April 12, 2011

FAA Instructions to Staff on UFO Sightings Debunk Cover-Up Claims

Early this year, the FAA issued a series of new changes to its official Air Traffic Organization Policy. Specifically, this release was related to “air traffic control procedures and phraseology for use by personnel providing air traffic control services.”

Even though the document mentions how air traffic control staff should respond to UFO sightings, it has gone virtually unnoticed by Ufology.

The document first lists a small change in what organization where staff should report sightings. On page 17 under a review of document contents, the document states:

“This change corrects one of the organizations to which UFO/unexplained phenomena activity can be reported. NIDS is defunct and has been replaced by BAASS as the proper reporting agency. This change also includes a phone number and e-mail address for BAASS.”

This section is important because it makes it clear that there has already been an accepted FAA policy related to reporting UFOs even before this document was published, and that the “proper reporting agency” was NIDS – the organization formerly owned by Robert Bigelow and now defunct.

FAA Instructions on How to Report UFO

On page 401 of the document, section 9-8-1 provides a more specific explanation of how the FAA wants its staff to deal with Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) Reports:

“Persons wanting to report UFO/unexplained phenomena activity should contact a UFO/unexplained phenomena reporting data collection center, such as Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies [contact details removed], the National UFO Reporting Center, etc.

If concern is expressed that life or property might be endangered, report the activity to the local law enforcement department.”

It’s pretty clear from this internal document that the FAA does not discourage its staff from issuing UFO reports. In fact it leaves little doubt that staff are encouraged to report sightings to either private UFO reporting agencies or to the local authorities.

This document flies in the face of how most UFO proponents have always stated that the FAA discourages the reporting of UFOs, and that the agency seeks to cover up all UFO sightings.

John Callahan’s FAA “Cover-Up”

For example, in October of 2000, acting as one of the Witnesses in Stephen Greer’s “Disclosure Project”, a man by the name of John Callahan offered his own testimony concerning a UFO sighting that took place over the skies of Alaska.

According to Greer, Callahan was a Division Chief of Accidents and Investigations in the FAA for six years.

The story is now fairly well known within UFO circles – in 1986 a Japanese Airlines 747 flying over Alaska was allegedly followed by a UFO for about half an hour.

In his testimony, John stated that after the incident, there was a meeting with staff from the CIA, FBI and Reagan’s Scientific Study group. Callahan claimed that after reviewing the boxes of data, one of the CIA men stated that the meeting “never happened.”

“When they got done, they actually swore all these other guys in there that this never took place. We never had this meeting. And this was never recorded.”

Callahan didn’t stop there, he further stated that from his own personal experience, the FAA had a history of covering up such incidents when he stated:

“Well, I’ve been involved in a lot of cover-ups with the FAA. When we gave the presentation to the Reagan staff I was behind the group that was there. And when they were speaking to the people in the room, they had all those people swear that this never happened.”

Contradictory Witness Statements

At this point, Callahan’s credentials and story has never actually been independently confirmed. In fact, back in 2007, as we were attempting to verify his claims, we contacted CIA Science Analyst Ron Pandolfi. Ron admitted that both he and Maccabee had in fact attended an FAA meeting like the one Callahan described. However, he did not recall anyone making any statement that the meeting never happened, or that the data should be covered up.

Pandolfi stated, “I don’t recall trying to ‘keep the sighting hushed’ since it was already widely publicized.”

In fact Pandolfi turned over all the data to Maccabee to conduct a full investigation and report (which Maccabee published in 1987).

Pandolfi did say that he recalled John Callahan being present at the meeting, and that all discussion regarding “delaying dissemination of information” was between Bruce and Callahan. This implies, of course, that Callahan could have mistaken Maccabee for a “CIA guy,” when he was actually only there as a private contractor.

We contacted Maccabee and he also confirmed that he was at such a meeting and received all of the data for his analysis and report, but he also did not recall anyone at the meeting trying to cover it up.

We reported this contradiction to Leslie Kean of the Coalition for Freedom of Information – the only listed contact for Callahan – and she initially did not believe us. Therefore, I put her in direct contact with Pandolfi and Maccabee, who both told her exactly what they told us. Kean refused to let us speak directly with Callahan to resolve the discrepancy, and eventually refused to cooperate regarding getting any clarification from Callahan.

Leslie Kean Hits the Ufology Media Circuit

In fact, Kean completely ignored the contradictory witness statements that she received first-hand, and instead went on to publish a book in 2010 titled UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record, where she repeated Callahan’s testimony in full on page 222, and even focused on the “this never happened” statement.

She completely left out the fact that she had received direct testimony from both a CIA analyst and Bruce Maccabee, stating that they were at such a meeting that matched the meeting John described, and that no one said anything about covering-up.

Regardless of the reasons why Callahan made that statement, the fact that the data was immediately released to Maccabee to do a full public disclosure immediately following the event blows both Kean and Callahan’s claim of secrecy completely out of the water. And the fact that Kean ignored the contradictory evidence offered to her first-hand does the same to her journalistic integrity.

This latest FAA release provides a much clearer example of what the FAA really tells its staff – not what Ufologists would like you to believe. There is no vast conspiracy to cover up UFO sightings at the FAA. In fact, as you can see in this document, the FAA tells its staff to report all UFO sightings to the appropriate UFO organization, or in the case where life or property is threatened – to the local authorities.


Filed under: UFOlogy,UFOs — Tags: , , , , — RyanDube @ 10:20 am


  1. avatar

    I was wondering when you would get to this.

    Nicely done Ryan.

    You were right, I was wrong

    Comment by Andy — April 12, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  2. avatar

    Thanks Andy – Yes, was waiting to track down Callahan myself, but once I saw Leslie exploit the Callahan story with her book, I realized it’s probably about time to release the details to the public. Thanks for initially getting us the contact by the way, you were a huge help in this investigation.

    Comment by RyanDube — April 12, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  3. avatar

    I was such a big fan of Kean’s at the time.
    I completely disagreed with you.

    But I guess after the intial shock wore off,
    I realized the full magnatude of Kean’s deceptions.

    I mean this was brought to her attention, and she completely ignored it.

    So that begs the question….

    What else has been brought to her attention that she ignores and or covers ups?

    Sad but true….many disclosure advocates claim to want the govt cover up to end, but have no problem covering up their own inconvienent truths

    Comment by Andy — April 12, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  4. avatar

    Great article Ryan!
    The same question can be asked of many ufology writers and researchers. What have they been told or what do they know, yet choose to ignore lest it interferes with the overall message they are trying to get out?

    Then we have the so-called whistleblowers. Many people automatically assume that “credible” witnesses must be telling the truth, yet we see here and in many other cases we’ve investigated, it isn’t always the case.

    Overall it comes down to agendas and future prospects. Sad, but true.

    Comment by Stephen Broadbent — April 12, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

  5. avatar

    Granted that Leslie was emphasizing the “cover up” aspect, apparently in the face of the facts, this discussion seems to skirt around the more important (IMHO) issue of…. what was the cause of the sighting in the first place?
    And note, incidently, that the world did not have learned about the sighting from the FAA which told no one after completing a preliminary investigation on the night of the event. It wasn’t until the air crew told some media in Japan and an American reporter picked up on that and queried the FAA that the FAA admitted it had happened and announced that they would carry out an investigation.
    After they completed their investigation they sold document packages which contained most of the stuff that I was given by the CIA (interviews of the crew and radar operators, maps, radar data printout, etc.)

    Comment by Bruce Maccabee — April 13, 2011 @ 2:21 am

  6. avatar

    Excellent article.

    It goes to show the Coalition for Freedom of Information is not only emulating covert clandestine techniques to cover up their ineffective methods but is less trustworthy than a government institute which employs many people at all levels, has a democratic/union weight to it and is prone to Freedom of Information requests – things which leave paper-trails and evidence of tampering.

    Simply put this is yet another in the ridiculous number of nails in the coffin for ‘pro’ or ‘believer’ factions of the playground known as UFOlogy.

    Sadly there is no reasoning with these people and new generations will let their hearts and enthusiasm outweigh their rationale and passion.

    Comment by m0r1arty — April 13, 2011 @ 6:06 am

  7. avatar

    Thanks Bruce. Like you, I do find the sighting to be interesting, and I also agree that exploring the cause of the sighting is an important discussion to have. However, the focus here is on Leslie’s (and many other ufologist’s) over-emphasis on an alleged “cover up”, as though that alone proves that the cause of the sighting must be profound, rather than mundane. I would also challenge what you are implying by saying the FAA told no one – maybe they didn’t find the sighting important enough to publicly release? However, if there were a “cover-up”, per se, then certainly they wouldn’t have spoken with the American reporter about it, and the CIA certainly wouldn’t have released all of the data to you to review and release a report about. Hence – there was no cover up as Leslie, and more specifically Callahan, have been trying to claim.

    This latest document proves that the FAA doesn’t tell its staff not to talk to anyone about sightings.

    Comment by RyanDube — April 13, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  8. avatar

    @Ryan, thank you so much for publishing the results of your investigation with Andy. To say you gave the relevant parties ample time to clarify their positions prior to would be an understatement. Nice write-up too…

    @Bruce, welcome to RU and thank you for your comments. You ask what the cause of the sighting might be but I’m not sure how misperception and radar clutter/AP can be ruled out given these are well known phenomena and the other aircraft that was in the vicinity was unable to provide independent and contemporary visual confirmation of the reported object.

    That said, two quick questions if I may…

    1. Given the witness(s) were free to report the sighting to anyone they pleased or not, why should the FAA be required to “alert the media” prior to performing a thorough investigation and on what basis should they be required to perform one in the first place?

    2. What “stuff” exactly were you given for free “by the CIA” that wasn’t included in the package made available to the public by the FAA for a fee to cover reproduction costs?

    @Everyone, it should be noted the Air Force has had the exact same policy as the FAA in place for as long as I can remember…

    Factsheets : Unidentified Flying Objects and Air Force Project Blue Book

    “Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the Air Force. Given the current environment of steadily decreasing defense budgets, it is unlikely the Air Force would become involved in such a costly project in the foreseeable future.

    There are a number of universities and professional scientific organizations that have considered UFO phenomena during periodic meetings and seminars. A list of private organizations interested in aerial phenomena may be found in “Encyclopedia of Associations,” published by Gale Research. Interest in and timely review of UFO reports by private groups ensures that sound evidence is not overlooked by the scientific community. Persons wishing to report UFO sightings should be advised to contact local law enforcement agencies.

    However, I tried looking up what private organizations are listed as being interested but unfortunately it appears Gale Research doesn’t make that information freely availble online. In that respect at least it seems the FAA is being more proactive…

    Comment by Access Denied — April 14, 2011 @ 4:42 am

  9. avatar

    A proper history of the FAA response to public concern and its own internal protocols needs to be done. There are holes. I’m thinking Hudson Valley, 83-84…
    As for Kean, once the gears get rolling, and enough time is spent, it’s easy to convince Sysiphus that the next roll will be the last…

    Comment by Puppetburglar — April 15, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  10. avatar

    Doesn’t anyone think its strange that the FAA, a federal agency directs all of its UFO sighting to a private company instead of investigating what the hell his zipping around in our airspace? This basically says to me that they don’t want to hear about it. As someone who works in a corporate environment, verb-age must be used to try and cover your ass and this is what this is. You would be discounting all the pilots and other aviation professionals who were to scared to report things because of FAA backlash.

    Good article otherwise

    Comment by Guy Weddle — April 16, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  11. avatar

    @Puppetburglar, got anything capable of piercing the armor of The Iron Skeptic on that one?

    @Guy, not strange at all. Like the scientific community, I think they have more productive things to do than to try and explain why some people see things in the sky they can’t identify.

    As the history of official investigations has shown us, the “true believers” and those out to make a buck off of them will summarily reject any explanations offered or conclusions drawn anyway so why not let them deal with it?

    Case in point, from the Air Force link I gave above…

    No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security;

    There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as “unidentified” represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and

    There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as “unidentified” were extraterrestrial vehicles.

    Where’s the objective evidence to refute this? Why, for example, haven’t private UFO organizations taken the initiative to setup networks of cameras to capture hard tracking data? I figure this can be done for about the same amount it costs to pay for a bunch of alleged witnesses to travel to the National Press Club.

    Personally I have confidence in the men and women of the United Sates Air Force and their partner agencies to identify to the best of their abilities (after all we’re all human and nobody’s perfect) any real threats to our National Security in our skies…

    When’s the last time you or anyone you know were attacked by or collided with an alien spaceship?

    Comment by Access Denied — April 16, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  12. avatar

    Bigelow is considered an official reporting agency for UFO sightings??? ./facepalm

    Comment by AM* — April 24, 2011 @ 5:49 am

  13. avatar

    I think the author of this article inadvertently proves that the FAA does discourage it’s controllers from reporting UFO’s. “Persons wanting to report UFO/unexplained phenomena activity should contact……. etc.

    As a rule the FAA doesn’t leave the reporting of anomalous objects in controlled airspace to the discretion of individual controllers. It’s like saying that if you want to report a near miss go ahead and notify agency such and such. The underlying message of the directive is that you shouldn’t want to report these things. As is so often the case in cya memos such as this directive, an intelligent employee who wants to remain in good standing is expected to read between the lines. Given the increasing pressure from the public for full disclosure on this matter, I’m not surprised that the FAA would put out this type of non-directive directive.

    Comment by itsme — April 30, 2011 @ 4:05 am

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