Thursday, October 15, 2015

Odd Observation #2

I had a sighting one Sunday morning in 2002.  Sure, and it was hardly anything to write home to 'Mom' about, as sightings of the "tres weird," go and I wouldn't call it a "wave" exactly [g]... but I was pleased to finally have something strange to report. I'll get to those short details in a moment, but let me tell you about something better first.

I'd been out the Saturday night before to a cook-out at an old friend's home, and I'd had one more beer (or three) than was entirely good for me.  I'm sure that's happened to the reader from time to time.  If it hasn't, it should (assuming informed consent).  Moderation in all things includes moderation.  You can quote me (...thought I'd coined it) or Oscar Wilde.  I digress.

...Back at the soiree alluded to above, thank your god of choice the Australians weren't there.  I might have been well and truly lost [g]!  Those guys are serious about their brewed stuff!  ...I'm full of digressions!

Be that as it may, I was a little worse for wear the next morning when I blew off the alarm set for usual 2:45 Central and slept in 'till four.  To me it felt like noon.

I looked outside, blearily, that following Sunday morning and was almost disappointed to discover the best visibility I'd had in over two weeks!  

Rats!  I had to go outside now... A little disgusted with myself that I had blown off the lion's share of an opportunity, I made my steamy cup o' ritual java ("Al's liquid quickening" I call it) and stumbled out the back door, making my way to the usual spot next to a waist high retaining wall.

I looked up into the sky miserably with a dull headache for company, and was just depressed enough to wonder what the bleedin' point was... when I remembered a conversation I'd had with a fellow aviator at the party the night before. 

Just the two us for the moment (this won't come up in a group) he'd caught me looking up into the sky over the fire and, knowing something of my interests, said quietly,  "I... ah... I saw something weird under goggles on Guard drill last weekend..."  Goggles are military grade night vision devices amplifying available light many thousands of times.  You have the eyes of a god it seems.  Indeed, you were blind but now you can see.  ...And what you see! 

He was apologetic, as many are vis a vis the subject matter, when he related the rest of his, obviously uncomfortable, tale.  A small digression... where, when, how and why did we learn to feel such shame at having a truth to tell?

...Back at the "ranch," *Mike's* story, and the subject at hand...

He and another UH-60 (Blackhawk) driver were parked out in the recesses of the nearby military reservation waiting for a night training mission to kick off. They were flying simulated combat sorties for the Alabama National Guard.  

"Mike" (not his real name, he can't afford to associate himself with this twitchy UFO business, like most professional people...) is a highly experienced military aviator and civilian GS~13 working as a commander of instructor pilots at Fort Rucker, the sun source of  the World's professional helicopter flying effort.  

Like most of his ilk, he is not given to wild blueberry horse muffins, and besides, no one who remotely knows me is going to rattle my chain on the subject of UFOs.  They know I'll eat them.  Sincerely. [...no little emoticon grinny thing...]

Anyway, while he was out there in the darkness under the strictest "light discipline" (it means lives), he used his night vision goggles as I have used them when I can infrequently get my hands on them.  He looked—perhaps "too" deeply?—into the near moonless but otherwise unbridled potential of the night sky.  Even without the UFOs, it's still a foursquare dazzler and quite a "show"!

It was also very quiet out in the "field"; the colder temperatures silenced the insects, and the middle of a military reservation is a marvelous buffer from the road noise of  even distant highways.  As I said, it was very quiet—a "quiet" so deep one could cut it with a knife!  No sensory distractions.

Around midnight, abruptly, he noticed a "V" formation of seven or eight lights moving across his field of vision overhead. He flipped up his goggles to see if the highly strange lights were visible without them.  They were not.  Puzzled that there would be an unplanned formation of "mystery" aircraft (running without position lights!) flying over the military training area in the middle of this highly canned and orchestrated exercise, he alerted his copilot to have a look!  Both pilots were goggle equipped.  With perhaps thirty years of piloting experience between them they watched, mouths hanging open, as the puzzling green hued  lights traversed the sky.  Everything is green, remember, in an NVGs field of view.

"Why don't we hear anything," the astonished copilot whispered.  That seven or eight aircraft flying overhead in formation at any altitude is going to make a significant "sound" is a laughing understatement. There was no sound from the formation of lights overhead...

As Mike and his copilot watched these highly peculiar bogeys, both men gasped as they saw the lead craft break off from the formation, abruptly, and dangerously fly the "long way around" the formation into a trail position on one of the wings of the "V", instead of falling back and sliding over from the inside, which would be safer and more appropriate change of the lead aircraft... The manner in which this maneuver was accomplished raised the hair on the backs of their necks. 

The procedure just described would take over a minute if the pilot was hurrying.  Even then he might get a reprimand from the ASO (aviation safety officer) for cowboying the aircraft!  

Turns at night in training are kept to standard rate (three degrees per second) or less, as a safety measure insuring lives and millions of dollars worth of high tech equipment (not necessarily in that order), especially aircraft in formation.  This craft made the transition from lead to trail, around the outside of the flight in under three seconds...!  

That's just not done! It's negligent and irresponsible! Moreover, it's impossible! Mike and his copilot watched open mouthed as the formation of lights continued on their way until they were too far away to be seen, even with the goggles.

He asked me, then, what I thought he had seen.  I told him that he had likely seen just what he had thought he had seen, and welcome to the beginning of highly "interesting" times... here-have-another-beer!

Fascinating, huh?  It's all in the looking up at what is there to be seen.  Of course, sixteen thousand dollars of high-tech assisted vision between them helped, too.

As I considered Mike's strange story I was idly looking West, just to the south of Ursa Major (about five points to her left) when I had my own sighting.  About 35 degrees in elevation and almost due west, a bright amber colored light about the magnitude of Sirius blinked on as I was watching, and began to transition to the North at a steady rate of one degree in six seconds.  Tres slow!  There was no sound, and the rate of speed, color and magnitude of the light did not waver.  I watched until it moved behind a large pecan tree in my neighbor's yard...  I watched it travel for several minutes starting about 04:35 Central.

...Just a point of light in my field glasses, an amber star that blinked on as I watched and then inexplicably began to move...  

Real enigma on the half shell, boys and girls! Dull throb of a lingering hangover or no, and finally, something newly substantive to report. 

I remain watching our skies.  Read on.