The Trans-en-Provence UFO event occurred on January 8, 1981 and was observed by a single witness. Due to the French privacy laws, the case was originally published with the witness name replaced with the pseudonym Renato Collini; however the witness name is by now well known to the UFO community as Nicolai.
The account provided by the witness to the police authorities is as follows:
I have lived in Trans-en-Province at my current address for nearly 14 years. My wife and I live alone. She is the cleaning lady at the social security office in Draguignan. I have not worked since November 1979. I was previously an employee of the SCNI company. This firm went out of business and I was laid off. I recieve a disability pension because I suffered from a heart problem since 1973.
Yesterday, January 8. 1981, I was busy around the house as I am practically every day. I was behind the house, which is built over a restanque (raised level). I was building a concrete shelter for a water pump. Behind my house on the same level is an expanse of flat ground. It is reached through a path along the base of the house.
It was about 5PM. The weather was turning colder. My attention was attracted by a slight noise, a sort of faint whistling. I turned around and saw a device in the air at the height of a big pine tree at the edge of the property. This device, which was not spinning, was coming lower toward the ground. I was only hearing a slight whistling sound. I was not seeing any flames, either below or around this device.
While it was continuing to come down, I went closer by walking towards the stone cabin above my house.When I placed myself against the wall of the cabin, I could see very well over the roof, since this cabin too is built over a raised level. I was on the higher level, about 1.2 m from the roof. From that position, I clearly saw the device resting on the ground. Right away it lifted off, still emitting a slight whistling sound. Reaching a point above the trees, it left at high speed toward the forest of Trans, that is, towards the northeast.
When the device lifted off, I saw four openings below, through which neither flame nor smoke were escaping. The device kicked off a little dust when it left the ground. At that instant, I was about 30 m away from the landing site. Later I went to the spot and I noticed a circle about 2 m in in diameter. At certain places along the circumference of the circle were traces like abrasions...
The device had the shape of two saucers, one inverted on top of the other. It must have measured about 1.5 m in height. It was the color of lead. This device had a ridge all the way around its circumference. Under the machine I saw two kinds of pieces as it was lifting off. They could be reactors or feet. There were also two other circles which looked like trapdoors. The two reactors, or feet, extended about 20 cm below the body of the machine.
I have not felt any disturbance of the sense of vision or hearing.
Parts of the account obtained by a civilian investigator are also relevant:
There [the witness] discovers a sort of ovoid vehicle, with the general shape of two half spheres of unequal volume, clearly separated by a flat ledge, extending at least 15 cm and forming a ring around the metallic mass which has a... height of between 2 and 2.5 m/... The machine lifts off, making a slight amount of dust and with a soft whistling. Then it seems to tilt, exposing its underside, and it takes off at lightning speed, passing exactly between the two tall trees, at the exact spot from which it had seemed to fall.
The witness has noted that the landing trajectory is not identical to the takeoff trajectory.
GEPAN (a department of the French Space Agency responsible for the investigation of UFO reports) also reconstructed the trajectory and duration.
Trajectory The witness states he began to perceive the phenomenon in the sky above the trees at the back end of the large platform, more precisely between the two tall conifers that tower above the wood. Mr. Nicolai states that the motion was fast and continuous, without sudden changes in speed, and that there was no stop until the time when contact was established with the ground... The departure path is described by the witness as similar to the path of arrival...
Sound ... He compares it to a wind blowing fairly strongly. He does not say whether or not the sound stopped during the landing. The shock at the impact point was recalled like that of a stone falling to the ground...
The Takeoff Phase ... the object was resting on the ground for several seconds before it suddenly rose vertically over several meters, tilted... continued to rise in this position and disappeared in the sky.
Note that this object is engaging in the behavior I have termed "drop-in", where the object arrives on a steep trajectory and departs on a steep trajectory, with only a short period in the landing or near landing location.
[[For a detailed sequence of events, please visit the original article.]]