Source: The Providence Journal
Pilot Encounters With UFOs: Study Challenges Secrecy (And
In January, Agence France Presse reported that a Siberian
airport was shut for 11/2 hours while a luminescent unidentified
flying object hovered above its runway. Although it's hard to
imagine such an event taking place in the industrialized United
States, a compelling October 2000 study by a retired aerospace
scientist from NASA-Ames Research Center shows that similar
incidents have occurred in American skies over the last 50
years. "Aviation Safety in America -- A Previously Neglected
Factor" presents more than 100 pilot and crew reports of
encounters with unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) that appear
to have compromised aviation safety.
Author Richard F. Haines, formerly NASA's chief of the Space
Human Factors Office and a Raytheon contract scientist, is chief
scientist for the National Aviation Reporting Center on
Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP), a research organization founded
last year. In stunning detail, pilots and crew describe a range
of geometric forms and lights inconsistent with known aircraft
or natural phenomena. Bizarre objects paced aircraft at
relatively near distances, sometimes disabling cockpit
instruments, interrupting ground communications, or distracting
The data include 56 near-misses. Impulsive responses by pilots
to an approaching high-speed object can be hazardous; in a few
cases, such violent evasive reactions injured passengers and
flight attendants. However, Haines states that there is no
threat of a collision caused directly by UAPs "because of the
reported high degree of maneuverability shown by the UAP." While
flying over Lake Michigan in 1981, TWA Capt. Phil Schultz saw a
"large, round, silver metal object" with dark portholes equally
spaced around the circumference that "descended into the
atmosphere from above," according to his hand-written report.
Schultz and his first officer braced themselves for a mid-air
collision; the object suddenly made a high-speed turn and
Veteran Japan Airlines 747 Capt. Kenju Terauchi reported a
spectacular prolonged encounter over Alaska in 1986. "Most
unexpectedly, two space ships stopped in front of our face,
shooting off lights," he said. "The inside cockpit shined
brightly and I felt warm in the face." Despite the Federal
Aviation Administration's determination that he and his crew
were stable, competent and professional, he was grounded for
In 1997, a Swissair Boeing 747 over Long Island just missed a
glowing, white, cylindrical object speeding toward the plane.
According to an FAA Civil Aviation Security Office memorandum,
pilot Philip Bobet said that "if the object was any lower, it
may have hit the right wing."
Ground-systems operators have also been affected by UAP. "The
element of surprise means a decrease in safety because it
diverts the attention of air-traffic controllers that should be
focused on landing planes. That is a danger," says Jim
McClenahen, a recently retired FAA air-traffic-control
specialist and NARCAP technical adviser.
"Aviation Safety in America" does not attempt to explain the
origin of these mysterious objects. But Haines writes that
hundreds of reports, some dating back to the 1940s, "suggest
that they [UAPs] are associated with a very high degree of
intelligence, deliberate flight control, and advanced energy
In the 1950s, pilots and crews reported seeing flying discs,
cigar-shaped craft with portholes, and gyrating lights, all with
extraordinary technical capabilities. Documents show the
unexplained objects were considered a national security concern.
By order of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commercial pilots were
required to report sightings and the unauthorized release of a
UFO report could cost them 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine.
To keep this information from the public, officials ridiculed
and debunked legitimate sightings, angering some pilots.
According to the Newark Star Ledger in 1958, more than 50
commercial pilots who had reported sightings, each with at least
15 years of major airline experience, blasted the policy of
censorship and denial as "bordering on the absolutely
These pilots said they were interrogated by the Air Force,
sometimes all night long, and then "treated like incompetents
and told to keep quiet," according to one pilot. "The Air Force
tells you that the thing that paced your plane for 15 minutes
was a mirage or a bolt of lightening," he told the Star-Ledger.
"Nuts to that. Who needs it?" As a result, many pilots "forget"
to report their sightings at all, one pilot said.
According to a 1952 Air Force Status Report on UFOs for the Air
Technical Intelligence Center, pilots were so humiliated that
one told investigators, "If a space ship flew wing-tip to
wing-tip formation with me, I would not report it." The vast
majority of sightings by American pilots are still not reported.
The media perpetuate the censorship and ridicule, handicapping
the collection of valuable data.
In contrast, other countries are openly investigating the impact
of UAP on aviation safety. A 1999 French study by retired
generals from the French Institute of Higher Studies for
National Defense and a government agency with the National
Center for Space Studies examined hundreds of well-documented
pilot reports from around the world. The study could not explain
a 1994 Air France viewing of a UAP that instantaneously
disappeared as confirmed by radar and a 1995 Aerolineas
Argentinas Boeing 727 encounter with a luminous object that
extinguished airport lights as the plane attempted to land.
"Aeronautic personnel must be sensitized and prepared to deal
with the situation," the report states. They must first "accept
the possibility of the presence of extraterrestrial craft in our
sky." Then, "it is necessary to overcome the fear of ridicule."
In 1997, the Chilean government formed the Committee for the
Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (CEFAA) following publicly
acknowledged observations of unidentified flying objects at a
remote Chilean airport. Both the French group and Gen. Ricardo
Bermudez Sanhuesa, president of the CEFAA, have made overtures
to the U.S. government for cooperation on this issue, with no
response. General Bermudez, and Air Force Gen. Denis Letty,
chairman of the French group, said in recent interviews that the
Haines study has international significance and should be taken
Brian E. Smith, current head of the Aviation Safety Program at
NASA-Ames, agrees. "There is objective evidence in pilot reports
of unexplained events that may affect the safety of the
aircraft, " he says. "Yet getting people to take an objective
look at this subject is sometimes like pulling teeth." Indeed,
the Airline Pilots Association, our largest pilots union, and
the Flight Safety Foundation, describing itself as "offering an
objective view of aviation safety developments," ignored NARCAP
requests for a response to the study. In recent phone interviews
with this reporter, representatives dismissed the report out of
hand after glancing at the executive summary.
However, such dismissals may soon lose ground. Next Wednesday,
John Callahan, former division chief of the Accidents and
Investigations Branch of the FAA, will disclose FAA
documentation and subsequent CIA suppression of the Terauchi
encounter over Alaska. Callahan will be joined by more than 20
other government and military witnesses, and dozens more on
videotape, at a National Press Club briefing to challenge
official secrecy about this subject.
Retired United Airlines Capt. Neil Daniels, whose DC-10 was
forced into a left turn because of magnetic interference of
cockpit compasses by a brilliant UAP, is among the many who want
change. "The energies out there are absolutely profound," he
says. "I think we need to know what they are."
Leslie Kean is a journalist and author in the San Francisco Bay
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