In July 2014, some four months before France and Chile held their historic meeting to collaborate on UFO research, the founder of the non-profit National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena made a compelling case in Paris for standardizing procedures. Last month, NARCAP’s website posted this video (see below) of Dr. Richard Haines’ 25-minute pitch, and it’s definitely worth a look. “The emphasis on methodology is essential,” the retired NASA scientist told his audience, “and we should’ve been doing this 20 years ago.”
Better late than never. NARCAP is an online sanctuary where pilots — usually American, but not always — can report in-flight encounters with what it calls unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), openly and anonymously, without fear of professional repercussions. Over the past 16 years, NARCAP, which networks with researchers in more than a dozen countries, has compiled a database with sobering implications for air traffic safety. Haines stressed the importance of getting the witnesses to re-enact those events as authentically as possible, all the way down to putting those participants back in the cockpit or, failing that, into simulators. Protocols involve producing sketches of UAP flight patterns in relation to windows and instrumentation panels, backed up with whatever radar data may exist, for plotting triangulation. The system calls for separate interviews with pilot, co-pilot, air traffic control when available, and then reuniting the witnesses for a collective near real-time walk-through. This is the “validation phase,” where discrepancies in memory, data, and perception can surface.
Among the most riveting “black swan” events in Haines’ presentation (“black swan” because they’re so rare and unforgettable) was the 1996 flight of a DC-10 outside LAX around 2 a.m. This one involved a barbell-shaped configuration of lights that initially appeared on a collision course with the cargo plane. “He could not believe his eyes,” said Haines, describing how the pilot repositioned and braced for impact. “He thought it was the oncoming landing lights of another jet plane, and he had about three seconds to live, that’s how frightening it was.”
The UAP accelerated horizontally and didn’t even leave radar tracks, which raises yet another obstacle. “I’m not convinced radar is going to solve our problem because of stealth and other concerns,” Haines said. Consequently, analytical tools should include not merely onboard radar and ground-sensing stations, but readily available resources such as satellite technology and real-time environmental/meteorological data, some as infinitely detailed as ultraviolet ray indexes and magnetic field distribution. “This level of information is unprecedented, we’ve never had this before,” Haines said. “It’s extremely valuable in reconstructing near-earth events.”
“I’m suggesting,” he went on, “that methodology from a conceptual point of view should be like a fisherman’s net. And that should be a very large net to catch lots of fish, if you will, but the weave of the net should be very small … It must be creatively planned. It must include both psychological and physiological and sociological data as well as physical hard-science data — don’t leave that out, it’s extremely important.”
Finally, when it comes to government transparency on UAP records, Haines lauded France’s “more open posture than we have … in America, and we’re still fighting that uphill battle.” In fact, speaking of America, just this week an Associated Press analysis of federal compliance with sunshine laws indicated record rates for denying or censoring FOIA requests over the past year. Which means that any insights into The Great Taboo will likely be forged without Uncle Sam.
Still, Haines was optimistic. “We need an international data clearinghouse where we can truly share data across cultural bounds, across national boundaries,” he added in a nod to the half a dozen or so South American governments now openly building UAP files. “Of course, military classification issues become a problem there, we understand that. But there’s a great deal of open data — open, free, scientific data — that we can have access to.”
Well, at least for now.