Few topics of conversation have been more stigmatized in the United States over the past 70-odd years than sightings of unexplained aerial phenomena.
Anyone admitting to a possible “UFO sighting” runs the risk of ridicule.
Those on the receiving end of such an unburdening? They experience a defensive reflex. No matter how intriguing the report, few will admit to taking it seriously lest they be lumped in with perceived kooks.
The chupacabra, Bigfoot, Nessie … flying saucers and little green men. It’s a short walk from one end of that line-up to the other — and a short walk from stigmatized to ostracized, a situation most people will go to great lengths to avoid.
Yet among the vast number of UFO sightings reported since roughly the middle of the last century, there have always been those that defy easy dismissal. Reports by law enforcement officers and other trained observers. Reports by high profile people with much to lose from being labeled cranks.
At the high end of this credibility scale: Pilots. And beyond even most of those, in what might be called the credibility stratosphere, military pilots.
Yet the military branches that train these pilots and send them aloft have apparently failed to listen adequately when it comes to aviators’ reports of unexplained objects in the sky.
That now appears to be changing. Politico reported last week that the U.S. Navy has moved to draft new guidelines for pilots and other personnel to report encounters with unexplained aerial phenomena.
The new regulations are aimed at generating more data-driven analysis of what’s being seen — and removing the stigma from discussion of UFO sightings, which has discouraged some pilots from speaking up.
A subsequent Washington Post article — headlined “How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings” — describes an increase in encounters with unexplained aerial phenomena in military airspace: “Recently, unidentified aircraft have entered military-designated airspace as often as multiple times per month” …
“In some cases, pilots … claimed to observe small spherical objects flying in formation. Others say they’ve seen white, Tic Tac-shaped vehicles.
“Aside from drones, all engines rely on burning fuel to generate power, but these vehicles all had no air intake, no wind and no exhaust.” Such intrusions have been occurring routinely since 2014.
The Navy’s new reporting guidelines don’t constitute an admission that pilots are encountering alien spacecraft — but do acknowledge that there have been too many strange reports to ignore.
Perhaps it makes little difference how much we know about these objects if, as some speculate, they’re of otherworldly origin.
That statement alone sounds like the set-up for a descent into science fiction. Almost all of this does, and that’s the defensive reflex.
But here’s another notion, one that only borders on sci-fi: We’ve become accustomed as Americans to thinking that major technological breakthroughs will be the products of American minds, ours alone to introduce to — or unleash upon — the world. But what if the reason most of us have a hard time naming the “next Einstein” isn’t that he or she hasn’t been born … it’s that he or she is Russian, or Chinese, and squirreled away in a weapons laboratory?
Determining what these pilots are seeing, regardless of origin, should be a priority.
Military pilots are trained to not only scrutinize things they see in the sky, but to evaluate them as potential threats. In the case of U.S. military pilots, they’re backed by the best technology the human race — as far as we know — has yet developed.
When a person needs to determine whether a worrisome symptom signals a life-threatening malady, they seek the most qualified physician they can find, with access to the best diagnostic technology available. And they listen. Any other course of action would be reckless.
Failing to listen to pilots’ reports of unknown objects intruding on military airspace would seem similarly reckless, in light of what’s obviously a worrisome symptom.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.