An island that’s ‘odder’ than UFOs Jan 27, 2012 0:22:09 GMT 1
Post by ronigical on Jan 27, 2012 0:22:09 GMT 1
An island that’s ‘odder’ than UFOs
Airline pilot Patrick Smith writes wonderfully entertaining “Ask the Pilot” columns for Salon.com, but Thursday’s piece — “Who Needs UFOs?” www.salon.com/2012/01/19/who_needs_ufos/singleton/— was a bit facile.
He responded to a reader who asked if, while airborne, Smith had “ever seen anything really weird or fantastic?” Smith wrote “I know what you’re thinking” and said no, he’d never seen any UFOs. Nor had he ever met a pilot who’d seen one. Smith itemized the infinitely more “spectacular” things he’d witnessed, such as meteors, boreal lights, and a concluding image of lonely Sable Island, populated by wild horses, 200 miles east of Nova Scotia. “How staggeringly vulnerable it appears from 38,000 feet,” he noted. “Odder, even, than a UFO.”
If only Sable Island left radar tracks and radiation burns .../CREDIT: global-adventures.us
This is like a freighter captain saying “I’ve been around the world 30 times, and neither I nor any other seaman I know has ever seen a giant squid, but let me tell you about how cool whales and dolphins are.” Meh.
Come on — for Sable Island to be odder than a UFO, it would have to show up on radar, pace his airliner, reverse direction on a dime, and spray his comm system with bursts of static. But that can’t possibly happen because neither Smith nor his colleagues have reported seeing any of that stuff. And it’s not because of some paranoid notion that pilots have a “tacit” agreement not to discuss UFOs, Smith reassures us: “Although many things in aviation are tantamount to ‘career suicide,’ withholding information about UFOs isn’t one of them.”
Say what? How could not talking about UFOs amount to career suicide?
Furthermore, the reader’s reluctance to directly employ the dreaded acronym in his/her question says a lot about our collective insecurities. Dear Salon.com Readers: There are pilots who openly talk about it, but they’re usually not American. Leslie Kean’s 2010 bestseller UFOs: Pilots, Generals and Government Officials Go On the Record argues aviator reluctance to address The Great Taboo is a cultural phenomenon unique to the U.S.
Smith’s inability to find “the topic discussed in any industry journal or trade publication” is spot on, however. He’d have to go way off the rez for that sort of analysis, such as the National Aviation Reporting Center for Anomalous Phenomena. NARCAP published online the results of a survey of U.S. pilots www.narcap.org/reports/TR5.htm who completed questionaires under conditions of anonymity in 2001. This is where Smith could read all about airline-related “pacing and near miss phenomena” if he wanted. But there’s a larger issue addressed by Dr. Richard Haines, the retired NASA scientist who produced the report.
“Many pilots have told us (NARCAP) that they were instructed not to discuss any in-flight events that could negatively impact their airline’s economics, e.g., passenger confidence,” Haines wrote. “Apparently this dictum has been interpreted to include sighting an unidentified phenomenon in the air, almost regardless of its visual features or judged impact upon flight safety. This fact is very unfortunate since this kind of response produces an under-reporting bias by U.S. pilots today; America’s aviation community needs to understand all of the major and minor factors that interact to affect aviation safety.”
Patrick Smith speaks from his own personal experience. But it’s not the whole story. Too bad Salon.com readers will stay in the dark.