- The official arrival of summer is still a few weeks away,
but "pool weather" is already upon us, and that means it is perfectly
acceptable to plop down and read whatever strikes your fancy. This is my
justification for writing a UFO column.
- Some readers are probably aware of my longtime interest
in the UFO topic. Although I no longer report on UFO matters for local
TV, my fat face seems to pop up weekly on some cable network UFO special.
(In just the past week, I received three more requests for interviews and/or
assistance from international journalists working on separate UFO programs.)
- Mainstream science and the U.S. government have done
all they can to discourage serious public interest and inquiries into the
UFO subject, but the damned flying saucers just don't want to cooperate.
They keep popping up at inopportune moments. Most are explainable, but
a few are not.
- The UFO news out of Mexico in the past few weeks caused
a minor stir on this side of the border for a day or so, then quickly faded
into oblivion, overwhelmed by grim news in Iraq. But the Mexican incident
is one of the most intriguing cases in recent memory--and one of the best
documented. It deserves some attention. The source of the information is
the Mexican Air Force, which was given the green light to release the data
by Mexico's version of Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.
- On March 5, a Mexican Air Force C26A, while on a drug
interdiction and surveillance mission over the state of Campeche, encountered
11 unidentified flying objects. The UFOs were detected on both radar and
a sophisticated thermal imaging sensor (known as FLIR) aboard the plane.
The encounter occurred at 11,000 feet an hour before sunset and in clear
weather. It lasted about 15 minutes and was recorded on the plane's cameras.
At one point, eight of the objects formed a circle around the plane. Crew
members were understandably shaken.
- Mexican defense officials ordered a hush-hush study of
the incident. They spent five weeks trying to figure out what had happened
but couldn't come up with any explanation for what had been seen by radar,
FLIR, cameras and eyewitnesses. The best they could do was to conclude
the UFOs were solid objects of unknown origin and that they had flown along
with the C26A under what appeared to be intelligent control. That's when
they decided to go public. They took the highly unusual step of contacting
prominent Mexican TV journalist and UFO investigator Jaime Maussan and
then simply handed over everything they had on the case. Astonishing, to
say the least. Governments do not cooperate with UFO investigators, as
a rule, at least not the U.S. government.
- Maussan, whom Knappster has known for nearly 10 years,
broadcast the Air Force footage on his popular TV program. He and the Air
Force held a news conference and made the footage and evidence available
to other media outlets.
- That's when the debunking started. Mexican scientists
seemed to take their cues from all the old excuses handed out by the U.S.
Air Force in years gone by, dredging up a veritable hit parade of weak
- The first explanation was that this must have been ball
lightning, a rare atmospheric phenomenon that has been used many times
by American debunkers to try to explain away UFO cases. A nuclear scientist
named Dr. Julio Herrera of National Autonomous University was contacted
by the Associated Press. Herrera theorized that the UFOs were electrical
flashes, and AP went with the story, ignoring the fact that this incident
occurred in a cloudless sky and that it lasted for more than 15 minutes.
Las Vegas physicist Dr. Eric Davis spent six years studying ball lightning
and wrote a paper about it for Air Force Materiel Command at Edwards Air
Force Base, where Dr. Davis worked for a time. Simply put, there is no
way that ball lightning could be responsible, Davis says. Ball lightning
occurs during storms, not in cloudless skies. It generally lasts only a
few seconds, sometimes up to a minute, but NEVER for 15 minutes. Besides,
the Mexican Air Force had already looked at this explanation and found
- The inestimable Dr. Herrera wasn't deterred, though.
A day or two later, he offered a new explanation that was dutifully reported
by skeptical media. He theorized that the UFO flashes were caused by the
ignition of natural gases in the atmosphere. (He didn't actually use the
term "swamp gas," but damn that would have been ballsy if he
had.) The Campeche coast is an oil-producing region, so there is natural
gas in the area. But no one knows of natural gas pockets that rise to 11,000
feet. Besides, the sensors on the plane revealed the objects to be solid,
with definable parameters.. Plus, the objects followed the plane for many
miles and even formed a circle around it. Does gas do that?
- Another scientist speculated that the UFOs were "almost
certainly" space junk, pieces of satellite debris that had burned
up in the atmosphere. Again, this explanation doesn't fit the described
behavior of the objects. Debris doesn't surround a plane and fly along
with it. In addition, the Mexican Air Force certainly would have known
if the Campeche coast was being dive-bombed by a vast field of space debris.
- Finally, another critic offered up the old chestnut that
it must have been weather balloons that caused the sightings. As with the
ball lightning explanation, this one would have been more credible had
anyone bothered to contact Mexico's National Meteorological Service, which
explained that there were no weather balloons anywhere near Campeche on
that day. A spokesman also noted that no one had bothered to contact the
NMS to find out if ball lightning would have been a possible explanation.
It would not have been, the NMS concluded.
- A couple of UFO enthusiasts on this side of the border
have taken the case to the other extreme, declaring that the Campeche UFOs
were "alien motherships" and that the incident is a sign of more
encounters to come. Simply put, we don't know what the objects were. They
are, be definition, unidentified and will probably remain so.
- The most significant development to come out of this,
in my opinion, is the willingness of the Mexican government to openly discuss
a UFO encounter. It is a demonstrable fact that world governments have
classified files on UFO incidents, files that have never seen the light
of day. For the Mexican military to openly admit that it has no idea what
was flying around in its airspace is an astounding departure from the party
line toed by other governments.
- One other explanation needs to be considered. A colleague
of mine with extensive experience in UFO investigations and with government
agencies suggests that perhaps the Mexican Air Force assumed the UFOs were
some sort of secret American craft being tested in Mexican airspace. It
is conceivable they decided to go public with the incident because they
wanted to put the American military on notice that this has got to stop.
Of course, this scenario depends on the idea that the United States has
developed some sort of invisible craft that mimics the characteristics
of ball lightning and space debris.
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