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Very end of the article:

[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.




> 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.


I'm all for atmospheric effects when the only other explanation is aliens but this thing was flying at a height and speed and appearance totally consistent with modern aircraft with multiple observations. By far the most likely explanation is US military.


Why military? Not smugglers? Not intelligence services, or just an asshole?

The military is a possibility, but I don’t know about “most likely” here.


Most of the speculation here hinges on it being an advanced aircraft that successfully evaded the USAF. Though it's entirely possible that that is easier than it sounds.

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.


What randon aholes? Almost anyone with the money. Sending an f15 to intercept something moving like an airliner isnt simple. Everything is moving at close to supersonic speeds. By the time they get up there the target is over the horizon. They need to be directed to one of a dozen targets without burning all thier fuel on the way. It is a big ask.

Intercepting an inbound russian is easy. He is comming towards you. An airliner moving away or past you at 200nm is exponentially more difficult.


>assumption here is that the military goofed, didn't tell another branch

Perhaps intentionally provocated a response from FAA, USAF, etc as a real-world test of the aircraft's stealth/evasion technology


Drug cartels have been using old airliners to smuggle cocaine for years. A Boeing 727 or something similar could achieve the flight profile described in this incident.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/nov/15/south-american...


And immediately get painted by three or more primaries. Large airliner doesn’t fit with the primary radar loss, and they seem to use those aircraft for transoceanic routes on account of their radar signature. One doesn’t hide a 727, even with weaker civilian radar. Once the military was involved it should have been a slam dunk intercept, in that case.

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 US didn't stop developing secret aircraft after the B-2 was declassified in 1988.

The SR71 was built in the 50s and still seems crazy advanced. I can't imagine what they are working on now.


>> The SR71 was built in the 50s

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.


> The US didn't stop developing secret aircraft after the B-2 was declassified in 1988

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.)


Peacetime? The US is still in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force bombed Russian military contractors in Syria last week.


We have always been at war with EastAsia.


I keep reading news stories about how we are in a new Cold War/the threat of nuclear confrontation is as high as any point during the cold war ....


Here's an interview with Greenwald discussing current Russian fear mongering in the US media today. His conclusion is that the lessons of the mistakes in journalism which led us to the Iraq War are being repeated.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/01/07/glenn_gre...


Fear mongering?!

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).


He does provide examples here, and numerous times elsewhere, of claims which turned out to be entirely false. This has happened in the past, in Iraq with the WMD lies, and Vietnam with the Gulf of Tonkin. This is a big problem.

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.


Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that our society doesn't need skeptical journalism - if anything we need more of it. As you point out, we have been failed many times by the media in the past. I've read plenty of articles from The Intercept over the years that have been informative and thought provoking.

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.


I know Russia is doing things that I, and a lot of people, disagree with and think are just wrong. Lots of people, money, governments are invested in fighting against this.

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.


i don't think that he's pro-russia whatsoever.

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.


They authorized 250 Billion in Defense Spending last year. They are not slowing down. Eisenhower warned us, and that is not even counting black ops that are funded "privately"


From the recordings it sounded to me like they got visual confirmation from both north and south bound aircraft.


How did this pilot estimate distance? In clear air with nothing to give you perspective an object can be close, small and slow, or big, fast and distant; there is simply no way to tell the difference visually.


Not sure what the pilot in question did, but changing altitude whilst you observe an object can help you make an educated guess.


Really advanced? The size, speed, and altitude were no better than airliners from 50 years ago.


Airliners from 50 years ago couldn't make themselves invisible to radar. Still can't.


Turn off transponder. In the US, outside the ADIZ, we don't have a blanket of active radar.


That's fine for secondary, but you'll still show up on primary.


Civilian primary radar in most places isn't that strong. It may or may not get a good skin paint depending on distance, size, and atmospheric conditions.


Primary radar is good enough to pickup a 2500# single engine airplane from 50+ miles away.

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).


Possibly, although it strikes me as possible that being a pilot doesn’t make you necessarily supercompetent where observing unfamiliar phenomena is concerned. Pilots are trained for a specific, if comprehensive, set of circumstances, and things like death spirals occur because even that training can fail.

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.




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