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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Feb > Feb 26

UFO Or 'Hole-Punch Cloud'?

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2007 09:23:15 -0500
Fwd Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2007 09:23:15 -0500
Subject: UFO Or 'Hole-Punch Cloud'?

Source: The Sacramento Bee - California, USA


February 25, 2007

For Many At O'hare It Was A UFO, For The FAA A 'Hole-Punch Cloud'

By Leslie Kean
Special to The Bee

During one late afternoon at Chicago's bustling O'Hare Airport,
pilots, managers and mechanics at the United Airlines terminal
saw an odd, disc-shaped object hovering silently overhead, just
below the dense cloud layer.

A pilot announced the sighting over the radio; a United taxi
mechanic moving a Boeing 777 heard radio chatter about the craft
and saw it; so did a pilot waiting to take off who opened the
cockpit windscreen to get a better view. Minutes later, the
wingless vehicle shot straight up at an incredible speed and
disappeared, leaving a crisp hole through the clouds with blue
sky visible at the top.

It was definitely not an airplane, witnesses said of the Nov. 7
incident, many of them shaken by what they saw.

"I immediately called our operations center to confirm the
sighting, and the FAA was contacted while I drove to the other
concourse to talk to the witnesses," a United management
employee wrote to the National UFO Reporting Center.

On Jan. 1, the Chicago Tribune published the story, by
transportation reporter Jon Hilkevitch, which received more than
a million hits on the Tribune's Web site, more than any story in
the site's history. "The witness credibility is beyond question,
and safety was a big concern," says Hilkevitch, who has
interviewed dozens of witnesses.

The O'Hare UFO incident even had its day on national television
networks. CNN interviewed a nervous United employee, filmed in
shadow so he wouldn't be recognized. So far, all witnesses have
remained anonymous.

When Hilkevitch began his investigation, the FAA and United
Airlines denied knowing anything about the incident, but taped
calls and other evidence revealed their communications about the
sighting at the time it occurred.

At first, the FAA attributed the incident to some kind of
weather phenomenon, and United Airlines advised its employees
not to talk about it, according to the Tribune.

"If this had been a plane, it would have been investigated,"
Hilkevitch says. "The FAA treats the smallest safety issue as
very important."

NASA aviation expert Brian E. Smith, a former manager within
NASA's Aviation Safety and Security Program, says, "The safely
implications of any vehicle operating at low altitude over a
major airport outside the authority of air traffic control are
obvious. Managers should want to hear about such vehicle
operations before they become accidents or disasters."

FAA spokesperson Tony Molinaro says the "absence of any kind of
factual evidence" precludes an investigation. "There was nothing
on radar."

To explain the witnesses' reports, he offered his best "guess."
They may have seen a "hole-punch cloud," he said, which is in "a
perfect circular shape like a round disc" and has "vapor going
up into it."

These unusual natural cloud holes form only at below freezing
temperatures, according to climatologists. It was 48 degrees at
O'Hare that afternoon.

John Callahan, Division Chief of Accidents and Investigations
for the FAA during the 1980s, says it's not at all surprising
that the O'Hare UFO was undetected on radar.

Radar technology cannot always capture objects at extremely high
speeds. A hovering object wouldn't necessarily show up either.
"If it did, it would be a small dot, and air traffic controllers
would not give it much concern," Callahan says.

The government response to the O'Hare incident is predictable,
says Callahan, who conducted an investigation into a 1986 UFO
sighting over Alaska. "The FAA will offer a host of other
explanations, as if wearing a blindfold. It's always something
else so it can't be what it is."

Official policy spells out FAA disinterest in reports of
anomalies. The agency's Aeronautical Information Manual,
providing the fundamentals required for flying in U.S. airspace,
states that "persons wanting to report UFO/Unexplained Phenomena
activity" should contact an organization such as NUFORC.

If "concern is expressed that life or property might be
endangered," it says, "report the activity to the local law
enforcement department."

Sometimes, pilots and crew report these incidents anyway.
Richard Haines, a former NASA scientist who is head of the
National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, has
collected thousands of reports by aviators and aviation
professionals of unidentified aerial phenomena inconsistent with
known aircraft or nature. More than 100 of these involve safety
hazards caused by an aircraft's proximity to unfamiliar flying
objects or inexplicable brilliant lights.

Given the number of airline personnel reporting this unknown
object hovering over a major airport, how could our government
not be interested? What about national security? Or passenger
safety? Or just plain scientific curiosity about an unexplained


Leslie Kean is an investigative journalist and co-founder of the
Washington-based Coalition for Freedom of Information. She can
be reached at:


[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]

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