A recent inquiry into the number of pilots who actually report UFOs yielded a disturbing result. There are no official figures that can be verified for obvious reasons, but it’s estimated that the majority of pilots who spot an unidentified flying object will either report and then dismiss it or simply not report it at all, censoring themselves and denying it if ever the event is brought up. Why do pilots feel pressured to do this, and could it be creating a safety hazard for those that wish to fly the friendly skies in the future?
First of all, it should be noted that pilots are trained to identify a number of airborne phenomena. In fact, most things that are known and are supposed to happen in the skies they fly are known to them with an incredible emphasis on man-made aircraft. A typical airplane may look very similar to how we would perceive a UFO to the untrained observer, but both UFO experts and pilots are able to identify craft of terrestrial origin down to being able to narrow down the make and model of the craft simply by observing where the lights are on the object. So when something happens in the sky that they simply cannot identify, it’s all the more perplexing both to them and air traffic controllers who are informed of the incident.
And yet these trained individuals are often ostracized if they even breathe a hint that something out of the ordinary – or even not specifically unidentified happens in the sky in their vicinity. In 1986 Captain Terauchi of flight JAL 1628 observed alongside the rest of his crew and the passengers onboard something strange in the sky that quite obviously was not an identified terrestrial phenomenon. It was a massive walnut shaped craft that dwarfed the plane they were in. However, when they reported it he was subsequently grounded. This was despite him having a clean record and no signs of trouble or lack of professionalism whatsoever – and in the face of an incredible life changing event. Captain Terauchi eventually was able to start flying once again, but only after years of fighting.
Some may say, “So what if pilots don’t report unexplained aerial phenomena. I don’t care about that weird stuff anyway.” This would normally be the case, but the direct interactions with these objects can sometimes get uncomfortably close. And let’s say one of these objects really is a rogue weather balloon operating in an area of heavy air traffic. If a pilot has been trained to never report “UFOs” or anything unusual in the vicinity, then he or she may decide it’s not worth risking his or her career over and leave it a rogue object for the next pilot to encounter and attempt to dodge. While it’s easy to identify these objects under normal circumstances, in thick cloud cover or rolling fog combined with electrical interference and enough other things going wrong to cause a real catastrophe. And then there is the possibility of unregistered UAVs and hobby experimental aircraft which could also cause disaster if they were not reported simply because they were flying and looked strange. While not everyone is UFO enthusiast, the term UFO does simply mean an “Unidentified Flying Object” and not every single one inevitably means an extraterrestrial spacecraft.