Earlier this week, the New York Times posted a piece called, ‘Wow, What Is That?’ Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects, in which a reporter tells stories from military personnel who say they saw UFOs.
The article talks about “strange objects” that pilots say “appeared almost daily” over the East Coast in 2014 and 2015. The objects reportedly lacked engines and exhaust plumes, yet they could potentially reach hypersonic speeds.
“These things would be out there all day,” said Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years, and who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress. “Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”
In late 2014, a Super Hornet pilot had a near collision with one of the objects, and an official mishap report was filed. Some of the incidents were videotaped, including one taken by a plane’s camera in early 2015 that shows an object zooming over the ocean waves as pilots question what they are watching.
This is such an interesting story to me, as a scientific skeptic, because of the assumption that these “objects” must be vehicles. More often than not, “UFOs” are attributable to natural events and earthly lights. That would explain how they could move so quickly, and why they didn’t have any of the attributes resembling aircraft.
Of course, in the fifth paragraph, the reporter does say that the Defense Department isn’t claiming the objects are alien. If that’s not the case, though, then what do they think they are?
If they think these are actual vehicles that should be bound by gravitational laws (which they do), but they don’t think they’re from space, then it stands to reason that experimental aircraft from other countries would be on the table. I asked Steve Lundquist, a former pilot and retired U.S. Air Force officer who served for 20 years, about that possible explanation.
No one in the Defense Department is saying that the objects were extraterrestrial, and experts emphasize that earthly explanations can generally be found for such incidents. Lieutenant Graves and four other Navy pilots, who said in interviews with The New York Times that they saw the objects in 2014 and 2015 in training maneuvers from Virginia to Florida off the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, make no assertions of their provenance.
“As for them being experimental aircraft from other countries, it’s a possibility, but I think remote. I would bet it’s more a case of seeing some natural phenomena and mistaking it for what they expected to see,” he told me.
Lundquist, who has spoken at a skeptical conference about his own instance of mistaking the planet Venus for an aircraft and was interviewed on the subject in my latest book, said it’s entirely possible for respected experts to make mistakes. He also touched on why the media even reports it.
“Yes, we see stuff flying all the time, so these stories are always there. It just seems more credible to the public when it’s a military pilot, hence why it gets reported,” he said. “I don’t mind media reporting on this, I just wish they wouldn’t be so credulous in the reporting, and really give more coverage to the rational explanation and how the human brain will fill in stuff that isn’t there or what the observer expects.”
I like this attitude, and I think more reporters should adopt it.
What do you all think?