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Old 11th November 2012, 03:36 PM   #1
kittynh
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Air Force expert fooled by UFO

http://yankeeskeptic.com/2012/11/11/...r-force-pilot/

A good friend of mine, who would never say bugs are UFOs. Smart enough to know he can be fooled.
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Old 11th November 2012, 09:05 PM   #2
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Excellent article..I've shared this on my Facebook timeline , thanks kittynh !!!
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Old 12th November 2012, 04:39 AM   #3
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Thanks for posting this one kitty! Hopefully this one generates a lot of interest. I put it on my facebook, Google+, twitter, and even a direct link from my blog. And of course, if there is anything else you want me to write about, just let me know. I think you and I have spoken enough that you know my areas of expertise.

I just need to be prodded and motivated to write on a particular subject. And expect me to take about as long.
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Old 12th November 2012, 04:52 AM   #4
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I've posted here about te exact same thing. Been fooled by both Jupiter and Venus ("Approach, you got traffic for me at twelve o'clock? There's a landing light right in front of me."). And it's for the reasons listed in the article - I really, really don't want to trade paint with another aircraft.

Then there was the time a student and I saw a flying carpet...
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Old 12th November 2012, 04:57 AM   #5
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After my talk, I spoke to several of the attendees about many other phenomenon that I have experienced while flying, although those didn't confuse me for as long as this particular event did.

It's really creepy when flying in the vicinity of ice crystals that reflect your own aircraft back at you. Depending on the atmospheric conditions, you can only tell that there is "something" there tailing you, making the exact same moves as you are. When you are in EMCON4 and no one is supposed to know you're there, it's sort of freaky to have someone rejoin on you. Especially when the atmospherics end and it appears that the tail suddenly zooms off to points unknown.

Or when flying on NVGs and you are getting nearly imperceptible St Elmo's discharges. You can seem them on the NVGs, but the person on visual isn't seeing them at all.

Haven't seen any flying carpets though!
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Old 12th November 2012, 05:34 AM   #6
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I'm just a simple flight instructor (single, multi and instrument), with about 3,800 hours, 2,100 of that dual given. If you're familiar with the area, I was heading to Spirit of St. Louis airport from the vicinity of Foristell VOR (for the non-pilots here, that's heading east about 5 miles north of the Missouri River and about 20 miles west of Chesterfield, MO). My student had just called in to the tower at the airport to report inbound for landing. The controller came back with instructions for entering the pattern and a traffic call of a "slow moving primary (no transponder) heading east at about your two o'clock".

OK, so now we're looking for a helicopter, right? Not that unusual, as there's a helicopter school at Spirit, plus some folks in the area that own them, a couple of medical services and news operations that operate them, etc. Someone just forgot to turn on their transponder and we were in airspace that didn't require anyone to talk to air traffic control (our call was to enter Spirit's airspace).

After a moment of searching, my student and I spotted the traffic. At this point, I should explain we were in a Cessna 172 doing about 120 MPH. We were slowly catching up to the traffic. My student said it to me first, 'cause I didn't want to say it: "Does that look like a flying carpet?"

My response was "Ummmm. Yeah. Good, I thought I was losing it."

At that point I got on the radio and told the tower that we had the traffic in sight at our altitude. "Roger. Is it a helicopter?". They're concern at this point, I'm sure, is that it's someone with an electrical failure and would be coming in using no radio procedures.

Me: " I don't want to say what it looks like on the radio. Give me a minute."

So there we were, slowly catching up to a slowly undulating carpet at our altitude, wondering just what it was. I kept trying to force the idea of a tarp or some other fabric that got caught in an updraft, but the thing was huge and the weather just wasn't right for that.

Then the "object" descended as we neared the airport, and, more importantly, a bend in the river:

"Tower, Cessna 123. You might want to warn any westbound departures that we're looking at the largest flock of geese we've ever seen heading right for the airport. I think they're planning on landing at Busch Wildlife."

Seems we'd been looking laterally through the flock, which was at our altitude, about 2,500 above sea level, and it was dense enough and just far enough away that we couldn't see the individual birds that way.
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Old 12th November 2012, 05:41 AM   #7
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I used to fly over that area all the time when I flew C-21s (between Offutt AFB and Scott AFB). Is it just me, or did the Air Force place all the major airfilds smack dab in the middle of migratory routes for birds?

One time, I took out a flock of geese in the KC-135R. Those CFM56s can apprantly handle geese with no problem!
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Old 12th November 2012, 05:55 AM   #8
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I could have sworn that some UFO expert or other told us on this very forum that experienced pilots could not be fooled by Venus. And that was an expert. In UFOs.
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Old 12th November 2012, 09:00 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by LarianLeQuella View Post
I used to fly over that area all the time when I flew C-21s (between Offutt AFB and Scott AFB). Is it just me, or did the Air Force place all the major airfilds smack dab in the middle of migratory routes for birds?

One time, I took out a flock of geese in the KC-135R. Those CFM56s can apprantly handle geese with no problem!
.
We lunched an RB-211 motor on a Tristar RTBing from a winter flight after a heavy snow at Palmdale which began after we'd taken off. The runway was cleared on our return, except there was a pile of snow and ice at the hammerhead where we turned into Plant 10. The next day, when looking at the #1 motor, it had serious damage to the fan blades! Hadn't noticed any vibrations during the low-powered taxi in.
Killed a seagull up at SFO, doing autolands at San Jose. LOts of circuits low over the bay. Got back to Palmdale and the left forward nose gear door was destroyed by the bird strike!
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Old 12th November 2012, 09:01 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Spektator View Post
I could have sworn that some UFO expert or other told us on this very forum that experienced pilots could not be fooled by Venus. And that was an expert. In UFOs.
.
I mentioned one such instance in another thread here on Venus.
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Old 12th November 2012, 09:22 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by I Ratant View Post
.
I mentioned one such instance in another thread here on Venus.
I remember that. Despite his claim that "I know what Venus looks like," I'm also pretty sure that Jimmy Carter's UFO sighting resulted from a misidentification of Venus. Once on a cold evening a bunch of students on a campus where I taught were creeping each other out over a UFO sighting that clearly was Venus. Our astronomy teacher set them straight, but even so some of them refused to believe that what they saw was just a planet....
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:05 AM   #12
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Kitty, to aid in readability, you may want to do a double carriage return on each paragraph. It just looks like a wall of text.
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:23 AM   #13
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One question I would have asked the speaker had I been there, would have been "How many times have you identified Venus when piloting an aircraft before, but without mistaking it for a UFO?"

My second question would have been "The appearance and position of Venus can be pin-pointed fairly easily by basic astronomical knowledge. How come on this occasion was that seemingly a problem for you?"

My third question would have been "You said that the object climbed very rapidly. Was this in your opinion, another trick of the brain distorting visual reality, or was it some thing to do with the movement of your own aircraft, or perhaps a combination of both?"

With these questions, I am not trying to say the speaker didn't actually see Venus, but simply out of concern that it took some time for the correct identification. If this is common too for commercial passenger aircraft pilots, I am beginning to worry a bit.
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:27 AM   #14
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I apologize in advance for my poor English.

That kind of mistakes is not only restricted to large areas, high up in the air.

I lived in an appartement where the widows looked out to a roughly square park about 200 x 200 feet in size. The park was surrounded by large trees, but the appartement was at the second floor so I could see into the park from my window.

One dark night, it was about midnight, I looked out of the window and there was a very bright dot in the middle of the air, maybe some 3 yards above the meadow in the centre of the park. really bright and blueish white, like a diamond in sunlight.

I am very curious, so I dressed and went downstairs to have a closer look. When I came out of the door the bright spot was still there, still in the air, still about three yards high.

I went on, permanentl watching that strange beast until I cam close to a distance of about twenty feet, when the spot suddenly "jumped" down to the ground.

And when I cam nearer to a distance of maybe one yard the mystery was solved. It was just a drop of dew in the grass which bundled the light of a nearby street lantern.

Because the inside of the park was very dark compared with the surrounding streets I had no reference point for my eyes and located the bright spot ways to near and therefore too high (from my window) and when I came down, my brain obviously had been conditioned to locate the spot in the air, so that illusion persisted until I had to look really steep down.

The illusion was perfect.
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:28 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
One question I would have asked the speaker had I been there, would have been "How many times have you identified Venus when piloting an aircraft before, but without mistaking it for a UFO?"

My second question would have been "The appearance and position of Venus can be pin-pointed fairly easily by basic astronomical knowledge. How come on this occasion was that seemingly a problem for you?"

My third question would have been "You said that the object climbed very rapidly. Was this in your opinion, another trick of the brain distorting visual reality, or was it some thing to do with the movement of your own aircraft, or perhaps a combination of both?"

With these questions, I am not trying to say the speaker didn't actually see Venus, but simply out of concern that it took some time for the correct identification. If this is common too for commercial passenger aircraft pilots, I am beginning to worry a bit.
Worried about what? That there is no perfection and therefore the level of safety is not what you had thought? Or that there is no perfection and therefore UFO reports are not so reliable as you had thought?

In both cases have you considered the possibility that there is no cause for alarm -- that safety is still comfortably high as evidenced by air traffic safety records and that suspect UFO claims merely indicate that even the best of us are merely human?
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:35 AM   #16
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Explorer, here are my answers:

Quite a few times. Although at those particular times, it didn't "appear" to be AT my altitude, nor on my flightpath.

Because it appeared AT my altitude and on my flightpath. Remember how I said our brains suck? Well, in this particular instance, what I was seeing conformed to something I was expecting to see (i.e. another aircraft) not to Venus. Keep in mind, when you are deployed, it's Groundhog day every day, and you don't do things like you normally do. While home, I quite often look up tables and such to see if there is anything interesting in the sky, while deplyed, not so much. As we joke, you eat until you're tired, and sleep until you're hungry...

Mostly a combination of the two, as well as time actually passing. If we are flying towards the east in the morning, the rotation of the earth will cause the object to rise in your field of view. And sometimes those flights are incredibly boring, but you also have checklists and stuff you're doing, so time really has a way of getting away from you. While the whole instance took quite a while, in my brain it seemed like a very short time.

The correct identification took so long (in my opinion) because our brains suck. Even though I should have known better, my brain fixated on it being another aircraft. Even though my TCAS, radar, and actual instrumentation told me otherwise, my brain didn't want to let go of the fact that what I was looking at was something else that I am familiar with. As I said in my talk during Q&A, that lizard part of my brian that is concerned with threats and fear didn't want to let go of the possibility of a threat out there.

Old Aviation Joke:
ATC: Delta 423, please climb 2000' for noise abatement.
Delta 423: I'm at FL350, what sort of noise could I be making up here?
ATC: Ever hear the noise of two 767s colliding?



Explorer, all in all, I wouldn't worry about pilots mistaking venus for traffic. The potential for collision is still very remote.

@EternalSceptic, thank you for sharing. Yep, our brains do suck.

Last edited by LarianLeQuella; 12th November 2012 at 11:39 AM. Reason: Other folks worte while I was writing.
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:42 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Garrette View Post
Worried about what? That there is no perfection and therefore the level of safety is not what you had thought? Or that there is no perfection and therefore UFO reports are not so reliable as you had thought?
The former is closest.

Quote:
In both cases have you considered the possibility that there is no cause for alarm -- that safety is still comfortably high as evidenced by air traffic safety records and that suspect UFO claims merely indicate that even the best of us are merely human?
Of course! However, I am concerned about pilot mis-identification of an object of known astronomical position, that has possibly not been mis-identified before, perhaps on numerous occasions. I expect that the speaker would have wanted to assure me with a professional response, following my questions. Edit: I think he actually has now!

Anyway, as for UFO claims, suspect or otherwise, they do not impress me these days to any extent, one way or another.
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:47 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by LarianLeQuella View Post
Explorer, here are my answers:

Quite a few times. Although at those particular times, it didn't "appear" to be AT my altitude, nor on my flightpath.

Because it appeared AT my altitude and on my flightpath. Remember how I said our brains suck? Well, in this particular instance, what I was seeing conformed to something I was expecting to see (i.e. another aircraft) not to Venus. Keep in mind, when you are deployed, it's Groundhog day every day, and you don't do things like you normally do. While home, I quite often look up tables and such to see if there is anything interesting in the sky, while deplyed, not so much. As we joke, you eat until you're tired, and sleep until you're hungry...

Mostly a combination of the two, as well as time actually passing. If we are flying towards the east in the morning, the rotation of the earth will cause the object to rise in your field of view. And sometimes those flights are incredibly boring, but you also have checklists and stuff you're doing, so time really has a way of getting away from you. While the whole instance took quite a while, in my brain it seemed like a very short time.

The correct identification took so long (in my opinion) because our brains suck. Even though I should have known better, my brain fixated on it being another aircraft. Even though my TCAS, radar, and actual instrumentation told me otherwise, my brain didn't want to let go of the fact that what I was looking at was something else that I am familiar with. As I said in my talk during Q&A, that lizard part of my brian that is concerned with threats and fear didn't want to let go of the possibility of a threat out there.

Old Aviation Joke:
ATC: Delta 423, please climb 2000' for noise abatement.
Delta 423: I'm at FL350, what sort of noise could I be making up here?
ATC: Ever hear the noise of two 767s colliding?



Explorer, all in all, I wouldn't worry about pilots mistaking venus for traffic. The potential for collision is still very remote.

@EternalSceptic, thank you for sharing. Yep, our brains do suck.
Thanks very much, and as I expected, (or rather more surprised that you took the time to answer my questions) a very professional answer.

You have re-assured me as well, so thanks again.
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Old 12th November 2012, 11:48 AM   #19
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Was my explanation satisfactory as to why I made the mistake this one time, as opposed to the numerous other times I didn't make the mistake with the same object? (I see you replied while I was replying. You are welcome, and thank you at the same time.)

Glad you aren't impressed by UFO claims, from reliable witnesses or not. Sadly, there are just too many credulous people out there that think just because a supposed expert claims to have seen something, it's a UFO, and must be extra-terrestrial inteligence of origin... The local paper did a write up on this event, and one of the commenters insisted that I was somehow covering up for the government and that I really did see an alien spaceship...
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Old 12th November 2012, 12:10 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by LarianLeQuella View Post
Was my explanation satisfactory as to why I made the mistake this one time, as opposed to the numerous other times I didn't make the mistake with the same object? (I see you replied while I was replying. You are welcome, and thank you at the same time.)

Glad you aren't impressed by UFO claims, from reliable witnesses or not. Sadly, there are just too many credulous people out there that think just because a supposed expert claims to have seen something, it's a UFO, and must be extra-terrestrial inteligence of origin... The local paper did a write up on this event, and one of the commenters insisted that I was somehow covering up for the government and that I really did see an alien spaceship...
You gave me a good explanation for that, and made it seem all very reasonable.

I have to admit that the planet Venus explanations for some UFOs I have read about in the past have always seemed far-fetched, and too easy an explanation, but most of these have been ground sitings. In an aircraft, and where you might expect to see another aircraft on your own flight path and AT, I can understand this now you have explained, that it can be quite a different case.

Incidentally, do you think that mis-identification of Venus was the situation for the ill-fated Captain Mantell in 1948, when he tried to chase what he perceived to be a disc shaped object and went too high for his own good?

Last edited by Explorer; 12th November 2012 at 12:17 PM.
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Old 12th November 2012, 01:27 PM   #21
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Explorer, I am not that familiar with the Capt Mantell incident. Another possible explanation could be a reflection of his own aircraft on high altitude ice crystals (a phenomenon I have seen quite often, and been freaked out by). Either that, or it may have been the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. But I think that was a different episode.

Also, check out EternalSceptic's post. Here he relates a different phenomenon, but still the same sort of weird phenomenon our brain does to us all too often. In my presentation, I had a newspaper clipping about Venus being cleared to land at numerous airports. Our eyes and brians do odd things, which is one reason that we all know that eyewitness testimony is really very poor testimony.

Just to show you how much our brains suck, have a friend go out at night and then ask them to point at an object they think is half way to the zenith of the sky. Then measure the angle they are really holding their arm. Will most likely be at about 30 degrees. All these different biases and mistakes our eyes, brains, senses, etc. make add up and will quite often just plain confuse us. Since UFOs are part of our poplar culture, that is the meaning that is often assinged to Venus and other objects. Before UFOs, they were angels, sprites, will-o-wisps, etc. Depends on what the unknown thing was in your culture/location I guess.
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Old 12th November 2012, 03:08 PM   #22
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Chasing Venus is the irreducible explanation for Mantell's crash.
There's no other credible explanation.
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Old 12th November 2012, 03:56 PM   #23
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I Ratant, while it is the most plausible explanation, I think stating it as definitively as you do is not quite the best way to go about it. It may be better to say, chasing Venus is the most credible explanation. But it's not the ONLY explanation.
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Old 12th November 2012, 04:03 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
You gave me a good explanation for that, and made it seem all very reasonable.

I have to admit that the planet Venus explanations for some UFOs I have read about in the past have always seemed far-fetched, and too easy an explanation, but most of these have been ground sitings. In an aircraft, and where you might expect to see another aircraft on your own flight path and AT, I can understand this now you have explained, that it can be quite a different case.

Incidentally, do you think that mis-identification of Venus was the situation for the ill-fated Captain Mantell in 1948, when he tried to chase what he perceived to be a disc shaped object and went too high for his own good?
Doesn't necessarily have to be perceived as being at the same altitude. Pilots are trained that if something's not moving in the window, it's either paralleling your course or (more likely) is on a collision course with you. The mantra is "make it move in the window". Now, imagine a bright white light (or slightly yellow for Jupiter), above the nose anywhere in the front window. Since the parallax of a planet isn't going to allow it to move in your frame of reference, your whole gestalt will be one of "something's descending right at me".

Venus is particularly nasty in that way - on a clear evening, it looks just like a 747 (or E4, since I fly near Offutt these days) coming right at you.
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Old 12th November 2012, 04:44 PM   #25
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"make it move in the window" works for merging traffic on freeway on-ramps also.
If it doesn't move, and just gets larger.... two things will be competing for the same space soonly.
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Old 14th November 2012, 09:29 PM   #26
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That's called "proportional steering" and has many, many applications. Sometimes you may want to try to occupy the same space (if you are a missile for instance).
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Old 15th November 2012, 08:40 AM   #27
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Same space, same time, can be a lot of fun, too!
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Old 15th November 2012, 09:27 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by kittynh View Post
http://yankeeskeptic.com/2012/11/11/...r-force-pilot/

A good friend of mine, who would never say bugs are UFOs. Smart enough to know he can be fooled.
Great article. We discussed it last night on the Virtual Skeptics webcast.
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Old 15th November 2012, 07:43 PM   #29
LarianLeQuella
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Originally Posted by Lucian View Post
Great article. We discussed it last night on the Virtual Skeptics webcast.
Does this make Kitty and I actual skeptical celebrities now?
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