Pilots and generals go public about UFOs

In a new book by U.S. author Leslie Kean, former government officials in several countries say it’s time to take the subject seriously

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      Eleven years ago, on a clear August morning, Surrey resident Gord Heath witnessed something he’ll never forget.

      At the time, he was living in a townhouse with a balcony at the back where he could watch the planes overhead, on their way to the airport on Sea Island in Richmond.

      In an interview in the Georgia Straight boardroom, Heath said that as he was watching a plane cruise past, he noticed a contrail shoot at stunning speed over the aircraft before suddenly halting. Then the plume disappeared.

      “It was travelling at least 10 times as fast as the jet,” Heath recalled. “When it stopped, it looked like a light in the sky.”

      Heath said he ran inside to grab his binoculars. Upon closer examination, he claimed, the unidentified flying object resembled a sphere with a silvery-gold colour—not metallic, but with more of a pearly texture.

      Approximately five minutes later, it floated away. “I was just kind of fascinated,” Heath stated. “It was, you know, ”˜Wow, that’s weird.’ ”

      Afterward, Heath hooked up with the citizens’ group UFO B.C., which investigates sightings of unexplained aerial phenomena in this province and the Yukon.

      Now a director of the organization, he spoke to the Straight a few days before the August 10 release of the book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record (Harmony Books, $30.99), which has been widely anticipated by Heath and others interested in the subject.

      Written by New York journalist Leslie Kean, UFOs advocates the creation of a small U.S. government office that will work with other countries already formally investigating and reporting on UFO sightings.

      “The first step is to bring credibility to the subject—to make it clear within the mainstream that there are high-level military and government officials and aviation officials around the world who have been collecting data on these UFO events,” Kean told the Straight by phone from Wellfleet, Massachusetts. “And it’s worthy of consideration because of the credibility of those people.”

      UFOs has attracted high praise from people you wouldn’t expect to be interested in flying saucers.

      For example, research astronomer Rudy Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics calls it a “terrific book, researched with great care and precision”.

      Former president Bill Clinton’s director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Neal Lane, describes it as a “fascinating, thought-provoking book”. Renowned physicist Michio Kaku says it’s “bound to set the gold standard for UFO research”.

      Clinton’s former chief of staff, John Podesta, wrote the foreword. He also cochaired President Barack Obama’s transition team.

      “The American people—and people around the world—want to know, and they can handle the truth,” Podesta states in the book.

      Kean said she first became interested in UFOs 10 years ago, when she received a copy of a 90-page report by retired generals, scientists, and space experts in France.

      The group included a four-star general, a three-star admiral, and the former head of the French equivalent of NASA. The 13-member panel had spent three years reviewing various encounters between UFOs and pilots or military personnel.

      According to UFOs, the document suggested that about five percent of UFO sightings cannot be easily attributed to earthly sources.

      Instead, these experts wrote, the “extraterrestrial hypothesis” offered the best explanation.

      Kean said her first article on the subject was for the Boston Globe, and was distributed nationally through the New York Times.

      “I felt at that point I had a leg to stand on because I had published a story that was very legitimate,” she remarked. “But over the years, I haven’t communicated with very many journalists, to tell you the truth. I’m often surprised that more journalists don’t contact me and don’t want to jump in and follow up on some of these things themselves, especially journalists that have the backing of a major newspaper, like the Washington Post or the New York Times.”

      What makes Kean’s work different from other UFO books are chapters written by pilots and high-ranking military officials, who claim to have seen UFOs.

      As well, there are essays by government officials from several countries, including the United Kingdom and France, who have investigated these phenomena.

      The man who ran the French government’s UFO agency for 21 years, Jean-Jacques Velasco, writes that a few cases involve objects that are “distinct from ordinary phenomena”.

      Moreover, they demonstrate “a physics seemingly far different from that which we employ in our most technologically advanced countries”.

      According to Velasco, that includes “stationary and silent flights, accelerations and speeds defying the laws of inertia, effects on electronic navigation or transmission systems, and the apparent ability to induce electrical blackouts”.

      He also states that in these rare cases, the UFOs appear to be under some kind of “intelligent control”.

      “I am fascinated with the possible correlation between nuclear activity, the location of nuclear weapon storage facilities, and the presence of UFOs,” Velasco observes in the book. “We can see on a graph the relationship between atomic explosions and visual/radar sightings, by looking at the similarity in the two curves. We can’t be certain why, but perhaps UFOs are ”˜monitoring,’ and this activity was heightened during times of dangerous nuclear activity on the planet.”

      During her interview with the Straight, Kean pointed out that many things can be mistaken for a UFO. They include weather balloons, flares, planes flying in formation, secret military aircraft, birds reflecting sunlight, blimps, helicopters, and planets such as Venus and Mars, as well as meteors, meteorites, and numerous other naturally occurring events.

      “Most UFO sightings are meaningless,” she said. “They really can be explained. We’re talking about a very specific group of sightings. Those are the cases in my book.”

      She also emphasized that a UFO is merely an object that cannot be identified, and not necessarily an alien spacecraft.

      “I can’t tell you how much of a barrier that creates,” Kean said. “When you really, properly define what a UFO means, it really has nothing to do with anyone’s belief system.”

      The first case cited in her book occurred over Belgium during a two-year period beginning in late 1989.

      According to Maj. Wilfried De Brouwer, retired head of operations for the Belgian air staff, there were 143 sightings—observed by 250 people—on a single evening in November 1989. Among those filing reports were 13 police officers; 70 of the sightings were investigated.

      De Brouwer writes that none could be explained by conventional technology.

      Witnesses claimed that these large UFOs were able to hover motionless in the sky. U.S. officials told De Brouwer that no stealth aircraft were operating in the area.

      One Belgian man took two colour-slide photos of the UFOs, which were later examined by a trio of researchers: former NASA senior scientist Richard Haines, French satellite-imagery specialist Franí§ois Louange, and University of Paris-Sud professor André Marion.

      They concluded that there was no tampering with the slide.

      Several years later, in a subsequent analysis using more sophisticated technology, Marion noticed a halo surrounding the UFO. It was in the form of a snowflake pattern, similar to the appearance of iron filings in a magnetic field.

      Kean said these incidents generated media coverage in Belgium, but not much in North America.

      UFOs also covers a wave of similar sightings in New York’s Hudson Valley region that lasted several years in the early 1980s.

      Witnesses claimed at the time that these objects were as large as football fields and could travel at incredible speeds, either remaining silent or emitting a humming noise.

      Kean said the Hudson Valley sightings generated no government investigations and little media coverage in the U.S.

      “How could it not be all over the front pages?” she asked.

      Some of the more remarkable stories in the book take place in South America, where there’s a keen interest in UFOs among military and government officials.

      Two retired high-ranking officers in the Chilean military, as well as a retired Brazilian brigadier-general, have contributed chapters to UFOs.

      May 19, 1986, is known as “UFO night” in Brazil, writes Brig.-Gen. José Carlos Pereira; on this date, radar showed 21 unidentified objects in the sky between São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. Pereira notes that jets carrying missiles were dispatched, but he didn’t feel that the UFOs posed a threat to national security.

      “What were those objects?” he asks in his essay. “No one knows. They were not foreign jets attacking. They were unidentified flying objects.”

      Pereira ends his chapter with a plea to all technologically advanced countries to set up government agencies focused on UFOs: “The United States should certainly lead the way, since that country is and will remain the planet’s greatest technological power, with a great ability to aggregate knowledge from other countries.”

      Two air-force pilots have contributed chapters to Kean’s book recounting their attempts to shoot down UFOs.

      Retired Iranian general Parviz Jafari tells the story of pursuing a UFO over Tehran in 1976, as it flashed intense red, green, orange, and blue lights. When he got ready to fire, he writes, his weapons jammed and his radio failed.

      Retired Peruvian Commandante Oscar Santa María Huertas writes about firing at a balloon-like object. On three occasions, it suddenly shot upward. The UFO was seen by more than 1,000 soldiers.

      Kean obtained a U.S. government memorandum on the Iranian incident, which stated that the case “meets all the criteria necessary for a valid study of UFO phenomena”. It was seen by multiple witnesses was confirmed by radar.

      In November 1982, Portuguese air-force pilot Júlio Guerra claimed that an oval-shaped object without a tail or wings appeared to the left of his plane at an altitude of between 5,000 and 5,500 feet.

      It had climbed from the ground in less than 10 seconds, and finally stopped in front of him. In his chapter in UFOs, Guerra describes it as a “metallic disc composed of two halves, one on the top and another on the bottom, with some kind of band around the center, brilliant with the top reflecting the sun”.

      Guerra states that he planned an “intercept”, but that the object was faster than his own aircraft, and flew over his path, “breaking all the rules of aerodynamics”. Two other pilots witnessed the event.

      A 30-member, multidisciplinary team of experts investigated and determined that the object was flying vertically at more than 300 miles per hour, which is impossible for a helicopter.

      At other times, it travelled at about 1,550 miles per hour, Guerra writes. The object remained unidentified after the study was completed.

      Richard Haines, the former NASA scientist, has focused his research on the potential impact of unexplained aerial phenomena on aviation safety. He points out in his own chapter in Kean’s book that Guerra’s experience demonstrates the dangers of a near miss with an unidentified object in the skies.

      He also states that unidentified aerial phenomena can impair safety by interfering with proper navigational equipment. A third concern is the distraction these apparent objects create for flight crews.

      “History is filled with accounts of previously ridiculed subjects that have turned out to be important to mankind, as a study of the history of science confirms,” Haines writes.

      The U.S. experience with UFOs differs significantly from several other countries.

      In 1951, the U.S. air force launched Project Blue Book, which was ostensibly created to receive UFO reports from citizens, conduct investigations, and provide explanations to the public.

      According to Kean’s investigation, it soon turned into a public-relations operation intended to debunk UFO sightings and discourage public interest in the topic.

      She explained to the Straight that a key part of this shift was the Central Intelligence Agency’s creation of a scientific advisory panel in 1953, chaired by H. P. Robertson, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology.

      After four days, the panel suggested creating a new public-education campaign focused on explaining away sightings.

      A scientist who worked on Project Blue Book, J. Allen Hynek, was given this task. The U.S. UFO reporting system was shut down in 1970, and two years later Hynek wrote a book stating that the entire operation was set up to discredit the existence of UFOs.

      When the Straight asked Kean why the U.S. government was so opposed to an open discussion of the topic, she said that the denials began during the Cold War, and there may have been fear that the Soviet Union would take advantage of a UFO panic.

      “Maybe there is some kind of a secret program that they don’t want anyone to know about,” she added. “There is a whole lot of possible reasons. I think the main point is they are not conducting policy responsibly, and it needs to change—regardless of the reasons for it.”

      UBC astronomer Erik Rosolowsky says some UFOs can’t be explained.

      University of British Columbia astronomer Erik Rosolowsky told the Straight by phone that people occasionally contact him with stories about UFOs. Many involve the Venus or other planets or satellites.

      He noted people in Norway once mistook a Russian manned space launch for a UFO. Over the past three years, he said, there have been only two instances brought to his attention that he could not account for using standard astronomy.

      “It does seem like there is a small set of UFO phenomena that are not explained yet,” Rosolowsky commented. “The nature of science is that because they’re not explained yet doesn’t mean that they can’t be explained. But at the same time, you don’t know.”

      The head of a Vancouver group of skeptics questions whether extraterrestrial beings could even send a spacecraft from another galaxy to Earth.

      Lee Moller, chairman of B.C. Skeptics, told the Straight by phone that one would think that society would be “hip-deep in high-resolution photos of yetis and aliens right now”, given the abundance of cameras. “But we’re not.”

      Then, in a reference to crop circles, he quipped: “If I were going to spend the trillions and trillions of dollars and the unimaginable amount of energy that it would take for me to get from one planet to another, I think the place that I would want to post a message would be in the local wheat field.”

      But these types of comments don’t dissuade Gord Heath of UFO B.C.

      Before leaving the Straight office, he turned over extensive reports that his group had prepared of two UFO sightings. One involved a giant object in the skies over the Yukon on December 11, 1996, reportedly observed by 31 people. The other concerned a 57-year-old mystery about a pilot who disappeared over Lake Superior.

      Neither the media nor the Canadian government paid much attention to either case.

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.




      Aug 12, 2010 at 11:03am

      Maybe UFOs are actually Terrestrial.

      It is very likely that human beings have advanced technology that could create "UFO" type crafts. During the early 20th century, anti gravity research was big, with exemplary researchers like T Townsend Brown, Viktor Schauberger and others developing devices that defied conventional notions of gravity.

      Then, as the paradigm shifted in science, all this research disappeared...

      Where'd it go? Likely underground, continued in secret by elite military contractors and researchers.

      So when you spot a UFO, there's a good chance there's a human being flying it.

      Truman Peyote

      Aug 12, 2010 at 12:46pm

      What shoes go best with a tin-foil hat? While I am convinced that there simply is no question that among the billions of planets which exist in our universe, some must have given rise to life, it in no way means that there are human type intellects among them. Our own evolutionary history is resplendent with examples of how adaptive life can be, without having to resort to the human model for success. What makes us so arrogant to imagine the universe filled with creatures created in our image? In the grand scheme of things, we are still too new to the scene to say whether or not ours is a successful evolutionary design anyway.
      Not to mention, if I had the technology to cross the vast expanse of the universe, would I truly waste my time harassing a few backwards yokels stuck on a rock in a backwater part of a nondescript galaxy?


      Aug 12, 2010 at 12:54pm

      Lee Moller is either deliberately lying or clueless. Photos of aerial anomalies hit the web every day. Note that he qualifies it with "high-resolution"- it's almost impossible to take a high res photo of an object moving quickly in high altitude. It's totally impossible when you don't expect to see one appear. The skeptic crowd all know this, which is why they use these kinds of weasel words to slip out of the noose when someone calls them out. They all take their cues from James Randi and Penn Jillette, who are both professional illusionists- ie, experts at the arts of misdirection and deception. He also uses another common dodge about interplanetary travel, although there is a huge debate in the UFO community over the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Shame on Straight for giving him the last word.

      Mikey P

      Aug 12, 2010 at 1:23pm

      I agree that some UFOs are terrestrial. It just makes perfect sense that the governments of developed nations have this technology.

      What is not explained are the UFOs (saucers) depicted in art of the renaissance era. How about the cave paintings of saucers, Egyptian hieroglyphs and such things?

      I truly believe that there is life outside our planet. We got technology from them and we made it ours. Whether they gave it to us or we reverse engineered downed craft.. I dont know.


      Aug 12, 2010 at 2:14pm

      Just to add some fuel to the "Terrestrial UFOs" fire.

      Ben Rich, head of Lockheed Martin's "Skunk Works" AKA Advanced Development Programs, reportedly said the following at a UCLA School of Engineering Alumni speech:

      "We already have the means to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in black projects and it would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity”¦.. anything you can imagine we already know how to do.”

      "The U.S. Air Force has just given us a contract to take E.T. back home ...We also know how to travel to the stars."

      Think about that last part a little. Not only does the U.S. Air Force know that E.T. exists, they know where his home is, and can take him there using existing technology.


      Aug 12, 2010 at 2:22pm

      Richard Dolan’s two-volume 'UFOs and the National Security State' exhaustively demonstrates that the US government was/is deeply involved in the UFO question and that debunking the phenomenon publicly became a matter of policy after WW2 – with ridicule as its chief weapon.

      Dolan also shows that the Air Force was embarrassed by the transparently faulty logic it was forced to employ in order to do this (a la Blue Book). Meanwhile, the intervention of Intelligence agencies further muddied the waters, as in the farcical Condon Report of 1969.

      As for the phenomenon itself, there seems to be more than one phenomenon. I’d say the Belgian triangles are probably military. On the other hand, reports of ”˜nuts-and-bolts’ craft often veer into the realm of the totally bizarre. Nobody has ever debunked the 1961 Simonton encounter, in which a Wisconsin chicken farmer observed a saucer landing in his field, operated by what he called “Italians”. When he approached, one of the “Italians” indicated that he wanted some water. Simonton obliged and was given some pancakes in return.

      The Extra Terrestrial Hypothesis fails to explain this and the thousands of other encounters that seem to be metaphysical in nature. I think this is by far the most interesting and vital aspect of the UFO question. It also appears to be as old as the planet.

      And then there are Government-sponsored hoaxes, such as the Franck Fontaine abduction episode in France which Jacques Vallee traced to the military. If you look at just about any UFO cult in the US, like Heaven’s Gate, you will find behind-the-scenes manipulation by Intelligence agencies . So there’s a concurrent effort to a) publicly dismiss the phenomenon and b) seize and manipulate the phenomenon to its own ends.

      Same goes for Steven Greer’s spooked-up Disclosure Project. Somebody wants us to focus on the Extra Terrestrial Hypothesis, meaning that the answer almost certainly lies elsewhere.

      Meanwhile, this allows the doughheads at CSICOP to make the kinds of fallacious arguments offered by Lee Moller and ”˜Truman Peyote’. Too bad they can’t turn their laser sharp intellect on debunking James Randi.


      Aug 12, 2010 at 3:18pm

      Glad to see a ufo story that doesn't make fun of the subject. So many people see these things and are genuinely spooked by the experience. If you get on the subject with most-people over drinks you'll find a lot of strange stories out there. I've personally never seen one but the subject fascinates me. I do think there's something funky going on and I do believe most governments have some idea about what's happening. The fact is, there is nothing they can do about it. So enjoy the stories and keep looking at the skies.


      Aug 12, 2010 at 3:27pm

      Some of the comments here so ignorant, We as a human race really are the dumbest in the cosmos.... they are most definately real and those of you who say they don't exist ARE scared... it scare's you so much that our governments dont have the control over our safety as you hoped!!!, The entities are REAL they are millions of years ahead of us in technology, They ARE silicone based life forms, 3-4 foot tall , and have been visiting our planet for millions of years, but recently the Beings made a deal with our government(1952) American military and C.I.A have been giving particular minerals in return for the technologies, which have not been what was promised, BUT we are moving toward a MASSIVE event where the Goverments want the major population centre's destroyed for easy control of humans with smaller numbers the RFID chip will be issued and those without a chip will die of starvation or be killed. This event will start with economic collapse Jan-Mar 2011 , when that happens you will know I have told you what I know!! and what I have been carrying as a burden is true.


      Aug 12, 2010 at 3:30pm

      The US military have what's called a black budget and that was used to develop the Stealth Bomber which was secret to the public for decades.

      The photo above looks quite similar to the Stealth bomber here:


      I find it agravating that the media will pay attention to pilots and military personnel who talk about UFOs but they consistently IGNORE the 220+ high level military whistleblowers, 250+ airline pilots, 1200+ architects and engineers and 300+ 9/11 family members who say that 9/11 was an inside job.

      As documented here:

      Truman Peyote

      Aug 12, 2010 at 3:36pm

      My dear Mack.
      What pray tell would you wish to be "debunked" with regards to James Randi? Certainly not his insistence on the use of the scientific method in approaching claims of the paranormal? Or are you really arguing for an uncritical acceptance of every crackpot theory brought forth by gibbering idiots? Our government can't keep their "top secret" secrets about the Afghan war out of the newspapers, what the hell makes you think they could bury interstellar travel with any greater skill?
      If forced to choose between the rationalism of the Penn Gillette's and James Randi's of this world, and the gullible superstition of the "News of the World" crowd, I'll go with science, every time.