By Ray Stern
Air traffic controllers in the main tower of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport saw last night's bizarre spectacle of red lights flying across North Valley skies, but the Federal Aviation Administration won't let them talk to the media.
Ian Gregor, FAA regional spokesman, says the agency's policy won't allow controllers to comment even if they want to relate their experience.
Gregor confirmed that "several" air traffic controllers in the tower saw the staggered formation of mysterious lights moving in the sky, apparently over North Phoenix. He says he heard that second-hand, though -- the tower's manager told him about it.
The controllers didn't consider the source of the lights to be a hazard, because nothing was popping up on radar, Gregor says.
Several media outlets are displaying photographs of the lights taken by Valley residents, which seems to confirm that something was up there. Heck, the Republic even quoted no less an eminent source than one of its own reporters, Anne Ryman, as having eyewitnessed the event. Photos and videos can be seen today on www.azcentral.com.
The lights have defied quick explanation. Even the Sky Harbor lookouts had "no idea" what the darned things were, Gregor says.
Yet it seems clear air traffic controllers could offer a professional description of the UFOs, since they are, presumably, experts at spotting distant aircraft. Their guesses at the altitude, distance, speed and physical nature (if any) of the UFOs would carry more weight than those of the average skywatcher.
Gregor won't budge, though. "This has nothing to do with the FAA," he says.
New Times has filed a formal request with the FAA for radar records of any unidentified aircraft in the area from the agency's Albuquerque and Phoenix-area radar centers, just in case anything was missed.
The sky was clear last night, so the lights apparently weren't reflections from a source on the ground. Aircraft would have shown up on radar. Military stealth aircraft would be unlikely to be covered in brilliant red lights. So would alien spacecraft, in this writer's humble opinion. You take the time to fly thousands, if not millions, of light years across space to Earth, only to put on a relatively boring air show? What hosers, these aliens! They can't even seem to give us a missing man formation, much less the secret to a long-lasting technological civilization.
These new lights may be more mysterious than the V-shaped formation over Phoenix that caused a stir in 1997. After that sighting, the military confirmed there were aircraft dropping flares near the Phoenix area, and New Times reported that a local guy named Mitch Stanley looked at the source of the lights with his telescope and saw -- airplanes. His description of squared-off wings gibed with a type of ground-attack airplane called an A-10 Warthog, the same type the military said had been in the area that night. I didn't see the famed Phoenix Lights, but it makes sense to me that if they might have been A-10s, they probably were.
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I'd like a rational explanation for these new lights, and soon -- because the media abhors a vacuum. And there are plently of people who will come out the woodwork to fill that vacuum with all sorts of ungrounded nonsense.
Paradise Valley resident Lynn Kitei, who has made a career out of the 1997 lights, is a case study in how much bull can be packed into a few unidentified lights: "Kitei's research goes far beyond UFOs," says a 2006 East Valley Tribune article. "She said she believes ghosts, UFOs and other unexplained phenomena are all connected."
Still, even skeptics like me can't shake their curiousity about things like this. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, incredible claims require incredibly good evidence. So far, there's just no telling whether these lights represented actual aircraft, reflections, weather-related phenomena, Satan, incorporeal alien life or mass hysteria (sorry, Anne). Stay tuned.