Posted December 9, 2015
By Ted Roe
US aviation officials and government officials in general, at least publicly, are apathetic to pilot
reports of observations or safety-related incidents involving suspected unidentified aerial
phenomena - UAP. Amongst the over one million members of the US general aviation community
it is generally believed that responsible, capable individuals do not see unusual things. This
erroneous point of view directly contributes to a failure to mitigate potential threats to aviation
safety, a stifling of research and safety planning, and an under-reporting bias on the part of
pilots, aircrew and aviation professionals that find themselves dealing with suspected UAP
incidents and observations during their careers. Data related to observations and incidents that
may involve UAP moves away from safety planners and the aviation community. Understanding
the source of this perspective is a complex and difficult matter.
Contributing factors to under-reporting bias have been well documented by this author and can
be reviewed in detail by examining NARCAP Technical Report 8, Aviation Safety in America:
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and Under-Reporting Bias in the US Aviation System.
FAA instructions to pilots and aviation professionals that find themselves confronted with an
observation or safety-related incident involving suspected UAP/UFO are to contact a civilian
UFO reporting center or a private business that might want to hear their story. This is, in effect,
stating that if a pilot cannot identify the source of a threat to himself and his aircraft the FAA
does not want to know about it. It is irrational to be actively interested in all aspects of aviation
safety except those incidents involving lights or objects that are not identifiable. To date, no
organization charged with receiving UAP or UFO reports in the FAA manual has published a
single aviation safety based investigation or study much less expressed concern for aviation
safety factors, the aviation system or the flying public.
A UAP follows, then paces an Airliner (Images from NARCAP Technical Report 12)
Unintended consequences arising from a failure to enact a realistic policy regarding UAP
reporting and analysis include situations whereby facilities like ARTCC that find themselves
confronted with a suspected UAP-related incident are overwhelmed by the media, the public,
self-styled "ufo researchers", alien theorists, etc., along with the few organizations that seriously
engage UAP reports. Given that pilots and air controllers are reporting these events to private
UFO groups and the result is intense public interest that interferes with daily operations and bad
publicity for the official agencies and businesses involved one would think that a better policy is
There is no reason for confidence in the US government stance on so-called "UFOs". Since the
US Government declared that UFOs are not alien spacecraft or anything unknown to science
there have been discoveries of various kinds of luminous atmospheric phenomena that were
previously unknown to science including those often reported by pilots. Further, a careful
examination of the US governments public effort to understand "UFOs" (a term they applied to all
reports of unidentified phenomena regardless of whether it was a single point light source or
radiating light body or it appeared to be a structured object) does not instill confidence in the US
When the US government ceased its study of UFOs in 1968 by closing Project Blue Book it was
clear that the aviation community was not in agreement with that decision or the conclusions of
the study. The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, AIAA, established a
technical committee that undertook several studies and offered the following statement:
"The Committee has made a careful examination of the present state of
the UFO issue and has concluded that the controversy cannot be resolved
without further study in a quantitative scientific manner and that it deserves
the attention of the engineering and scientific community."
~ AIAA UFO Subcommittee, Astronautics and Aeronautics, December 1968, p. 12
Since the US government officially ended its UFO investigations almost fifty years ago it has
consistently referred to the conclusions of Project Blue Book as their last word on the matter.
Meanwhile, UFO manifestations have continued, some of them rather spectacular, and other
nations and efforts of merit have published documents that are not in agreement with the US
position. Very careful and credible efforts to understand UAP and UFO are underway. Given that
the US government does not study UFOs and did not predict the discovery of luminous
phenomena since the close of Project Blue Book it is reasonable to suggest that the US
government is not an authority on the matter of UAP and UFO and has little to offer the
discussion but dissonance.
A careful examination of the official "UFO files" released by the US and several nations over the
years since the US stopped investigating UFOs reveals many UAP and UFO reports with
common attributes of size, color, activity, that imply that there are families or profiles of UAP
phenomena with distinct qualities. Some of these reports involve aviation safety factors like loss
of separation, collision headings, near midair collision (nmac), close pacing, concurrent electrical
system and communications failures, etc.
The UK MOD report, UAP in UK Air Defense Zones reveals a more reserved attitude on the part
of governments and the military and, about 40years after the US government declared that
UFOs did not exist, declares in the Executive Summary, "That UAP exist is indisputable...... and
they probably represent a threat to aviation."
The issue of what should be done once the government or the aviation system becomes
sympathetic to concerns regarding UAP and aviation safety has been examined from a number
of perspectives. The National view is focused primarily on clearing roadblocks to reporting, data
collection, analysis and policy. The International perspective is focused on the engagement of
global implications of UAP research and analysis and those organizations most responsible for
making policy including UN ICAO, international aviation organizations, and other concerned
parties. The Aviation system perspective is also relevant and addresses the matter of training,
education, data collection and analysis. There are several other points of view as well.
NARCAP Science Chief Dr. Richard Haines has prepared a paper that includes some of the
ideas and suggestions regarding how the UAP matter should be engaged once it is taken
seriously by the appropriate organizations. Perspectives are offered from experienced official
international UAP research team members and leaders, military officers, pilots and aviation
professionals, and experts in UAP research. Undoubtedly many of these ideas would contribute
greatly to the resolution of the UAP/UFO matter once authorities are convinced to engage.
Recommended Actions to Improve the Current Climate of Denial within the Aviation World about
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and Related Commentary
There are international models to consider when examining official response to UAP reports.
The French government has maintained a UAP research team since the mid-1960s. The current
incarnation of that organization, CNES-GEIPAN, is part of the French space agency and collects
data from all sources inside and out of the French government. Specifically, it provides training
to pilots and air controllers on the existence of UAP and the means to effectively report an
encounter or observation. It is a small organization supported by a college of experts, interested
parties and efforts of merit, that provides an access point for submitting UAP reports and the
means to further investigations of UAP reports. It is presented without bias and accepted
generally as an appropriate agency.
At present, the problem remains. There is a robust public dialog regarding UFO, UAP and
related subjects but the matter is neither represented well nor credibly presented to those
organizations and entities that could and should take an active interest in the subject. There is
zero official interest or guidance so while the cases continue to be reported and the public
struggles to cope with the information the leadership inside the aviation community is
All potential solutions, on the research/activist side of the problem, to the roadblocks inhibiting
free movement of information and planning with respect to aviation related UAP manifestations
begin with quality research, proper image management and responsible activism. A successful
resolution will depend upon the consistently careful and credible promotion of the problem to
appropriate academic institutions, relevant and influential public and private organizations, the
science community, the aviation system and, lastly, the politicians that oversee aviation and
NARCAP has seen some success in this regard with the briefing of the FAA ASRS group, the
publication of NARCAP references and links on the Dept. of Transportation website, the briefing
of congressmen and supporting a congressional hearing, etc., so failure to influence the system
is not a given.