The subject of UFOs remains a non-issue for most people until they see an unidentified object in the sky. But since most people have never seen one, the question "Are there UFOs or flying saucers from other planets?" has very little relevance except as the punch line of jokes.
Military and commercial air pilots are perhaps the best and most credible witnesses to come forward in recent years. A groundbreaking new book, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record, by Leslie Kean, has been called "the most important book on the phenomenon in a generation."
The preferred replacement term for UFO among credible sources is UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena, meaning (as defined by NASA senior scientist Richard Haines), objects "which do not suggest a logical, conventional flying object and which remain unidentified after close scrutiny of all available evidence."
Many objects in the sky are misidentified as UAPs -- from weather balloons, the planets Venus or Mars, to satellites and ice crystals. Kean reports that "roughly 90 to 95 percent of UFO sightings can be explained." The author advocates a kind of agnosticism when it comes to UFOs. Skepticism helps, Kean says, because "the UFO debate fuels two polarities, both representing untenable positions," meaning the two camps of believers and total debunkers.
Major General Wilfried De Brouwer headed the Operations Division in the Belgian Air Staff and helped investigate a rash of sightings over Belgium in 1989. For two years hundreds of people in Belgium saw what Kean describes as "a majestic triangular craft with a span of approximately a hundred and twenty feet and powerful beaming spotlights." The craft moved at a snail's pace and made no noise but could accelerate instantly. The situation was so serious that Belgium's defense minister, Guy Coeme, asked De Brouwer to handle the sightings. The consensus then was that something was invading Belgian airspace. During his investigation, De Brouwer interviewed hundreds of eyewitnesses.
One of De Brouwer's interviewees, Colonel Andred Amond, a former director of military infrastructure for the Belgian Army, reported seeing a craft flying close to the earth while driving with his wife. Colonel Amond filed a report as well as drawings of the object to Coeme. Suspicions that the wave of UAPs were American B-2 or F-117 military aircraft engaged in a secret mission over Belgian territory were quickly dismissed by the U.S. Embassy in Brussels.
De Brouwer, in his investigation, describes what two police officers saw: "...They described a dome on the upper structure with rectangular windows, lit on the inside." There were two crafts, one of which was "emitting red light balls." These same policemen encountered one of the crafts sometime later, but by that time the craft was "immobile and silent, but it suddenly transmitted a hissing sound and reduced the intensity of the lights." Both officers then saw a red light ball exit from the center of the craft, proceeding along vertical and horizontal paths until it eventually disappeared. De Brouwer reports that a total of thirteen police officers reported seeing "the craft at eight different locations in the vicinity of Eupen."
"Of the approximately 2,000 reported cases registered during the Belgian wave, 650 were investigated and more than 500 of them remain unexplained," De Brouwer writes.
In 1982, Portuguese Air Force pilot Julio Guerra was flying solo in a DHC-1 Chipmunk at about 10:50 a.m. when he noticed an airplane without a fuselage flying below him. "It didn't have wings and it didn't have a tail, only a cockpit! It was an oval shape. What kind of airplane could that be?" he recounts in his essay, Circled by a UFO.
When Guerra steered his plane to the left in order to follow the object, "the object climbed straight up to my altitude of 5,000 in under ten seconds." Guerra recalls that the object stopped in front of him, "at first with some instability, oscillations, and a wavering motion, and then it stabilized and was still." He reported a metallic disc with two halves with a brilliant band around the center. For a few moments the object seemed to engage in a game of show and tell, flying at incredible speeds in left-leaning elliptical orbits.
Guerra called the tower and reported the object, but was told it was a weather balloon. Eventually he was joined by two other Air Force pilots who saw the same object. "It came toward me and flew right over me, on top of my aircraft, and stopped there, like a helicopter landing but much, much faster, breaking all the rules of aerodynamics," Guerra wrote.
At Chicago's O'Hare Airport on the afternoon of November 7, 2006, Kean reports, "For about five minutes, a disc-shaped object hovered quietly over the United Airlines terminal and then cut a sharp hole in the cloud bank above while zooming off." On January 1, 2007, the story was front page news in the Chicago Tribune. Numerous people saw the disc: pilots, terminal managers and UA mechanics. Kean reports that even "pilots waiting to take off opened the front windows to lean out and see the objects for themselves. There was a buzz at United Airlines."
Unfortunately, the many witnesses of the O'Hare disc opted to remain anonymous, afraid for their job security, and Kean reports that the FAA "tried hard to ignore the incident despite its safety implications." The FAA later went on record explaining the incident as the result of "bizarre weather," something Kean calls a lie because she was able to listen to the airport tower tapes from when the disc was first spotted. "Official distaste for dealing with the UFO phenomenon is entrenched to the point of being not only counterproductive, but possibly dangerous," Kean concludes.
In 2007, commercial airline pilot Ray Bowyer and his passengers saw two large UFOs while flying over the English Channel. The plane was cruising at 150 mph and headed to Alderney, England from Southampton.
"Both objects were of a flattened disk shape... they were brilliant yellow with light emanating from them," Bowyer reported. After calling the tower, Bowyer says that the passengers began to notice the objects and ask about them. "I decided not to make any announcement over the intercom so as not to alarm anyone, but it was obvious that some were getting concerned...the two identical objects were easily visible without binoculars."
In September 1976, a war of the worlds of sorts occurred in the city of Tehran, Iran, when an unknown object began to circle the city at a very low altitude. Iranian Air Force General Parviz Jafari (now retired) was a major and squadron commander then and was one of the pilots charged with pursuing the object. "It was flashing with intense red, green, orange, and blue lights so bright that I was not able to see its body. The lights formed a diamond shape." Jafari attempted to fire at it when he says, "my weapons jammed and my radio communications were garbled." Then he noticed "a round object which came out of the primary object," which he says came at him at intense speed, "almost as if it were a missile."
"I was really scared," he reported, "so I selected an AIM-9 heat-seeking missile to fire at it." Not only was Jafari's weapons control panel out but his instruments and radar were as well. The object was headed straight towards him but at the moment of projected impact it disappeared, reappearing behind him.
Last year, I interviewed Levittown, Pennsylvania resident Denise Murter, who grew up in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. In July 2008, the former Optical Lab supervisor had an experience that changed her life.
"It was in the middle of the night and I was asleep with my husband and our dog. Suddenly our Yorkie was growling. I thought somebody broke into our place. He wouldn't stop growling so I figured I'd better get up and see what's going on. I figured since I was up I'll take him out to go potty, so I took him out back and a light caught my eye. I thought it was the moon, but it was a craft overtop a treetop to the left of my backyard, about 1,000 feet in the air. I was staring at it trying to figure out what it was. It wasn't a helicopter because there was no noise, everything was absolutely silent and you could see these three giant white lights underneath this thing in the sky."
Murter watched it shuffle across the sky. "You'd blink and it was in another position," she said. When it finally did disappear she went back to bed but couldn't sleep.
One month later, the craft was back. Murter's little Yorkie woke her up again at 3 a.m. She went out back, and saw the object much closer to her this time, a little distance above the trees. "I got my camera but every time I took a picture the camera kept going off."
The craft returned for a third visit, only it was much closer to Murter's house this time. "It was a little off to the right when it began dumping stuff on two trees. It was during the month of July and the stuff looked like snow."
Radnor, Pennsylvania resident Jennifer W. Stein, an independent documentary filmmaker, founder and director of Main Line MUFON, says reports of UFOs have not gotten adequate coverage in the United States. "We are entertained to death in this country," she said. "In terms of getting the news especially on the UFO phenomenon, we are much more hushed. And our files are much more closed than other countries. Russia has been much more open. In Tehran, Iran, in 1976, there was a huge UFO event that made world news and it was all over the front page of the newspapers in Iran... that would not have happened here in the United States. It would be hushed immediately, as it was in the Roswell case. Roswell was our 1976 Iran," she added.
The story behind Roswell is that an alien craft crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947 and that alien bodies, the size of children, had been recovered. Stein believes that by the time the newspapers were printing the Roswell story in California, Washington had already been in touch with them and stated that it was a weather balloon. The newspapers then recanted and had the original story killed.
Stein says that every American astronaut that has gone up into space has seen UFOs, including astronaut Edgar Mitchell who founded Noetic Sciences in 1973.
She believes that Americans are as sheltered from the truth as the Soviet Union was in the Iron Curtain, Cold War days. "There is filtered news in the United States. The government is aware that we are not alone in the universe."