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Man-made Identified Flying Objects

About seven in the evening of December 31, 1978, Mr. Dominic Valdez of Cheshire, England, was standing outside greeting his sister and brother-in-law, when all three of them observed a brightly lit cigar shaped UFO apparently some 1,500 feet up, moving across the sky. It was a cold, clear night and they watched the object, which they reported having lit portholes, for a minute and a half.

What they had observed was not a UFO, but a man-made IFO. It was the booster rocket for COSMOS 1068, a Russian satellite. The Soviets had launched COSMOS earlier, on December 26th, and the spent booster had taken several days to fall out of orbit and start burning from friction as it entered the lower atmosphere. The remains finally crashed near Hanover, Germany.

A satellite in orbit (NASA)

Even satellites in normal orbit can be labeled as UFOs. Appearing as a fast moving, bright point of light in the early evening hours on clear evenings, a satellite can move from horizon to horizon in less than five minutes. Occasionally an older satellite may make a more spectacular, but final, performance dropping out of orbit and into the atmosphere, burning as it descends.

A weather balloon also may appear as a small, bright dot of light in the early evening or morning. These balloons are released to measure temperature and gather samples at high altitude. Some, designed to be highly viable on radar, are used to track wind movement at different heights. Unlike satellites, weather balloons tend to move slowly, except during their initial ascent, drifting with the wind . Balloons may be visible during the daylight hours too.

At lower altitudes aircraft may be mistaken for UFOs. According to Gerald K. Haines, a historian for the National Reconnaissance Office, over half the UFO reports from the late 50s though the 60s can be explained away by secret reconnaissance flights. A favorite maneuver used with the supersonic SR-71 spy planes was to climb to 30,000 feet, hit the afterburners, do a steep dive to pick up speed for about 15 seconds, then pull up and climb out at twice the speed of sound. This maneuver, known as the "dipsy doodle" can appear to an observer who is standing on the ground ahead of the plane, like a disc dropping downward, hovering, then racing off and fantastic speeds. This is a feature commonly reported with UFOs.

Chemicals used to start the SR-71 engines and afterburners also produced a green "flash" that has sometimes been noted in UFO reports.

A B-2 Stealth Bomber "flying wing" (USAF)

Since a knowledge of the dipsy doodle maneuver could allow an adversary with quick wits to cover up sensitive whatever the plane was trying to photograph, the Air Force was reluctant to connect the UFO stories to SR-71 flights. In fact, they may have even cultivated it to cover the testing of some of their secret aircraft developed in the famed Area 51 in Nevada.

Other sources put the idea of SR-71s explaining some many UFO reports in doubt. Dave Mitchell, a former Avionics Inertial and Radar Navigation Systems Technician at Beale AFB, who worked with the SR-71 for 5 years says, "I do not not accept Mr. Haines' explanations at all. I have the iginition process on video tape, you cannot see the chemical TEB (tetra-ethyl borane) flash at 30,000 feet from the ground. An SR-71 flying at any altitude less than that will leave an unmistakable jet exhaust sound signature, not any of the silent or humming UFO's witnesses speak of." Mitchell continues, "If it wasn't for the unmistakable sound of the exhaust rumble from the engines, you might mistake it for twin UFO's climbing out when the afterburners were going then shut off. You'd have to be nearly deaf and the climb out rate is nowhere as fast as the reported UFOs climb rate."

A plane seen at an unusual angle can often look like a disc. The B-2 stealth bomber, with it's unusual "flying wing" shape and lack of vertical stabilizers, might easily be misidentified, as could the F-117 stealth fighter. Also the Army/Air Force did develop a couple of actual disc shaped aircraft, but these never entered mass production and are unlikely to have spawned many reports.

A disc-shaped aircraft that was developed, but never got off the ground. (USAF)

Interestingly enough during World War II pilots from both Allied and Axis forces reported observing "flying fireballs." Each side supposed this might be a secret weapon developed by the other. It wasn't till after the war it was learned that these objects, dubbed "foo fighters" by the Allied airmen, belonged to neither side. No good explanation for them has been found.

Bizarre electrical effects near the ground and around high tension wires may be the source of some sightings. Many reports of UFOs place them near power lines or transformer stations. What actually may be seen might be effects caused by the electricity running through the wire. Under special environmental conditions the lines may appear to glow in a similar manner to the natural phenomenon known as "St. Elmo's Fire."

Flight Test a "Flying Wing."

Copyright Lee Krystek 1996-2001. All Rights Reserved.