Reactions to “Mystery sightings”

I really enjoyed the “Mystery of the ‘Damn Things’” article [November cover story].
I was interested when news broke a couple of years ago and was wondering what happened since then. Great reporting.

Michael Martin, AIAA senior member

I have read a lot of material about these Navy pilot incidents, and this is one of the best treatments I have seen. I especially appreciated the succinct critiques of various theories, as well as the quotes from some technical experts not previously heard from on this subject in anything I’ve read.

There was one paragraph, however, that bothered me a tad. Your use of the term “conspiracy theories” has a somewhat pejorative ring. The genesis of UFO theories in the late 1940s and 1950s was that a hell of lot of people were seeing the “damn things,” including a great many military personnel (up to generals), especially at nuclear sites, as well as commercial pilots, private aviation pilots, knowledgeable people like Kelly Johnson*, and other credible witnesses. As for the CIA’s claim that U-2 flights accounted for many UFO sightings, this has been refuted in detail by various researchers, including veteran UFO skeptic Robert Sheaffer and UFO photoanalyst Bruce Maccabee.
That aside, commendations on a solid piece of journalism on a thorny topic.

Douglas D. Johnson, Adelphi, Maryland
*Clarence “Kelly” Johnson founded Lockheed Skunk Works and provided a UFO account to the U.S. Air Force’s “Project BLUE BOOK” report.

In the 1990s, I gave two AIAA papers** involving UFOs based upon concurrent information and available photographs. The Aerospace America article was quite thorough and informative, especially about broaching speculations of Russian and Chinese capabilities, but did not address several important pieces of interest for engineers and scientists.

At least one craft went from high to low altitudes within seconds and performed unusual maneuvers. Conventional wisdom implies biological beings, if they were 
on-board, could not survive the G-forces unless the craft offered no inertia. That would be a nice trick to obtain.

Data tends to imply one craft reached orbital speed while it was flying near the ground, up to Mach 20. Another nice trick! For those with knowledge about hypersonics, the heating would be so severe to stress our known expertise where the survival of the craft would probably exceed temperatures above tens of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. This craft must have generated a lot of thermal energy. In all of these events, there were no gas dynamic shocks or waves. That by itself pushes the credibility of conventional wisdom.

One craft moves underwater at speeds of more than several hundreds of miles per hour. The best technology that we can establish underwater at high speed involves cavitating torpedoes that move on the order of 150 mph, none of which can perform underwater maneuvers because the saltwater dynamic pressure would easily destroy the structure. This UFO craft seems to be invulnerable to such effects.

These events demonstrate technologies beyond our competence. We should not be afraid of unknown knowledge that potentially offers us embryonic technologies which would exceed our imagination pinioned by the conventional wisdom. Instead, we, especially in academia, should spend significant and serious efforts to accept and develop this game-changing expertise and its promise to benefit humankind as we try to touch the stars.

P.A. Murad, AIAA associate fellow, Vienna, Virginia,

** “An Electromagnetic Rocket Stellar Drive….Myth or Reality? Part I- Electromagnetic and Relativistic Phenomenon,” July 1995.
“An Electromagnetic Rocket Stellar Drive….Myth or Reality? Part II- Fluid Dynamic Interactions and an Engine Concept,” July 1995

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Military Aircraft

Reactions to “Mystery sightings”