A prominent UFO sighting in Central Hawke's Bay half a century ago remains a mystery despite what became common acceptance of its authenticity.

The sighting, at "close quarters", was made 50 years ago on a Wednesday by security officer John Cudby during his rounds at the Waipukurau Aerodrome.

Following up suspicions a loose dog was on the grounds and concerns about sheep that appeared to have been herded into the corner of a paddock, the now-late Cudby had, on later reflection, had his awareness of something less natural aroused when he heard a "humming" similar to that of a vacuum cleaner.

With his own dog growling and spotting unusual reflections in the windows of a hangar, he turned to see three lights — two green separated by a red light — coming from something that appeared to be hovering about 20m above the ground. The humming appeared to be also coming from the "large object" in the air.

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Cudby ran to his vehicle, and grabbed a light which he managed to play on to the object, as the humming increased to a louder whining and he became aware of the size of the suspended object he estimated to be at least 20m across.

"It tilted towards me and shot up into the sky at an angle," he wrote in a report reproduced in later UFO research.

"The windsock on top of the hangar started rotating very fast and squeaking, and I was distracted by this, but suddenly the sock stood straight out from the pole and then dropped, as if cut with a knife."

Cudby said he ran behind the hangar, but the object had vanished. He then measured 19 paces where the air above the ground appeared warm, immediately below where he estimated the object had been hovering. The grass on one hand was warm, on the other it was wet.

He then headed for the police station to report the incident, assessing the object had headed in the direction of Pukeora to the southwest of the town, in the direction where two farming families reported they had heard what they thought was a jet passing over, or even closer, in trouble and looking for somewhere to land.

A farmer apparently not linked to the two who'd heard the jet-sounding noise was to reveal his sheep had been unusually disturbed about the same time. And a visitor to Hawke's Bay driving State Highway 2 over Pukeora Hill towards Waipukurau and overlooking the aerodrome in the distance reported what appeared to be a "dark" object over the area, on what was clear early-morning conditions with a starry sky.

"I had often read about UFOs, and always sceptical about them," the visitor said.

"Then I realised 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 southwards."

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The report said that neither Cudby nor the traveller, a Mr Grant, knew that either had separately reported what they had seen.

Cudby's son, Mike, remains in Waipukurau and said this week he remembered overhearing the subject being talked about by his father.

Another from the area recalled there was some scepticism about the accuracy of what witnesses had seen, but added: "At the end, I think it seemed there was something in it."