Saturday, June 30, 2018

UFOs Hoaxed by Military Pilots

The study of UFOs has always been complicated by hoaxes, either from false reports or by events staged to fool witnesses. 

The Air Force’s “Status Report: Project Blue Book - Report No. 10” from 27 February 1953 reviewed the record-setting year of 1952, and of the 1000 cases analyzed, less than two percent of them were found to be deliberate fakes, “Hoaxes 1.67%

The problem is that within the remaining cases, we cannot know what fragment of hoaxes were successful and remained undetected, possibly remaining on record classified under “insufficient information” or as an “unknown.”

One particularly interesting species of hoax is when an actual aircraft is involved, but the pilot operates it in a manner to deceive witnesses. This results in sincere testimony by the witnesses, but of a false UFO. The pilots perpetrating the hoaxes are unlikely to confess since it could result in anything from the loss of their pilot’s license to criminal prosecution. Or in the case of military pilots, the loss of their flying career.


Few of these hoaxes by pilots have been documented, but a good example was included as part of the Condon Report: the University of Colorado’s Scientific Study Of Unidentified Flying Objects led by University of Colorado Dr. Edward U. Condon, completed in 1968. In Chapter 1,  “Field Studies” by Roy Craig, he summarizes how in the spring of 1967, seven witnesses were interviewed about their UFO sighting.
Case 23 is an example of a simple prank by the young at heart. A pilot, about to take off from an Air Force base in (a twin-engine Navy) airplane equipped with a powerful, movable searchlight, suggested to his co-pilot, "Let's see if we cant spook some UFO reports." By judicious use of the searchlight from the air, particularly when flashes of light from the ground were noticed, the pilots succeeded remarkably well. Members of the ground party, hunting raccoons at the time, did report an impressive UFO sighting. Our field team found, in this case, an interesting opportunity to study the reliability of testimony. 
That summary is from page 90 of the Condon Report.  
The incident itself is detailed on pages 494 - 497, “ Case 23, North Central, Spring 1967.” 

Anecdotes from Aviation Week

Philip J. Klass, was a senior avionics editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology, but in his spare time, he was studied, debunked, and wrote about UFOs. In his 1983 book, Klass discussed incidents engineered by military pilots.
Some UFO incidents are more accurately characterized as practical jokes. For example, a neighbor of mine confided to me that he had generated a few UFO incidents during the 1950s when he was a Navy fighter pilot based on the West Coast. He explained that Navy pilots would practice intercepting an enemy bomber in darkness by using an unsuspecting airliner as a mock target. The authorized procedure called for the Navy aircraft to come no closer than about ten miles before breaking off. However, this former Navy pilot (who requested anonymity) said that if he felt in a "playful mood" he would turn off his aircraft's external lights and approach quite close to the airliner.
Then, he said, he would reach for his emergency cockpit flashlight and flash it on and off until he could see passengers in the cabin reacting to it. Then he would maneuver to the other side of the airliner and give a repeat performance. Finally, he told me, he would drop below the airliner and turn on his jet-engine's afterburner, creating greatly increased thrust and a long rocketlike plume, and would zoom out in front of the relatively slow-moving airliner. Then he would return to base. "The next day I would scan the newspapers and sure enough there would be a story about an airline flight crew who reported seeing a rocketlike UFO, with confirming reports from a number of passengers who described seeing a bright flashing light,” my neighbor told me.
During one of my UFO lectures, I recounted the story of how this former Navy pilot had generated UFO reports that would be extremely difficult to explain in prosaic terms had he not chosen to confide in me. After the lecture, a man came up to tell me that he was a former USAF interceptor pilot and that while based on the East Coast he also had generated a few such airliner UFO-encounter reports "for kicks." He added: "Here I was creating UFO incidents that another branch of the Air Force (Project Blue Book) was trying to solve, but I dared not reveal my role because it was a serious infraction of the rules."
From UFOs: The Public Deceived by Philip J. Klass, 1983 (pgs. 298-299)

Interesting examples, but Klass was unable to name his sources, so by his own debunking standards we would have to consider them hearsay. Other such rumors have surfaced over the years, but usually just as vague with anonymous pilots. Something more definite recently surfaced - and from an unlikely source - a prominent UFO witness.

The UFO Pilot

Navy Commander David Fravor became famous in late 2017 for speaking about the “Tic Tac” incident, his UFO encounter while flying an exercise from the USS Nimitz on November 14, 2004. Fravor is considered an ideal observer, credible due due to his qualifications, rank and aviation expertise. He’s like a modern Kenneth Arnold, the original all-American UFO witness.

In a recent audio interview about his sighting and its aftermath, David Fravor discussed the need for further investigation, and used his own pranks hoaxing UFO sightings in the 1990s as an example.

“I’ll tell you- so I flew night vision goggles, okay? You know when you’re a pilot, you gotta grow up, but you don’t have to grow up? Sometimes, we can be a little bit childish, ‘cause you’re 34 years old and you’re flying super-cool jets, and even if you are 25 when I started flying a real jet, it’s just fun, and it’s cool, and it’s a great job.
So, we would fly around - I had a NVG O qual. So we would fly around at 200 feet at night with no lights on. ‘Cause we’d be in the warning areas where we’re allowed to do that. So we can technically fly around with no lights on. So, we would. And then we’d see - you can see campfires ‘cause people are below us camping. You can see campfires  from way, way away. ‘Cause the goggles will pick up that light from way, way, far away.
So we would get going really fast, and then we’d pull the power back to idle, so we’d go zinging over the top of these campfires. And then you just light the afterburners and pull up. And you’d leave ‘em on for a minute, then turn ‘em off. So think about - You’re sitting on the ground, got a nice campfire, it’s a pretty starry night, and you don’t hear anything. The all of a sudden, there’s a loud roar, there’s fire above your eyes, you're like, ‘Oh, my God,’ and then the fire goes out, and there’s nothing there. ‘What is that?’
… So when you do that, we always think, God, they’re crazy. Well, maybe they are not crazy, and can you explain it? Now, if there was real investigation… they could track and say that there was an airplane in that area doing low training, and he was just messing with you, but if people never report it, then they’re going to think for the rest of their lives that they saw something you can’t explain.”
Commander David Fravor had a distinguished 18-year career as a U.S. Navy pilot, and retired from the Navy in 2006. Any UFO fireballs seen by campers after that are not his responsibility.

David Fravor is supporting UFO research and investigation, and by speaking publicly, encouraging other witnesses to come forward. If other retired military pilots would also come forward to disclose and document incidences of hoaxing UFOs, that would also be valuable. The more that is known about UFO incidents - false and genuine - the more we can hope to understand the phenomenon and the experience of the witnesses.


  1. This may very well be one of the most important and insightful articles about what humanity may be observing and reporting as UFOs. Many UFO devotees won't like it, but it is my opinion that if you are not willing to seriously consider evidence and theories that don't fit with you're existing assumptions about the truth, then you cannot call yourself an investigator. Without questioning, comparison, re-evaluation, and some healthy doubt, you cannot call yourself an investigator. No one would be in a better position to spontaneously create a "UFO prank" than the pilot of a high-tech military aircraft. Once considered, this theory cannot be "unconsidered." Does it explain everything? Of course not. But it might explain many sightings. Just when I thought this field couldn't become any more discouraging. Oh well.

    1. James, thanks for taking the time to comment with your thoughts. I agree with what you are saying, it's just that many people just can't understand that real investigation means many disappointments.

      We've got to question everything, and look for answers - not just for the answers we want.

    2. This will certainly account for some unexplained events but the sort of thing only covers a very small percentage of sightings that would fall into such a category. I know debunkers won't like this, but some things have been witnessed that do not brook any explanation other than ET. I have had 3 close encounters in my life including an experience involving an army platoon and missing time. The simple fact is some reports are so extraordinary they make the case on their own for intelligent external influences. We'll never know the truth of most reports so need to pay most attention to the ones which stand out.

    3. I've had three close encounters and a number of other distant sightings ion my life. There is no way anything earthly could have hoaxed what I have seen on any of those occasions. Sure there is plenty of explainable sightings but plenty are not even close to be able to be explained by any invention you might employ.

    4. I realize this reply is a year too late. But, the fact that he's a pilot and happen to "Mess" with people doesn't mean he didn't see something credible. He didn't talk about it for 13 years for crying out loud. I've seen bunking websites saying he "Crafted a UFO Story". This is utter nonsense. Not to mention, many reputable people have been seeing craft like this for CENTURIES. The 40's and 50's...over the white house, etc. People seem to be more scared to take it seriously and it's easier (lazier) to try and explain it away. This is the most NON scientific approach to something i've ever seen. I've seen the leader of the SETI institute that has spent the better part of a 3 decades trying to LISTEN for extraterrestrial and have come up empty; and HE is trying to explain it away. It seems like more sour grapes than anything else. We're not making the leap to "aliens", but something that actively jams radar, flies with impunity and defying gravity...should be investigated seriously.

    5. "'re existing assumptions... "

      "Your" illiterate.

  2. Congratulations on a truly enlightening piece. Though many of us suspected that some sightings were misidentified military aircraft, it's mind boggling to realize the complex (and risky sounding) maneuvers that were used to intentionally hoax a UFO sighting.

    Now I believe any serious investigation of any sighting must first take into account nearby military air bases as well as military flight training areas.

  3. Hmm. Curt Collins. Web master of this blog called Blurry Lines ? The way you write, I have to assume, you have never seen a UFO have you ? Once you see one, hovering 500' above the scrub lands of Chugwater, Wyoming, for two hours, opaque diffused light encapsulating the whole craft, with alternating white, blue, red lites on the outboards, no discernable wings, tail, no sound at all emanating from the craft, then suddenly takes off vertically at supersonic speed and disappears in the night sky, when reported to me via telephone, back at our base' WSC, that two F-4Phantoms were dispatched to our flight area ?...your life will change for ever. And what pray tell, were we, we, USAF Security Police, a Site Manager, a Site Cook and two officers located beneath my office's floor doing out there ?