Hate to be a pedantic nag, especially because the detailed first-person piece written by airline captain Andrew Danziger for the New York Daily News last week was pleasantly surprising in its fearlessness. Getting a commercial pilot to go on record with a job-related UFO encounter in this country is like finding someone to admit they take baseball bats to baby harp seals in order to make underwear.
As we know, plenty of other countries, from France to Uruguay, encourage aviators to openly log UFO incidents because, well, it only makes sense, given the potential risk to flight safety. But here in the U.S., we have this thing called exceptionalism. That means a former NASA scientist like Dr. Richard Haines has to acquire that sort of data by extending the sanctuary of anonymity — i.e., the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena — to pilots afraid of losing their jobs for telling the truth. What is it with this country, anyway? We label our money “In God We Trust,” which sounds sardonic, if not outright blasphemous. But God doesn’t even leave radar tracks behind for us to verify.
Anyhow, last week, Danziger bucked the trend in a big way and went public with his extended in-flight encounter with an apparent shape-shifting bogey outside Kansas City. Granted, the incident occurred in 1989 — “early in my career,” wrote Danziger, who appears to be nearing retirement — and his confession couldn’t possibly put his then-employer in a jam at this point because Air Midwest folded in 2008. What added a little more heft to Danziger’s testimony was the fact that he was deemed competent enough to ferry candidate Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign.
Clearly, NARCAP’s Haines hopes Danziger’s testimony could be a momentum-builder. “His account, if it is accurate, should help keep the flame under this pot of coffee at least warm, which is important,” states Haines in an email. After all, NARCAP studies of pilot encounters with what he calls unidentified aerial phenomena suggest a catastrophe is just one abrupt over-correction away. “We should not allow the pot to grow cold,” Haines continues, “or else new pilots coming on the scene may think there is absolutely nothing to worry about or at least to be prepared for. I see a lot of normalcy bias here....”
So good on Captain Danziger for whatever mitigation his story may have on the UFO stigma. And it’d be great to thank the Daily News for playing it straight. If only.
Here’s how Danziger concluded his piece: “More than a few pilots have shared their UFO stories with me, too. I’m not going too far out on a ledge to say that virtually all pilots believe in UFOs. Little green men, ‘close encounters,’ alien kidnappings, not so much, but with billions of stars and trillions of planets out there, ‘ya gotta believe,’ and almost all of us do.”
Unfortunately, the editors couldn’t leave well enough alone. They inserted a little green man illustration into Danziger’s story with this simple cutline: “Many pilots believe in little green men, Captain Andy said.” Well, no, that’s not what he said. Try to imagine President Obama writing in an op-ed, “We are not going to bomb Iran,” and the editors decide to run an illustration of Tehran in flames above the cutline: “We are going to bomb Iran, President Obama said.” At a minimum, the dingbat who made that call would’ve gotten his/her eardrums scalded and blistered for that little stunt, and there would’ve been a correction.
It's a small thing. But this issue has been trampled beneath the weight of countless small things. Proving, once again, that when the subject is UFOs, as the corporate media proved once more in January with its epic fail on the digitization of the ancient Project Blue Book files, you can get it wrong forever and there will never be consequences.
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