The likely culprit for most of the UFO sightings at Stephenville. Notice the very bright anti-collision strobe (which flashes on and off) at the top of the tail.
image courtesy of Robert Arts
STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS: Trying to make much about very little
© Tim Printy 2008
On January 8, 2008, the UFO community got one of its first mass UFO sightings in years. On that evening, shortly after sunset, witnesses reported seeing flashing lights and large silent craft that, at one point, was chased by fighter jets. Less than a week later, the national media began to report the story with newspaper articles and several television talk shows devoting time to the subject. The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) then decided to have a public town hall style meeting to gather sighting reports and, possibly, gather some media attention. After gathering their data, the UFOlogists then spent several months analyzing and trying to find something that would make this event another mysterious event that defied explanation and elevate it to "classic UFO case" status.
The national media wakes up
The first media reports happened around January 14th. As is with many of these UFO events, it takes a few days to get the word out. Once a national outlet picks up on the story, and there is nothing much happening that week, it suddenly balloons and becomes a big story. Once the news about a UFO event hit the airwaves, things took off. It quickly became a media sensation with all of the cable networks talking about the event. Eyewitnesses, small town newspaper writers, and UFO investigators became celebrities. The hyping of the event then prompted more reports of UFOs as people looked up and saw anything from sun dogs to stars. A UFO "flap" was in the making. When MUFON showed up for their "town" meeting, they were apparently bombarded with reports from various places and dates. Requests were made from the military if they had an explanation for the sightings. The USAF, which gave up investigating UFO reports made by civilians back in the late 1960s, suggested it could have been anything in the sky. Further confusing the matter was the public affairs officer stating there were no military jets in the area that night.
The USAF and the SNAFU
Common to many large organizations, the military is often inept in handling public relations. Often the officer who speaks to the media is not well informed or bases his statements on information provided by junior officers or enlisted men. Sometimes, the person who gets this information tries hard and gets it right. Other times, the person responsible has something bigger on their agenda and only makes a cursory check. The end result is certain details are missed and the information provided by the Public Affairs Officer ends up being incorrect. This problem apparently reared it's ugly head with the Stephenville case. Originally, Major Karl Lewis stated there were no aircraft from the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base flying nearby that evening. Roughly two weeks later, Major Lewis would have to change his story and state they had ten aircraft in the area that night. He would state there was a mistake made, which he referred to as "an internal communications error" and it would be corrected. One can interpret this as he was misinformed by junior personnel and he would learn to be more careful next time before making a public statement. For the most part, this would normally not be headline news. However, in the world of UFOlogy, this is just another proof of conspiracy. MUFON's Steve Hudgeons would be quoted as saying:
I think it's a little late ... then there is a comment here about an error. The military isn't supposed to make errors. I think it's just a standard cover up. That is immediately what I am thinking ... some kind of cover up...With the lights going around as quick as they said they were ... I just don't see them being aircraft. (Military)
Hudgeons probably has little or no military experience so suggesting that the military can't make mistakes is just somebody making an uninformed opinion. As for the comment about it being "a little late", I am not sure what he meant by that. After all, if the military made a mistake, wouldn't it be important for them to admit it when they discovered their error?
Hudgeons other comment involves the standard "cover-up" theme, which was picked up by the Texas direction of MUFON, Kenneth Cherry:
This supports our story that there was UFO activity in that area,..I find it curious that it took them two weeks to 'fess up. I think they're feeling the heat from the publicity. (Military)
The effort to put a bulls eye on the USAF is nothing new in the world of UFOlogy. Had the USAF stated they had aircraft in the area that night right away, UFOlogists would promptly imply they were there to check up on UFO or that the military sent the aircraft their to hide the presence of UFOs and use them as an explanation for what the witnesses saw.
UFO story collectors
MUFONDFW and NUFORC do perform one useful function when it comes to UFO events. They are usually very good at collecting all UFO reports. That being said, they often fail to understand the problems associated with these reports. Reports which are considered very reliable simply because of the persons profession or sincerity can often be less than accurate. This is especially true when they are made weeks and months later, where memory and contamination can make them less accurate. As the observations become more exotic, the more critical the examination of the report has to be.
Credit must be given to MUFONDFW for at least attempting to resolve some issues. According to them they weeded out all the photographs as not of UFOs. The report is full of unknowns from various times but the most important time to consider is the 6-7 PM timeframe of January 8th. This is when the bulk of the sightings occurred. However, they did list what they considered "unknowns". These reports will sometimes repeated in the NUFORC database and I attempted to summarize them in the table below.
Witness location and name
I drive a water transport in the oilfield out of Bono,TX. I drive to and from Stephenville Saturday thru Wednesday. I left work at 5:45pm Tuesday evening January 8, 2008, traveling west on Hwy.67, between Chalk Mountain and Three Way. This is when something caught my eye off in the western sky. I saw two very bright lights shining in no apparent direction. The lights were very bright, like a welding arc. The lights were dancing around and then they split in two different directions at a very fast rate of speed. I do not know what it was that I saw, but I don't think that it was a plane, weather balloon, a reflection of the sun or anything manmade. (Hudgeons)
|Lake Proctor||6:20 PM||
My dogs were barking their little heads off that night of the eighth. When I went outside, they were barking and howling toward the Dublin area. I know this for a fact because I work in Dublin at Three Oaks Retirement Center. I went outside with a flashlight and a pistol to check on them because I live in the country at Lake Proctor. I looked around to see if there were any stray animals that they might bark at and that is when I saw the lights. They were moving at a very fast pace. I thought that it might be military jets in formation because of all the lights, funny thin though, there were no noise coming from all of them. I watched until they were gone and I looked down and both dogs were gone. When I got back to the house both of them were hiding under my Sports-Track like they were scared to death (Hudgeons)
|NW Stephenville||6:30 PM||
I was walking the dogs on the golf course at this time. The sun was set and only a slight redness could be seen in its direction. I saw what looked to be two welding ark strikes at a distance of arms length and peas sized between my index finger and thumb. First one appeared and then another as the first bleeped out. They were like pearls on a string and looked like bubbles with a light encased inside. They were incredibly bright...beyond halogen color temperature. Just like an arc welding strike. There was no sound and they just trailed off to the west. They were traveling just as a plane had passed and along the same trailing heading. They were probably 1 minute behind the plane and seemed to be moving at about the speed of a plane. They originated in the northeast and I saw them moving to the southwest towards Dublin. They were around 25-45 degrees above the horizon. (Hudgeons)
Witness was sitting in Pickup about dusk waiting for her husband to finish plowing. She looked up and saw six lights in the sky that reminded her of bright headlights. They moved slightly from her right to right in front of her and blinked out. She saw no aircraft in the sky before or after the lights appeared and left.(Hudgeons)
On 1-8-2008 at 6:15 pm cst. my friends and I was watching the sunset when several strobes or flashing lights coming from the east at about 3500 foot agl heading west toward Stephenville, Tx.. Estimated speed was about 2000 to 3000 mph. The strobes made several changes of flash patterns and configurations. The flight duration lasted about 3 minutes. The front two strobes was about 1/2 mile a part and the back ones was about 1 mile back from the front strobes. The back side of the flashing lights came to a verticle flashing. Then there was 2 seperate vertical flames about 1/4 mile apart for several seconds and the craft was gone. We never head ANY noise from the craft! They headed west towards Abilene, TX. Then about 10 minutes later here came the craft again with 2 jets chasing. They was headed east towards South Ft. Worth, TX, at about 4000 ft. agl. The jets was unable to catch and went off into the distance at FULL throttle. I am a pilot and have been fling for 30 years and have never seen anything like this. I also fly several times a week in the area. The craft is NOT from around these parts! (NUFORC)
They danced around, appeared, reappeared,I sat there watching three or four minutes, got my binoculars from the car . . . I was having trouble keeping up with them. We counted nine or 10 of those strobe lights. They were spread out in the sky, about a half a mile, a quarter of a mile. And after a while, they formed a formation, not a single line; they were still flashing, but not bouncing around like they had been....And then it took off—it appeared they were attached, because they all left at the same time. Shot off in the northeast direction, at a very high-rate speed, I couldn’t even keep up with the binoculars . . . I’m thinking they were some kind of military maneuvers, maybe some kind of experiment . . . . (Litz)
The most widely publicized was the Steve Allen report and it became the cornerstone of the investigation because it involved multiple witnesses. The NUFORC report is probably the best to look at because it was made the day after the event. Usually, this is the most reliable because it records the information before it becomes contaminated by retelling the story and listening to what others report.
While MUFONDFW and NUFORC collected and collated their data, another group began to evaluate the radar data they obtained for the night in question.
The Radar data: Trying to make mountains out of molehills
MUFON's visual reports was only part of the analysis equation. They also were able to obtain the FAA radar data for the night in question in order to determine what might have been flying around Stephenville that night. They would plot tons of radar contacts that night but would soon realize that there was little evidence of any UFOs in the radar data. As a result, MUFON decided they would find something to make out of the data. It did not take long for them to find what they desired and, as usual, focus some criticism on the USAF..
I could go on about all the insults they come up with concerning the USAF and their data but it could take hours and I am not going to waste the web space. To summarize the MUFON radar data, they found three events that they decided to make a big deal about. The first had to do with a target flying at least 2100 mph near Stephenville at the time of the 6-7PM sightings. The other had to do with non-transponding targets that were ignored by the USAF aircraft as the proceeded in their paths across Texas at very slow speeds. These targets really had little to do with the sightings described around 6:00-7:00 PM. The jets ignored them and that indicates to me that the USAF radar knew what the targets were and simply ignored them as non-threatening. This will be addressed in the next section, which leaves the first target as the only UFO of interest from all the radar data.
This target has been calculated by those analyzing the data as flying at 2100 mph. This was calculated by linking two spurious contacts together that happened to be in the general direction of the Steve Allen sighting from Seldon. What is not mentioned in the MUFON radar data report is there are several spurious contacts during the time period in question. In the two plots shown between 6:10 and 6:20 PM, there are six unknown/spurious contacts. The authors decided to link these two contacts simply because they were in the same general direction the witnesses were looking and at the same approximate time. The MUFON report does mention the possibility of these targets being just spurious contacts but then dismisses it.
Just seconds after 6:15pm, an unusual object shows up on radar....The two points that you see labeled as Unknown 'A' on the graph are 20 seconds apart in time, in close proximity to each other, and shown up as identical and weak skin paint radar reflection levels of 4 on the FAA radar, which uses a scale of 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28 units representing reflection intensity of the object. If there wasn't witness testimony, then these two radar data return points would normally be considered an unusual coincidence of points in time and location, and not likely to be real. However, in this case the radar hits are in the same direction that all four witnesses were looking when they saw the object...if they are linked...they represent an object that traveled at a minimum of 2,100 mph.(Schulze and Powell 35-36)
It is important to emphasize that these signals are the weakest possible signal and were barely registering. This is odd considered the object was supposedly immense in size (over 500 feet by this reports estimates). Additionally, the target was only recorded twice during the time period the object was supposedly under observation. There are no related contacts before or after these two. Due to the weakness and apparent random nature of the two contacts, it seems more likely that these are simply spurious signals. With little to show for all of their hard work, the authors of the report attempted to reinforce the idea that these contacts are not spurious and give four reasons why they believe this.
It is clear the size of the object and its altitude cover a wide range, but that is to be expected from testimonies of multiple witnesses. What is clear is the following:
1. The object that shows up at 6:15pm on radar, matches directionally with what four witnesses saw between about 6:10pm and 6:20pm on January 8, 2008.
2. The high rate of speed seen by the witnesses from Selden, Chalk mtn., and Lake Proctor is supported by the radar data, which calculates a minimum velocity of 2100 mph. The lack of a high velocity in the object from the perspective of the Gorman witness may be due to the point in time that it was observed as the object was seen both stationary and moving at a high rate of speed.
3. The object is large. The smallest calculated value of the objects size was 524 feet. This supports the impression of all the witnesses.
4. Little can be said about the altitude of the object other than all the calculations indicate that it was of sufficient altitude to be detected by primary radar. (Schulze and Powell 37)
These reasons sound very good but after closer examination, they appear to be flawed and ignore potential errors.
1. Looking at the initial plot that was arrived at from the witness data on page 7 in the MUFON Stephenville-Dublin report, the radar contacts do not agree with it. The radar report attempts to make them fit in their image 3 on page 36 of their report by redrawing this visual plot as a curved line and, apparently, not redrawing the radar targets path correctly (the second radar contact appears several miles off). Additionally, the data they used to work with in addition to the Seldon sighting were from eyewitnesses who were 17, 29, and 22 miles away from Stephenville. The further away the subjects were makes the possibility for azimuth errors to increase and a loss in precision. The report even states that one of these four witnesses was so poor that, It was difficult to get this witness to understand the concept of degrees in elevation and degrees in the sky, so no reliable data is available (Schulze and Powell 34). How did they get his sighting to confirm the others if "no reliable data" could be obtained? It appears that the best they could do was get general directions from the witness interviews and not precise azimuth values which would be important in triangulating the data. The following diagram I created using Google Earth and the values I found in the MUFON radar report.
Sighting lines based on the information in the MUFON radar report. (photograph from Google Earth)
The above figure is important when evaluating the following statement:
"...the Radar hits are in the same direction that all four witnesses were looking when they saw the object." (Schulze and Powell 35)
As one can see from the above plot, this statement is a bit of an exaggeration. The claim is based on very general directions and not by precise measurements. Additionally, it seems the authors chose to ignore the observation that the lights disappeared in the west for the Selden witnesses and that the NW Stephenville witness (see above table) was not even considered as a reliable witness (even though it appeared in the other MUFON report). Both of these sightings indicated that the UFO was traveling towards the SW and not towards the NW as the radar plot suggests. Finally, the Lake Proctor witness, who originally saw the UFOs towards Dublin, told MUFON that "...the lights moved very rapidly in a southernly direction from the object's location" (Schulze and Powell 33-4), which also disagrees with the radar data. Discarding data that suggests the conclusion is wrong is not scientific and demonstrates a strong desire to present only the data that supports the conclusion that authors want everyone to accept.
2. There is no real observational data to base these estimates of great speed upon. Some of the witnesses state the lights simply disappeared. The investigators assume that meant the objects must have moved away at tremendous speed. Therefore, this statement is not an accurate representation of what is actually known concerning the observational data.
3. As I previously stated, if the object was large, it certainly would not provide a radar reflection that was the weakest possible signal. If it had stealth technology, it would not have been recorded at all. Most of the estimates for size are based on individuals trying to determine angular sizes from memory weeks and months after the event. The Seldon sighting data was obtained by interviewing the witness at the location THREE MONTHS after the actual event. Expecting accurate angular size estimates months later can not be considered 100% reliable. As we will see, estimating size based on lights in the sky can be misleading as well.
4. One would think if the observational data was as good as claimed, altitude could have been determined. Instead, the data is good enough for precise azimuth determination (based on claim 1, which implies that these values matched up with the radar contacts) and angular size (claim 3) but not good enough to determine elevation.
The use of these kinds of eyewitness reports seem to be less than reliable and to state they "matched" up with the radar contacts is being generous at best. Instead, the MUFON report proved Philip Klass correct. Klass's UFOlogical principle # 9 states:
Whenever a light is sighted in the night skies that is believed to be a UFO and this is reported to a radar operator, who is asked to search his scope for an unknown target, almost invariably an "unknown" target will be found. Conversely, if an unusual target is spotted on a radarscope at night that is suspected of being a UFO, an observer is dispatched or asked to search for a light in the night sky, almost invariably a visual sighting will be made. (Klass 304)
They found an "unknown" target that fit their scenario and jumped to the conclusion that it was the same thing reported by the witnesses. As stated above, the leap taken to link the two was large and it can not be demonstrated conclusively that the faint and spurious radar contacts have anything to do with what the witnesses reported that night. This leads us into the other two radar contacts mentioned in the MUFON report.
Non-transponding but non-threatening
The other two targets mentioned in the MUFON radar report have to do with some very slow, non-transponding targets identified between 7 and 8 PM. The report attempts to link them to observations made by some witnesses but these are something of a stretch based on the problems with eyewitness testimony being accurate. Just because a witness says they saw a UFO in a certain general direction, does not mean they saw an object that produced a radar echo in the same general direction especially when there were other objects in the area (like F-16 fighter aircraft).
The first contact mentioned in the MUFON report is considered the most threatening according to the authors:
This object had no transponder and was tracked on radar for over an hour. Most of the time, the object was stationary, or moving at speeds of less than 60mph. At 7:32 PM, the object was tracked accelerating to 532 mph in 30 seconds and then slowing to 49mph only 10 seconds later. It is possible that some of this speed variation could be due to imprecision with the radar. This is covered in more detail in the main body of the document. The authors are not aware of any publicized military craft capable of traveling at low speeds for extended periods of time, accelerating rapidly to such a high speed, and then suddenly decelerating in what might best be described as a controlled crash. The closest capability would be a Harrier type jet, but it would not be able to maintain slow speeds for such extended periods of time nor decelerate so rapidly. Much more important than the possible sudden acceleration shown by the object is its trajectory heading. This object was traveling to the southeast on a direct course towards the Crawford Ranch, also known as President Bush's western White House. The last time the object was seen on radar at 8:00pm, it was continuing on a direct path to Crawford Ranch and was only 10 miles away. During the entire episode of over an hour, there is no indication that any of the military jets reacted to this unknown aircraft, that was without a required transponder, and that was headed directly to the Western White house. (Schulze and Powell 7)
Based on what I read, non-transponding aircraft in remote areas is not that unusual. While the MUFON report seems to think all aircraft are required to have transponders operating, it is not exactly necessary. When aircraft are located in class D, E, and G airspace, they are not required to have transponders. Class D, and E airspace can be found near most small airports/airstrips, while class G (which is uncontrolled airspace) can be found in wide open areas at low altitudes. It appears that no transponder was required for this craft and it may have been simply a small civilian aircraft of some type that was transiting towards the Waco area, which was near Crawford, Texas.
To refute the possibility that it could be something as simple as a civilian aircraft, the authors claim that the target sped up for a few seconds to 532 mph. They do mention the possible reason could be due to radar data error:
Calculating the speed using minimum radar sweep increments of 10 seconds magnifies any imprecision in within the radar system. One possibility is imp recession in the azimuth values from the radar, which will then induce error in speed calculations. Radar azimuth uncertainty will impact the speed calculation for a slow moving aircraft more than a fast moving aircraft. The potential error can be caused by the width of the radar beam, distance to the object, and strength of the returned signal...Although the authors cannot determine for certain whether the unknown object accelerated to this speed, it is worth mentioning. And of course, the other possibility is that this unknown object did accelerate and decelerate rapidly. (Schulze and Powell 41)
Considering the distance from the radar to the target and the probable size of the target (if it were a small civilian aircraft), it seems likely the answer has to do more with data error than the target actually speeding up to 532 mph. Therefore, it is still possible, and likely, that the target was a small civilian aircraft.
The type of aircraft involved is hard to determine. Traveling at speeds of less than 50mph is not normal for most civilian propeller aircraft. One would expect an ultra light aircraft to travel at this speed but it is unlikely that somebody would be flying one of these at night as it not normally allowed by the FAA. Of course, there is always the possibility somebody was violating FAA regs for a joyride in their ultra light that evening. Helicopters often travel at slow speeds but that is usually when hovering or when preparing to land. Otherwise they travel at speeds similar to propeller craft. The slow speed does not rule out civilian aircraft, it only narrows down the possibility of what types of aircraft it can be. Such a slow speed indicates a small craft since larger craft would stall out at such speeds.
The second target mentioned meanders about at a slow pace similar to the first non-transponding target. It appears and disappears frequently as if it were at low altitude and kept dipping below the radar horizon. At one point the target's path jumps to the north several miles apparently moving at 1900 mph and then returns to its base course. A possible explanation is this was another small craft or ultra light looking for a landing site or something on the ground that evening. As stated previously, there are many spurious signals that appear and disappear in the MUFON plots. They are often ignored by the authors until it fits their desired scenario. In this case, it seems very plausible that this one contact that created the 1900 mph jump was just a spurious signal the authors linked to the path of the target.
It is important to note that both contacts show up as originating from the same general location SW of Dublin, Texas near Lake Proctor. There are many small and private airstrips in the area where the craft could come from and it is possible that these targets came from the same airstrip. It would be interesting to know if the authors of the report bothered to check out the local area to see if small craft were operating from them and were in the sky that night. There is no mention of such an investigation and trying to pin down exact times and dates now is going to be difficult if they were ultra light aircraft. While the slow speeds for these targets are curious, it seems that it is possible they were just small aircraft that were operating in the area.
While much has been made of these two contacts, especially the contact headed towards Waco, there does not appear to be any great concern for what it was by the FAA or US Military. This means they probably knew what it was and simply ignored it as non-threatening. The MUFON report authors attempt to make something out of nothing really significant. For some reason, the authors wanted to spend more time arguing about trivial contacts and finding reason to fault the USAF than trying to examine possible explanations for the UFO mystery that evening.
Ignoring the obvious
Probably the first thing anyone notices with UFO organizations is they rarely solve cases or ignore potential explanations flippantly. The most important thing for anyone to realize in this case is that there were F-16 fighter aircraft in the vicinity of Stepheniville that night. Their activities in and out of the Brownwood Military Operating Area could appear to be lights in the distance twisting about or moving in a formation. Allan Hendry's UFO Handbook describes how people can misinterpret aircraft as UFOs:
In most cases the lights of the aircraft were the only things that could be seen at night and the witnesses assumed a shape for the object by "connecting the lights"...Also, witnesses described a variety of body shapes that contained these lights, based on the amount of the aircraft's body was partly illuminated in the dark. (Hendry 36).
With this in mind, we will try to examine the events as MUFON-Dallas-Fort Worth (MUFONDFW) and the National UFO reporting Center (NUFORC) reported them.
As previously noted, the 6:00-7:00 PM events are the most important ones reported during the Stephenville flap. Is there a potential explanation for these sightings and why didn't MUFON notice it? The following diagram shows the basic plots found in the MUFON reports. I would not consider them 100% accurate but they are close enough to show what was happening in the skies above Stephenville that evening.
Stephenville area map obtained on line from google maps
1) This black line is the apparent path that UFOlogists derived from the sighting reports they collected concerning the Steve Allen sighting and found in their report on the Stephenville-Dublin sightings.
2) This red line shows the apparent path that UFOlogists state the UFO and chase jets took sometime around 6:25-6:35 PM according to the same report.
3) This is the approximate path shown by the two spurious radar contacts, which demonstrated the UFO was traveling at 2100 mph.
4) This is the path that four F-16s took between 6 and 6:20PM.
5) This is the path that four more F-16s took between 6:20 and 6:40PM.
6) This is the path that two F-16s took between 6:50 and 7:00 PM when they left the Military operating area.
There seems to be a recurring theme in these plots. That being that a lot of jets were flying through the same airspace that the UFO supposedly traveled through about the same time. The UFOlogists who wrote the radar report make a great deal about how each individual jet would have been very small and impossible to see but what they fail to mention that the formation, with all their associated lights could have looked like one large object. Remember Hendry's description of how people like to play connect the dots with lights to produce a shape. The formation was spread out over a large area in the Radar report. Perhaps a mile or more. This would cover at least several degrees of the sky. Even more interesting is that none of the witnesses report the jets for the 6:15 PM sighting (which is an approximate time) but they do report seeing lights flying through the same airspace!
A possible scenario that could explain the entire event is that Steve Allen and other observers saw one or both flights of F-16s as they proceeded to their Military Operating Area (MOA) that night. The cluster of lights associated with the formation could easily have been perceived by observers as one large object moving across the sky. Steve Allen made a point of mentioning the multiple strobe lights that made up the UFO. These were probably the anti-collision beacons on the aircraft's tail (see this video and note the very bright strobe on top of the tail at the end of the clip), which seem to flash twice at about a 1 second interval. He even told Bill O'Reilly that the lights looked like an aircraft formation!
Thought it might have been several aircraft approaching us in some sort of formation. And the lights was more intense and very bright. And they all seemed to be moving at the same speed and altitude and everything, about 3,000 foot above the ground coming at us very fast (Witnesses).
To add to this the witness in Lake Proctor reported that he originally thought it was a formation of aircraft and the witness in NW Stephenville (see table) gave a description that sounded a lot like the path taken by the jets. If the lights looked like a formation of aircraft and took the same path as a known formation of aircraft, then that possibility should have been considered. It seems to have been ignored in the MUFON radar report.
The returning jets around 6:50-7:00PM are also important. According to Steve Allen's group there were two jets chasing a UFO about 10 minutes after their first sighting, which supposedly happened around 6:25PM. However, his NUFORC report gives an estimated time period of the event as between 6:15-6:45 PM. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest the first sighting happened closer to 6:30 PM and the second sighting happened about 20 minutes later? This would mean he first saw the second formation of jets passing over Stephenville and thought they were a UFO. When the two jets were seen returning close to 7PM, it would appear they were chasing something. The MUFON radar report mentions these two jets and how they behaved when they got near Stephenville.
After having just achieved heading alignment with the MTR centerline leading back to CAFB this lead jet increased airspeed and veered sharply to the right and east for approximately 25-30nm with the trailing second jet in rather loose formation ; 2NM to the rear. (Schulze and Powell 23)
The increase in speed and changing of the flight path would definitely appear to a ground based observer they were in pursuit or in a hurry. The jets were not flying supersonic and not as low as Allen suggests (as best I can tell they were near 10,000 feet and descending at the time). However, considering these were observations of aircraft in near darkness, it is not surprising to see an error in altitude/speed estimates.
The MUFON report also suggests these pilots endangered other aircraft by deviating from the centerline of their military training route (MTR). However, they only suggest this possibility and it could be the jets were flying within prescribed guidelines on a simple training exercise on their way back to base. According to Globalsecurity.org:
MTRs are designed to provide realistic low-altitude training conditions for pilots. In times of conflict, to avoid detection by enemy radar, tactical fighter aircraft are often called upon to fly hundreds of miles at low altitude over varying terrain. Obviously, navigation is extremely difficult on high-speed low-altitude flights. That's why it is imperative that fighter pilots have ample opportunity to practice these necessary and demanding skills. (Airspace)
This would explain the increase in speed and decrease in altitude of these two jets described in the MUFON report. Looking at the FAA charts, there are several MTRs shown around the Stephenville area and one can not say definitively that these aircraft posed a danger to other aircraft without understanding the complexities of the airspace involved. If the authors of the MUFON report want to complain about the pilots exceeding their MTR boundaries, they should file a complaint with the FAA using their data. Otherwise, the commentary about the aircraft and MTR's has little to do with evaluating the information and is a red herring that was apparently brought up to demonstrate the USAF and their pilots are not to be trusted in anything they say or do.
What is most important in this case is that these two aircraft took the same approximate route described by Allen in his NUFORC and MUFON reports. MUFON could have suggested these were the two aircraft Allen saw in pursuit but it would bring up two flaws in their original theory they would not want to consider. The first problem was it would mean their timeline was off. The second problem, and probably of biggest concern to the authors, was that this would mean the 2100 mph radar contact was probably not observed by Allen. Since this is their prize UFO radar contact, it appears the authors determined that there must be another answer. Therefore, they worked backwards towards their original conclusion and arrived at an unlikely scenario that there were more jets flying around Stephenville undetected by the radar that evening:
So where did the chase jets come from? Carswell AFB out of Ft. Worth can be monitored for low level flights due to the proximity of the radar units in the area. We know based on radar data that no low level flights came out of the air base between 4pm and 8pm. So if they were from that air base then they must have left before 4pm, maintained very low altitude flight for several hours, and flew below radar near Selden. This is a possibility that can not be discounted...The other possibility is that the witnesses did not see any jets at low altitude. But the three witnesses seem credible as a quick investigation revealed two other witnesses who heard what they believed were jets at very low altitude. A private pilot in Hico, about 17 miles to the southeast of Stephenville, indicated that he heard sonic booms on January 8th and judged the jets to be low due to the high sound level...An employee of Clark Field airport in Stephenville, indicated that on January 8th he heard military jets that were so low and loud that they caused him to go outside and look for jets. This occurred at his home in DeLon which 18 miles to the southwest of Stephenville....Together, all of these witnesses, indicate that it is plausible to believe that there may have been military jets operating below radar in the vicinity of Dublin-Selden-Stephenville in the early evening of January 8, 2008. (Schulze and Powell 37-8)
This scenario seems highly unlikely since the jets would have to consume a lot of fuel to stay up for over four hours at low altitude and not be recorded by the FAA radar. Additionally, nobody seems to have reported jets cruising about the Stephenville area at low altitude prior to sunset. The lack of any visual sightings for these new mystery jets indicates they were not in the area. It appears that the writers are suggesting that the USAF knew that somebody was going to ask for the radar data before they made plans to fly their jets that night. This goes against Occam's razor and assumes to much. The simplest possibility is that Allen's second sighting was of the two jets that passed through his area around 7PM.
It is interesting to note that this little exercise was repeated for another sighting that evening. The 7:15 PM Dublin sighting (witness J in the MUFON radar report) was supposedly linked to the radar contact that was not transponding and "jumped" to produce a 1900 mph motion at 7:26 PM. However, around the same time, two F-16 jets were transiting the area towards the northeast and can also be the cause of the sighting. Again, strobe lights are mentioned as well as other lights. The witness even refers to the lights as flying in tandem indicating two sets of lights. The MUFON authors focus on the spurious signal but fail to note that the witness never saw the UFO move back to the base course to the south. This is what he would have seen had the non-transponding target actually jumped northwards towards Dublin and back to the south again. Instead, witness J talks about the lights disappearing in the northeast at a high rate of speed just like the jets did at 7:15-7:16 PM. The MUFON report does a lot of "hand waving" stating the jets would have been identifiable and easy to hear but this assumes the witness would be listening for the noise and could see the actual jets in the dark. Most important to note is that the witness never mentioned seeing the jets! Had he been out at the time he stated, he would have seen the jets fly by. Instead he reports seeing lights move across the sky. This means the most plausible scenario for this UFO sighting is that the lights were just jets misperceived by the witness.
I can understand the MUFON radar report's conclusions. They are MUFON and their purpose is to locate UFOs. They did this and should be commended for their efforts. However, that being said, they apparently ignored, or downplayed, the distinct possibility that the witness reports could be flawed and they could have seen the formation of jets flying through the area that evening. It is not too difficult to suggest that the pressure of producing a report based on the radar data that would be accepted by the UFO community is the reason for this. Since the data really did not contain very much to validate the idea that UFOs were swarming all over the Stephenville area that evening, the authors found some vague and subjective data that could be interpreted to support that conclusion.
While this writing offers probable answers to many of the major questions raised by the Schulze-Powell MUFON report, it does not "seal the deal" and offer a definitive conclusion. UFO proponents will continue to state there was something extraordinary in the skies over Stephenville that evening but as one can see, there are other answers that are far more reasonable. This is just another example of UFO proponents ignoring the more likely scenario of misperception in favor of the less likely alien spaceship in the sky scenario. It also demonstrates they continue to ignore the lessons of the 1997 Sturrock panel where it was stated by a panel of scientists that " to be credible to the scientific community, such evaluations must take place with a spirit of objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses. (Sturrock 124)." While the MUFON reports about Stephenville provided a fair summary of the data and reports, their conclusions ignored the most likely hypothesis that could explain most of the events described.
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