Identify this Fireball and Win a Signed Book

Check out the giant fireball that lit up the sky above Sverdlovsk, Russia last week, and was captured on video (below) by multiple witnesses. Any idea what in the blazes it is? If so, fill out the form below and, if you're right, you get a signed first edition of Once a Spy. If not, you've got plenty of company. The entire Russian government has no clue. Officially.

Shortly after Sverdlovsk lit up like noon, Viktor Grokhovsky, a Ural Federal University physics professor and a member of Russia's Academy of Sciences' meteorite study committee, speculated that the cause was a bolide, an exceptionally bright meteor.

But the Emergency Situations Ministry said no, it was a local military base disposing ordnance.

The army, however, said, No way! "No exercises or trainings were held on that day," said a spokesman for the Central Military District, which includes the Ural Mountains. "No military units are stationed in that area, so we had nothing to do with the incident."

Is there any reason to think he is being anything other than truthful?

Got a theory? Fill out and send in the form below.

Name *

Is Truth Stranger than Photoshop?

Guess which of the these aircraft photos are real and which are ’shopped. The answers are at the end.
















1. Real: BICh-7A, 1929, parabolic wings tester

2. Doctored scene from Area 51; see the original here

3. Real: Vaught V-173 "Flying Pancake" experimental vertical takeoff- and landing aircraft

4. Real: Avro VZ9 Avrocar, another experimental VTOL craft (more pix, video)

5. Yep. Antonov A-40, flying tank attempt by Russia c. 1942

6. Real: the Caproni Ca.60 Noviplano, 1921 (yes, it flew)

7. Real: Lippisch Aerodyne experimental wingless aircraft (also flew)

8. Unfortunately, the Double Eagle Blackbird is a digital cut-and-paste job

9. The Russian K-7 actually existed. The picture above is greatly embellished art. Here's the real K-7:

10. Another from the doctor behind the Area 51 effort above

11. Real Navy X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle

12. I don't know. According to UFO sites, this is the alien craft that crashed in Sverdlovsk, Russia (formerly Yekaterinburg) in March of 1969. Anyone seen the Russian B movie this is really from?

13. Inconclusive: Giant UFO seen photographed over Mexico. Shame how all of the pictures came out blurry

14. Real: Seattle's Space Needle

15. Not sure

Related Links: Once a Spy; My True Area 51 Story

War Remembrance

This Veterans Day post is dedicated to someone who served valiantly, who likes old military photos, and without whom I wouldn't have been born to upload them now.

The OrbitAir Ultralight

A friend of mine has been trying to get me to go in on an ultralight aircraft with him. I'm sort of against it because of the high likelihood of death. Still I might consider an OrbitAir.

I was going to write about it, but the poster on the ground next to it provides as good an aircraft briefing as I've ever seen.

The Mossad’s Robot Sharks

The Middle East has almost as many Israel-related spy animal conspiracies as grains of sand. Three years ago, I reported that the Saudis believed that the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency, was using vultures to spy on them. Around the same time, an official in Sharm el-Sheikh asserted that a flurry of shark attacks in the Red Sea were part of an Israeli plot to harm Egyptian tourism. Israel refuted the allegations, which Since then, seldom does a day go by without someone posting or tweeting new "evidence" of Mossad robot sharks. Here's some of it. You decide.

Exhibit A (photo above, video below) is the Swimways R/C Cyborg Shark ($79.95 in toy stores), which acts like a real-life shark, capable of moving forward, backward, left, right, up, and down. Runs on four AA batteries. So how hard would it be for the Mossad, the Hogwarts of intelligence agencies, to build a life-size cyborg shark?

Then this photo surfaced. But is it just a photo of a guy and a real shark?

A better roboshark, albeit corded:

Photos of Bruce are often submitted as evidence.

And then there are these:

And finally, this release went viral (still not totally sure about it's authenticity):

The Most Amazing Crashes that Pilots Walked Away From

After his B17 crash-landed in 1944, U.S. Air Force photographer Gerald R. Massie famously said, "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one." The following compilation might have given him pause.

Leading off, a Canadian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet loses all control while conducting an air-show practice flight at an Alberta airport. As it happened, the Bee Gees' song Staying Alive was playing over the public address system at the time.

The pilot, who had the good sense to eject, lands safely. His account, along with an NBC news video clip of the account, are here:

Next up, a helicopter crash that you'd dismiss as over the top of you saw it in a Michael Bay movie. It took place February 8 in the mountainous Paktika province of Afghanistan…

An AH-64 Apache helicopter was overwatching patrols retrieving airdropped supplies…

Then—well, you just have to see it:

"Thankfully," according to an International Security Assistance Force official, "no one on the ground was injured and both members of the aircrew survived.

Next, ever wonder what would happen if you're swimming in the ocean and a hovering Harrier jet experiences catastrophic mechanical failure and plunges in with you? There's a good case study, from the 2002 Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival in Suffolk, England. An RAF GR-7 was hovering feet above the water and…


The pilot was fine—a lifeboat picked him up. He even got his ejection seat back in tact, courtesy of fisherman. In it was a—bonus—crab.



Batting cleanup, the tale of the one-winged Eagle, as in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter that is, to say the least, durable. During a 1983 training exercise in Israel, an Israeli Air Force F-15 collided midair with an A-4. The A-4 burst into a fireball instantly. The F-15 flew away with one wing. But could it keep flying with one wing? Let alone land?  Physics says no. But truth is stranger than physics.

Here's a History Channel clip with pilot Zivi Nedivi's account:

In the subsequent investigation, McDonnell Douglas officials believed the plane to have been involved in a taxiing accident. A flight with just one wing was impossible, they said. Then they were shown video. The official conclusion: The damaged Eagle had been able to return to base and land on account of the lift generated by both its engine intakes and its fuselage.

They put on a new wing and the Eagle returned to work.

Last, a spectator snapped the following Swift S-1 glider sequence at a 2010 English air show:

As you can see, the pilot crawled out of the wreckage. He suffered three broken vertebrae, but made a full recovery. You'd take three broken vertebrae in this scenario.

RELATED LINKS: Great Aerial Badasses: Godefroy Tries to Thread the Arc de Triomphe

And if you like stories (albeit made-up) with plane and helicopter crashes and explosions, check out these novels: