The radar picked up an object of considerable size, flying from Rio Gallegos toward the north. The device is unable to determine its point of origin. But it flies without stopping. There is astonishment and disquiet. However, the decision in quick and unequivocal: two Mirage interceptors are scrambled from the Tandil Base to intercept the object...and they find that it is a weather balloon launched in Australia, winding up in Argentina's airspace.
By Jorge Nahum
More or less, this is the story told by Commodore Jorge Tealdi, press officer for the Argentinean Air Force (FAA) which decided in late 2010 to create a commission to investigate celestial phenomena that penetrate the nation's skies.
The incident he recalled took place several years ago, but it helps to explain the goals of this new commission. There was something strange in the air, an unknown object, and it was possible -- by specific actions -- to establish what it was. "The Argentinean Air Force's main mission is to safeguard Argentinean airspace, and we admit that our skies have cases involving objects or phenomena that cannot be explained. This does not necessarily mean that they are alien spacecraft, but they are indeed unidentified flying objects," explained Tealdi, a resident of Córdoba, born in Morteros, in a statement to Día a Día.
The new commission already has the authorization of the Ministry of Defense and will operate out of the Condor Building as the Comisión de Estudios de Fenómenos Aeroespaciales o Celestes (Aerospatial or Heavenly Phenomena Study Commission). Its members have not yet been appointed, but will include specialists in a variety of disciplines, such as meteorologists, air traffic controllers, pilots and radar experts. Collaborators will also be invited to participate -- Ufologists, for example -- under the command of military personnel.
"This is the first time that the Air Force makes a similar move. Based on sighting reports, we are going to create an official statistical base aimed a creating a sightings map, to know where we need to pay attention. The idea is to have the official Air Force website have a link to any reports and photos we may receive, and that also provides news regarding investigations," said Tealdi.
While the goal is to receive all possible information, he explained that "the experiences of a group of hikers at Mount Uritorco do not have the same weight as those fo a trained pilot flying an aircraft with instruments." He added: "And I say this respectfully, becaus we know that expectations are considerable. Many people send us their concerns, photos and videos and want us to provide an explanation immediately. We are in no position to provide rapid responses, but we can say that the decision to investigate has already been made."
Air safety. In June of last year, a Chinese airport interrupted its activities and cancelled flights for three hours due to a UFO manifestation. Its exact nature remains unknown. In this regard, Commodore Tealdi said: "In the history of Argentinean aviation, there has never been an aerial phenomenon that jeopardized air safety. With the creation of this investigative commission, the priority shall be to deal with cases that may affect this safety beyond any anomalies in the sky."
In the region, Brazil and Uruguay have already implemented commissions of this sort, and in South America, only Perú and Argentina have not opened their files regarding UFO phenomena. "We have nothing to hide and I have no evidence that there is classified or secret information. I repeat, these concerns are precisely [the reason] for the creation of an official statistical database, not only to satisfy general curioisty. We are also charged with guarding our airspace," stressed the military official.
Regarding the protocol to be followed by Air Force pilots in the event of a sighting, Tealdi explained that "a traditional procedure of alerting authorities" is followed.
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Regarding expectations in the new undertaking, Tealdi was enthusiastic and prudent all at once. "We cannot dismiss anything, or steer ourselves by preconceptions. We know that we are going to come across all manner of information, from natural phenomena such as light refraction and glow against the clouds, to space junk and burned out satellites. Not to mention jokes, such as tricked photos or hoaxed videos. There will be everything. I look at the sky all day and never saw anyting [unusual], and even so, I'm convinced that we have taken a major step."