Windscreen reflections

This is a theory which, although it may seem outlandish to the reader, has been seriously suggested to us and therefore requires to be seriously considered. It appears to be true that experienced observers have been deceived by windscreen reflections in the past. The independent sighting report from the distant Jetstream remains lacking in detail and the principle evidence comes from the visual observers in the Trislander. Is it possible that they could have been deceived by an internal windscreen reflection?

All three interviewed Trislander witnesses used descriptors such as "brilliant”, "very bright”, "sparkling” etc., and in one case "brighter than a reflection of the sun could have been”; and two used terms such as "sunshine yellow” or "sunlight coloured”. All this terms suggest bright specular reflection of direct sunlight from a shiny surface. However the objects were observed whilst the aircraft was reportedly not in direct sunlight. According to Capt Bowyer the sun was masked by intervening high cloud. Nevertheless, let us suppose that the cockpit was directly illuminated by bright sunlight.

Any bright source of reflection that was imaged in the windscreen only a few degrees away from 12 o'clock and near the horizon level could not be far from the line of sight. In fact it is easy to see that it could only realistically be a reflector situated on top of the instrument panel a few inches from the glass (see Fig 36). One would imagine that such a source would be obvious in plain view and presumably a familiar feature of the cockpit. Capt. Bowyer had flown this route hundreds of times in the same Trislander (G-XTOR) over the course of 8½ years - no doubt often with a sunlit cockpit. Would he never before have noticed an internal sun reflection so extraordinary that he now watched it with and without binoculars for many minutes, talked to passengers about it and made repeated requests to ATC for radar assistance?

With the source of the reflection little more than arm's length away from the eye, motion relative to background features would be revealed by quite small head and body movements. How likely is it that a windscreen reflection (even one, never mind two) would contrive to remain aligned so nicely with the horizon elevation? This is implausible when the aircraft is flying straight and level, and becomes insupportable from the moment the aircraft begins descent, when the pitch of the fuselage varies by as much as 20°.

The reflection geometries for a person in the left hand cockpit seat and a person several rows back in the passenger seats will be different. Kate Russell's two sightings occurred each time the nose dropped during the descent, and she lost sight of them again when the nose was raised by only a few degrees. This makes sense in terms of external objects near the horizon elevation (Section 3) but is only possible to interpret in terms of an internal windscreen reflection if the reflection geometry was quite sensitive to the changing vertical angle of illumination. In this case it seems likely that when the changing geometry intermittently favoured Kate Russell's eye position it would have simultaneously disfavoured Capt Bowyer's. But there was no change at all in the appearance or brightness of the objects as seen from the cockpit.

Fig.37. Geometry of an internal windscreen reflection
Fig.37. Geometry of an internal windscreen reflection

There was a progressive change in the angular size of the objects, a factor-3 increase in apparent width during the course of the sighting. This is extremely difficult to understand in terms of a fixed reflector inside the aircraft.

The spontaneous appearance after several minutes of a second reflection, identical but smaller, displaced from the first and moving in relation to it, again progressively, by several degrees, is impossible to understand.

The UAPs were watched with naked eye and 10x binoculars, presenting a "sharply defined” outline. A sharply focused image of a cockpit reflection would probably require active refocusing of the binocular eyepieces from a default setting (probably this would be a focus setting for distant aircraft and other objects at effective infinity) to a minimum distance of a few feet, and even if this were optically possible it would be a notable activity. It is very hard to imagine an experienced airborne observer like Capt Bowyer defocusing the horizon and distant islands in order to bring the UAPs into focus along with the windscreen frame and nose of the aircraft without realising that he was looking at an internal reflection.

And can we seriously suggest that Capt Bowyer would have altered the heading of the plane to improve his view of an internal reflection because the windscreen divider was in the way? Can we really believe that the passenger in the seat behind Ray borrowed his binoculars and viewed this same reflection for perhaps minutes from a different angle? This process no doubt involved some peering around the windscreen divider and over shoulders, and turning of heads, which would necessitate eye motions of an amplitude quite significant in relation to the length of the reflection raypath inside the cockpit. One would expect that erratic and gross parallax changes would quickly betray the presence of a windscreen reflection.

Finally, this theory is impotent to explain the simultaneous Jetstream observation.

Plausibility (0-5): 0