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Hunting The ZEL: page #4

by Curtis Peebles
Copyright 1999


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The ZEL F-100 Crash Site

The F-100 had hit the ground flat and right side up. No impact crater was visible. The plane's nose had been pointed towards the northwest when it hit. There were two main areas of debris, one from the cockpit area, and the other from the aft fuselage and engine. Surrounding these two areas was a circular pattern of fragments extending perhaps 20 to 30 feet away. As we had expected, the main debris field was about the same size as the airplane.

Contrary to what one might assume, the debris was not simply shredded aluminum. In the cockpit debris were found colored plastic fragments, a switch cover marked "jettison", a large amount of glass and plastic from the windshield, various pieces of the instruments, and also the remnants of 1950s vintage electronic components. This was not simply a pile of aluminum, but the remnants of a complex, structured object.

The other area of debris was from the aft fuselage and engine. Among the parts found here were a burned Pratt & Whitney engine placard, and an inspection port cover with the words "Pylon Ejection Breach Access" painted on it. Nearby was a section of wire-wrapped hose. Several of the pieces, including the inspection port cover, had part numbers.

While we collected the debris, Lunsford photographed us with my camera, and Merlin and Tschida returned with the vehicles. Merlin dug in the area of the engine debris with a gardening tool. The surface of the ground was discolored, and, as Merlin dug down, he came across burned dirt which still smelled of jet fuel after 40 years. It is probable that we were, in fact the first to visit the crash site in 40 years. There was no evidence of recent digging, and the surface debris did not seem to have been disturbed. We spent about an hour at the site, then loaded the trophies of the hunt and headed back.

The debris was formally identified by the part numbers. They indicated it was from an F-100D, the same model as that lost in the crash. We also found two pieces of the plane's skin that were covered with black paint and narrow white stripes. This pattern was unique to the specific F-100D which was lost. It covered the plane's underside, and the left sides of its fuselage and the vertical tail. (The vertical tail's right side was painted dayglow orange, and this is visible in the overhead shot.) Lunsford's account of the ZEL's discovery was printed in the November 23, 1998 issue of the Dallas Morning News, and was subsequently carried by other papers.

ZEL's Implications For Roswell

It was the Roswell Incident which set all this in motion, and it is to Roswell that we must return. Having searched the desert, I can say with assurance that if an alien spaceship really did crash in New Mexico, or anywhere else on Earth, there will be debris. It is not possible to clean up every trace. The experience of the ZEL search, however, also points out the difficulties of finding it. We had photos and press accounts of the crash, which limited the area we had to search. Despite this, and the care with which we made the search, it was chance which finally led to success. We walked through the general area of the crash three times - first when we crossed the fence heading east, second when Moore and I walked back to the fence and Merlin and Tschida returned to the vehicles, and finally when we went to see what Lunsford had found. It was not until he found that first fragment that we knew we were close.

It is an entirely different matter if, as with Roswell, all you have is something as vague as 175 miles northwest of Roswell. Even if debris from a UFO was there, a person could spend a lifetime searching for it and never find it. Even with a more specific crash site (and there are now 6 at last count), there are problems.

We had photos, but it was not until we found the ZEL F-100 did we realize how they had led us astray. Based on the photos, we were looking for a site with rolling terrain. We kept looking for a rise. When we finally found the site, the ground was as flat as a pancake. The rolling terrain was an illusion created by the poor quality of the images. Additionally, there was more brush at the site than appeared in the overhead shot. It had grown in the 40 years since the crash.

But if you should go looking for the debris of a crashed UFO at Roswell, I do have one final bit of advice.

Don't go looking in June....


Curtis Peebles has written many books including:

He has also been featured on A&E and The Learning Channel


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The opinions in this article are exclusively those of Curtis Peebles based on his experience and many years of research and do not necessarily reflect those of "The San Diego UFO Information Homepage" or other organizations represented at this website. - Paul

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