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Intrigue Persists Over Lights In Sky

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 14:43:39 -0500
Fwd Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 14:43:39 -0500
Subject: Intrigue Persists Over Lights In Sky

Source: The Arizona Republic - Phoenix, Arizona, USA


Feb. 25, 2007

Intrigue Persists Over Lights In Sky
For first time, military pilot tells of dropping flares; others
say 'Phoenix Lights' were UFOs

Scott Craven
The Arizona Republic

On a mild springlike evening the string of amber orbs appeared
as if by magic, a celestial sleight of hand that would in the
coming weeks make headlines and video highlights across the

Although little more than an atmospheric curiosity at the time,
the hovering and evenly spaced balls of light would soon become
known as the Phoenix Lights, an event that 10 years later
continues to spark debate over just what was seen that night.

Those who accepted the explanation that it was military flares
dismissed the controversy with logical precision, while people
who saw it as an otherworldly encounter claim the truth has been
shrouded in lies and disinformation.

In the ensuing decade, the Phoenix Lights would change outlooks,
minds and even a few lives. What hasn't changed is this: The
mystery that still hovers above March 13, 1997.

The key witness

What she was seeing had barely registered when Lynne Kitei raced
inside to fetch her video camera. Lights, six of them, evenly
spaced in a direct line. They were - floating? - over Phoenix.
Certainly not a plane. Or balloons.

She had seen something like this before, but could these be like
the amber orbs she saw in 1995 hovering in formation just 100
yards from the backyard of her Paradise Valley home? And she had
seen orbs like that just two months ago. In each case she had
snapped photos. This time she wanted video.

By the time she was back on her patio, only three lights
continued to shine. She pressed "Record," and those several
seconds of tape would become one of the seminal recordings of
the Phoenix Lights to be shown on the news, TV specials and,
several years later, her own documentary.

In the decade since that night Kitei, a respected physician, has
resigned from her position at the Arizona Heart Institute to
devote herself full time to talk about, and further investigate,
the Phoenix Lights.

"If you had told me this is what I'd be doing," she says, "I
would never have believed it, not in a million years."

For seven years she spent nearly all her spare time trying to
answer the question that plagued her: What were those orbs, and
what did they want? She finished with 750 pages of notes
detailing her interviews with witnesses, experts and UFO
investigators. Her notes included extensive research of similar
sightings around the world.

Kitei remained anonymous for seven years, fearful of the
ridicule that accompanies those seen to be tilting at
extraterrestrial windmills.

But her chase for the truth eventually overcame her fears of
going public. She condensed her notes into a 222-page book, The
Phoenix Lights, where she revealed her findings as well as her

What she has not found is a definitive answer, only educated
speculation as to the meaning of the lights.

"It's never been about me; it's about the data," Kitei says. "To
present it I had to come forward, to tell people what I know."

Kitei also has discovered something nearly as surprising as
interplanetary visitors - a wider acceptance of things that
can't quite be explained. She said she still receives e-mails
from fans of her book and her documentary, The Phoenix Lights .
. . We Are Not Alone.

She takes no offense at those who call her efforts a waste of

"Some people deny it even exists, that it all feeds into a
logical explanation," she says. "That's OK if it gives them
comfort. Everyone in their own time."

The lights appear

It is generally agreed that at about 10 p.m. on March 13, 1997,
under a clear sky with no breeze, a string of lights appeared to
the southwest. The orbs seemed to form a flattened V shape, like
a boomerang. They appeared to be motionless, or traveling so
slowly that movement was imperceptible.

They shimmered for five to 10 minutes and were seen by hundreds,
and likely thousands, of people.

In the days to come, air traffic controllers at Sky Harbor
International Airport would tell reporters and UFO investigators
that they spotted nothing on radar. Officials at Davis-Monthan
Air Force Base in Tucson would report that no military maneuvers
were taking place that night at the Barry M. Goldwater Range to
the west of Gila Bend (and would change their story two months
later, saying the person on duty that night failed to look at
the proper logbook).

Photos and video of the Phoenix Lights were popping up on local
and national TV news. The images made their way around the

Then things got crazy.

Stories trickled in of isolated sightings from northwestern
Arizona about three hours before the mass sighting in Phoenix.
Some people said the lights seemed to float before accelerating
and disappearing into the night. From those sightings, experts
in the UFO community assembled a timeline that had a mysterious
craft drifting north to south across Arizona.

Video of the Phoenix Lights appeared on TV tabloid shows with
breathless commentators wondering if this was the proof UFO
believers had been waiting for. And when Gov. Fife Symington
called a press conference, few expected to see the
extraterrestrial who emerged from backstage (a Symington aide in
alien drag).

At least one person wasn't laughing.

Frances Emma Barwood never saw the lights as she drove home
March 13 north along Highway 51. Her eyes were on the road, not
the sky, though in a week's time she'd be eye-deep in

As the Phoenix city councilwoman fielded calls from curious
constituents, she decided she needed to know more.

She called for an investigation.

What she got, Barwood says from her home in Dewey, was ridicule.

"Oh, the media had a heyday with me," says Barwood, who would
never hold another political office when her City Council stint
was up.Barwood did not assume the lights were UFOs as the media
inferred, she says. She only wanted a government agency to look
into the odd occurrences of March 13. She received calls from
eyewitnesses in Prescott Valley, Phoenix and points south.

A decade ago, Barwood would have leaned toward a logical
explanation. Today, she's open to the not-so-logical.

"I don't know what it was, but I'm a lot more open to that thing
coming from elsewhere," Barwood says. "What makes us think we're
the only intelligent being in the whole entire universe?"The
flares exposed

Those who believed in logical explanations would have to wait
four months for the proof they knew was out there when the
military, spurred by a June 1997 story in USA Today that brought
national attention to the Phoenix Lights, decided to take a
second look.

They were flares, said the Air National Guard, dropped during
nighttime exercises at the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

That simple explanation didn't fly with those who had four
months of mystery on their side.

They were flares, insists Lt. Col. Ed Jones, who piloted one of
the four A-10s in the squadron that launched the flares.

Jones, in his first interview with the media about the night 10
years ago, can't believe a decision to eject a few leftover
flares turned into a UFO furor that continues to this day.

Jones now is assistant director of operations for the 104th
Fighter Squadron of the Maryland National Guard. His title has
changed, but his story remains the same.

He and the rest of his colleagues were cruising the night skies
of southwestern Arizona on the last night of Operation Snowbird,
so named because they were winter visitors. Pilots dropped
flares to light the night but had no idea they were about to
ignite controversy as well.

On the way back to Tucson, not far from Gila Bend, Jones says,
he reminded pilots to eject their leftover flares. Since this
was their last night on maneuvers, it was more cost-effective to
eject the flares than to offload and store the munitions upon

"One of our guys had about 10 or so left, so he started to puke
them out, one after another," Jones says. "So every few seconds
or so, when the next flare was ready to go, he hit the button
and launched it."

Jones looked behind him and saw an evenly spaced string of
lights over the desert, floating ever so slowly to earth. Each
was extremely bright, a "couple million" candle power, Jones
knew. They seemed to hover because heat from the flare rose into
the parachute, as if each were a tiny hot-air balloon. The
planes headed for the base.

Jones and the rest of the crew returned to Maryland. Several
weeks later, Jones says, "All this stuff just blew up."

News of the unexplainable Phoenix Lights reached Maryland, where
the logical explanation sat waiting to be discovered. It would
not be until the end of July when it was announced that the
Maryland Air National Guard had launched flares that night and
were the lights everyone had seen.

"With flares that bright, they can be a lot closer than they
seem," Jones said. "Yes, they could have looked like they were
right over Phoenix."There are those who believe the flare story
is a lie, the military's attempt to cover up the truth. Others
think flares were indeed dropped but only as a diversion so
officials could explain what people saw that night.

Jim Dilletoso belongs in the first camp. The Phoenix computer
specialist who has analyzed film and video of dozens of alleged
UFO sightings says Lynne Kitei's video, the best taken that
night, is not of military flares.

Dilletoso compared the lights to the thousands of images on his
database, which he likens to testing fingerprints or blood
samples. He tests for size, brightness, movement characteristics
and more.

"I have thousands of knowns," Dilletoso says. "I didn't get a
match to flares, airplane lights, Venus, swamp gas, flashlights,
whatever. That means it's unknown. Not a spacecraft necessarily,
but unknown."

The questions remain

A decade has passed, and while the Phoenix Lights have dimmed,
they refuse to disappear.

Steve Kates is not surprised. Dr. Sky, as he is known on radio
and on his Web site, follows aviation and astronomy and often is
called upon to explain unusual occurrences above us. Kates is
hardly surprised the mystery of the Phoenix Lights endures

"Mystery is a great thing," Kates says. "We don't want to think
we're alone. I imagine even ancient people looked to the sky and
wondered."The night had a profound effect on Bobby Brewer, who
was with a friend driving southbound on Highway 51when the
lights appeared.

Brewer would write UFOs: 7 Things You Should Know, which many
may consider unusual coming from a pastor.

The experience led Brewer to respect those who have reported
sightings, encounters or even abductions.

The lights were so compelling that night, he pulled off the
highway to stare.

"It was like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time," says
the pastor for young adults and singles at Citichurch in
Scottsdale. "It took my breath away."Brewer did his own
research, yet to this day he is still unsure of what he saw.
Flares certainly seem plausible. A high-tech craft pushing the
edge of physics is in the realm of possibility. And he won't
discount a visit from another world.

For Brewer, the Phoenix Lights remain a tantalizing mystery. He
can live with that.

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