Birmingham UFO Group Case Report
Author: Dave Hodrien
Last Updated: 11/10/2012
Early on the evening of 6th October 2012, a UFO incident occurred in The Radleys, Birmingham which was witnessed by my friend Chris who was at the time on his way over to my house on a bus. This was confirmed by a second witness the following day, after the first draft of this report was posted on the BUFOG website. It is clear that not only did the incident take place, but that the object was observed by a police helicopter from Birmingham International Airport. Planes were also being re-directed by the airport while the object was present in the area.
This report contains up-to-date information on this case, and will be updated with any further developments as they come to light. It includes E-Mail transcripts from the airport and details of a phone call with the police.
First Witness Sighting Details
On the evening of 6th October 2012 my friend Chris had plans to come across to my house in Solihull for a few hours. He set off from his home in Chelmsley Wood and walked to the bus stop on Moorend Avenue. It was a pleasant and still evening with only light cloud cover. As he reached the bus stop he noticed a distant helicopter in the sky to the South West West in the direction of The Radleys. He got on the 71 bus that travels close past to where I live.
Photograph from Moorend Avenue with the approximate position of the helicopter marked:
The bus headed to the West until it was on Garretts Green Lane. By now it was around 6.20 pm and the sun was just starting to set. Chris was sitting on the left side of the bus and staring out of the window. As the bus travelled towards a small roundabout, he noticed the same helicopter he had seen earlier on hovering in the sky to the South East. He realised it was a police helicopter, one that is often seen patrolling the area. However directly below it he saw what appeared to be a small black coloured sphere.
Photograph ofthe location on Garretts Green where the UFO was first spotted, with the helicopter and object drawn on top:
The object was completely motionless. It appeared to be about twice the size of a basketball. He initially assumed that it was something hanging from the base of the helicopter. However Chris has a good knowledge of aircraft and was aware that this type of helicopter does not come equipped with a winch. There was nothing between the helicopter and the object, and something did not feel right about this explanation.
Chris kept his eye on the object and the helicopter as the bus made its way along Garretts Green. It then turned onto Sheldon Heath Road. A short distance along this the bus pulled up at a bus stop. The UFO was now a little closer now, and Chris could see that it was not directly under the helicopter but just close to it. So at this point he realised it was definitely not something attached to the helicopter and hanging from it.
Photograph from the bus stop on Sheldon Heath Road with the helicopter and object drawn on top:
The bus continued on its route and still there was no sign of any movement from the sphere, it was completely motionless. As the bus approached The Radleys pub Chris got his closest view of the sphere. It was still quite small in size, but the police helicopter nearby appeared to be watching it. Up until this point the UFO had been completely stationary in the air. As the bus pulle away from the stop the object appeared to briefly move slowly towards the helicopter before stopping again. The helicopter then appeared to back off a short distance, before it too continued to hover. However Chris stated that he cannot be certain this was not an optical illusion caused by the movement of the bus.
Photograph from further down Sheldon Heath Road with the helicopter and object drawn on top:
Chris also noticed a man down on the pavement of the island. He appeared to be standing and looking up in the direction of the object and helicopter. It is this man, who also happens to be named Chris, who got in touch with me after reading the initial report on the site! You can read his testimony below.
Aerial map of the area showing the location where Chris first spotted the UFO and helicopter (A), the estimated positions of the UFO (B) and helicopter (C), and Birmingham International Airport (D):
As soon as Chris arrived at my house he told me about what he had just witnessed. We immediately drove back out to the island near to The Radleys pub and parked up. The police helicopter was still present, but the sphere was nowhere to be seen, much to our disappointment. The helicopter was moving around the area and certainly appeared to be searching for something.
Photograph I took of the helicopter still patrolling the area, pointing in the direction of where the UFO had been situated:
Whether coincidence or not, while we watched the helicopter, it did stop and hover pointing in the direction where the sphere had been situated.
Second Witness Sighting Details
As was mentioned earlier, my friend Chris saw someone standing by the roundabout at The Radleys looking up in the direction of the UFO and helicopter. This individual got in touch with me on Sunday 7th October to confirm that he too had seen the object, and had witnessed events for much longer than Chris had. Below is his testimony in his own words:
"Regarding this incident, I was the man he saw by the bus stop. The helicopter had been searching a large area of the estate for about 1 hr before I left the house to go the the shops. As I approached Garretts Green Lane the helicopter stopped above my head and edged forwards at a slow pace, that's when I saw the sphere. It was much larger than a football and pure black.
I watched the object along with the police for around 40 minutes, the helicopter approached a few times then backed off, all this time I noticed no movement at all from the object. The helicopter must have become low on fuel as suddenly it flew away in the direction of its base. At this point I decided that I would go to the shop and kept glancing back. Just before I entered the shop I looked and it was gone.
After coming out of the shop, I went back to where I had been standing and looked long and hard but no sign of it, then the helicopter returned to the spot and also began searching. After searching the local sky, the helicopter lowered as if to land on the parkland, at a height of about 50 ft it hovered and rotated as if searching the park. The nest place it searched was the street next to the park, then it began an ever widening search of the sky. This went on for about a half hour before the helicopter left the area.
All the time this was happening, no planes took off or landed and the ones approaching to land were going back into the sky. This is part of the airport landing approach path."
As the witness actually watched the helicopter until it left the area for good, this means that he must have actually still been present when myself and Chris returned to the roundabout.
Birmingham International Airport Correspondance
I first got in touch with Birmingham International Airport on the evening of 7th October. My first E-Mail focused on the re-directed air traffic and whether anything was picked up on radar:
I believe that the area known as The Radleys to the North West West of the airport lies directly in the landing/take off flight path. On the evening of Saturday 6th October 2012 at around 5.30 pm and for at least an hour, aircraft on approach to the airport appeared to be re-directed away from The Radleys, and no planes were observed taking off and travelling over the area. Please can you confirm any of the following:
- Whether the landing/take off flight path for the airport does pass over The Radleys.
- Whether this area was set to "off limits" for aircraft for any period of time on Saturday evening.
- The reason or reasons why this was done.
- Whether anything unusual was picked up on radar by air traffic control in the vicinity of The Radleys during this time.
If you are not able to answer these questions, please re-direct this E-Mail as appropriate.
I hope to hear from you soon,
During the following day I received a response from the Birmingham International Airport Environmental Impacts Specialist. It reads as follows:
Thank you for your email.
As you may know, Birmingham Airport has one runway which operates in two directions: Runway 15 and Runway 33. The direction of operations is dependent upon meteorological conditions. When Runway 15 is in use aircraft will land from the North and depart to the South. When Runway 33 is in use the aircraft will land from the South and depart to the North. As The Radleys is directly to the North of the airfield it will be overflown by arrivals or departure, depending on the runway direction in use.
On the evening of the 6th October a kite was reported as potentially being in the area to the North of the airfield and therefore, as a precaution, aircraft were temporarily arriving and departing from the South only. This was a very unusual occurrence and operations are now back to normal.
I trust this answers your query
Environmental Impacts Specialist
With the re-direction of air traffic confirmed, and any radar activity left open to interpretation, I replied with a further E-Mail on the evening of 8th October to ask more questions, this time directed more towards the activity of the police helicopter and the object itself:
I thank you for taking the time to get back to me regarding the re-directed aircraft on the evening of 6th October, it is much appreciated. I was wondering if I may ask a few more questions about the incident, as myself and others I know who were in the area at the time are intrigued about what took place.
Would you be able to confirm any of the following:
- How the airport initially found out about this potential kite to the North of the airport. Did a member of the public ring or did a pilot spot it while on ascent/descent from/to the airport?
- When this report initially came in.
- Whether a police helicopter was sent out from the airport to locate the kite.
- Whether they did find this kite in the area of The Radleys.
- If a kite was found, any details about what it actually looked like and whether it was being flown by someone or had been tethered.
- Any details about what was done after this kite was found and how the situation was resolved.
- Approximately what time normal air traffic resumed.
Please feel free to re-direct this if you do not know the answers to the above but know someone else at the airport who would be able to answer some/all of these questions. If you have a log of the initial warning report that I would be able to take a look at this would also be great, but I fully understand if you are not able to provide this.
At 1.26pm on 9th October I was E-Mailed by the Environmental Impacts Specialist to ask whether she could speak to me directly via phone instead of E-Mail:
Is there a telephone number I can contact you on?
I responded with the following:
"Sure. My mobile number is XXXXXXXXXXX. Look forward to hearing from you. If you can’t ring until later I will be on the road between 5-6."
At 4.01pm the Environmental Impacts Specialist got in touch. She initially asked what my interest was in what had taken place due to the number of questions I was asking. I informed her that on Saturday evening my friend and another witness observed a police helicopter and something unusual in the sky over The Radleys. I explained that I wanted to confirm whether the helicopter seen had been sent out from the airport, and whether what was observed was the “kite” that the air space was shut down for. She informed me of the following:
- The “kite” North of the airport was initially radioed in by a pilot on take-off from the airport.
- The air space was immediately shut down due to safety concerns.
- A police helicopter was indeed sent out from the airport to investigate.
- She is unaware whether the helicopter found anything or not.
- Due to the fact it was getting dark and foggy, the air space was shut down until the following morning.
I asked her if she would be able to find any contacts who I could speak with in more depth about what the helicopter did or didn’t find. She said she would take a look and if she found anyone she would send me their contact details. The lady seemed very helpful and open, and I do not believe she was personally trying to cover anything up about the incident. However the call did not provide an adequate conclusion to what took place.
I followed up the call with another E-Mail just to remind the Environmental Impacts Specialist that my correspondence with the airport was not yet complete:
Thanks very much for your call. As discussed, if you can find any contacts I could speak with regarding what, if anything, the helicopter found when it was sent out this would be very much appreciated. Also I did not ask how you got the all clear in the morning. Was someone sent out again to take a look around or was it just assumed that the air space was now clear? Sorry if you're getting a little fed up with questions but I would very much like to know whether what my friend and the other man saw was this kite that the pilot radioed in.
I received a response via phone at 3pm on 11th October. In it the Environmental Impacts Specialist informed me of the following:
- The police helicopter did locate the object and confirmed that it was a kite just as the pilot had initially reported.
- She did not know how this kite was removed after it had been found or any further details about it.
- Due to the fact that it was getting dark and the forecast predicted fog the air traffic continued to be re-directed until given the all clear in the morning.
- She could not provide me with any official logs stating what had been found or how it was dealt with.
- She did not know of any other contacts I could speak with to get more information.
West Midlands Police Phone Call
While I corresponded with the airport on 8th October, I asked my friend Chris to contact West Midlands Police to ask whether they could shed any light on what he had observed. I felt it would be better if he spoke with them directly rather than me speak on his behalf. Afterwards he provided me with an overview of what had been said:
"A woman answered the phone. She had to go find a point of contact for me in Solihull area and then I was transferred to a different lady there.
After giving my account I was told that there was nothing in the incident logs. She also stated that other counties fly their helicopter in or through the Solihull area, such as Warwickshire Police, and she suggested it may have been their helicopter instead.
She said that they would contact me if anything did come to light and if it was possible to tell me."
I am certain that something was present in the area which was observed by both witnesses and possibly others. The question is, what was it? The official word from Birmingham International Airport is that it was confirmed as a kite.
On the phone call on 9th October I was told that the "kite" had initially been reported by an aircraft pilot during take-off. He would have only observed this object at a distance. So when he radioed in that he had spotted a "kite" this does not necessarily mean this is what it was - what he meant was that there was an aerial object in the vicinity. However according to the phone call on 11th October, the police helicopter confirmed that it was a kite. From the two sightings it is clear that this helicopter got quite close to the object and got a good look at it. Indeed the helicopter remained in the area for a while after the object had disappeared.
It is certainly possible that by "kite" they simply meant a small floating man-made object. Therefore as well as look at a kite as the explanation, we must also consider the possibly that it was an inflatable or "solar airship", possibly tethered though this is not yet confirmed either way.
If you are unfamiliar with what a solar airship is, I will briefly explain. They are essentially large and thin plastic hollow shapes, generally elongated and cylindrical. On a hot day the air inside them heats up causing them to drift up into the sky. They can look very impressive due to their large size, and I have received numerous reports before which have turned out to be these objects. They are generally black in colour to aid with heat absorption, however other colours also exist. It is possible to create home-made solar airships by tying bin bags together.
Photograph of a typical purchased solar airship:
Photograph of a home-made solar airship made out of bin bags:
The object was definitely spherical in shape as it was observed from numerous angles, so this rules out the possibility that it was a normal cylindrical-shaped solar airship. However it was quite small in size. Solar airships need to be quite large so there is enough air inside them to heat up. If you simply tie a knot in a black bin bag with air inside and put it outside on a hot day it will not take off, you would need to stitch together numerous bin bags for this to take place. These home-made solar airships also usually change shape, twist and turn in the air due to the manner that they have been constructed and how light weight they are. It is very unlikely that one of these would appear completely spherical from all angles. It should also be noted that although the weather was not bad, it was not a particularly sunny day. Solar airships usually only work correctly on very bright sunny days. Due to all of the above, I believe the solar airship explanation can be ruled out.
Therefore we shall now explore the possibility that it was a spherical kite or inflatable. If the object was untethered and drifting of its own accord then it would certainly have moved in the time it was observed for. The second witness saw the object for over 40 minutes, during which time it remained completely still. I find it nigh on impossible that an untethered object would hang still in the air for that period of time without drifting. So if it was a kite or inflatable then it would have had to have been tethered.
However after conferring with Chris there are a number of significant issues with the explanation that it was a either a tethered kite or inflatable:
The shape and colour of the object would be highly unusual to begin with. This is especially true if the object was a kite. Although it is possible for a kite to be made in a spherical shape (see below photograph), this shape is very rare. It would also be unusual to see a completely black coloured kite, usually they are multiple colours. Black balloons are of course more common, and can sometimes be spherical in shape, though are usually more egg-shaped.
Photograph of a spherical kite:
Picture of a black spherical balloon:
It was a very still evening with no wind blowing at all. Therefore if it was a kite it would not have remained in the air for long, and certainly not remained completely stationary for at least 40 minutes. When kites are flown there needs to be at least a small breeze blowing and they need to be tilted and controlled using a tether to keep airborne. It would be possible for a kite or inflatable to be held roughly in place at the end of a stretched tether line by air currents, but for this a strong breeze in one direction would need to be blowing. In this situation you would expect to see the kite/inflatable being buffeted around by the wind, not remain completely motionless. The only mundane explanation which does seem plausible when looking at just the object appearance itself is that it was a helium-filled inflatable tied down with a tether line, and floating in still weather conditions at the end of this tether.
However the police helicopter moved quite close to the object. My friend Chris stated that it was within 100 metres of the object and level with it. Therefore surely if it was some kind of balloon it would have been buffeted around by the down draft from the rotor blades? However it remained completely stationary. Both witnesses have eluded to the fact that it looked like a solid object under powered control rather than something merely drifting.
In my phone call with the Environmental Control Officer of Birmingham International Airport it was confirmed that a police helicopter had been sent from the airport to try and locate the object. We can therefore assume that the police helicopter over The Radleys was this helicopter rather than another which happened to be patrolling the area. However this is a complete contradiction to what Chris was told by the police on 8th October. He was informed that there was nothing in their logs about a helicopter being called out at that time. However it is possible that he was put through to a department who had not dealt with the incident in any way, this cannot be confirmed either way at present. But if it was the right department then there is evidence here that the police may have been covering up the fact that a helicopter was sent out.
It is quite clear that the occupants of the helicopter were actively observing the object for a period of time. They were hovering close to the object for at least 40 minutes, so I think it's safe to assume that they were aware of its presence and interested in it for one reason or another. If it was a kite/inflatable then the helicopter pilots could not do anything about it directly, there would need to have been ground units sent to remove it from the area and clear the flight path. Neither witness recalls seeing any police on the ground in the area at the time. However there is always the possibility that they were present but were just out of sight. But surely it would not have taken these ground units 40 minutes to locate the end of the tether and either cut it, drag the object down or ask the owner of the kite/inflatable to do the same? I also find it odd that the helicopter would need to remain close to the object for such a period of time after it had been located.
After the object had gone or been lost from sight it then continued to remain in the area for another 30 minutes, appearing to conduct some kind of search. If it were a kite/inflatable which had then been taken down or released, why would they have needed to remain in the area for a long while afterwards or indeed been searching for anything?
It was still completely light when the sphere was observed by both Chris and the other witness. Indeed it was only starting to get dark when we returned to The Radleys, by which time the object had disappeared. It was clear from both reported sightings that the police helicopter had not only located the object, but was observing it for a long period of time. Surely if it was a kite or other tethered object then it would have been promptly removed and the flight corridor re-opened long before the sun had set?
It was mentioned that the air traffic was re-directed till the following morning because it was starting to get dark and foggy. Below is the weather forecast for the area of Solihull (Which The Radleys and Birmingham International Airport are part of) for 6th October:
As you can see, this does indicate that fog was predicted around 9pm. To my knowledge this forecast was wrong, at least for around the outskirts of Solihull, The Radleys and Chelmsley Wood. Chris left my house about 11pm and there was no sign of any fog, it was completely clear. Chris also confirmed that there was no fog at any point on his journey home. However the airport would have gone along with what the forecast was predicting not what actually took place, so there is nothing overly suspicious about this.
I have not yet heard back from the second witness to hear his thoughts on the above possible explanations for the incident. Nor have I any idea of the period of time during which the object mysteriously vanished. It could be anything from a couple of seconds to a few minutes. This is a very important factor to consider, and once I hear back from the second witness I will update this report with the details.
After weighing up all of the above, I feel that although there is a possibility that the object was some kind of tethered kite or inflatable, there are also numerous aspects which seem at odds with this explanation.
It’s pretty unlikely, though not impossible, that it was a strange spherical-shaped remote control model which was then flown away after both witnesses were not looking at it. However you would usually expect to see wings and a visible means of propulsion with such devices. Also if this was the explanation then the helicopter would have informed the airport of this.
While spherical military drones do exist, they are quite rare. The majority of UAVs have visible propellers wings/extensions. As you can see from the below photograph, spherical drones that have been developed have certain sections open to the air to allow for the internal propellers to keep the object in flight. If the object was a military drone then surely the police helicopter would have known about this and not felt the need to approach and observe it. Military UAVs are also quite loud. The second witness was watching the object outside, and did not report that any sound came from the sphere. If it was a military drone then surely the airport would have been aware of this and not re-directed the air traffic? I also find it very unlikely that the military would feel the need to fly a drone over the area of The Radleys for a period of time, although this cannot be entirely ruled out.
Photograph of a spherical military drone:
After speaking with my friend in great detail and receiving the testimony of the second witness, I feel there is enough evidence to at least suggest that this may have been a genuine sighting of an advanced spherical-shaped craft. Due to the small size it is unlikely it was manned, and may have been an observational device. Small sphere-shaped UFOs have been reported many times before by people from all around the world, and they are often seen to hover motionless for a time before suddenly leaving the area, just as was reported here. More often than not they are silver in colour, though I have investigated some other sightings of black coloured spheres.
The correspondence with the airport has now drawn to a close, and so far I have not received any further E-Mails from the second witness, so it's really down to whether or not you believe the story from the airport after considering all of the above information.
Copyright Dave Hodrien 2012