First UFO Sighting Ever Recorded: Kenneth Arnold's Life-Altering UFO Experience

CULTURE | September 19, 2023

Written by Sarah Norman

Seventy-five years ago, on a clear June day in 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold took to the skies and inadvertently flew into the annals of extraterrestrial lore. His encounter with an unexplained aerial phenomenon near Mt. Rainier sparked a cultural revolution, one that would add the term "flying saucer" to the global vernacular and ignite mankind's enduring fascination with the unknown.

While many have heard of Arnold's historical sighting, the incident, like the objects Arnold saw that day, has many layers yet to be uncovered. From the untold intricacies of Arnold's original descriptions and the unexpected media frenzy, to the less-known theories and the enduring legacy of this seminal UFO encounter, we invite you on a journey to rediscover the Kenneth Arnold UFO incident. Prepare to see this pivotal moment in history in a whole new light.

How a Routine Flight Became a Historic Encounter

(Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo)

On a serene June afternoon, experienced pilot Kenneth Arnold, with 4,000 flight hours to his name, embarked on a seemingly ordinary journey from Chehalis, Washington. He was headed to an air show in Pendleton, Oregon, intending to refuel in Yakima, Washington, aboard his trusted single-engine CallAir A-2 light airplane. A member of an Idaho search and rescue unit, Arnold planned a minor deviation from his route that day. His eyes were set on a prize - a $5,000 reward for locating a U.S. Marine Corps Curtiss C-46 Commando transport that had tragically crashed with 32 U.S. Marines on board, somewhere along his eastward trajectory.

The clock neared 3:00 p.m. when Arnold, circling approximately 20 miles west of Mt. Rainier in his quest for the C-46 wreckage, was jolted by an unexpected spectacle. A bright flash caught his attention in the northeast direction. His initial thought was:

A military lieutenant must be having a joyride on a shiny P-51, and I've just caught a glimpse of the sunlight glancing off its wings.

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