By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Before Tony Ortega pats himself on the back for solving the mystery of the aerial lights seen March 13 ("The Great UFO Cover-up," June 26), I have a question. Referring to comments by Sky Harbor International Airport air traffic controller Bill Grava, Ortega writes: "He [Grava] confirms that the object or objects did not register on radar as they passed overhead, a fact seconded by Captain Stacey Cotton of Luke Air Force Base." Ortega then claims, citing comments by Cotton about the civilian air traffic control radar, that the absence of radar traces by military and civilian sources is consistent with a group of planes flown by hoaxers with their onboard transponders switched off. No transponder signal, no radar trace, Ortega suggests.
But if Cotton is able to state that the object(s) flew over without being detected by Luke AFB radar, then the transponder theory has problems. As a military base which must defend its air space against intruders domestic and foreign, Luke AFB does not rely on the good intentions of fliers to keep their transponders switched on. It has active radar with which it scans the skies, ready to pick up reflected radar signals from any craft which may be present. (This is not to say that it does not also make use of transponder signals to assist in the identification of aircraft.) These reflected radar signals also provide information about the number, distance, size, speed and other ordinary characteristics of any craft detected.
Editor's note: We, too, were surprised when Luke Air Force Base officials suggested that the base doesn't use radar that will detect any flying object. Since receiving your letter, we checked again, and this time were told that Luke does, indeed, use two sorts of radar, which it refers to as primary and secondary types. The secondary type reads transponder signals only, but the base's primary radar detects most aircraft within 60 miles and up to 60,000 feet in altitude regardless of whether those aircraft have their transponders on.
However, Luke officials say that many aircraft without transponder signals show up on primary radar and are routinely ignored. "We're mainly concerned with our own planes," says Sergeant Karina Jennings.
On March 14, she says, in response to a deluge of calls from the public, primary-radar operators were asked if they had seen anything unusual the night before. None said that they had.
But Jennings points out that those operators could have seen many signalless planes--even a group of seven flying in formation--and not have considered it "unusual."
Moreover, she notes that in a formation of seven planes, only two or three might show up clearly on the primary radar and would likely have been ignored.
Jennings also notes that on Luke's primary radar, military Stealth aircraft, as well as airplanes with surfaces constructed of plastic or fiber glass, do not show up at all.
She adds that Luke doesn't have the capability of recording its primary radar, and so no tapes exist of what was seen the night of March 13. FAA officials in Albuquerque do record radar tapes for the Phoenix area, but recycle them after 15 days. If anyone had made a formal request for the March 13 tapes within that time, there would be a permanent record available for the asking. No one did.
I witnessed on March 13 what Mitch Stanley observed through his telescope. But I didn't need a telescope to observe the configuration, which appeared unbalanced at five. That was my first clue that it was interterrestrial. As I watched before it disappeared, I observed it peel off into the great beyond. To what country it belongs, I don't know or really care.
I just know those pilots are having a good laugh at our expense, especially when an individual on the Phoenix City Council calls for an all-out investigation utilizing the "Arizona air force." Maybe Frances Emma Barwood is the alien since she is not aware that Arizona doesn't have an air force. Oh, well. It is nice to know there are still some of us who are not misled by mass hysteria or by the movie Independence Day and have their power of reasoning intact. Thanks for printing this story and clearing up what has turned into a colossal mess.
It is wonderful that people want to look up at the night sky, but it is better if they have equipment such as Mitch Stanley's telescope so they can more positively identify the things they are seeing. If Frances Emma Barwood wants to do something constructive during her 15 minutes of fame, she might draft rules to curb light pollution, such as Tucson has, so millions of dollars aren't wasted annually on billboard lights, etc., aimed needlessly into the Phoenix sky that diminish the view.
Mo' Joe Risin'
Jeremy Voas' column ("Say It Ain't Joe," June 12) was another outstanding example of fine journalism from New Times. However, I do have to add a couple of things to the writer's list of Arpaioisms:
This is the same man who, before running for public office, attempted to secure a public contract by suggesting kickbacks during the contract bidding process. He freely admitted this to staff writer Tony Ortega, but apparently felt that "kickback" was a harsh term--perhaps "percentage" would have been more acceptable.