Richard F. Haines, Ph.D.
The subject of pilot reports of anomalous aerial phenomena has been of deep interest to me for over 15 years for several reasons. (1) Pilots possess a high level of training and personal motivation for making careful observations. (2) Their (usually) high level of experience in flight helps them make rapid and accurate assessments of often ambiguous situations. (3) Their capability to radio for immediate assistance or confirmation of events (e.g., ground radar, etc.) often provides corollary data. (4) Their ability to fly in different directions and altitudes provides them an opportunity to gain a better view of the anomalous phenomena or objects (5) Maintenance of their professional reputations is important to them so that they will usually consider all of the alternative explanations before making a final report of an unknown object. Finally, (6) Their aircraft often possess sensitive electronic equipment that sometimes detect various aspects of the phenomenon. In short, pilots are usually very good observers whose reports contain valuable information for the investigator.
I have prepared several review articles of pilot sightings for the periods 1942 to 1952 (Haines, 1983), 1950 to 1954 from the Korean War (Haines, 1990), and from 1973 to 1979 (Haines, 1979). In the first of these reviews, 283 cases were covered and in the second and third, 40 and 72 reports, respectively. More than 300 pilot cases were summarized by Challenger and Haines (1980). Other reviews of individual pilot sightings have been published by Del Giudice (1987), Haines (1980, 1982(a), 1982(b), NICAP (1980), Shanklin (1955), Stacy (1987-88), Wichman (1971), and Zeidman (1979).
In addition, Gillmor (1968), Greenawald (1971), Ruppelt (1956), Wilkins (1954), and Zigel (1968), to mention a few, have published books or articles that include pilot sightings, some of which involve electromagnetic effects on board the aircraft. Perhaps the broadest conclusions that can be drawn from this large body of information are: (1) AAO seen from the air possess the same physical characteristics as do those that are reported from the ground; (2) some AAO are clearly capable of out-flying any aerial device mankind has yet built, (3) some AAO possess electromagnetic radiation characteristics which can interact with and interfere with man-made avionic systems at a distance. This report deals with this third matter in particular.
Several UFO investigators have reviewed E-M and ignition-interference cases including Hall (1964), on behalf of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) who listed 106 cases. Johnson (1983, 1988), McCampbell (1973), and Rodeghier (1988) also reviewed such incidents. Johnson (1983) reviewed 276 reports involving motorized land vehicles whose electrical systems and/or ignition systems were interfered with by the presence of one or more UFO. He analyzed the influence of UFO position and distance upon strength of the interference on the electrical system and reported, "The likelihood of a vehicle stalling out consistently increases as the distance between the vehicle and the UFO becomes small." In his 1988 paper Johnson expanded this review by adding the influence of UFO size and event duration. He found 78 relatively complete cases involving UFO size, distance, and duration.
In his 1988 paper Rodeghier catalogued 441 cases of UFO-caused vehicle interference including (engine and electrical system; engine only, radios only; power reduced to engine; headlights only; radio and lights). It has been speculated that ionized air near an engine's distributor can lead to reciprocating engine failure through a change in shape of the generated spark (Klass, 1968, pg. 97), however no supporting evidence for this presumption is given. Hall's 1964 review of 106 perhaps controlled explosions which incidentally interfere with electrical circuits under certain conditions." Falla (1979) also summarized 420 EM cases. More recently, Smith (1991) provided me with a listing of 126 cases from his UNICAT computer file in which the parameter electromagnetic (EM) was included. These cases include 113 from surface vehicles and technology and 13 (10.3 percent) from aircraft and related technology. Only three of these are included in the present listing.
THE DATA BASE
The following 56 cases involving E-M effects on board aircraft were drawn from my personal collection of almost 3,600 pilot sightings going back to 1926 when cockpits didn't have much more instrumentation than a simple barometer to indicate air pressure (altitude) change. These 56 cases represent 1.5 percent of all pilot sighting reports. Interested readers may contact me for a copy of the abbreviated list of cases analyzed here.
(a) Yearly distribution. These E-M cases cover a period of 45 years (1945 to 1990). No cases were found for 15 of these years. The highest number of reports were made in 1952, the well-known "flap" year of UFOlogy in America. No apparent patterns are found in these data.
(b) Time of day. Figure 1 presents the (local) time at which these events took place. The now-familiar bimodal distribution was found peaking with six cases between 8 to 9 p.m. and midnight to 1 a.m. local time. I found a somewhat similar double peak in the 1942 - 1952 sample of 283 cases (Haines, 1983). Except for possible disruption of VHF radio transmission at night due to ionization in the upper atmosphere one would not expect to see any particular temporal distribution of E-M cases on a natural basis. Very few aircraft can fly at altitudes high enough to experience this kind of radio disruption.
(c) Geographic location. The present 56 cases occurred in 24 countries and in 19 American states as well as over the following major bodies of water of the world (Antarctica; Bering Sea; Gulf of Mexico; Sea of Japan). Fifty of the 56 cases (89 percent) took place in the northern hemisphere and only six (11 percent) in the southern hemisphere. Concerning longitude, 34 cases (61 percent) took place in the western hemisphere and 22 (39 percent) in the eastern hemisphere. These findings are a result of the location of the flight paths flown by these aircraft. Unfortunately, it is not feasible to normalize these data against actual flight path locations. Localized concentrations of (iron-bearing) magnetized rock can produce fairly slow compass needle deviations. These areas are well known and are marked on aviation charts in addition to the earth's global magnetic fields. None of the compass deviation events reported here were the result of these well known phenomena.
(d) Aircraft registration (Class). Table 1 summarizes the different types of aircraft registration involved in this set of data. Most of the cases associated with U.S. military aircraft took place before 1960. In general private aircraft do not have as much advanced electronic equipment on-board to be affected by AAO radiation.
(e) Type of aircraft. Table 2 lists all of the aircraft types involved
in these cases. Of the 41 different aircraft types involved here 17
(41 percent) were propeller driven with internal combustion engines.
(f) Number of witnesses. The number of witnesses either of the E-M effect or the AAO itself ranged from one to more than forty (see the case dated 11-16-67 that lasted over an hour!). There was an average of 2.7 eye witnesses per case.
(g) Sighting duration. Figure 2 presents the distribution of sighting durations for these cases. They range from seconds to three hours. The longer durations (and higher altitudes) tend to eliminate most prosaic explanations for AAO including meteorites, balloons, model planes, gliders, kites, and remotely piloted vehicles. This distribution is similar to what I found in my review of all pilot sightings for the period 1973 through 1978 (Haines, 1979).
(h) Number of AAO. The number of AAO in each case was counted in
relation to the type of aircraft registration involved. These findings are
presented in Figure 3. Note that there were from one to thirteen separate
AAO in any given case and that there does not appear to be any particular
distribution in the number of AAO by private, commercial, or military aircraft
type which might occur if the AAO could detect, in advance, what classification
of aircraft was present and then arrange to bring a particular number of their
own vehicles near the aircraft. In three cases the pilot wasn't sure about
the number of objects.
In the December 1966 case from Finland both pilots reported seeing a "formation of odd lights" flying in formation (see Figure 4 for an artist's rendition). Three were cigar shaped objects which kept a rigid formation relative to one another. There was a straight row of ten dark and ten light colored round objects. Flight crews on four other commercial flights reported seeing the same formation. The two compass systems on the Caravelle jet aircraft showed different readings. As the formation moved on ahead of the aircraft both compasses returned smoothly to normal (accurate) orientation.
Figure 5 is an artist's rendering of another highly interesting multiple UFO sighting of (8-22-68) from Australia which lasted more than ten minutes. The lines labeled (A), (B), and (C) merely represent passage of time, not three parallel flight paths. The larger objects appeared to divide into two sections and rejoin and also to change shape as shown. The smaller spherical objects would fly in rigid formation with the larger objects and then move away and return to it. Radio transmission interference occurred only when these objects were near the aircraft. It isn't known whether the intensity of timing of interference occurred during any of the particular AAO activity shown here.
I suggest that the larger is the number of closely spaced AAO near an aircraft the stronger will be their integrated E-M "field" produced at the aircraft's location. This seems to be supported by the private and commercial aircraft class data in Figure 3. In part A of Figure 3 the formations of five and seven AAO produced ADF and magnetic compass deviations and engine malfunction, respectively. In part B of this figure the formations of five and thirteen AAO yielded blocked radio communication and magnetic compass disturbances, respectively. In part C three and nine AAO interfered with engines, and radio/electrical power, respectively.
(i) Shape of AAO. Table 3 presents a summary of verbal descriptions of the various AAO observed. They have been grouped by angular size and apparently self-emitting versus passively reflecting. It is impossible to be certain whether an entry in any category may not also be part of another category at a difference time.
(j) AAO Motion Characteristics. Are there patterns of relationships between different AAO shapes/luminance and AAO motions? The answers are found in Tables 4 and 5 which list the motion codes of 39 cases (70%) of the total in which both shape and motion characteristics are given. Table 4-A and B probably represent the same objects and phenomena but seen from different distances rather than representing differences in the physical size of the AAO.
The rank order of AAO motions from most to least frequent occurrence (with percentage of the total 95 cases) is given in Table 6. Note that the first four categories account for more than 60 percent of all reported AAO motions. The first three items typically require both a sufficiently long viewing duration and relatively near distance to the AAO in order for the pilot to be able to visually discriminate these features.
Let us only consider those types of motion where the aircraft appears to be the center of focus or attention of the AAO. Only two of the present 20 motion types (viz., A and P) together account for almost 35 percent of all of these types of cases! When three other (similar) motion types (B, J, and S) are added the total rises to 42.1 percent! If AAO are nothing but natural atmospheric phenomena why would they be attracted in these particular ways to the aircraft and remain nearby for such a long time? Indeed, this is strong evidence for some kind of intelligence associated with AAO.
An analysis was made to discover whether the four types of AAO sizes and luminance's were differentially related to AAO motions when the distance between the AAO and the aircraft was decreasing, increasing, or remaining at about the same distances during the sighting. The results of this analysis are presented in Table 7. These motion categories are not mutually exclusive and several could apply equally well to the other categories depending on the direction of the AAO relative to the aircraft
Note that the relative percentage of cases for the four AAO size luminance categories is approximately the same across these three categories of approach-recede-no change.
Table 8 presents the AAO motions associated with radar contact cases
A great majority of these particular cases represent very high speed AAO.
(k) E-M effect upon aircraft systems. Now that various aspects of the surrounding flight conditions and related events of these sightings have been reviewed we turn to the main subject of this paper. For each physical system we seek the failure point that is common to the most instruments. For example, since many cockpit instruments are operated electrically an interruption to the electrical power distribution system can temporarily affect many different instruments. If the ammeter indicates a slow battery discharge the electrically driven instruments and displays will cease functioning in well known ways. But if only one or two electrically driven instruments are affected by the AAO this suggests either that: (1) the E-M radiation from the AAO wasn't strong enough to cripple the entire electrical system (but only the few instruments), (2) its radiation was tuned only to the instruments affected, or (3) the affected instruments were not adequately shielded from the radiation. The following topics are treated here: (1) electrically driven systems, (2) magnetically actuated systems, (3) engine malfunctions, and (4) hydraulic aircraft systems.
Figure 6 illustrates, by area of circles, the basic categories of E-M effects reviewed here and the relative proportion of each one. Three circles lie partially outside the main circle because these systems were either on the ground (e.g., radar) or could have involved mechanical problems (e.g., engine malfunction) as well as electrical problems.
1. Electrically Driven Systems. Modern aircraft have a large number of displays and controls that are electrically controlled and powered. Only a few have emergency battery backup systems. In addition, modern aircraft have highly efficient electrical shielding around each bundle of cables to prevent various kinds of malfunctions.
Of the 65 total E-M effects reviewed here, 51 (78%) involved the electrical system in one way or another (including the 21 radar cases which require electrical energy and which involved positive contact with the object by 27 different ground and aircraft sets). Table 9 summarizes these effects; radar cases are omitted. It is not known whether the individual instrument or system failed by itself or because of temporary or permanent loss of input electrical power.
For a relatively small area source of E-M radiation its strength decreases inversely with the square of the distance to the source as illustrated in Figure 7. Thus, if the aircraft is 2D units from the AAO the radiation strength at that location is one-fourth of what it would be at distance D. By increasing the distance to 3D the strength decreases to one-sixteenth, etc. The grey curved line shows that as D decreases E-M strength increases toward infinity very very rapidly. What are some consequences of this fact with regard to these particular sightings? If the AAO radiates a constant field strength and it approaches the aircraft we would expect increasingly more powerful effects on aircraft systems and vice versa. In fact, there were 14 different E-M effects noted for the A motion category (Approached the Aircraft) and only two for motion category T (Accelerated Away from the Aircraft). The H (Hovered nearby) category had 10 E-M effects and P (Paced the Aircraft) had 16 E-M effects. These and other findings are consistent with the expected effects of E-M radiation upon physical systems and also show that the phenomena are not optical in nature but possess some form of electromagnetic radiation.
McCampbell (1973; pg. 51) reviewed published E-M cases involving UFO and stated, ". . . the (automobile) engines, radios, and lights appear to be roughly equal in their sensitivity to UFOs . . the mechanism of UFO interference is something other than low frequency, electromagnetic radiation." Yet this assessment may be premature as shown by the following data.
2. Magnetically Actuated Systems. The magnetic compass is a navigational system almost as old as mankind, indeed its basic design has not changed in thousands of years. There are many documented instances of spinning compasses on both ships and aircraft (Berlitz, 1977; pg. 43) including the famous case of the disappearance of Flight 19 on December 5, 1945 and another on March 25, 1945 when a U.S. Navy PBM pilot reported that his ".... radio compass started to circle. The magnetic compass was also spinning. Our radio became useless because of static. All our flight instruments went out." However, these cases did not (apparently) involve the simultaneous presence of anomalous aerial objects nearby the aircraft arid so are not included here.
Clark and Corbitt (1942) point out that deflection of a magnetic (compass) needle is produced by two primary causes: (1) proximity of ferro-magnetic metals inside the aircraft structure, and/or (2) the presence of varying electromagnetic fields in the area of the compass produced by the flow of relatively large electric currents in the region of the cockpit. Since great effort is taken to remove ferro-magnetic metals inside aircraft compass deflections in flight must be due to an imposed magnetic field(s). It is the DC or AC nature and strength of such fields that are of primary importance.
Thanks to experimental work by McCampbell (1991) some of the dynamic parameters of the relationship between time-varying strength of a magnetic field and spin rate of various types of compasses are known. He used both a liquid filled and a "card or rose movement" compass and a powerful nickle steel permanent bar magnet (1" x 0.63" x 4.75") He brought the magnet's north end radially toward and away from each compass (normal to the needle) at different approach/recede "pumping" rates as well as different closest approach distances. He found that: (1) Spinning, i.e., complete needle rotation, began (and continued) at about 0.07 gauss (peak power) at 33 RPM rotation rate. This field strength is about 35 percent of the earth's magnetic field strength of approximately 0.2 gauss, (2) Increasing the peak field strength drives the compasses to a relatively high RPM as long as the pulses are kept in proper synchronization. If field strength is greater than some undetermined value the needle begins to move erratically. (3) The liquid filled compass exhibited spin rates ranging from 4 to 20 RPM. This corresponds to pulses of 0.13 to 0.33 pulses per second (i.e., 7.7 to 3.0 seconds per pulse. (4) The card compass exhibited higher spin rates ranging from 33 to 126 RPM. (5) Field strength had to be about two to three times greater for the liquid filled compass than for the card compass to achieve the same rate of spin due to viscous friction effects, (6) The relationship between spin rate and closest approach distance of the magnet to the compass is approximately linear (between 8 - 13 cm).
It is interesting to calculate the strength of the magnetic field that would exist D distance (feet) from the aircraft at its source if its field strength was 0.07 gauss at the aircraft. Table 10 provides several calculated values.
If AAO possess magnetic fields of millions of gauss or more then we can also expect to see various optical effects such as Faraday rings in the atmosphere surrounding the AAO (when viewed through polarizing lenses). Such reports have been made by observers from the ground and so cannot be treated here.
There were seven cases of the total (10.7%) that involved the magnetic and/or gyro-compass(es) on the aircraft. These cases are listed in Table 11.
Modern aircraft have the compass sensors mounted remotely from the cockpit display, usually on the external skin of the airplane. This is done to help avoid artifacts that can be produced through electrostatic charge accumulation in flight, lightning strikes, etc. Based upon the above data it is likely that the emitting field(s) of AAO are, in some cases, of a magnetic character, either AC, DC, or both.
3. Engine Malfunction. There was a total of nine cases (16%) in which reciprocating aircraft engines either stopped completely in flight or lost power. These events are listed in Table 12.
Aircraft engines are known to fail in flight more often than many people realize so that such instances must be shown to be extraordinary and clearly unrelated to more common explanations as fuel starvation. All of the events cited above took place when one or more aerial objects were in close (visual) proximity to the aircraft Still it is possible that the pilot was so fascinated by the unexpected phenomenon that he forgot to switch fuel tanks or to take other required action.
An operating engine can be disrupted either by air, spark, and/or fuel supply. However, as long as the engine and aircraft are moving through the air, the carburetion system is functioning correctly, and the pistons are pumping up and down, the flow of fuel and air are drawn into the cylinders regardless of whether the engine is delivering power. "The only way to stop a running engine, therefore, is to disrupt the electrical system." (McCampbell, 1973, pg. 51) What can interrupt an electrical system?
It is known that a strong magnetic DC field by itself is not likely to cause key electrical system components of a reciprocating engine to fail. A national U.S. testing laboratory used an electromagnetic which could produce a field strength up to 10 kilogauss (kg) across an area nine inches in diameter. They found insignificant effects on a spark plug at atmospheric pressure (gap = 0.025") oriented both coaxially and normal to the field. A tungsten filament light bulb did not change in brightness or current (resistance) for field strengths up to 20 kg. In addition, the voltage of a lead acid battery (with resistive load of 1 amp current) oriented with the magnetic field parallel to the plates decreased in voltage from 12.3 at zero field to 12.0 volts at 20 kg. Gillutor (1968) also reported that a typical steel-encased coil placed in a 20 kg magnetic field interrupted the spark only occasionally. When the coil was encased in an aluminum container the spark plug (attached to the coil) started missing at about 4 kg and ceased altogether at 17 kg. Since aircraft reciprocating engines use a (rotating electromagnet) magneto system and not a coil and distributor electrical system one would not expect the above cited result to apply directly.
High frequency E-M radiation could affect the electrical system of an automobile by inducing high voltage surges in the secondary windings of the coil leading to incorrect timing of the ignition system.
4. Hydraulic Aircraft Systems. It is interesting to note that no incidences of malfunction or failure of aircraft hydraulic systems were reported due to AAO proximity. The nature of fluid dynamics would probably preclude most hydraulic system failures (brakes, aileron control, etc.) from occurring due to imposed E-M radiation.
Normalizing the Database. Given sufficient statistical data concerning the number of aircraft flying at any hour of the day, day of the week, or in specific geographic locales, etc., it is possible to normalize data such as these. Unfortunately, it was not possible to achieve such normalization. This was done by Rodeghier (1988) for surface vehicles for time of day effects; the surprising result found was that the peak hour for E-M effects to occur was between 0300 and 0400 local time with a secondary peak from 0100 to 0200 local time! This is important, according to Rodeghier, in that the hourly distribution of thunderstorms over the United States is highly skewed toward the late afternoon hours. His data apparently were not related to thunder- storms. Unfortunately, such statistical data is almost impossible to obtain for military and private type airplanes and very difficult to interpret for commercial airplanes. Given sufficient manpower and computer power it would be possible to normalize part of the present data.
Concerning surface vehicle ignition interference cases Johnson's (1988) analyses suggested that ignition failure is not the result of natural causes such as sand, dust, damp weather, etc. as suggested by Sharp (1977) and Menzel and Boyd (1963). Such simple minded explanations do not explain the present aircraft engine interference or failure cases either.
Operator-Caused Effect. We cannot overlook the possibility that in some cases the pilots themselves caused the effects that were reported but were not aware of their behavior or forgot about it in the confusion of the encounter due to his or her emotional state. This explanation is not tenable in those cases where there are multiple pilots present who cross-check each other and who can calm one another in emotional conditions.
Piezo-electric Effects. Persinger has postulated in many papers that intense E-M field generated by the stress of tectonic plate movements in the Earth's crust can produce plasmoid luminous balls of varying color, size, and brief duration (typically under 15-20 seconds) (1976, 1979). Klass (1968) has proposed a somewhat less precise but similar hypothesis for the UFO phenomena involving ball lightning. Both gentlemen have failed to explain how such a phenomenon can travel high into the atmosphere (as is reported by many airplane pilots) or how the contained plasma can sustain itself for periods of time as long as those reported here (conservatively up to 20 minutes). And, as Rodeghier (1988) has stated, ". . . there is no a priori reason to expect anything but a random distribution of piezo-electric events by hour of the day. in direct contrast with the bimodal distribution shown in Figure 1. Until such explanations are forthcoming and are supported by field observations and laboratory research the piezo-electric effect should be placed near the bottom of any list of credible explanations of the present high altitude E-M events.
Plasma Sheath Interference. A plasma is a particular region within a gas discharge containing very nearly equal number of positive and negative ions. Apparently, its neutral charge affords it some stability of character over time. It's form is thought to result from magnetic fields which establish a reasonably defined interface with surrounding air. It is well known that radio transmission can be disrupted or blocked altogether by atmospheric ionization. This occurred during the re-entry of manned spacecraft into the Earth's atmosphere as the plasma sheath surrounding the space capsule blocked radio communication. The charged particles of a natural plasma move at random and would be expected to produce an apparently random interference pattern known as white noise or static in radio and television transmissions. Klass (1968; pg. 95) has suggested that most UFO phenomena are explained by natural atmospheric plasmas without ever considering the possibility that such plasmas are not a natural phenomenon at all but a by-product of the UFO phenomenon itself! Of course a contained ball of plasma could not reach beneath the hood of a car without being dissipated by the metal hood of an automobile or the engine cowling of an airplane, or could it? There are numerous verified accounts of ball lightning contacting a commercial aircraft in flight and somehow finding its way inside the passenger and crew compartment(s), sometimes to exit silently at some point or other times to explode with a loud clap. How the plasma enters the fully enclosed volume has never been explained but it does! It is a scientific fact that a magnetic field will be generated by the electrically charged particles within a plasma.
Power Interruption and AAO. This topic has received some attention over the years mainly because of its broad social implications. Smith (pg. 272, 1980) compared the number of UFO reports in the U.S. Air Force Project Blue Book project and the number of U.S. Federal Power Commission reports of power failure for the period 1954 through 1969. He noted that the two curves "are in phase and track each other from year to year. Out of phase conditions do exist, however, for the years of 1956 and 1967."
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
This paper has reviewed some of the details surrounding 56 E-M cases reported by pilots in flight. In the great majority of these cases the cockpit instruments, cabin lights, weapon systems, radar contact, engine(s), and other electromechanical devices on board each evidenced behavior consistent with known laws of physics. In only a few (e.g., 6-4-55; 8-31-58; 3-12-77) were there truly anomalous effects from the point of view of modern-day physics. These data deserve further scrutiny
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Vol 1, unpublished manuscript.
Source: MUFON 1992 UFO Symposium Proceedings, pages 101-129.
This web page was created by Francis Ridge for the NICAP web site. The paper was the work of Dr. Richard Haines and scannable copies of the Proceedings were generously made available by John Schuessler.