Friday, January 13, 2012

A Small UFO Matter

Hi, folks. Jumping back in here quickly with something that fell in my lap, and I don't want to forget it, so a small posting. This has to do with sightings of UFOs from aircraft. The data come from the internet's best English-language UFO information site: NICAP, hosted by Fran Ridge.
NICAP has many, many good things on it, and one feature is various catalogs of sighting types. Fran sent me and the rest of "the boys" a catalog-in-progress of sightings from aircraft. This is truly in-progress so the data are certainly very incomplete, but so is everything in the field. Also, collections of data like this are very sociologically determined [ex. cases tend to be reported in different eras and in different locations according to strong dependence on sociological factors such as ease of reporting, less stigma attached, and so on]. Therefore, I normally wouldn't pay too much attention to bulk numbers in such matters yet... but these numbers were so striking that I believe that there's something there despite the data's prematurity. So... here it is:

This is my crude graph of the AVCAT numbers. They may be warped by the mere physical procedure of working with well characterized [older] data first, and that a large number more of recent cases could be added, but maybe not. This data set is somewhat vetted for quality. Many of the trumpeted "new" cases might not make the cut, seeing as how poorly things are investigated nowadays. Also, leaving out the very recent era, the data show marked differences elsewhere.

Notice the mass of sightings from WW2 through the 1950s. Although Condon's project in the late 60s gets a "gift", or a challenge [as it did on all types of cases], the spectacular "physical and high-strangeness eras" of the mid/late 60s and the mid-70s get a share of airborne sightings but are not striking like they are when you graph other case types, and are interspersed regularly with dead spots. AND, like in all other category graphs, along comes c.1980-1, and everything falls off the graph edge.

There is really only one thing that I see in this graph that I am nearly sure is solid. I believe that this graph will stand at least as regards the dominance of the WW2 to late 1950s era. The graph calls this age in UFOlogy: The Aerotech Era. It is the time when anyone seriously attending to the phenomenon would be forced to conclude: this is aerial technology. That is, in fact, what every sane individual DID conclude during that time. The USAF did. CSI-LA and CSI-NY did. NICAP, Keyhoe, and Dick Hall did. To reflect on some of our adventuring recently on this blog: this is what establishes core UFOlogy from "Little People" hypotheses. Once the high-strangeness eras begin later [with a possible precursor in late 1954], a mixture of Aerotechnical geniuses and folkloric meddlings is quite possible. But the early manifestation of the UFO phenomenon seems solidly technological.

Many "youngsters", and some oldsters lacking in historical perspective, chide the old-timers for their simplistic ET views. But the guy pictured at the bottom of this post was as correct as the data could be. He lived in that Aerotech Era and he saw it clearly. While it is true that some UFOlogists are stuck in that concept solely, and cannot see beyond what they see as forced consequences of their views, the ET-tech hypothesis for this core phenomenon is still the best. As you folks know, I see multiple things operating here and sliding all manner of phenomena into the UFOlogist's case files, but I'm still more or less with Keyhoe, Hall, NICAP, and the founders of our field, when it comes to things like pilot sightings et al.

All Hail to Old Don & His Best Book!!


  1. Hello Prof and all the best.

    Perhaps oddly, I find the older cases much more reassuring than many of those from recent decades. Oh for the days of exotic, structured craft being described, in sober terms, by rational observers! From back then, I can read accounts by witnesses who were able to describe wind speed, angular diameter and have an idea of the planets and constellations.

    At times the physicality of the period seems somehow more real than now. Saucer nests and radar cases; multiple witnesses and close-up objects. Even if the ETH wasn’t the right explanation, there was a clear sense that something solid and tangible was sharing our air-space and technologically advanced compared to us.

    Some folk adhere themselves to the explanation that these aviation sightings are misinterpretations of mundane objects. Others would pass them off as societal anxieties rendered as hallucinatory misperceptions. Hoaxers and liars would account for the rest. Where I feel caution is the better approach is recognising the spikes in the many graphs. Why would pilots start seeing unusual objects and formations? Why would they stop seeing them? What would make one decade more or less extraordinary? Similarly, why did people start reporting humanoid encounters and then stop during the same period of declining close encounters? Aberrant psychology could explain some of these incidents and yet, once again, what could trigger them in the time periods we’re dealing with and where did the trigger go?

    All I can conclude (if that isn’t too strong a term), is that something else has been instrumental and seems to be intelligently motivated – a *something* that isn’t apparently *us.* A sophisticated ETH isn’t a bad place to start exploring the whys and wherefores of an undoubtedly deceptive and elusive set of *somethings*…

    Back in the present, I’m resigned to the notion that we’ll never have confirmation of what the heck has being going on all these years. Trying to see what lies hidden behind the encounters hints at something rather disconcerting and I think I’ve recognised similar half-expressed thoughts in a couple of your published articles (‘Motivations’ and ‘We Know Where You Live’).

  2. Well spoken.

    As to being able to explain away the old core in the way that the USAF tried to do to the public [acting in concert with what they felt was their duty to do so], this is not reasonably possible, and the Air Force knew it. J.Allen Hynek, who had a lot farther to go in terms of eradicating bias in his mind than they did [being an establishment astronomer], also had the creeping feeling almost immediately that he could not explain the subject away. He fought like crazy to stay within his biases on this. He wanted the unknowns to be "nocturnal meandering lights", some sort of natural phenomenon, and he could have been correct for a select group of ball-of-light incidents. But back in his mind the , for him disturbing [this was challenging his foundational view of the universe], gnawing awareness was growing that his worldview was simply wrong. As life-with-UFOs went forward, Hynek fought against the "visiting ET" hypothesis till the day he died, as far as I know. The astronomers' universe was just too big and empty to allow ET to get here. So he tended to go a Valleean way: to something like a psychic theory --- which, almost amusingly, he felt less challenging to his astronomy-based worldview. Of course, being a timid man, he never voiced this too loudly. I would have loved to have sat with him and discussed a "Little People" hypothesis and see how far he'd be willing to go with that. Probably only Vallee might have that answer.

    As to actually getting a solution: maybe it's surprising but that doesn't bother me. The exploration of UFOlogy is and has been a great adventure. It involves a "true" mystery field, which gives it its zest. Even though you do not "solve" the mystery, you DO continually SEE bits of it more clearly --- the adventure is not frustrating if you choose not to let it be so. And, blessedly, it is not easily laid to rest on "the shelf". I think that our old weary world needs some mysteries that everyday folks without access to particle colliders can explore. Thanks to the UFOs at least for that.

  3. > It is the time when anyone seriously attending to the phenomenon would be forced to conclude: this is aerial technology

    I'm two chapters into "Flying Saucer Conspiracy" and notice Keyhoe does something strange. Discussing the phenomenon in general, he uses the term "UFO," but when discussing cases, he drops it entirely and uses the terms "flying saucers" and "machines." His certainty seems rather dogmatic.

  4. Yes, Keyhoe had a very fixed view of the nature of UFOs from early on in his investigations. This could have been a fatal flaw in his reasoning processes as he went forward in his studies, and it DID blind him to many "details" and potential extensions of his ideas. What Keyhoe's biases were is, thankfully, quite beside the point. This is because it is the UFO phenomenon itself which calls the shots, not what the Grand Old Man had to say. His second book was his best not because of his biases, but because he had cases given him by the USAF which were unexplainable, and, admirably, he remained true to the facts within those reports. Keyhoe's style makes it ridiculously easy to separate the actual case information from his own speculations. He's wrong about MOST of his speculations [ex. origin on Mars; dangerous to pilots; possible ultimate invasion...etc], but in the end he was right about what hypothesis most simply deals with the actual details of that early age --- aerotechnology beyond what we can do. One should always read Keyhoe's books in order: FSAre Real, then FSFrom Outer Space, etc. Then you will see him gradually "losing it" over the decades until his last book is about 75% useless and 25% keep.

  5. Yeah, I try to read a writer's work in order, but started with FSConspiracy because that's the one Betty Hill read, and I am reading all the Hill material I can lay my hands on.
    You make a good point about separating the facts from the speculation. This is easier to see early on, when report writers didn't have lore to draw on, an established belief system that influenced how they chose and arranged the data. I'm finding in the Hill case that a lot of writers rely on secondary sources; the farther they get from the early reports, the more they draw on the much-repeated and much-polished "narrative" and make errors. (For instance, the Hills didn't describe grays -- late in life, Betty made this crystal clear -- but no one seems to care about that anymore.)

  6. I have a rather telling letter from Betty Hill to either Ted Bloecher or David Webb [as I am helping keep the CUFOS collection safe and orderly in some of its parts], which complains about quite a lot of things relevant to what she saw [in the late 1980s] as very poor practice by CE4 researchers. To your point: Her [and Barney's] entities are in the "ballpark" of the appearance of the grays, but the prominent critical feature of the eyes is significantly different. All such differences have, in modern times, been waved aside as selected misperceptions, while similarities have been kept as veridical --- one of the most dangerous "research techniques" I have ever encountered. I accept the Hill's encounter as one of the best "on-board" incidents in the literature, and one of the "cleanest" when it comes to image pollution. After the modern establishment of a fixed scenario for "abductions", such lack of image pollution became nearly impossible.

  7. Mr. Swords,

    I find the air visual (CIRVIS) sightings of UFOs in the Project Blue
    Book document files quite intriguing. There are even a few that are
    made by pilots and crew while the plane is still on the ground. The
    use of the CIRVIS caveat in the PBB files is very much a hit and miss
    affair. I am now into the November 1957 documents and note there are
    hundreds of UFO reports in this month. That is a major flap! Many
    of these are air visual (CIRVIS) and air/ground radar. By comparison
    the sea visual (MERINT) reports are few and far between. Those air
    visual reports made by commercial airline crews are almost always
    well written. Air visual reports made by US Air Force aircraft crews
    are usually routinely without much data. So far the best written reports
    are those made by US Navy aircraft crews. These contain a wealth of detail,
    especially the one off San Diego, California that included airborne radar
    matching data points.

    Thank you for alerting me and others to this invaluable resource.

    Best wishes,


    ps: Just after midnight on Thursday here in Thailand so probably a
    bit incoherent.

  8. Looking at the graph, one can see that as the strangeness of UFO reporting went up, the tendency for pilots to report them went down. Was this a function of flying saucers deciding to ignore pilots and deal with the people on the ground, or, more likely, that as time went along and UFO reports became more peculiar, with abductions, crop circles, MJ-12, etc., aviation people chose not to put their careers on the line by being associated with the increasingly bizarre aspects of the subject? The early years and waves were OK to report sightings because saucers were being treated generally seriously in the media. Waves are a media concoction anyway. What if Arnold, Levelland TX, Dexter MI weren't hyped by the press? Would there have been waves for those times?

  9. Terry: the CIRVIS reports and all RADCAT [radar] and NARCAP [Dick Haines' studies] type data are overwhelmingly concrete as to UFO reality when taken en masse. Any serious UFO student should start with things like that and leave the CE4s et al for later.

    LB: your intuitions are both on and off target at the same time. A LOT of work has gone on indicating that publicity does NOT stimulate UFO waves, it only stimulates people to finally report their OLD cases. This seems different with "abductions" where publicity seems to bring on a spate of current claimants --- which is why one should be extra careful with those claims. Jan Aldrich's studies of small-town newspapers amply proves that the Arnold case did not stimulate the 1947 wave but rather that the wave was going on in an overwhelming but relatively silent way throughout the country. Ruppelt found the same thing in 1952. Herbert Strentz the same phenomenon in the Condon era. Speilberg's CEIII did NOT produce a wave of reports.

    What's correct about your intuition is that pilots have had eras where reporting UFO in-air encounters has been more or less frowned upon by their companies. Both Herb Roth in the late 60s / early 70s and Dick Haines today, have tried to overcome that problem with VFON and NARCAP respectively. We need a LOT better data collecting on both cases and internal company policies to really make sense of any in-air sighting statistics. But since these data mimic data for other types of UFO cases, it seemed worth showing.

  10. > Her [and Barney's] entities are in the "ballpark" of the appearance of the grays

    actually, Betty stressed, with great consistency over the decades, how human the "men" looked (you'll never find her calling them aliens). Just this evening I read her 2002 interview in UFO magazine, V 17, No 5:

    "The creatures we saw that night actually looked not that much different from regular people. If you were to see one of them walking down the street, you wouldn't even stop and turn around because they didn't look anything like movie aliens."

    But what's on the cover of the Marden/Friedman book? A typical grey "movie alien." Which was my point: don't the proponents of the Hill case listen to the Hills?

    > one of the most dangerous "research techniques" I have ever encountered

    In "Dark White," Jim Schnabel described David Jacobs' technique pretty much as you have noted.

    Page 65: "whenever he heard something that was new or strange in an abduction account - something the aliens had said or an instrument that they had used or some creature the abductee had seen inside the spaceship or some symbol or diagram on a spaceship bulkhead - he would note it down, but then lay it aside, treating it as a confabulation or screen memory, until he had heard the same thing later from the same abductee - or better yet, until he heard the same thing from another abductee."

  11. I have noticed, rather easily so as to not believe that everybody else hasn't noticed it as well, that the Hill CE3 entities have been crammed more and more into the mold of "the way they SHOULD look" by the dominant restrictive hypothesis. Even the somewhat later NICAP newsletter portrayal was starting to push them into a more "alien" appearance --- though there the famous dark wrap-around eyes were nowhere in evidence yet. It was the Walton/Moody APRO publications of the later 1970s which got everybody excited about these eyes, and Betty Andreasson took it the rest of the way. Since I am no fan of the Andreasson Affair, I find the history of this feature very problematical.

  12. the 1980 - 1990 era on chart, its like that because lack of report/data ? less UFO sighting nowadays or people dont bother to report ? i assume with modern sensors like AWACS / Satelite there should be more sightings by US military via visual/radar, unless that data is classified (if so, i dont understand why such information is classified as if it is a threat to US gov)

    i assume the US goverment have more data on UFO , gathered from their own sources. the reason they are not sharing it with public may be because they are powerless to stop these phenomena/anomalies and because they do not know what or who causing it, so to save face they just ignore it and sweep it under rug so to speak.

    my opinion

    1. .... misunderstanding of what is being said: Mark Rodeghier's data [and mine] do not show less UFO reports [there are plenty]; what they show is a "catastrophic" drop in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Admittedly, you would have only seen the full point of this posting if you had read the rest of the blog and connected things together. The fact that air pilot sightings are also down is part of the shift in UFO behavior as far as Mark and I are concerned.

      The lack of Air reports could be simply because the USAF no longer has a publicly available project and pilots are still forbidden to blab about military cases, plus the civilian air industry is not well served by their own pilots talking. But even with that, certain types of cases seem to have essentially disappeared post 1980.



Blog Archive