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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Jan > Jan 1

In the sky! A bird? A plane? A... UFO?

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Mon, 01 Jan 2007 08:59:48 -0500
Fwd Date: Mon, 01 Jan 2007 08:59:48 -0500
Subject: In the sky! A bird? A plane? A... UFO?

Source: The Chicago Tribune - Illinois, USA


Published January 1, 2007

In the sky! A bird? A plane? A... UFO?
Jon Hilkevitch

United Airlines denies its workers filed reports about
saucerlike object hovering at O'Hare

It sounds like a tired joke - but a group of airline employees
insist they are in earnest, and they are upset that neither
their bosses nor the government will take them seriously.

A flying saucerlike object hovered low over O'Hare International
Airport for several minutes before bolting through thick clouds
with such intense energy that it left an eerie hole in overcast
skies, said some United Airlines employees who observed the

Was it an alien spaceship? A weather balloon lost in the
airspace over the world's second-busiest airport? A top-secret
military craft? Or simply a reflection from lights that played a
trick on the eyes?

Officials at United professed no knowledge of the Nov. 7 event -
which was reported to the airline by as many as a dozen of its
own workers - when the Tribune started asking questions recently.
But the Federal Aviation Administration said its air traffic
control tower at O'Hare did receive a call from a United
supervisor asking if controllers had spotted a mysterious
elliptical-shaped craft sitting motionless over Concourse C of
the United terminal.

No controllers saw the object, and a preliminary check of radar
found nothing out of the ordinary, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth
Isham Cory said.

The FAA is not conducting a further investigation, Cory said.
The theory is the sighting was caused by a "weather phenomenon",
she said.

The UFO report has sparked some chuckles among controllers in
O'Hare tower.

"To fly 7 million light years to O'Hare and then have to turn
around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply
unacceptable," said O'Hare controller and union official Craig

Some of the witnesses, interviewed by the Tribune, said they are
upset that neither the government nor the airline is probing the

Whatever the object was, it could have interfered with O'Hare's
radar and other equipment, and even created a collision risk,
they said.

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (the term that
extraterrestrial-watchers nowadays prefer over Unidentified
Flying Object) was first seen by a United ramp worker who was
directing back a United plane at Gate C17, according to an
account the worker provided to the National UFO Reporting

The sighting occurred during daylight, about 4:30 p.m., just
before sunset.

All the witnesses said the object was dark gray and well defined
in the overcast skies. They said the craft, estimated by
different accounts to be 6 feet to 24 feet in diameter, did not
display any lights.

Some said it looked like a rotating Frisbee, while others said
it did not appear to be spinning. All agreed the object made no
noise and it was at a fixed position in the sky, just below the
1,900-foot cloud deck, until shooting off into the clouds.

Witnesses shaken by sighting

"I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don't understand why
aliens would hover over a busy airport," said a United mechanic
who was in the cockpit of a Boeing 777 that he was taxiing to a
maintenance hangar when he observed the metallic-looking object
above Gate C17.

"But I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw
stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an [Earth]
aircraft," the mechanic said.

One United employee appeared emotionally shaken by the sighting
and "experienced some religious issues" over it, one co-worker

A United manager said he ran outside his office in Concourse B
after hearing the report about the sighting on an internal
airline radio frequency.

"I stood outside in the gate area not knowing what to think,
just trying to figure out what it was," he said. "I knew no one
would make a false call like that. But if somebody was bouncing
a weather balloon or something else over O'Hare, we had to stop
it because it was in very close proximity to our flight

 Some joke, others research

The databases of various UFO-watching groups are full of
accounts filed by pilots about sightings of unknown aircraft and
anomalies that affected navigational equipment onboard planes.

Whether any of the UFO incidents are real or merely the result
of individual perceptions, some experts say the events pose a
potential safety risk to pilots and their passengers.

"There have been documented cases where safety appears to have
been implicated, and more and more we are coming to the point of
view that we are dealing with an intelligent phenomenon," said
Richard Haines, science director at the National Aviation
Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, a private agency.

"We must be proactive before an aircraft goes down," said
Haines, a former chief of the Space Human Factors Office at
NASA's Ames Research Center.

Haines is investigating the O'Hare incident. He said he has
determined that no weather balloons were launched in the
vicinity of O'Hare on Nov. 7.

"It's absurd that the military would be conducting aerial test
flights" near the airport, Haines said.

All the witnesses to the O'Hare event, who included at least
several pilots, said they are certain based on the disc's
appearance and flight characteristics that it was not an
airplane, helicopter, weather balloon or any other craft known
to man.

United denies UFO report

They're not sure what was hanging out for several minutes in the
restricted airspace, but they are upset that no one in power has
taken the matter seriously.

A United spokeswoman said there is no record of the UFO report.
She said United officials do not recall discussion of any such

"There's nothing in the duty manager log, which is used to
report unusual incidents," said United spokeswoman Megan
McCarthy. "I checked around. There's no record of anything."

The pilots of the United plane being directed back from Gate C17
also were notified by United personnel of the sighting, and one
of the pilots reportedly opened a windscreen in the cockpit to
get a better view of the object estimated to be hovering 1,500
feet above the ground.

The object was seen to suddenly accelerate straight up through
the solid overcast skies, which the FAA reported had 1,900-foot
cloud ceilings at the time.

"It was like somebody punched a hole in the sky," said one
United employee.

Witnesses said they had a hard time visually tracking the object
as it streaked through the dense clouds.

It left behind an open hole of clear air in the cloud layer, the
witnesses said, adding that the hole disappeared within a few

The United employees interviewed by the Tribune spoke on
condition of anonymity.

Some said they were interviewed by United officials and
instructed to write reports and draw pictures of what they
observed, and that they were advised by United officials to
refrain from speaking about what they saw.

Federal agency backtracks

Like United, the FAA originally told the Tribune that it had no
information on the alleged UFO sighting. But the federal agency
quickly reversed its position after the newspaper filed a
Freedom of Information Act request.

An internal FAA review of air-traffic communications tapes, a
step toward complying with the Tribune request, turned up the
call by the United supervisor to an FAA manager in the airport
tower, Cory said.

Cory said the weather might have factored into what the
witnesses thought they saw.

"Our theory on this is that it was a weather phenomenon," she
said. "That night was a perfect atmospheric condition in terms
of low [cloud] ceiling and a lot of airport lights. When the
lights shine up into the clouds, sometimes you can see funny
things. That's our take on it."

Contact Getting Around at jhilkevitch.nul or c/o the
Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Read
recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround

[Thanks to Greg Boone for the lead]

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