Coyne UFO Incident: An Army Helicopter Crew That Had A Close Encounter With A UFO In Mansfield, Ohio

The Coyne incident of 1973 is one of the most descriptive and unexplainable UFO encounters recorded by an army helicopter crew and backed up by numerous witnesses on the ground. Even today, this event remains unexplained.

Lawrence Coyne UFO
In 1973 Lawrence Coyne and his helicopter crew had an unexplainable encounter with a UFO

In any argument of the case for the reality of UFOs as extraordinary phenomena, the incident that happened near Mansfield, Ohio, on the night of October 18, 1973, looms large.

The event took place in the middle of a huge UFO wave that engulfed the USA that month.

The encounter was reported by Army Reserve Captain Lawrence J. Coyne and his helicopter crew, 1st Lieutenant Arrigo Jezzi, Sergeant. John Healy, and Spec 5 Robert Yanacsek, however, at first received little attention.

At around 10:30 p.m. on the eighteenth, with Jezzi flying the craft from the left-hand seat, an Army Reserve UH-1 Huey helicopter left Columbus, Ohio, and headed back to Cleveland, where it was based. Coyne and his men had flown earlier in the evening to Columbus to take their regularly scheduled medical examinations. It was a clear, cool evening. The route was familiar.

Just before 11 o'clock, as the helicopter cruised at 1200 feet above the farms, woods, and hills of north-central Ohio (2500 feet above sea level), Healey, seated at the left rear, noticed a steady, southbound red light. It looked like the port-wing light of an aircraft but seemed brighter than normal. Also, it carried none of the other lights FFA regulations require. Healey watched it disappear from sight behind the helicopter. He said nothing about it to his flight mates.

Soon afterwards, at about 11:02, Yanacsek, in the right rear seat, saw a bright red light on the eastern horizon. It was not a star, he judged, and it seemed too high to be a radio tower; besides, it was not blinking. He continued to observe it for the next minute and a half. He realized it was keeping pace with the helicopter. When he finally mentioned it, Coyne casually suggested that Healey keep an eye on it.

Half a minute later Yanacsek saw the light had turned and was now coming towards the helicopter. Taking over the controls from Jezzi, Coyne put the helicopter into a normal 500-feet-per-minute decent. He depressed his heel microphone and called Mansfield Approach Control, where F-100 interceptors were based. He already was on that frequency because he had spoken with Mansfield (to the northwest) a few minutes earlier to secure clearance to fly through the area.

"Mansfield, this is Army helicopter 15444," he said. "Do you have any high-performance aircraft in your area?" Mansfield responded, "This is Mansfield Approach. Go ahead, one-five-triple-four." Coyne pushed the mike again, repeated the question, released the mike, and waited for the response. None came. He instructed Jezzi to try again and, if that failed, try Mansfield Tower. Jezzi could not reach them on either UHF or VHF frequency. He could hear the channel-change and mike-keying sounds that proved that the stations were tuned in and the equipment was working as it should - but beyond that, nothing.

The red light was now closing on the helicopter at a dangerous rate of speed. Under 10,000 feet aircraft are not allowed to fly at more than 250 knots (285 mph); this aircraft was moving at what Coyne estimated to be 600 knots (684 mph). Fearing an imminent collision, Coyne pushed the collective pitch (control stick) all the way down, glancing at the altimeter as he did so. The helicopter was at 1700 feet above the ground. It was now descending at 2000 feet per minute.

Lawrence Coyne UFO sketch
A sketch of the UFO that Captain Lawrence Coyne claimed to encounter

When the helicopter got to within 650 feet of the treetops below (1700 feet above sea level), Coyne was shocked to see the object covering the entire front windshield. The red light was on its nose, to the witnesses' left. A white light shone at the tail of the cigar-shaped, metallic structure. Beneath this tail light, a pyramid-shaped green beam swept a 90-degree arc and shone through the helicopter windshield, then covered the entire aircraft. The object itself was not glowing, but its outlines were very clearly visible in the reflection cast by the lights it carried and also against the starry background. It had no wings or identifying marks.

As Yanacsek would put it:

"The object may have hovered over us for 10 to 12 seconds... It seemed like it was there for so damn long. It was just stopped, then... it was there, just like that."

The object hovered silently there - in front of and above them - before accelerating and heading off toward the northwest. All that the witness could see of it now was its white rear light. After executing a sharp 45-degree turn to the right, the light "snapped out," in Healey's words, "and over the edge of the world it went."

"My God, what's happening?" Coyne asked. He had just looked at the altimeter and learned that as the crew's attention was focused on the departing object, the helicopter had not been descending but ascending. The Huey was at 3500 feet above sea level and climbing at 1000 feet per minute. (At that rate of speed, the 1800-foot ascent between 1700 and 3500 feet would have taken 108 seconds.) Yet the collective was still in the full-down position. In other words, the helicopter should have been moving downward.

Coyne lifted the collective - the opposite of what one would do to arrest a climb under ordinary circumstances - but these were no ordinary circumstances. At 3800 feet a slight bump shook the helicopter. The ascend ended as inexplicably as it had begun.

The Huey resumed its previous cruise altitude. It made radio contact with Akron/Canton with no trouble and flew on to Cleveland without further incident.

Three years later investigators found that other witnesses had seen the strange encounter. (These witnesses asked to remain anonymous.) Around 11:05 p.m. on October 18, 1973, a woman and four adolescent children, driving east on a deserted rural road and approaching a bridge that spans the Charles Mill Reservoir east-southeast of Mansfield, saw two lights in the sky, the one in front a bright red, the other, behind it, a dim green, flying as a unit and coming from the east at a one or two o'clock position in the sky. Then to their right (south to the southwest), they saw the lights of a helicopter at a low altitude. As the helicopter lights and the red and green lights converged, the mother pulled the car over, and two of the children, Charlie and Karen, jumped out while the others rolled down the windows and gazed upwards.

They could now see that the red light was attached to an object resembling a blimp with a dome. Apparently the size of a school bus, it "went over the top of the other one (the helicopter) and then stopped," according to the woman.

Charlie recalled:

"When we got out of the car, it was right there, sitting there... It was longways. It was a big old thing. Then the green light flared up. When we got out of the car, everything was green. I saw that thing and the helicopter."

Another child said:

"Everything turned green. It lit up everything green. There was a whole bunch of noise from the helicopter. I saw the green light for 10 seconds. Not very high. I think the green came from above the helicopter. It kind of looked like rays coming down."

The helicopter was "just barely ahead and below" the object, Charlie said. "And then the helicopter seemed to pass over us," without ever deviating from its northeastern course. Another of the children, Curt, described the UFO's departure thus: "It just flew off and got smaller and smaller toward the northwest," becoming lost to view behind trees. The UFO had actually taken a zig-zag course, coming in from the east, meeting the helicopter, and following it along the north-northeast course before shooting off in a northwestward direction.

In 1988 and 1989 ufologist Jennie Zeidman interviewed a mother and son, Jeanne and John Elias, who told her of their own curious experience late on the evening of October 18, 1973. Mrs Elias remembered the date because it was her younger son's birthday and the family had had a party for him that day.

Mansfield Coyne UFO

She had gone to bed to watch the 11 o'clock news. Her husband was already asleep. Suddenly she heard loud helicopter sounds. This Helicopter seemed so close that - fearing it was about to crash into the house - "I stuck my head under the pillow so if it crashed I could maybe save part of me," she said.

Just then John, then 14, called her from his room. When she went in to see him, he asked if she had seen the "green light." She said no, she had had her head under the pillow. John said, "The whole room lit up green." He had not gotten out of bed to determine its source. The shade of green John Elias described, Zeidman would note, was exactly the shade reported by the other witnesses.

The Elias's house was 1.75 miles southwest of the ground witnesses' location. The incident could not have occurred right over the house, as the Elias's presumed. Apparently, the helicopter passed overhead at an estimated 90 knots. At this speed, it would have reached the Charles Mill Reservoir bridge site in one minute. The light from the green beam cast here - bright enough to illuminate the entire countryside according to the witnesses on the road - must have been starkly visible even from the Elias residence.

Investigation And Controversy Of The Coyne UFO

Intrigued by a Cleveland Plain Dealer account of the helicopter crew's experience, J. Allen Hynek, Northwestern University astronomer and longtime scientific consultant for the defunct Project Blue Book, met with the witnesses on January 24, 1974, and spent an afternoon and evening reviewing all aspects of the episode with them. Not long afterwards he asked Zeidman, an old and trusted associate, to conduct a thorough investigation.

Zeidman spent many hours interviewing crew members separately and together. Through careful analysis of testimony and a reenactment of the incident with Coyne, she came to the conclusion that the encounter - from Yanascek's initial observation to the object's disappearance over the western horizon - took "270 to 300 seconds - or 300 seconds, plus or minus 10 percent."

In two books and other writings, debunker Philip J. Klass argued that the crew had seen nothing more than a "meteor/fireball from the Orionids meteor shower." He also claimed that Huey had been descending at 4000, not 2000, feet per minute. Fearing a collision with the ground, Coyne or Jezzi had "instinctively pulled back on the cyclic pitch control to avoid crashing into the ground." Thus there was nothing mysterious about the ascent.

Nothing in the testimony of the witnesses, air or ground, is in any way consistent with Klass's fantastic identification. Meteors do not last more than a few seconds at most and bear no resemblance to the structured object all of the observers reported. Concerning Klass's other allegation, Coyne said "If we had been diving at 4000 fpm, I would have never been able to recover" in time to stop a crash. At no time, he and other crew members insisted, had they worried about such a crash.

Zeidman easily refuted Klass's various claims, theories, and charges. She pointed out that his interactions with the witnesses consisted in their entirety of two or three phone conversations with Coyne and a talk-show chat, followed by dinner, with Healey. Langenburg UFO Incident 1974: Farmer Edwin Fuhr Claimed Mysterious Objects Landed In His Field


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