Eglinton crash landing link to to ‘X-file’

A SECRET “X-file” - just published by the National Archives - shows Irish UFO-hunters wrote to the MoD asking what it knew about a mysterious flying object that vanished without a trace in County Fermanagh in early 2001 saying the crash-landing of a light aircraft in Lough Foyle was the only air incident it could identify during the same time period in the area.

UFO and Paranormal Research Ireland (UPRI) wrote to the MoD in March 2001 for details on a reported incident near Kinlawey in County Fermanagh on the evening of Tuesday, February 13, newly-published UFO-related Government documents reveal.

The UFO-hunters informed the MoD how members of the public contacted the RUC “after seeing what they thought was an aircraft trailing smoke, crashing onto Benlaughlin Mountain.”

According to the organisation the RUC and Army personnel conducted a search of the area but could find nothing.

Consequently, UPRI wanted to know if the Armagh Observatory or anyone else had observed a meteorite in the area.

It also asked the MoD if the incident was in any way connected to the sealing off of land near Tempo, County Fermanagh, on February 14, 2001, after a “suspicious object” was found. This was unlikely as Tempo lies on the far side of Enniskillen and Lough Erne from the site of the supposed incident.

UPRI informed the military it was left scratching its head as the only air incident it could find in the North West during mid-February was the forced landing of a private jet on the mudflats of Lough Foyle near Eglinton airport.

“After initial enquiries, the only air crash in Northern Ireland in that time frame was that of a privately-operated Jet Provost, on Monday the 12th. The aircraft ditched in mudflats at the mouth of the Foyle River, and it was subsequently lifted clear by an RAF-operated Chinook,” UPRI wrote.

The reference was to the crash landing of a small Jet Provost aircraft which left City of Derry Airport only to return five minutes later after experiencing difficulties with a fuel pump drive shaft.

A Department of Transport Air Accident Investigation Branch report later told how “the pilot transmitted a mayday call to the Eglinton tower, retracted the flaps and without an active ejector seat had no option but to select a suitable area on which to carry out a forced landing. The only area available to him was the mud flats of the Lough Foyle estuary.”

The pilot managed to land the plane which was later recovered - as noted by UPRI - by a RAF Chinook helicopter but only after it had been partially submerged by several tides.

Unsurprisingly, the MoD was not particularly concerned about UFOs vanishing into the sides of mountains in the west of Ulster. It classed the reported incident as of “low importance” but nevertheless its correspondence with UPRI was filed as secret.

The MoD’s Directorate of Air Staff replied to UPRI on April 11 saying the office “was the focal point within the MoD for correspondence relating to ‘UFOs.’”

The response advised how the MoD examined reports of “unidentified flying objects” solely to establish whether what was seen might have some defence significance.

“Namely, whether there is any evidence that the United Kingdom’s airspace might have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised air activity.

“Unless there is evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom from an external military source, and to date no ‘UFO’ report has revealed such evidence, we do not attempt to identify the precise nature of each reported sighting,” it states.

It suggested rational explanations such as aircraft lights or natural phenomena could have provided the answers UPRI was looking for but that there was no way the MoD could have justified public expenditure to launch an investigation.

“With regard to your particular sighting,” the reply stated, “I can confirm that there were no military aircraft accidents anywhere in the UK on the 13 February.

“Also we are satisfied that there is no corroborating evidence to suggest that the Untied Kingdom’s airspace was breached by unauthorised military activity on that date.

“I am therefore unable to assist you with your questions and can only suggest that you may wish to contact the other organisations mentioned in your letter.”