Published: 6:48 AM 11/29/2013
By Billy Cox, Herald-Tribune
Good news — Jimmie Robinson is still alive. If only people didn’t keep misspelling his first name.
Last time out, De Void visited Robinson’s only blogpost, about being an eyewitness to the famous Tremonton UFOs 60-plus years ago. De Void had a few followup questions, but some apparently ancient contact links were busted and the trail was cold for the retired astronomer named “Jimmy Robinson.”
But as the relentless Frank Warren of The UFO Chronicles pointed out, maybe one "Jimmie Robinson" of Las Cruces, N.M., was the guy.
Turns out. “I’ve always spelled my name with an I-E,” Robinson, 87, said during a Wednesday morning phoner. “The mistake was on their end,” he added, referring to the web site listing his last known whereabouts.
At any rate — here’s what’s interesting. Not only did Robinson apparently see, in real time, what would become one of the most thoroughly government-vetted films of the early UFO era, he also — same year, 1952 — claims to have witnessed a second daylight incident that attracted intense federal scrutiny in Arizona.
This one involved a B-36 bomber that was approached and paced by a pair of shiny round objects for several minutes. Every crew member saw what happened, and the pilot was so rattled he requested and received permission to make an unscheduled landing at Davis-Monthan AFB outside Tucson.
Physicist James McDonald, one of the true heroes of that distant age, reported that the Davis-Monthan UFO-desk officer saw it himself, took detailed individual crew testimony, and compiled “the thickest [document] he ever filed on a UFO.” Unfortunately, the Air Force managed to lose that raw report, and its brief Blue Book analysis attributed the B-36 encounter to a one-word suspect: “Aircraft.” Which, probably, is technically accurate.
Robinson, a University of Arizona astronomy major, was alerted to the encounter by the distinctive racket of B-36’s 10 engines (4 jet, 6 piston). He remembers seeing one UFO, not two, but he wouldn’t forget the sight.
“The plane was just north of me and it was heading west, toward Los Angeles,” he recalled. “It was definitely something round, but all I saw was the shaded side, the silhouette. I’m standing there watching the plane and this thing approaches it and disappears on the north side of it, behind the fuselage. I’m waiting for it to reappear, but it never does. I guess that's because it stayed in a fixed position off the wing.”
Robinson would spend time at the White Sands Missile Range as well as New Mexico State University, where he would join a "photographic planetary patrol" led by the renowned Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto. Tombaugh had his own UFO sighting, in 1949, which he shared with Robinson. It was a brief encounter, nocturnal, maybe 3 seconds duration, and “it was peculiar, he couldn't explain it,” Robinson said, “but he wasn’t going to say it was a spaceship or anything like that.”
Robinson, however, declined to share his own sighting with Tombaugh. After all, friends and family ridiculed him when he told them about Tremonton. And there was the astronomical instrumentation college professor who laid down the law to a class of impressionable undergrads: There would be no discussion of UFOs in this course because descriptions of their capabilities were impossible.
“Oh, he was very emphatic about that, and he scared the heck out of me,” Robinson said.
But in his mind’s eye, the Tremonton UFO formations linger, vivid and eternally confusing, visible for maybe two minutes as they crossed from horizon-to-horizon. Two minutes is an eternity for UFO sightings.
“After I saw that [Delbert Newhouse] movie, it turned out we were something like 800 miles apart,” Robinson said, “which would’ve made a simultaneous sighting impossible. You can figure it out, it would’ve been way too high for me to see. You can’t even see the space shuttle when it comes overhead for a landing. But the ones I saw were doing the same movements as in the movie.
"Two of them were circling each other but maintaining a constant speed, and their movements were very precise, very machine-like. One of them peeled off from the group and went in the opposite direction, the same as it did in the movie. And they were so clear and bright. Airplanes are painted white, but we usually see the shadowed underside. These thing were perfectly white, and I can’t explain that. Maybe they were lit internally, I don’t know.”
Someday, Robinson says, he’ll get around to blogging about the B-36. He chuckles at the Blue Book’s “Aircraft” dispensation of the case, and the lost records. “It isn’t scientific,” says the old astronomer. “When it comes to UFOs, a lot of scientists become unscientific.”