Skinwalker Ranch - Season 4 Episode 3 - Mystery Helicopter

Mick West

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During some experiments firing rockets into the sky, the team at Skinwalker Ranch noticed a Helicopter fly over at low altitude. They found this strange, as they had put out a NOTAM warning pilots to steer clear, and did not see the helicopter on ADS-B (presumably their local ADS-B receiver).

The producers obscure the date and time of the shoots, presumably for continuity (so they can shoot parts of a scene on different days). But they missed one timestamp showing 9:15. They had some shots of stars, so I tracked down which stars they were, and found at around that time of day they would be in that position around Aug 20th, 2022.


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Fun, but not actually needed, as I then saw there was a timestamp with the date:
2023-05-05_16-50-13.jpg

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2022-08-17 09:15:52 PM. MDT (UTC-6)
2022-08-18 0315:52 UTC

I then synced one of the images of the ADS-B (showing no helicopter) to verify this:
2023-05-05_16-56-22.jpg
I then identified a possible helicopter heading in that direction:
2023-05-05_17-02-51.jpg
N431HC is a life-flight helicopter. There is partial data showing it was in the SWR vicinity on that day.

So, it's possible, but can we know for sure?
 
2022-08-18 0315:52 UTC
Just so I understand, this is the time that we see Bard in the control room talking to the guys out in the field that have launched the rocket right?

Is there any way to confirm that those 2 events are happening at the same time? As you pointed out, they may film scenes at different times for convenience and then edit them together to appear to be happen all in sequence.

So, is it possible the rocket launch and the scene with Bard in the control room happened hours or even days apart? In which case we don't know what day to actually look for helicopters on, though I would think it would be within a few days of the control room scene. Or maybe I'm missing it.

The LifeFlight appeared to be near Heber City where HYW 40 and HYW 189 fork, that would have been ~80 miles from SWR, so I would think that's not a long way for a modern helicopter to travel:

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During some experiments firing rockets into the sky, the team at Skinwalker Ranch noticed a Helicopter fly over at low altitude. They found this strange, as they had put out a NOTAM warning pilots to steer clear, and did not see the helicopter on ADS-B (presumably their local ADS-B receiver).
I don't see any reason to assume that they operate an ADS-B receiver; they may simply use a flight tracking website.

Remember this very similar case from 3 years ago?
In Episode 7 of The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch, a suspicious helicopter is spotted flying over the ranch. Despite having binoculars they failed to identify it, and said it did not show up on the ADS-B scanner.

[Update] I contacted Corporate Helicopters. Ivor Shier, the director of operations, called me back and confirmed it was their helicopter and that they were just doing a LIDAR powerline survey. This is looking for things like defects in insulators and encroaching vegetation - anything that might be a fire hazard. He said that's all it was. He said they don't turn off the ADS-B, but that area has very poor receiver coverage.
 
So, is it possible the rocket launch and the scene with Bard in the control room happened hours or even days apart? In which case we don't know what day to actually look for helicopters on, though I would think it would be within a few days of the control room scene. Or maybe I'm missing it.
The screen that Erik Bard is looking at when they are radioing him about the helicopter is at 9:35PM, Aug 17. While it's possible that was filmed on a different day, it seems like it's synced with the events in the field. I'm 90% confident it's the same date/time.
 
I don't see any reason to assume that they operate an ADS-B receiver; they may simply use a flight tracking website.

Remember this very similar case from 3 years ago?
Of course. And if they didn't pick that one up, why pick this one up?

However, they seem to be tracking with this:
2023-05-06_17-53-15.jpg

Which seems to work using a local radio to receiver ADS-B

Article:
Tracking real aircraft
You will need a radio that is capable of receiving Mode-S transmissions.

Virtual Radar Server was written and tested using Kinetic Avionic's SBS-1er and SBS-3 radios but it will work with any receiver or SDR that can produce the Kinetic text message format, Kinetic's SBS-3 binary format, the AVR "*", "@" or ":" formats or the Mode-S Beast binary format.
 
I checked the Facebook page for Intermountain Life Flight. They appear to fly the A109. They were doing hoist training on 8/16/22 and were down in St. Geroge on 8/20/22 but nothing about 8/17/22.

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Nothing in the local papers yet either about a Life Flight response to something that day. I'll keep looking.
 
is there a way to look up the NOTAM alleged warning? (just to avoid filming reenactments etc)

I tried, but don't know if I'm doing it right. One has to find an FAA code for the given area first. So far, this the closest one I could find to SWR:


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https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/aero_data/Loc_ID_Search/Encodes_Decodes/

SWR is in the Uintah Basin and Roosevelt is just west of the ranch, so I would think that's where one would file if they were going to be shooting off high altitude rockets near by:

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Then one inputs a date and code in a NOTAM archive search to see if there was a NOTAM filed for that are on that day:

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Which came up with 0 results:


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https://notams.aim.faa.gov/notamSearch/nsapp.html#/results

Not sure what that means, I'll keep working with it later unless someone with pilot experience knows how to do this better.

EDIT: I also went back each day as far back as August 10 with 0 results.
 
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N431HC departed The Provo intermountain Medical Center at 7:10PM (MDT) on Aug 17. (0110 UTC, Aug 18)

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It's course took it almost directly towards SWR (the white line)
2023-05-07_10-20-38.jpg

The ADS-B simply stops as it gets into less-populated areas.
2023-05-07_10-22-27.jpg

That's from ADS-B Exchange. With the spotty coverage, all the site trackers have different fragments.

On FR24, there's this earlier in the day, around 7:40AM? Flying around within a few miles of SWR.

2023-05-07_10-30-46.jpg
 

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I tried, but don't know if I'm doing it right.

I tried again using Duchense, which is further west from SWR:

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It has a code of U69 that when put into the archive search on 8/17/2022 does return what appear to be NOTAMs for something, like an oil rig but on later dates:

1683485760403.png

So it seems if one can get the code and the date close, it'll pop up.
 
Tried a few more attempts to find the NOTAM for the rocket launch. Looked at all the available FAA codes for the surrounding areas which seems to be the way the NOTAM archive search works. Not all places have codes, but these do:

1683573358507.png

Some larger areas like Vernal have multiple codes:

1683573109191.png
https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/aero_data/Loc_ID_Search/Encodes_Decodes/

I went back as far as July 15, 2022. As noted above and as shown below, if one gets close the results will include NOTAMS for different dates. For Roosevelt Muni Airport (FAA locator code 74V) there was a NOTAM on February 20 and July 16 of last year:


1683572657075.png

Every other search comes up 0 NOTAMs for the FAA locations around SWR for most of last year. Granted I'm not sure if I'm doing this right and I don't know what a NOTAM for high altitude rockets would look like. Maybe they're filed at larger central places Salt Lake City?

I suppose it's a bit of a useless rabbit hole, as Mick has shown there was in fact a helicopter headed straight for SWR that likely just doesn't show up because of spotty ABS coverage. Be nice to find a record of it though.
 
Just watched Season 4 Episode 4 - "The Watchers"
Date of the rocket launch confirmed:
2023-05-09_23-07-15.jpg
2023-05-09_23-07-32.jpg

Then the Utah Attorney General somehow produced a flight path he got from his contacts, who also told him, apparently, that it was a Black Hawk helicopter. Rendered in yellow highlighter by finger, but still:



2023-05-09_23-29-27.jpg

This does not seem to include the claimed ten minutes of circling the ranch. In fact it goes nowhere near the ranch - but that could just be from the finger painting.
 
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