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The recent sighting of an alleged UFO by the crew of the South Wales Police Helicopter has generated a veritable storm of inaccurate reporting and sensationalism by news media outlets worldwide.
This particular feeding frenzy started on the 20th June this year, when the popular British tabloid newspaper "The Sun" screamed the sensational "Cops chase a UFO over Cardiff" headline from its website. Immediately below the headline, we are greeted to a mock-up of a police helicopter swerving sharply to avoid a classical flying saucer-shaped UFO from colliding with it. We are then told that "STUNNED police gave chase to a UFO after it attacked their helicopter near a military base." My word, this is serious stuff! A UFO "attacked" a police helicopter?! The story then further illustrates the seriousness of this event by stating: "[A source said] it closed in at great speed, aiming straight at the helicopter. The chopper had to swerve sharply to avoid being hit. The guys said if they'd stayed where they were, they'd be dead - it would've been a direct hit."
Anyone not familiar with the Sun's penchant for hyperbole could be forgiven for thinking this story just might be the real deal. Usually, UFO reports consist of someone seeing vague lights or objects in the sky. Occasionally, someone will pop along and say they were taken for a ride in a spaceship when the reality is they should be taken for a ride directly to the nearest mental health institution. Most people can see through such fantastic stories and put them down to fantasy or wishful thinking. This time however, it involved the highly skilled, thoroughly professional crew of a police helicopter so there must be something to it, right?
It certainly caught the public and media imagination. The likes of the BBC, CNN, FOX News, Associated Press, AFP, Times of India, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, Wired and United Press International all published the sensational story, leading to mass speculation of "imminent disclosure" and "now it's for real!" posts on discussion boards and blogs all over the internet.
Nick Pope, former British Ministry of Defence official and current author and TV personality, thinks a formal enquiry should be launched by the MoD and the Civil Aviation Authority, citing "flight safety issues" as the main concern. Continuing hysterical reporting by the Sun newspaper, including their recent devoting of an entire section of their site to the UFO "phenomena" - replete with tales of abduction and dodgy photos galore - are leading to a huge increase in people believing that "something is going on".
Something is going on alright, it's called selling newspapers.
Let's have a look at the facts of this particular case. According to the Sun newspaper, the crew of a police helicopter was lucky to escape with their lives after a very close encounter with a flying saucer. The gallant boys in blue gave chase in their unarmed police Eurocopter EC135T2 (ID G-WONN), but had to return to base after running low on fuel. The official version of the story however, paints a rather different view to the fantastical nonsense as told by the Sun.
After contacting Oonagh Moore, the South Wales Police Press & PR Officer for the Vale of Glamorgan Division, we received an entirely different version of events:
Please find below all the information we are releasing in relation to this incident.
A South Wales Police spokesperson said:
"South Wales Police can confirm the South & East Wales Air Support Unit sighted an unusual aircraft. This was reported to the relevant authorities for their investigation. In today's skies, there are a wide variety of aircrafts which come in a range of different shapes and sizes and in all probability, this sighting has just confirmed that one of these was in the area at the relevant time."
**It was not a flying saucer and has not been described as so.
**the helicopter did not chase it.
**the police helicopter was not attacked.
**The unusual aircraft did not speed straight at the helicopter.
** The helicopter did not have to swerve sharply to avoid being hit and the crew would not have been "dead" as stated in The Sun.
**The helicopter did not follow it, or chase it, across the Bristol Channel and the North Devon coast.
**we haven't confirmed any of the details in The Sun story and a lot of the details are inaccurate.
**The South & East Wales Air Support Unit is a facility shared between South Wales Police and Gwent Police.
Hmm, pretty conclusive don't you think? For those of you out there who would say "Well, the police would say that, wouldn't they!" let me answer that by simply stating "No".
If a police helicopter actually did come under attack from an unknown aircraft, you can rest assured that every jet fighter in the region would be vectored in to take a closer look. Given that the Ministry of Defence had no knowledge whatsoever about this incident until asked by reporters for their response, the likliehood of the Sun's version of events being correct falls somewhere close to none.
In addition to this, while we all know that the UK police are extremely brave when faced with real danger and threat to life, what would be achieved by chasing after a flying saucer that was moving at "great speed" in an unarmed and comparatively slow helicopter? In the unlikely event they could catch up to the speeding vehicle, one doubts they would be successful in any attempt at getting it to "pull over!"
A Eurocopter EC135T2 from the North East Air Support Unit.
The chopper is identical to "G-WONN" from the South & East Wales Air Aupport Unit.
While there is no doubt that the three man crew of the South & East Wales Air Support Unit saw an unusual aircraft while waiting to land at their base in St Athan, one has to wonder why the Sun newspaper would twist and turn the facts of the story to such an extent as to make it completely unrecognisable from the (boring) truth.
Unless, of course, they are in the business of selling as many newspapers as possible and they have identified a particular market that is just ripe for the plucking.
Extra, Extra, Read all about it!
Author: Stephen Broadbent, 27th June 2008
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