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UFOs: Listen To The Pilots, Not The Pundits
Growing up in a family with a career Air Force officer as your father can be terrifying. Lots of kids have to deal with moving from place to place, base housing and a hundred other things that will drive you crazy if you let them. I am lucky that I was born late in my parents’ life. My father’s position was stable and close to retirement when I arrived. We lived on Long Island and didn’t face many of the challenges other “military brats” had to deal with. However, there was one elephant in the room that I couldn’t ignore…
After my father retired from the Air Force, his up-and-down personality immediately pushed him into another job. As vice-president of a construction equipment company that sold and rented everything from forklifts to giant tower cranes, he was busy as his company supplied the equipment needed to build the New York World’s Fair and the World Trade Center in the early 1960s. There was agreement. Building a little later. Because he had two important jobs in life, it was not unusual to find my parents having dinner with the Kennedy brothers or the Rockefeller heirs at the New York Athletic Club. The downside is that flying saucers were all over the news in the 1950s and 1960s, so my father was constantly asked about them by sometimes high-powered friends.
As a child I was fascinated by flying saucers. Every time I asked my dad about them he just said that the government said they were mostly misidentified aircraft and nothing to worry about. This was his standard answer to anyone who questioned him on the subject. I would have been fine with that answer, but there was a problem with it. He was honest when talking about government positions. That doesn’t mean he didn’t personally disagree with it. We had a steady stream of former and even still active Air Force pilots at the house for BBQ or just to hang out with my dad. They did not support the official position on UFOs (a term coined by the US government).
As an only child, I spent as much time with adults as I did with children. I quickly learned to calm down and listen. It paid off when pilots came to our house and the subject of UFOs came up. Most pilots had a UFO story. If they chose to share it, they were grilled by others present in detail. These were not casual conversations. Pilots become very technical when it comes to proving or disproving a controversial issue during a flight. It was easy to see that the pilots I had heard of were unconvinced by the official pundits who had an explanation for each sighting. They were sure it wasn’t something the Russians built and flew.
Chuck Yeager, the military pilot who first broke the sound barrier in 1947, typifies what I encountered as a child from my father and his pilot friends. Yeager was asked if he had ever seen a UFO on Twitter. He said, “No. I don’t drink before flying.” I beg to differ and think that statement was an unnecessary insult to the credible pilots who decided to go on record with their own sightings and encounters. The Twitter reply is clearly his public statement. However, I remember very clearly that he said something very different in the 1960s.
When I was a kid my dad was invited to a base BBQ at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. I went with him. Yeager was the keynote speaker. After a short talk about his many adventures in the air, he told another one that instantly caught the attention of everyone present. Several pilots asked Chuck what he thought of flying saucers. He then gave many pilots and Air Force personnel a rare opportunity to hear a story he would never share with the general public…
Yeager said there was a method during Bell Jet test flights that he eventually used to break the sound barrier. An onboard camera filmed each flight. Later, he and a debriefing panel consisting of Air Force officials, civilian engineers from General Electric who built engines for Bell, and a medical doctor all watched the footage. Then, they will discuss the flight. Once he said a large, disc-shaped object appeared on the starboard side of his jet. Then almost immediately it moved in front of his plane.
The bell was like a flying bullet. It wasn’t very maneuverable at this speed. If this object slowed down or stopped Yeager knew he would end up like a bug on the windshield. While this thought was going through his mind the object suddenly disappeared. Later, when he went to debriefing, things were much different than ideal. No projectors, no screens, no air force officers, no civil engineers and no doctors. It was just Yeager and some guy in a suit trying to say that the object was being tested by a new, secret air force.
Yeager knew all the other test pilots and was sure he had heard of something as advanced as the object he had seen. Then, the man warned him not to talk about the encounter. I have a wonderful memory and remember telling him the story like it happened yesterday. And there’s the rub… publicly, official scholars were calling these objects swamp gas, misidentified aircraft, and hallucinations. Publicly, pilots and other members of the military agreed with them or made no statement on the matter. In person, it was obviously a different story.
My father danced around this conflict of two truths until he finally told me that some things are classified for a good reason. Adults are sometimes forced to lie to keep people safe, he explained. “Safe?” I think. in what Anyway, he said that lying is a bad habit and advised me to stay away from it. 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. We all take turns reading our reports to the class. I included Yeager’s story in mine. When I finish you can hear a pin drop in the room.
My teacher liked the report, but wondered if Yeager’s story was true. He called my father. At the end of the day he was at school with two boys in suits. My report disappeared, the teacher never asked me about it again, and my classmates only talked to me about the flying saucer at lunch or during recess. I told the truth, but it was not the truth accepted by the government. The good news was that my non-existent report still got me a 100% grade. I think it really pays to tell the truth.
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