Nininger Moment #17 Air Pilots and Meteor Hazards

During Nininger’s time a number of air pilots reported having to take evasive steps to prevent collisions with falling meteors. One such newspaper reported an startling account of how a resourceful pilot battled a shower of meteors by making a serious of dips and swerves to avoid the incoming falling meteors saving himself, his eleven passengers, as well as the aircraft. One other pilot was said to have dipped his right wing to avoid a similar collision of a meteor which happened in Nebraska. Yet another pilot near Cheyenne Wyoming said he narrowly escaped injury when en-countering one of those pestiferous fiery projectiles which threaten to side swipe him from the left. He “ducked”, however and the missile sailed by, leaving him unharmed.

From the Standpoint of Nininger who had been studying meteoritic events and falls and spending much time at it, he considered the reports humorous at best. Nininger reasoned there were about two thousand times more automobiles on the ground than airplanes in the air. Meteors reaching the lower atmosphere where these pilots saw these events would certainly reach the ground also, yet at that time no recorded automobile had been struck. A highly reported case happening in Crawfordville, Indiana had been discredited by scientists who investigated the matter. Nininger stated that you would expect one thousand automobile impacts for every one aircraft strike.

The stories were even really more incredible for another reason. Astronomers know that the fall of a meteor is an event most often seen in the higher atmosphere. Only two exceptions were noted where a meteor came closer to the ground than 4 miles. The vast majority of them extinguishing before they come within ten miles of the ground. Nininger stated that in other words, the meteor, or the light resulting from a meteorite’s [meteoroids] encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere is limited to the region of the stratosphere, far above any height ever reach by airplanes of that day in ordinary flying.

Nininger knew of the fall of those cited above and concluded that the second pilot who thought he saw the meteor below him, plotted the meteor height at the burnout point at about 17 miles high, above the northeastern New Mexico soil. The second pilot who saw the same meteor fall was slightly more than a hundred miles from it at its nearest approach. The pilot over Nebraska that dipped his wing to avoid collision was 68 miles south of the line over which the dreaded missile was speeding at an elevation of approximately 20 miles.

Nininger concluded that pilots are no less reliable in such matters than are ground observers, but the fact is that no one is able to judge the distance from him of a bright, dazzling light. He concluded that pilots apparently share the ignorance of the general public as the to the behavior of meteorites. Nininger stated that hundreds of other examples could be cited similar to the high school superintendent who told him exactly where a meteorite had landed in the neighboring field. From where he stood he was confident and pointed out the fall location. Fortunately, he knew the hour and minute of the fall and gave an eloquent description of the phenomenon, which sounded familiar to Nininger, as the story had been told by observers from all the way where they stood to where the meteorite had landed some 350 miles away!!!!

It is absolutely impossible for any single observer to judge the distance of a meteor. It’s location can be determine only by a crossline survey. To this, pilots might contribute considerable information if they would take account of their exact location
upon sighting and determine with their instruments the exact direction and altitude of the point where the meteor vanishes. Also recording the angle of decent would prove helpful. A pilots observation using these methods would be more than helpful than
a person on the ground without any instruments to record what they see. Nininger also stated at that time, no report from an air pilot had ever been used to calculate the fall of a meteorite. He believed however that with his methods being noted that such reports could be very valuable.

The Nininger Moments are articles or books written originally by Harvey Nininger and put into a consolidated form by Al Mitterling. Some of the items written in the moments might be old out dated material and the reader is advised to keep this in mind.

–AL Mitterling

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