A commercial airline pilot saw a metallic disc streak through
              the atmosphere and vanish in a slight climb
   Captain X was an experienced commercial airline pilot with more than
21,000 hours of flying time and a career of more than two decades. But in
the summer of 1981, the UFO that "splashed into view, full-size," as he
flew an L-1011 over Lake Michigan took him by surprise. As Captain X
tells it, he tried to keep up with the metallic disc but finally saw it
disappear behind a windshield post.
   With six evenly spaced, round, jet-black portholes, it "tore through the
atmosphere" ahead and to the right of his craft, made its way across the
plane's windshield from right to left, and vanished, while traveling away
from him, in a slight climb.
   This is the kind of sighting that intrigues psychologist Richard Haines,
who works for the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science at
Moffett Field, California, and investigates UFOs as a hobby. In the course
of 12 years, he has amassed some 3,400 aircrew cases by culling the back
files of Project Blue Book as well as a handful of UFO organizations.
   Why has Haines focused on aircrew sightings? First, he explains,
because, the altitude precludes many prosaic explanations and hoaxes. For
example, birds and small balloons can be ruled out because birds don't fly
high enough and the balloons cannot perform the maneuvers that pilots
sometimes report. Meteorites, satellite reentries, and falling stars are
also ruled out, according to Haines, because pilot sightings generally
average nearly six minutes in duration, much longer than any of these events
   As for hoaxes, he adds, models don't fly very far or high. And while a
pilot could possibly fabricate a UFO report, for a person on the ground
to concoct an aerial phenomenon seen by a pilot "would be very difficult
as well as very costly."
   According to Haines, pilots are also credible witnesses. "Pilots see a
lot of things," says Haines, "and  would know what they were looking at if
it were familiar." Moreover, he adds, airplanes have instruments onboard
that respond to electromagnetic interference, also called EM effects.
Between 1972 and 1978, for instance, Haines discovered such EM effects as
simultaneous abnormal deviations of a gyro and magnetic compass, temporary
navigation radio equipment malfunctions in cockpit instruments, and, most
dramatic, "failure of the weapons firing system on an American F-4 Phantom
jet." Finally, notes Haines, those pilots who experience electromagnetic
disturbance or see unidentified objects can ask for radar confirmation from
air traffic support groups on the ground.
   Still, Philip J. Klass, aerospace journalist and leading UFO skeptic, is
not convinced. He says there is nothing special about pilots as
witnesses. "Pilots are human beings first and thus they are subject to
misidentifications, just like anyone else." Klass even cites one case in
which pilots on two different major airline flights and an Air NAtional
Guard plane - flying in broad daylight - all "reported a squadron of UFOs."
But, says Klass, "it was a meteor fireball on a horizontal trajectory." As
for radar, Klass says, older designs often pick up spurious targets and are
   Evbenb so, Haines forthcoming book will cover several hundred sightings
by pilots in flight, with each chapter focusing on a particular type of
UFO trajectory: hopping from one wing tip to the other, corkscrew rolls
in front  of the airplane, rising up from below the aircraft, hesitating,
and shooting past. The list goes on. Haines has adopted this approach to
show "that something is going on here in terms of flight dynamics that our
traditional technology cannot duplicate." Pilots can contact Haines at Post
Office Box 880, Los Altos, CA 94023-0880 - PAUL McMARTHY
                                           OMNI MAGAZINE Nov. 1990