Moving back to the Washington Nationals, one of the reporters asked, "On what did they report sightings?"
Ramey: In one or two instances, they reported sighting lights. In one instance, they reported locking on an object. It is pretty clear from the discussion of the pattern of two airplanes that went out that one of them was locked on the other one.
Reporter: General --
Samford: Yes, sir?
Reporter: Back to the ionized cloud. Were the blips picked up recently comparable to the ionized cloud or were they different in maneuvering or motion?
Samford: They were different.
Reporter: General Samford, I understand there were radar experts who saw these sightings Saturday night or early Sunday morning. What was their interpretation of what they saw on the scope?
Samford: They said they saw good returns.
Reporter: Which would indicate that these were solid objects similar to aircraft?
Samford: No, not necessarily. We get good returns from birds.
Reporter: Well, you wouldn’t get as large a blip from a bird as --
Samford: No, unless it was close.
A point must be interjected here. The radar operators were all trained men who had been working at the nation’s capital’s airport. They would have, in the past, seen birds and temperature inversions on their radar scopes. They would be familiar with these sort of natural phenomena and wouldn’t be easily fooled by them, especially when it is remembered that they had years of experience. This wasn’t the situation ten years earlier when radar operators were poorly trained and the operations of radar were poorly understood.
Reporter: Did they report that these could have been birds?
Reporter: Can you get a good return from a reflected ground target, General?
James: You can get a very large return from a reflected ground target.
Reporter: Just as good as you might get from an object actually in flight in the air?
James: Actually thicker. It depends on the amount of bending.
Reporter: And just as sharp on the scope?
Reporter: Can you get a blip from the (inaudible) created by temperature inversion?
James: On the ground target, yes.
Reporter: In other words, something that’s on the ground that’s reflected off a refracted cloud bank would throw off a blip on the radar screen?
James: Yes, sir. That’s true.
Reporter: Would a nearby radar set get that blip at exactly the same speed?
James: Not necessarily; no.
Reporter: In other words, you can have a light and something that lacks substance and material and still have a blip?
James: I don’t quite understand the question.
Reporter: You can have a radar image that’s created without the necessity of radar striking the solid object or a semi-solid object, such as a cloud.
James: Well, eventually, it does have to strike an
Reporter: But you said it can be simply a reflection of something on the ground.
Reporter: I see.
Reporter: In other words, it doesn’t have to be in the air.
James: That’s correct.
Reporter: In the area covered by the sweep on the radar?
James: It has to be in the area covered by the radar set.
It has to be within the range.
Reporter: But not in the air.
James: But not in the air.
Reporter: What sort of ground targets give these reflections?
James: It depends on the amount of temperature inversion and the size and shape of the ground objects.
Reporter: Would this reflection account for simultaneous radar sightings and visual sightings which appear to coincide on the basis of conversations between the radar operator and the observer outside?
James: There is some possibility of that due to the same effects.
Reporter: Why would these temperature inversions change location so rapidly or travel?
James: Well, actually, it can be the appearance or disappearance of different ground targets giving the appearance of something moving when, actually, the different objects are standing still.
Reporter: Would these pseudo-blips cause any difficulties
in combat at all?
James: Not to people that understand what’s going on. They do cause some difficulty.
Reporter: Then the experienced operators really can tell the difference between --
James: That’s correct.
Reporter: How about the CAA men?
James: I don’t know.
It is clear from the questions that the reporters understood little about radar operations and temperature inversions. Captain James made it clear with his answers that trained, qualified, experienced men could tell the difference between real targets and those caused by temperature inversions.
It is also clear that the reporters had somehow come to the conclusion that the temperature inversions were responsible for creating the lights reported by both airline and military pilots and the men on the ground. The reporters had begun to think of a temperature inversion as a "cloud." That is, they seemed to think that it was something that could be seen, not realizing that a temperature inversion was merely a cold layer of clear air under a warmer layer of clear air. There would be nothing for anyone to see.
Reporter: Would the disappearance or reappearance of these blips be accounted for by the movement of a cloud bank that reflected a ground target?
James: Well, actually, it’s not a cloud bank. It’s a temperature inversion of the atmosphere. You see, if warm air comes in over a cool area, you have a temperature inversion and the atmosphere is perfectly clear, and still the rays will be bent.
The reporters have become confused, believing, for the moment, that the visual sightings were a result of the temperature inversion. They are searching for an explanation for what was seen by the pilots and ground observers, but a temperature inversion is, essentially, invisible to the human eye.