The Kinross Incident: An Unsolved Mystery Above Lake Superior

UFO following fighter airplane above the clouds.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world. Bordering Canada, the massive waterway contains huge granite structures that date back millions of years. Key features of the majestic lake are the Soo, or Sault Ste. Marie locks, a set of parallel devices used to raise and lower boats and to help with ship navigation between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. The locks are under the supervision of the United States Army Corps of Engineers and considered an outstanding example of engineering excellence, visited by thousands of tourists every year.

Additionally, the Soo Locks of Lake Superior is the location of the Kinross Incident, one of the greatest UFO mysteries of all time; one that has baffled military experts, and tragically took the lives of two Air Force pilots in 1953, First Lieutenant Felix Moncla Jr. and Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson.

The Facts Behind the Kinross Incident 

November 23, 1953, was a stormy night and seemingly routine one on Lake Superior. Despite the turbulent weather, the U.S. Air Defense Command detected a blip on the radar screen that should not have been there. Concerned that an unidentified flying object, or UFO, had entered Soo Locks, restricted territory and the Great Lakes essential commercial waterway. The U.S. Air Force ordered an F-89 C Scorpion jet from the Kinross Air Force base (Kinross AFB) to investigate the blip, flown by two seasoned Air Force pilots, one of whom had over 800 flying hours under his belt. 

The F-89 Scorpion was a jet fighter like no other. Jet-powered and put into service during the Cold War, the plane provided more than a decade as an important interceptor and in defense of the northern United States border with Canada. One of the most heavily armed fighter aircraft, The F-89 was one of the most heavily armed fighter jet and served as the backbone of the North American Air Defense Command for more than 17 years.

The pilots, First Lieutenant Felix Moncla and Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson, were never to be seen again. The interception mission to investigate the unknown object took a turn into the unknown, which decades later, experts are still working to solve.

It was reported that after takeoff, Lieutenant Wilson could not find the source of the mysterious blip, which kept changing direction, speed, and even altitude. Ground control guided the pilots to give chase, finally coming close to catching up to the unidentified object only 70 miles off Keweenaw Point in upper Michigan, and 160 miles northwest of the Soo locks.

It was at this location that the fighter jet and the UFO appeared on the radar screen as one large, connected blip. After that moment, ground control could no longer detect the F-89C. The military jet was nowhere to be found. Soon after, the UFO also disappeared from the screen.  

First Lieutenant Felix Moncla via

The Air Force’s Ever-Changing Investigation 

After an extensive investigation that included the US Air Force (USAF), US Coast Guard, and Canadian Coast Guard, the initial first statement was what those who were in charge of ground control had witnessed: the fighter jet and UFO merged near Keweenaw Point and then vanished.

However, the “official” story quickly changed to say that early reports of the fighter jet’s vanishing were mistaken. The US Air Force claimed the mission had been successful in discovering that the UFO was a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) C-47 jet, despite denials from the Canadian government that no flights had occurred in that area on Nov 23, 1953. 

Complicating the story, even more, was one assertion by the US Air Force that First Lieutenant Felix Moncla had suffered from an attack of vertigo and crashed into Lake Superior near Wisconsin. Another version, one told to Moncla’s family, was that the pilot had flown too low, resulting in a lake crash.

However, in the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, the US Government’s longstanding and largest UFO investigative inquiry, the mysterious radar blip was attributed to the weather; the Kinross AFB  report, as well as a failed search and rescue, indicated that the reason the F-89 jet was never recovered was because of the depth of Lake’s Superior’s water. 

 After the US Air Force changed courses on its story, the Kinross Incident didn’t garnish much attention from the public or the press. That was until 1955 when Donald Keyhoe, an American Marine Corps naval aviator and writer began to ask questions about what happened that stormy night in 1953.

Keyhoe was fascinated with the subject of UFOs, so much so that he became known as one of the top ufologists in the world, eventually becoming co-founder of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) in 1955, one of the leading organizations which challenged the Air Force’s Kinross story, as well as other similar flying saucer incidents including the Mantell UFO Incident in 1948.  

Keyhoe was not alone in asking what was behind the US Air Force’s concerted efforts to obscure the truth of the Kinross Incident? In order to better understand the Air Force’s logic behind denying that UFOs had anything to do with the disappearance of the F-89C and her two pilots, it’s important to look at the time the mystery happened. 

The Kinross Incident, UFOs, and the Cold War

The location of the Kinross Incident has always stoked the fires of UFO enthusiasts; in fact, in 1952, the United States government wanted to again control the restricted airspace of the locks due to heightened tensions with Russian over the nuclear arms race and the rise of Communism, or the Cold War.

America’s fear of communism and the arms race led to a series of UFO sightings like in Roswell, New Mexico, near Mount Rainier, Washington, and even in the United States capitol. The American public became obsessed with almost daily UFO sightings, causing concern as high up as with President Harry S. Truman who personally became involved in Project Blue’s work. 

There are those who claim the Kinross Incident falls in the category of freak air accidents, while others, including UFO researcher John Tenney, who claim that the disappearance is connected to actual UFO encounters. Tenney is on record as having spoken to a United States Air Force member who said a faint radio transmission from Lt. Moncla appeared to have been heard hours after the plane was to have crashed.

This information has led many in the UFO-investigative community to wonder if the UFO collided with the F-89C, or perhaps even abducted the plane. 

Was the government keeping the truth about UFOs from the public? Perhaps, but more likely, they were withholding top-secret military operations designed to detect and intercept Soviet nuclear tests, as well as to conduct nuclear tests of our own. For UFO enthusiasts, the secrecy behind these military operations has only proved to stoke the belief that other powers are also at play, including the existence of extraterrestrial warfare and interference.  

The Kinross Incident Story Re-Emerges With New Findings

In 1968, fifteen years after the disappearance of the Kinross jet and her pilots, there are reports that pieces of an F-89C had been located near the eastern shore of Lake Superior. But despite this finding, the government did not conduct an investigation and very little information can be found about what was discovered. 

As late as 2006, reports of new findings regarding the Kinross Incident began to reappear when a UFO researcher was contacted that the remains of the Scorpion F-89C had been located at the bottom of Lake Superior. The email cited a report by the Associated Press and was sent by a group who called themselves “The Great Lakes Dive Company.” Excited about the possibility of new information, which quickly spread, as well as the hope that the 50-year-old mystery would finally be solved. 

Unfortunately, as more journalists and UFO experts began to delve more deeply into the company’s claims, holes in the story began to appear. The director of MUFON, the oldest and largest civilian-run UFO organization in the United States, led an extensive investigation only to find that the original lead from the Associated Press was a hoax from a fake news story. Soon after the company’s website disappeared and hopes for answers to the mystery surrounding the Kinross Incident dashed again.  

To this day, the Kinross Incident remains unsolved. For the family members who lost their loved ones with no answers as to how or why this happened, the incident is a painful reminder of those things that are out of our control. 

For decades, the public has turned to our government and its officials to help provide answers. In the case of the Kinross Incident, those answers have not either been found or, if found, have gone unshared. However, as long as humans are curious about the existence and presence of UFOs, there is hope that the mystery of the Kinross Incident will one day be solved.

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