One web site the “skeptics” have avoided like fire ants over the last decade is the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena. That’s because NARCAP, which refers to UFOs as unidentified aerial phenomena, does real science without resorting to hype or speculation, perhaps to its own detriment. But last month, this most cautious affiliation of researchers announced its intentions to apply for nonprofit 501(c)3 status and take its mission to a broader audience.
A good move for NARCAP
A good move for NARCAP
|By Billy Cox|
“While this was the general plan since we began our effort 12 years ago,” writes NARCAP executive director Ted Roe, “it seemed to better serve our interests as an organization to manage our expenses out-of-pocket.” Working without donations since its inception in 1999, Roe adds, “we have completed a great deal of research, investigations and analysis (with) very limited resources.”
That’s an understatement. Guided by former NASA scientist Dr. Richard Haines, NARCAP has posted more than two dozen technical reports on its site, with frequent international contributions. After all, states Roe, “These reports arise from every region on the planet and are global in nature. As such, they are a concern for all aviation jurisdictions and they deserve a much closer examination.”
In Y2K, Haines produced a landmark paper, “Aviation Safety in America: A Previously Neglected Factor,” that should’ve given mainstream science a reason for concern. Drawing upon cases languishing in, among other places, FAA, NTSB and NASA files, Haines examined near-miss incidents, some of which exerted disruptive magnetic effects on navigation and communications systems, with the potential for forcing startled pilots into catastrophic overcorrections. Today, NARCAP augments that sort of data by promising confidentiality to pilots, air controllers and other industry insiders who fear professional blowback by going public.
Using only personal expenses, NARCAP has been referenced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, worked with the Government Accountability Office, huddled with Congressional contacts, networked with foreign countries and signed a data-sharing agreement with the Chilean government’s UFO research unit, CEFAA. Roe offers a quick reminder that just 30 years ago, pilots who reported perplexing light shows in the sky were roundly dismissed; today, thanks to due diligence, science has catalogued those upper-atmosphere lightning discharges into groupings like sprites, blue jets and ELVES.
Now, in an effort to dig deeper into another transient phenomenon that presents “a clear hazard to aviation,” Roe, for the first time, is appealing for outside volunteer and financial support. NARCAP, he says, is working on an ambitious budget “that involves international travel and accommodations as well as funding for research, office space, equipment and the rest of the things that make an aviation research organization function.”
Pulling it off won’t be cheap. But with its track record for drilling into actual data and dispensing with the dreck (in 2009, for instance, it published a paper about exposing digital forgeries via “JPEG ghosts”), NARCAP’s bid for additional resources is good news. It cleared its highest hurdle — credibility — years ago.
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