Waipukurau Aerodrome, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 1969
A classic detailed historic UFO sighting
Date: October 30, 1969
Time: 3.10 am (a starry night; no wind)
Location: Waipukurau Aerodrome, Hawkes Bay, North Island
Witness: Airport Security Officer Mr. John J. F. Cudby, age 33
The Witness’s Account
Waipukurau Aerodrome rural airstrip
Part of the duties of Mr. Cudby was to make a regular inspection of the Waipukurau Aerodrome, which is situated about a mile from the town. The rural aerodrome had a grass runway, as it still does today, with sheep grazing on the field.
In the early hours of the morning, Cudby drove up the short approach road to the aerodrome:-
“Accompanied by my dog, I had driven my station wagon into the grounds of the Waipukurau Aerodrome in the process of carrying out a nightly security check. On the way in, I noticed the dog appeared slightly disturbed, but as I had also noticed some sheep in a corner of the paddock, I thought there must be another dog loose and decided to find this out when my check was completed.
I drove up to the hangar with the lights full on, stopped, switched lights to park, and climbed from the wagon. I immediately became aware of a noise like a vacuum cleaner running down, and the dog commenced growling. I didn’t give the noise of second thought as it occurred to me it was possibly a train passing on the nearby rail line, but it didn’t stop altogether and developed into a faint hum. I dismissed this from my mind and walked to the hangar to carry out my check. The dog was now beginning to growl all the more but was still under my control. At the hangar, I was checking a glass paneled door when I realized that reflected in the glass were three lights which I could not account for. Lights from Waipukurau town-ship were always reflected but these other three were something new. I looked over my shoulder to locate them and saw the dog was facing in the reverse direction and growling at the three lights, which were coloured two green and one red, the red being the centre one. It was then I found these lights were coming from a large object hovering about sixty feet above the ground, and immediately associated the faint humming noise as coming from this object. I stared for a few seconds, the dog now barking and growling, then ran to the wagon to switch on the searchlight. Although I carried a hand torch, I never thought to use it.
The dog was now uncontrollable – barking, growling, running around in circles and completely ignoring my commands. In climbing into the wagon to operate the light, I gave my head a nasty bump, but managed to get the light on and swept it up and across the object. The action of the light hitting the object seemed to act as a “switch”, for immediately motors started up with a loud whine, gradually increasing in sound until the noise seemed to go right through me. I saw the object was of enormous size, at least sixty feet across and around 12 feet in height – it was enormous! The object had diffused lighting like a rainbow coming from underneath, but I could not see the source of these lights. These were dullish, but became more brilliant as the motor noise increased, but did not become as bright as the ones on the top part (of the object).
It tilted towards me and shot up into the sky at an angle, passing by the hangar very close. The windsock on top of the hangar commenced rotating very fast and squeaking, and I was distracted by this, but suddenly the sock stood straight out and then dropped as if cut with a knife. I then ran round the hangar to see where the object was, but it had vanished. I then felt around for dry grass at the site, found where the wet and hot dry grass met, placed my torch as a marker, and paced out nineteen yard-long paces where the object had hovered. The air had also become very warm.
I had got the dog into the wagon before this, and it was still acting up – running around in the wagon, barking and growling. I drove off feeling really frightened and with the odd feeling that I could have been on the moon and had seen something that nobody else on earth had seen.”
Cudby quickly went to the railway station, as was his custom to have a cup of tea with the porter on early morning duty. By this time, the dog had quieted down, but the porter remarked to Cudby that he looked as though he had just seen a ghost and asked what had happened. He related his story to the porter.
His patrol now over, Cudby returned to his home at 4 am, woke his wife and related to her what he had seen before retiring to bed. At 10.00 am the next morning, he went to the police station to report the event but was ridiculed by the person in charge, Sgt Scannell. He then went to the Waipukurau office of the Napier Daily Telegraph newspaper and the story was published in the issue of the same day.
“Spaceview” newsletter report
NZ investigator Claude Elmes interviewed the witness and wrote a report published in Spaceview newsletter, No. 60, 1970 (excerpts):
In the witness’s own words, it was “beautiful”. It appeared to be made of a metal similar to stainless steel, and shone under the searchlight like chrome. There were no seams, joints or hatches, and it was a perfect circular shape, “as though pressed from a machine like a hub cap”, were Cudby’s words. Everything about the object was sharply defined.
The UFO’s movement
When first seen it was hovering, yet swaying gently from side to side over 7-8 feet. Cudby demonstrated this movement by moving his hands gently to and fro, but emphasized that in this movement of to-and-fro, the object did not carry out any veering. It was some 70 yards from the hangar. The act of throwing the searchlight beam upon it seemed to act as a switch, because motors started up, the swinging motion stopped, the object tilted slightly towards Cudby at a 15 degree angle and shot up over the field, just missing the hangar.
The UFO’s ‘motors’
Cudby became aware of a dullish noise similar to that of a vacuum cleaner having been switched off and was running down, which he assumed was a train passing. When he turned on the searchlight, the motors switched on suddenly, working up practically instantaneously to a crescendo similar to a jet engine, and the noise went right through him.
The object’s lights
The lights were at an angle of about 15° above the ground, or approximately at the height of a telegraph pole. In the cupola (turret), two green with one red centre light, all of fairly strong brilliance. From underneath came the same colours, but dull and diffused, “like a rainbow.” When the motors started up the under-lights picked up in brilliance, but not as bright as those in the cupola. In this explanation, he said the yellow light beneath was not straight yellow, but more the colour of an incandescent light bulb – whitish-cream. Cudby was able to traverse the object vertically and horizontally three times each way with the spotlight, each scan took about three seconds thus the inspection must have taken about 18 seconds.
Cudby kept referring to “they”, meaning an actual crew. Asked about this he said he did not at any time see anything or anybody, or movement indicating the object was manned, but strongly believes the object was under someone’s control. His reasons were:
- The gentle swaying motion which he thought could not be carried out without a master hand at controls.
- He felt the object was hovering at a point of control where it was now at stalling speed; this could not be carried out by automation. His remarks here were, “Boy, they must have a wonderful system to control such a craft as this was controlled.”
- The motors started up the moment his searchlight struck the object and he felt this was an indication the object was manned and someone switched on the motors.
- The object’s flight path narrowly missed the hangar and its instantaneous picking up of speed.
The flight path
The next day the witness decided to follow the westerly flight path and enquire if others had heard the motors. He was successful in finding two farming families, one saying they thought a large jet was passing over, the other thought a jet plane was in trouble and looking for the aerodrome.
Length of sighting
An examination of Cudby’s actions indicates up to 2-3 minutes. When asked why he did not see the object as he drove towards hangar, Cudby replied it must have then been out of line of vision above the angle of windscreen. He is positive there was no sign of the object itself until he turned to look at the dog. He drove up to the hangar with the van’s lights on full beam, switching them to “park” as he climbed from the van. It therefore appears that when he first heard the “vacuum cleaner” running down, the object was probably in the act of sinking slowly towards the ground, and Cudby never thought to look up, thinking it was a train.
A female German shepherd, well-trained to command; a typical police dog. Cudby claims the dog was not frightened in any way, but he thought within the sound of the motors there was also possibly a higher-pitched noise which he could not hear, but which affected the dog. As the sound became louder, so too did the dog’s behaviour worsen, and it refused all commands. Even when the object had gone, the dog continued to act up. He finally only got the dog into the van by catching it between his legs and lifting it bodily into the wagon.
The witness’s reactions
Cudby suffered fright, curiosity, and felt his hair was standing on end. Later during the day, he suffered a severe headache which extended into the next day – about 32 hours.
- An anonymous farmer claims his sheep were disturbed at this time (newspaper report 30/10/69).
- Cudby stated that he had found two other farming families who thought they had heard a large “jet” pass over at 3.00 am.
- A Christchurch traveler coming down Pukeora Hill at the time, saw a large dark object over the aerodrome (newspaper report 31/10/69). He stated:
“It was a clear morning, darkness, but with the stars showing. I was driving down Pukeora Hill when my attention was attracted by an object hovering away over to the right. It must have been somewhere near the aerodrome. I had often read about UFOs, and was always skeptical about them. Then I realized with a kind of sick shock that I was looking at one. The object appeared to be circular, and was stationary about 100 feet above the ground when I first saw it. Then, it gradually gained height, and abruptly took off.”
- When the story was published in the newspaper, more corroboration came when Cudby was contacted by three people. One, a Mr. Jock McGlone of 47 Racecourse Road, whose house was a half a mile to the east of the aerodrome, said he had got out of bed at about 3.10 am and had heard a loud noise which he thought had been a fast car. Peggy Shanks, whose house was on the other side of the aerodrome, said that at about the same time in the UFO was sighted she was woken by a loud noise. She thought it sounded like an aircraft accelerating prior to crashing and was just going to wake up her husband when the noise stopped. Another resident, whose home was about a half a mile from the aerodrome, was awakened just after 3.00 am for no apparent reason. He reported to the newspapers that on going outside, he found the sheep on his property very disturbed which he could not explain at the time.
A UFO hotspot?
Central/southern Hawkes Bay has a history of UFO sightings occurring around the late 60s and on into the mid 70s – well documented cases such as Mr. Cudby’s sighting. I had my own remarkable sighting in 1975, only a few kilometers from Waipukurau – a daytime sighting which culminated in our car being lifted off the road by a massive sphere of light, resulting in approximately 90 minutes of missing time. As yet there is no obvious reason for this decade long concentration of UFO sightings.
Suzy Hansen © 2019
- SATCU magazine Newsletter No 65, Nov-Dec 1969, report by Wynn Craven
- ‘Spaceview’, New Zealand Scientific Space Research Quarterly, Journal No 60 1970, report by Claude Elmes
- Napier Daily Telegraph
- UFOCUS NZ archive