We do fly sorties over this region and many of these will include ‘cross country low flying’. Although it may appear ‘dangerously’ low flying to someone on the ground…especially when the aircraft is flying through valleys and mountainous areas, I can assure you that our pilots are trained very regularly and to the highest possible standard.’
Sgt Belcher added that although puzzling, the lack of noise may be a result of ‘where [the witnesses] were situated relating to the aircraft’s position and distance…the noise was simply drowned out by the surrounding area. What I can guarantee…is that our C-130 J Hercules aircraft do make a noise!’
Anita’s most recent close encounter with the RAF Hercules was last month (February 2013) when she spotted the aircraft flying ‘dangerously close to the ground’ but did not have a camera ready. Several years before the couple saw a similar unmarked grey plane heading from Malham Dale towards Lancashire.
‘Again we thought that its flight path was extremely low and thought that it might crash into the hillside. We thought that these must be military aircraft on manoeuvres but how could an aircraft that big make no noise?’
Buckden Pike, near where the Hercules was caught on film, is the scene of the tragic crash of a Wellington bomber in 1942. The crew lost their way during a night training exercise during a snowstorm and struck the hill north of Kettlewell. Five Polish airmen lost their lives in the tragedy, which is marked by a memorial cross on the summit.
*Thanks to Anita Skinner for permission to use her photographs on my blog.