UFOs: listen to the pilots, not the experts
Growing up in a family with a career Air Force officer like your father can be overwhelming. Lots of kids have to deal with moving from one place to another, the base house, and a hundred other things that will drive you crazy if you let them. I was lucky to be born late in the life of my parents. When I arrived, my father was in a stable position and was about to retire. We lived on Long Island and I didn’t face many of the challenges that other “military brats” had to deal with. However, there was an elephant in the room that he couldn’t ignore …
After my father retired from the Air Force, his get-up-and-move personality immediately pushed him to another job. As vice president of a construction equipment company that sold and rented everything from forklifts to huge tower cranes, he was busy because his company had contracts to supply the equipment needed to build the New York World’s Fair in the early 1960s. and the World Trade Center. buildings a little later. Because he had two important jobs in his life, it was not uncommon to find my parents dining with the Kennedy brothers or the Rockefeller heirs at the New York Athletic Club. The downside was that flying saucers were all over the news in the 1950s and 1960s, so my father was constantly faced with questions about them from sometimes very powerful friends.
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by flying saucers. Every time I asked my father about them, he would only say that the government has said that they are mostly misidentified aircraft and nothing to worry about. That was his standard response to anyone questioning him on the subject. It would have been fine with that answer, but there was a problem with it. He was being honest when he declared the government’s position. That doesn’t mean you don’t privately disagree with it. We had a constant stream of former and even active Air Force pilots coming over to the house for barbecues or just to hang out with my dad. They did not support the official government position on unidentified flying objects (a term created by the US government).
As an only child, he spent as much time with adults as with children. I quickly learned to be quiet and to listen. That paid off when the pilots came to our house and the topic of UFOs came up. Most of the pilots had a UFO history. If they chose to share it, others present questioned them about the details. These were not casual conversations. Pilots get very technical when it comes to proving or disproving a controversial issue that occurs during flight. It was easy to see that the pilots I heard were not convinced by government experts that they had an explanation for each sighting. They were also sure that this was not something the Russians built and flew.
Chuck Yeager, the military pilot who first broke the sound barrier in 1947, typifies what I faced as a child from my father and his fellow pilots. Yeager was asked if he ever saw a UFO on Twitter. He said, “No. I don’t drink before I fly.” I beg to differ and I think that statement was an unnecessary insult to credible pilots who have chosen to record their own sightings and encounters. Twitter’s response is obviously its public statement. However, I remember very clearly that he said something very different in the 1960s.
When I was a kid, my father was invited to a barbecue at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. I went with him. The keynote speaker was Yeager. After a brief talk about some of his many adventures in the air, he recounted one more that instantly caught the attention of everyone present. Several pilots asked Chuck what he thought of the flying saucers. He then gave the many pilots and Air Force personnel present a unique opportunity to hear a story that he would never share with the general public …
Yeager said that during the test flights of the Bell jet that he eventually used to break the sound barrier, there was a procedure in place. An onboard camera filmed each flight. Later, he and an information panel made up of Air Force officers, General Electric civil engineers who built the Bell’s engines, and a doctor viewed the footage. Then they would discuss the flight. He once said that a large disc-shaped object appeared on the starboard side of his plane. Then almost instantly he moved in front of his plane.
The bell was like a flying bullet. It wasn’t very maneuverable at those speeds. If this object slowed down or stopped, Yeager knew it would end up like an insect on the windshield. As that thought ran through his head, the object suddenly disappeared. Later, when he went for questioning, things were very different from the norm. No projector, no screen, no Air Force officers, no civil engineers or a doctor. It was just Yeager and a guy in a suit who tried to say the object was a secret new plane being tested by the military.
Yeager knew all the other test pilots and was sure he would have heard of something as advanced as the object he saw. Then, the man warned him not to talk about the encounter. I have a wonderful memory and I remember him telling that story like it happened yesterday. And therein lies the problem … Publicly, government experts called these objects swamp gas, misidentified known aircraft, and hallucinations. Publicly, the pilots and other members of the military agree with them or simply did not comment on the matter. In private, it was obviously another story.
My dad danced around this conflict of two truths until he finally told me that some things are classified for good reason. Adults, he explained, are sometimes forced to lie to keep people safe. “Safe?” I thought. About what? Anyway, he said that lying was a bad habit and suggested that I stay away from him. I followed his advice. My classmates were interested in flying saucers because of all the headlines about them in the 1960s. I decided to choose that topic for a report I had to do. We all take turns reading our reports to the class. I included Yeager’s story in mine. When I finished, a pin was heard drop in the room.
My teacher loved the report, but wondered if Yeager’s story was true. He called my dad. At the end of the day I was at school with two boys in suits. My report faded, the teacher never asked me about it again, and my classmates only told me about the flying saucers at lunch or during recess. I told the truth, but it was not a truth accepted by the government. The good news is that my report of none exists yet gave me a 100% rating. I guess it’s worth telling the truth.