This is not the UFO aircraft being discussed. After looking at the video several times, I finally noticed that it says GETTY in the top right corner, meaning that it's stock video from Getty Images. I know that lots of TV journalists do this kind of thing for dramatic effect, but I still find it dishonest and misleading.
I'll agree with confusing and misleading; but I don't feel it is being dishonest (in the sense that it being deliberate) in this case. Just stupid and confusing.
- An American military exercise or other secretive government maneuver, but the reporting chain of command got screwed up (suggested by all the "who ordered that?" chatter mentioned in the article), which caused a scramble that wasn't supposed to happen.
- More alarmingly, a foreign military aircraft in US airspace. (Who knows what behind the scenes posturing might have engendered it).
- Some private entity behaving very badly, and flying something big around with no transponder. This would be very interesting and sketchy indeed, as "owning an aircraft" (particularly of that size) is not something you'd undertake unless you're a pretty big organization. Who with that kind of money would take that kind of risk? Organized crime, perhaps?
If we had a better idea of the speed, it'd be easier to make a guess. However, I'm not sure a foreign military aircraft would be "very large", given how risky that would be, I'd envision it as a fighter jet or a Blackbird-type of aircraft.
The ATC commentary suggests a fast relative speed, in reference to other traffic only. So, in the 600MPH to 700MPH region, it would be going faster than most air traffic, but wouldn’t cut the noisy wake of a sonic boom overflight, which means, in my mind it wasn’t going “very fast” or fast enough to put it in the same league as what qualifies for fast for any fighter or other fast military plane.
The “large” description is also vague, but suggesting as big as a passenger jet is my estimate. Perhaps not freakishly large like a KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III [0,1,2]. Large, in aviation, often means “not a 2 passeneger Cessna,” to evoke not scale relative to other humans, but scale of catastrophe if it fell into a neighborhood or if a pilot had to think about colliding with such a thing, which would “win.”
That said, the white paint job sounds uncharacteristic of military/government (especially skunkworks) operations, and the expanding attention of the incident, points to unexpected events.
Another hypothesis is high level leadership asking questions about actual preparedness for something that fits the profile of a sudden terrorist hijacking incident, based on peered civil aviation inputs alone, along with an undisclosed fire drill.
[The call with the pilot of Southwest 4712 was by far the most interesting. He immediately notes how strange the encounter was and how he has never seen an incident like it in nearly 30 years of flying jets. The pilot noted, "if it was like a Lear (private jet) type airframe I probably would not have seen it this clear. This was a white airplane and it was big. And it was moving at a clip too, because we were keeping pace with it, it was probably moving faster than we were... It was a larger aircraft yeah."]
What's most interesting is how many people we're involved and of course... Someone is apparently flying some really advanced aircraft over the U.S.
Apparently? So many atmospheric effects can look the same to many people from a single perspective.
The military is a possibility, but I don’t know about “most likely” here.
Given that assumption, the answer to your questions are:
> Why military?
The assumption here is that the military goofed, didn't tell another branch about it (hence the USAF scrambled), and is avoiding either embarrasment or needs to keep the deployment of the craft as secret as possible. This probably happens on a regular basis (though if we have data on how often that happened during the Cold war, that'd be useful), and explains why USAF couldn't find anything.
> Not smugglers
I have never heard of smugglers having advanced aircraft that would be flying around Oregon; Seems pretty risky. Also, doesn't make a ton of sense as you presumably wouldn't be able to transport much with a high speed aircraft.
Definitely an interesting proposal, have you heard of smugglers having advanced aircraft?
> intelligence services
Possible; Which ones, the American Intelligence Services? If so, I believe the parent was lumping them in with 'military'.
Though it still seems more likely that this was just bad internal communication, mostly because I wouldn't expect a foreign spy plane to be ever be caught flying at high speeds; though it could be a generic attempt to test the US response. Be great if anyone has any data on how often that sort of thing happened during the Cold War.
> just an asshole
Seems very unlikely. What random assholes have access to advanced aircraft that can evade the USAF?
So under the assumption that this was an advanced aircraft, the most likely explanation is government, either the US's or a foreign intelligence service. Since presumably the US is in control of it's own airspace, the idea that this was the US itself seems the simplest explanation.
Intercepting an inbound russian is easy. He is comming towards you. An airliner moving away or past you at 200nm is exponentially more difficult.
Perhaps intentionally provocated a response from FAA, USAF, etc as a real-world test of the aircraft's stealth/evasion technology
Although Southwest flies 737s and the SWA pilot did report it was bigger...
Could be a routine ferry of Nightwatch/NEACP based on the same profile, but seems like NORAD and WADS would have caught that sooner. And kiboshed FOIA and not made public statements and all that. Nightwatch is operated by USAF, though, under high classification, while WADS reports up through the National Guard. Miscommunication seems at least plausible.
The SR71 was built in the 50s and still seems crazy advanced. I can't imagine what they are working on now.
The SR-71 is a 60's era aircraft. First flight in 64. Its predecessor, the A-12, flew in 62 with construction starting in Sept. 1960. Prior to that these aircraft were a series of paper designs beginning in the late 50's. Early versions of the J-58 were run in the late 50's, but these early engines were not flown in A-12/SR-71; substantial rework was needed to sustain mach 3.
But the rate at which information disperses changed since then. Big, covert, multi-decade military research projects might be possible if we entered a new Cold War. But in peacetime? While we’re navigating political junctures? Unlikely. (Though not impossible.)
In the context of the increasing evidence of Russian involvement in our elections and reports about their support of our enemies (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/05/17/evidence-russian-mil... or https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/04/24...) I'm not sure it's baseless fear mongering.
Greenwald isn't exactly an impartial source when it comes to Russia either - he has his own overt biases. It's healthy to be skeptical but naive to assume Russia is a benevolent actor on the world stage (even more so in the context of events like https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysia_Airlines_Flight_17).
I'm not convinced of your smear against Greenwald as a pro-Russia journalist. As an openly gay man he would have a lot of difficulty there. And Jews have been fleeing Russia. As far as I can tell, his biggest bias to protect minorities like himself, so it would be exceptionally odd for him to be pro-Russia. There is certainly no evidence I have ever seen of that.
Anyways, before this election, if someone told me that Russia, China, Iran, etc, were all trying to influence US politics, hack US gov/bus, etc, I would say that is a given. Everyone knows that. There is a reason for the Russian fear mongering and not Chinese fear mongering, Saudi Arabian fear mongering, etc.
The bias I was referring to was not so much one of pro Russia but more one related to the particular focus that Greenwald/The Intercept seems to have on American policy. If you read their "About Us" page (https://theintercept.com/about/) it mentions that their mission is to "expose corruption and injustice __wherever__ they find it and hold the powerful accountable.". Personally I find it very interesting that they rarely seem to find examples of this in other contexts - the reporting is predominantly about American/western issues. I don't think I'm stretching to suggest that Greenwald/The Intercept wear their disdain for western foreign policy/hegemony openly.
This doesn't negate their reporting or perspective but it does make me question what impact this has on the conclusions they draw about the Russia issue, particularly when the public record shows questions about the role of Russia in relation to organizations such as Wikileaks. As you said - "There is a reason for the Russian fear mongering and not Chinese fear mongering, Saudi Arabian fear mongering". Personally I believe being skeptical also includes being open to the idea that extraordinary events can occur and the growing body of public evidence seems to suggest that the Russian influence was far greater than previous efforts.
The thing is, governments often turn out to be quite awful. Japan, China, Russia, Germany, Spain, etc, etc...
I love many things about America, and that's why I appreciate Greenwald. Who else is invested in investigating the un-American lies and corruption, who is looking to protect our civil liberties and constitutional rights? I don't think cable news is doing it.
it's more that russia is the demon we know is a demon. we can't tell whether our own governments are also demons as effectively, so he focuses on that.
I flew from Detroit to Boston a few years back in a 4-seat, single engine airplane after an electrical failure. On a hand-held radio and with no electrics, ATC had a good primary target on me the entire way (at 5-9K feet). On controller handoffs, I would have to turn north for 1 mile for them to confirm the primary target they were looking at was me.
Up and down the Eastern seaboard, I pretty regularly get traffic called out as "primary target only" which also means ATC has no idea of the altitude. Those tend to be low, slow moving aircraft (often without electrical systems).
Pilots, ground crew, flight controllers and so on, are not magically reliable. That said, it could be exactly as reported, but it might not be.
It could very easily have been a plane replacing one like N313P, or similar, outfitted with higher-performance engines.
Perhaps on a test flight to see how it handles. There are plenty of military landing spots up and down the west coast for a plane like that. An empty plane with big engines could go very fast, and maneuver quickly.
That'd be my best guess. If they had used a shell registration and transponder, the flight would still be tracked and then there'd be a flight record they don't want.
Here's an example of planes that are in this category, and it's not unheard of for a 737 to get souped up engines: https://www.therenditionproject.org.uk/flights/aircraft/inde...
1: Trump put RR engines on his 757, for instance.
It'd be amusing to find out how the people on the other side of this are reacting: Either "hey that was a pretty successful test," or "someone f'd up big time and now we have to clean up this mess."
Many 757s have RR engines, but adding more power would allow take off with higher weight from shorter runways etc, not faster cruise.
Only-semi-joking but maybe someone there should set up an IRC channel that the FAA manager's in charge, and the defense operators can join to exchange info.
Also, not many currently declassified stealth aircraft fit the description of being large and white.
I don’t know if knowing this was a large plane flying faster than cruise jets is more concerning than not.
A large passenger jet with an airspeed close to Mach 0.9 in strong tail wind can sometimes show ground speed very close to, or even a bit over, what we normally take as Mach 1.
Presumably WADS has access to some of the most sophisticated radar equipment as isn't is part of NORAD?
The suggestion being no one was tracking this aircraft, not just a failure of civ primary radar.
We know that the US does regular flights over foreign countries for intelligence and normally we tend to think of foreign powers as "less capable" in their military technology. I think it's quite the opposite. There's heavy investment in military tech. Could be Russian or Chinese stealth spy planes. It would make more sense that this is the case than aliens from outer space.
Stealth planes would behave this way. Dropping in an out of radar, no transmission, etc.
If you think about aliens, if they were to make it to the US, they would need some sort of advance propulsion systems in their space craft. This would likely allow their space craft to NOT fly like normal earth aircraft. Why do they need to be traveling in linear patters as this incident shows?
I think foreign military is a more likely answer to the incident.
So what constitutes an abrupt maneuver and how many aircraft can make such radical change in direction while moving at full speed?
Any guesses? Does anyone want to dig into something like flightradar24 records and see if something took off with a transponder then disappeared that day?
Also by what mechanism could anything become radar-invisible mid-flight? Some kind of adaptive geometry? Could things like roll angle have influenced the RCS?
Retracting landing gear, retracting flaps, etc. can reduce RCS.
For military aircraft, closing of weapons bays that were previously open would reduce RCS.
In an extreme case, jettisoning of external fuel tanks and weapons can reduce RCS.
It'd be nice if someone put together a timeline that includes these sensor data so we could build a better model of the situation.
I imagine pilots and flight crews would have similar considerations as to how useful binoculars are on a typical sector - most seem to not pack all that much with them. It sounds that if pilots were to be issued expensive binoculars for the purpose of identifying unidentified objects, rare events would need to become a lot more frequent?
On a vaguely related note, in 2012 an Air Canada passenger plane was diverted to help locate a stranded yacht off Australian waters. Apparently, there was a call out to any passengers who might have had binoculars, but it's not clear whether they were instrumental in the end: https://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/18/travel/australia-yacht-re...
* While smaller binoculars are lighter and more compact, they also cost a lot more if optics quality is to be preserved. Also, smaller ones don't work as well at night - so that probably rules out any real chance of identifying stealth aircraft when it's dark.
I've noticed with my 8x42 binocular at daytime, large aircraft at a certain height (I can't remember if it was 10,000 or 30,000 ft) on a clear day with no contrails cannot be seen by my naked eye on the ground but shows up clearly in the binocular - but only if I know where to scan (after looking up FlightRadar, etc). While they do bring the view closer, they're not magic and come with tradeoffs like a narrow field of view, etc.
But my money is on this just being a military test—some SR71-like replacement (probably air-breathing, maybe even unmanned). It's not really out of the question, but a big hole in this idea is that merging with general air traffic is usually a no-no even by military standards.
Anyways, on a somewhat unrelated note, it just reminds me of this story, for anyone even remotely interested in flight.
I like the context of the written one better. Seems like the focus/slant/whatever changed from the one-upmanship of the written one to let's-piss-off-center of the spoken one.
It is only a matter of time before this actually becomes plausible, if not already. The next logical step for extreme hooning and evading police is doing it in the air, and evading the USAF. If you're not pushing it further than those who came before you, it's kindof irrelevant in this context.
The whole disappearing from radar thing in this story is the only reason anyone suspects something extraordinary or military.
Everything else about it says it's somewhat benign. The observed speeds are fairly common, they describe something behaving like a normal jet, and it's traveling in airspace the military has no reason to mess with and every reason to avoid for safety reasons.
I know of a number of psychopaths who would do this kind of thing if they had the means.
I was a passenger in a C182 once where the transponder antenna fell off midflight. It was very educational how much trouble ATC had seeing us. Even after telling them exactly where we were, flying the heading they gave us to present the broadside of the a/c to the radar antenna, they basically said "there's something that might be you there, but I can't really tell."
A big jet at FL370 should show up on primary, but I can see it depending on a bunch of factors.
Facts: It's large, fast, airplane shaped, painted white, and off radar. It stayed in the area, but ran away when fighter jets were nearby.
Since it's large, then it must be for holding things, so it's for transporting something. It's fast, so whatever it is transporting needs to get their quickly, or needs to run away from other things. It's distinctly airplane shaped, so it's optimized for flying through the air at cruising altitudes.
It's white, so it's not trying to hide at night or under cover. Commercial airliners are generally white, so maybe it is supposed to blend in at commercial airports.
It's off radar. Stealth airplanes are flat and small, this airplane is not. It does not have radar absorbing/deflecting abilities, it is off radar. Is it possible that civilian radar equipment is programmed to ignore certain transponders like photocopiers reject scanning dollar bills?
It knew the difference between commercial aircraft and fighter jets, and that the fighter jets were a threat. It didn't leave the area until it was in proximity to the fighter jets.
It could have been a test of the airplane's capabilities. But since it seemed to hang around the area for a bit, almost as if it was teasing pilots, I think it was testing the reaction time of the ATC and the fighter jets. The thought being, "If we need to get out of here, how long until they scramble fighters? And if they scramble them, can we get away?"
Could be that there are multiple factions in the government/military and one of these factions is planning for a quick getaway. That's the only way it would have "off radar" capabilities, civilians wouldn't be able to get a hold of that tech.
Is this Donald Trump and co's getaway van?
The object was referred to as a "white speck" by one pilot. Civilian radar did not hold on to it for long. That's all I got from those exchanges. Did I miss something?
Never heard of "space junk" doing that before.
Is there a chart of the encounters somewhere? All I heard is "it's northbound".