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Strange Lights Seen by Raleigh County Airport Employees

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Raleigh County Memorial Airport
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On World UFO Day 2020, I published a blog post called 1973 UFO Flap Comes to Southern WV, discussing a newspaper article dealing with a UFO flap in the Beckley, WV area. During the late summer months into fall of 1973, the United States as a whole was experiencing quite a number of UFO reports, including the infamous Pascagoula Abduction. That newspaper article, from the Raleigh Register, was dated October 17th, 1973 and in addition to the other numerous reports of strange lights and flying saucers coming in from around the county, mentions a UFO that was seen over the Raleigh County Airport by multiple witnesses. It’s taken me over 2 years to realize that I should probably go into a little more detail about that particular sighting, sometimes referred to in UFO literature as the Howard Moneypenny sighting.  

Howard Moneypenny was a weather service specialist for the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and was on location at the Raleigh County Airport in Beaver, WV on the evening of Monday, October 15, 1973. Starting around 8:45pm and lasting 30 to 40 minutes, Moneypenny and virtually every other employee on duty that night at the airport witnessed an unidentified flying object over the airport. 

According to Moneypenny, the thing really didn’t have a discernible shape, and due to the clear night, they really couldn’t tell how big it was, or even how far away it was. What they did know was that whatever this was, it had red, green, and white flashing lights, but unlike the red, green, and white lights associated with aircraft, this thing would entirely change color at the same time. Oh, and at one point it seemed to HOVER for about 15 minutes at a point 300 degrees west-northwest.

A local pilot who wished to remain anonymous, jumped in his Cessna 182 and actually tried to go after this thing. He confirmed that the object would change color, and that he never seemed to be able to get any closer to it; it was moving away from him towards the area of Bolt Mountain. This pilot was apparently not a newbie to night flying, and could not understand exactly what he was seeing.

Darris Moore, Piedmont Airlines supervisor, however, had a rational explanation. According to Moore, this was just simply an aircraft, most likely a military helicopter, about 20 miles away. He absolutely refused to believe that the strange lights observed by so many employees of the airport could possibly be extraterrestrial. 

Whether or not the lights seen over the Raleigh County Airport were extraterrestrial, it’s pretty interesting to note that the local newspaper stated that this was the first UFO report from West Virginia in quite some time, meaning that if true, it was the first UFO report of the huge 1973 flap to hit the Mountain State. But, it wouldn’t be the last, not by far! The local newspaper would go on to report that in the following days, there would be at least 200 more calls about flying saucers in the Beckley area.  There would even be a rather significant sighting in Mingo County, where the Chief of Police and a whole restaurant full of people reported seeing something strange in the sky (see UFOs over Gilbert).  West Virginia has had a rich history when it comes to ufology, and this little tale of a UFO seen over a small, county airport is just one small piece to the larger puzzle. 

Raleigh Register
16 October 1973


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