All in all, the guess is that about 95% of UFO sightings are explainable.
They’re mistaken perceptions, things that can be easily explained, military tests, hoaxes, or the results of someone missing their dose for that day. It’s the other five percent, to paraphrase Dr. Michio Kaku, that should give us the willies. The History Channel’s Secret Access: UFOs On The Record, does a very good job of examining a few cases from that five percent.
The program is basically, from my understanding, an overview of Leslie Kean’s book, UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On The Record. Meaning the program eschews conspiracy talk in favor of quality witnesses and hard evidence, going strictly on what is known. Kean even acts as a sort of emcee for the show in intercut interviews. Five cases were highlighted. Three were puzzling as always, one changed me from skeptic to tentative believer, and one still left me doubtful. Two of the cases were the Rendlesham Forest Incident and the Belgian Black Triangle Wave of 1990, both of which have been discussed on here before. So if you’d like to know more, please click the links.
Again I must warn, when I write about this subject, I write primarily for the UFO newbie. Seasoned Ufologists may wish to skip this post entirely.
One case was from November of 1986. A Japanese 747 was flying over Alaska at night. The pilot, Kenji Terauchi, an ex-fighter pilot with 10,000 hours of flight experience, sighted two glowing objects approaching his aircraft. The UFOs “had two rectangular arrays of what appeared to be glowing nozzles or thrusters.” These objects then went on to enter a massive, walnut-shaped UFO ahead. Terauchi estimated the size of the “mothership” as that of two or three aircraft carriers.
Understandably concerned, Terauchi contacted Anchorage tower. Flight control officials confirmed that they had a large contact in the 747’s vicinity. A call to Elmendorf AFB revealed that there was no military traffic in that area and that the Air Force radar was indeed tracking the same object. The UFO continued to follow Terauchi’s 747, following every turn and at times causing the plane’s flight crew to brace for collision.
Terauchi decided to go public with his UFO encounter. The FAA investigated. After reviewing radar tapes and audio recordings of Terauchi and the control towers, John Callahan, Division Chief for the FAA, concluded that this was indeed something serious. After all, an airliner did almost have a collision with something in U.S. airspace. Callahan was called to the White House to brief national security officials on the incident. After reviewing the tape, Callahan reports that an official from the CIA confiscated the data and stressed that both the White House meeting and the incident “never happened.” Terauchi was later relieved of flight duty by JAL.
Another case was that of The Phoenix Lights. On March 13th, 1997, the residents of Phoenix, Arizona witnessed an enormous formation fly over the city and surrounding region. The video shown on TV from the sighting convinced me that the official Air Force explanation was the correct one: a flight of A-10s from the Maryland Air National Guard dropped bright magnesium flares while on maneuvers from Luke AFB. The footage made it obvious that it was flares and if not, the size of the supposed “craft” would have been that of one of the massive ships from Independence Day and that would be tough to hide away.
What were shown on TV were indeed flares. There is a rub in that explanation, however and it is twofold: one, the flares were dropped nearly two hours after the initial UFO sighting and two, witnesses reported seeing not just lights but a physical craft the size of “three football fields.” The UFO was black in color, boomerang in shape, and carrying five bright lights beneath its fuselage. It moved silently and slowly but would demonstrate sudden bursts of great speed. One witness described the material of the hull as looking “wavy,” almost like the surface of water. There were hundreds of witnesses to this event…including the Governor of the state, Fife Symington.
During the days following the sighting, Symington did not reveal his own encounter for obvious political reasons. He even staged a hokey press conference with a guy in an alien costume to diffuse public tension. It in fact, only outraged or intimidated witnesses. In recent years, Symington expressed regret for that action and has gone on official record with his sighting:
“As a pilot and a former Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man made object I'd ever seen. And it was certainly not high-altitude flares because flares don't fly in formation.”
According to a recorded report to the National UFO Reporting Center, an anonymous airman stationed at Luke AFB that night alleges that the UFO was tracked on their radar and that F-15 fighters were sent to intercept. One of the pilots returned to the base, “visibly shaken” and in disbelief of what he saw. His description of the UFO to the airman matches that of other witnesses. Luke AFB then “went on lockdown.”
Given the presence of a physical craft sighted by numerous, qualified witnesses, the Phoenix Lights have yet to be adequately explained.
The one case profiled that still leaves me unimpressed is one that occurred right here in my own backyard. On November 7th, 2006, multiple people at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport claim to have seen a UFO over Gate C-17. The object was said to be metallic and saucer-shaped. After an estimated five minutes, the UFO shot straight up through the cloud cover, leaving an open hole of clean air behind in the clouds. The official explanation is that what was observed was a “hole punch cloud” or “fallstreak cloud.” The problem with that explanation being that on the day in question, the temperature was not below freezing, a physical requirement for such clouds to form.
According to a Chicago Tribune investigation, there are numerous pilots and other airline employees who witnessed the UFO but many are afraid for their careers should they go on the record. I can understand that but it adds to my problems with the case. All we have are stories from eyewitnesses, many of whom anonymous, and no real physical evidence. I’m not saying that a UFO did not appear over O’Hare Airport. I’m saying that I need to see a little more first.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets