Sunday, October 27, 2013

Detroit Airport Clears Venus to Land

(Blogger’s Note: Brad Sparks recently published the following on a closed discussion list so I asked permission to make it available to a wider audience. Brad kindly gave his permission, but he asked that I publish a slightly updated version. The following was written and updated by Brad.)

Recently, my attention was called to a story in Allan Hendry's UFO Handbook of 1979, by a Euroskeptic who was properly cautious in bringing it up, saying "If cited correctly" by Hendry, then it might be instructive.  Purportedly, the Detroit, Mich., airport controllers had many times "cleared" the planet Venus to land at the airport

In the first of two statements by Hendry, the context is one nestled among numbered CUFOS UFO / IFO cases (details omitted as not relevant to the point, which is that they were numbered).  Yet the Venus story itself has no case number.  In fact, it doesn't even rise to the level of an actual story but is more of an aphorism or a quip.  

Hendry, p. 27:

Venus continued to attract attention as

a "UFO" throughout the period of my

study. The witness in case 519 [sighted etc.] .... 

In cases 890 and 896, the witnesses [sighted etc.]....  

My favorite comment, however, was provided

by the FAA at Detroit Metropolitan

Airport: "Do you know how

many times we've cleared Venus to land?"  [No case number]


Hendry p. 102:


I was once told by a

member of the FAA control at the Detroit

Metropolitan Airport, "Do you

know how many times we have cleared

Venus to land?"  [No case number]


I can answer the alleged anonymous airport official's misleading question:  ZERO.  Yes, that's right, the story is a complete and total fiction.  The planet Venus cannot radio for clearance to land -- I mean to even have to explain this is ridiculous, Venus is an inanimate object incapable of intelligent thought and communication, radio or otherwise.  

An aircraft that tries to land at a busy airport in a restricted airway without obtaining radio clearance first is either an emergency due to radio failure or disability of the pilot, or it is a potential hijacking or terrorist aircraft or some hostile attack activity.  It is an extremely serious matter, not to be laughed off as just "lights in the sky playing tricks."  The airport radar will have been checked by controllers to verify that an aircraft is coming in on a standard approach path and/or is a hazard to other flights.  Repeated efforts will have been made to establish radio contact.  When there is no response, swift emergency action will be taken.  

It would be in all the newspapers and the subject of official FAA or NTSB investigation and by similar agencies in other countries if it ever occurred there.  The AF would be alerted to scramble fighters to intercept unless it was clearly just a pilot in trouble and not suspicious or hostile action.  Having something like this happen at night is an especially dangerous situation.  We would know all about it.  Hendry would have been able to provide names, dates, places, the whole works -- if anything like it had actually ever happened.  

And why only Detroit airport anyway?  Doesn't Venus radio other airports for clearance to land??? What about Jupiter and Sirius, don't they radio too???

The more I thought about it the more I was struck by the absurdity of the story insinuating that Detroit Airport controllers had many times "cleared" the planet Venus to "land" at the airport.  This seems to be something of a debunker article of faith, a prooftext for the stupidity of even trained air traffic controllers.  Yet it is not even claimed to be a UFO sighting. 

We are supposed to believe that Venus just shines brightly in the sky one evening and that busy air traffic controllers then become mesmerized by the sight and actually go through their procedures to "clear" the planet for landing -- the specifics of those "clearance procedures" being conveniently hazy in this debunker thought-balloon.  It is a grossly embarrassing act of folly -- if it ever happened.  Therefore, this cautionary tale supposedly tells us that UFO cases at airports can just be similar stupidity and it instructs us on how stupid people can be if even air traffic controllers can make such mammoth mistakes of "misperception" (whatever that loaded term really means, which I contend is a nonsense term anyway, but that's another story for another day).  

But in reality it is an example of a debunker hoax.  Yes, debunkers, can and do perpetrate hoaxes, just like the Adamskis of the world.  But it is a category of event or fabricated non-event that is not recognized or studied or debated.  There seems to be the attitude that debunkers are just skeptics trying to defend "truth," so by very definition they don't engage in untruthful or fraudulent hoaxes, right?

When I read what Hendry wrote, though, I was bothered by a number of things besides the patent absurdity of the story, such as the fact it is not even an assertion of fact but a question, an unanswered question at that.  Was Hendry's source simply playing a rhetorical game?  Was it a joke inspired by the similarity of the words "plane" and "planet"?  No UFO report is attached to the story, as I said, nor any IFO report.  No date, no names of alleged witnesses, whether FAA controllers or not.  No "sighting details."  

It is clear to me that the story was calculated to produce shame, and the shame was intended to shut down all thought and critical faculties.  The shame has the effect of allowing misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudices to fill in the vacuum left by shutting down thought -- in this case to forget everything we ought to know about airport procedures, even from watching the movies or television.  Debunkers apparently expect that it will be too embarrassing for critics to ask questions because it only draws more attention to the uncomfortable (alleged) "fact" that air controllers cleared a planet, Venus, for landing many times.  Embarrassment and shame obviate the need to supply any documentation -- no one dares bring up the subject to ask.  We are supposed to accept the story without question and let it have its intended effect, in this case a very deceitful one. 

The Venus-cleared-to-land story is patently so false, so fraudulent, so outrageous, that it is amazing to me that it hasn't been exposed sooner.  The shaming effect evidently shuts down all thinking, stops all questioning.  

This raises many disturbing questions:  Who in the FAA at Detroit made up this obviously false story?  Why did Hendry not question the story or attempt to get documentation for at least one purported instance?  Why hasn't anyone questioned this fraudulent and outrageous debunker hoax before?  Here we are 34 years after Hendry's book was published so why hasn't anyone blown the whistle?  Hendry's book has been the darling of skeptics and debunkers, who supposedly epitomize "critical thinking" yet seem to have trouble critically thinking about their own "side" (a point that Jerry Clark has been making for years).  Maybe there is some obscure review somewhere that has called attention to this bogus story and maybe the many other huge errors of astronomy, statistics, math, logic, etc., in the same book. 

And by the way, the falsity of this story does not mean the opposite is true, that controllers never make mistakes, never mistake IFO's for UFO's, just that they never foolishly radio clearances to land to unidentified aircraft or objects in the sky.  And my position on ETH needs to be reiterated here lest I be misunderstood:  The falsity of this story does not prove that UFO's are alien spacecraft.  I do not accept or "believe in" ET or alien visitation, never have, but others are welcome to draw their own conclusions as to what the unexplained UFO phenomenon may represent.  I agree with most of Jacques Vallée’s 5 numbered arguments in his “Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified Flying Objects,” JSE, 1990, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 105-117, with corrections and modifications, and additional reasons of my own, again a discussion for another time. 


Lance said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gilles Fernandez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilles Fernandez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Rudiak said...

I can't say I care much for mass single-person UFO surveys like Hendry's (or the more recent British Project Condign), either pro or con. NOBODY can be an expert in all necessary fields or investigate all cases in the detail that is necessary. As a result, we can end up with "explanations" that make no sense based on the surveyors' flawed understanding of fields outside their own field of expertise.

Hendry had a bachelor's in astronomy, which does not necessarily make one an expert in such things as radar, aeronautical engineering, human perception, etc. E.g., Hendry invoked some ridiculous visual perceptual explanations without clearly knowing what he was talking about. (I'm thinking here of his optokinetic nystagmus "explanations" of erratic flight patterns.)

His CUFOS mentor Allen Hynek made the same sort of perceptual mistakes, such as dismissing the Kenneth Arnold sighting based on Hynek's deeply flawed beliefs (NOT expert knowledge) about human visual acuity. (He was off by a mere order of magnitude.)

Ironically, the boys in blue at Wright-Patterson did their own perceptual tests and got it right, getting Arnold's objects down into commercial jet size rather than Hynek's absurd miscalculated 2000 feet in length, his basis for dismissing Arnold's report.

Don Maor said...

I agree with the notion that the idea expressed in Hendry's book is indeed outrageous.

The purpose of such claim is to discourage further interest in studying UFOs. Indeed, claiming that Venus was cleared to land in an airport, if mentioned in the context of UFOs near airports, implies that Venus is potentially responsible for almost every UFO case that may come to anyone's knowledge or mind, no matter the characteristics of the case.

It also seems strange to me that Hendry wrote it twice, almost verbatim, in his book. Repeating information in a book is usually not a good sign (one may suspect memory problems, a hidden author, lack of rigor, obsessive ideas, etc) unless in the second mention the author adds an "as said before,..." and new information is connected to the repeated information.

Why didn't Hendry add a clarification on the answer. How many times was Venus cleared to land?, or just a commentary on why he considered it his "favorite" comment?

Sarge said...

My Father was a WW2 Air Corp veteran. One of his small pleasures was pointing out mistakes in movies about the war and he really liked when they goofed up something air related.
That said, the errors in the books would be the kind that only pilots and those experienced in air traffic control would spot. Like the defination of "cleared for landing."
Like so much of what we see as mistakes and falsifications, these simply pass un-noticed by the less informed.

David Rudiak said...

Sparks says he agrees mostly with Vallee why UFOs are not extraterrestrial, citing Vallees five arguments against the ETH. What are Vallee's five argument?

(1) Unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth.

Notice the implicit assumption that the only thing of interest to the visitors would be a "physical survey" of the planet, like our politics, culture, biological diversity, technological development, etc., etc., which have kept many millions of human beings fully occupied for thousands of years would be of no interest to them. This is a really dumb assumption, since humans visiting some alien civilization would not behave in this way.

(2) The humanoid body structure of the alleged 'aliens' is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel.

So does Vallee think alien sea anemones could build spaceships? There are good evolutionary reasons for a technological species to have a basic humanoid shape, which would involve a very long discussion, but basically the biological adage that form follows fuctions. How does Vallee know that they aren't biologically adapted for space travel or need to be, or that they are necessarily biological at all or even self-evolved? Again notice all the questionable implicit assumptions.

(3) The reported behavior in thousands of abduction reports contradicts the hypothesis of genetic or scientific experimentation on humans by an advanced race.

Millions of doctors and biological/medical researchers over many decades are still trying to figure us out, but Vallee ASSUMES aliens can figure out everything about our physiology and genetics in just a few abductions. Really? What about other possibilities such as long-term tracking of certain genetic lines?

(4) The extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded history demonstrates that UFOs are not a contemporary phenomenon.

Can't imagine why this is some sort of argument against the ETH, unless Vallee assumes any aliens would immediately grow bored with us and never come back.

(5) The apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives.

Or it could be how they achieve interstellar travel, so again not really an argument against the ETH. What does Vallee propose as a substitute hypothesis, unless he wants to take us back to supernatural explanations like gods, new-age invisible Gaia entities, elves or interdimensional fairies, etc.? How could you even test such a hypothesis? At least with the ETH, you would predict physical trace evidence or interactions, which do indeed exist, or even the possibility of picking up crashed craft and bodies, so in principle, testable. The ETH is actually a fairly conservative hypothesis that doesn't require the existence of other mysterious, undefinable, universes or parallel realities, instead assuming the visitors are from OUR universe/reality with physical laws we either understand or can potentially understand.

Anthony Mugan said...

I would also argue that Vallee's critique of the ETH needs to be developed. The criticism that humanoid aliens are inconceivable seemed conclusive even in the 1980s and was perhaps the strongest argument against close encounter cases. Since that time two areas of theoretical and experimental developments require that conclusion to be reviewed.
Our improved understanding of complexity theory and its relevance to both the origin and evolution of life (convergent evolution) is significant in this regard. Whilst I would not go so far as Professor Simon Conway Morris in arguing that humanoids are an inevitable result of evolutionary processes, as we can not yet quantify the relevant fitness landscapes to establish the inevitability of the necessary parallel convergence, I would argue along the same lines as Professor Ruchard Dawkins that this is a possibility.
A second area of development is panspermia, which has moved from being considered total nonsense in the 1970s to receiving serious consideration, again as a possibility, today. A relatively conservative view, proposed by Professor Paul Wesson, notes that whilst the viability of micro-organisms over interstellar distances is open to debate the physical transfer of the remnants of micro-organisms over interstellar distances is not. This delightfully termed necropanspermia is of significance, in my opinion, as it results in the transfer of information, and complex organic molecules. Combine this with the implications if complexity and an argument in favour of humanoid aliens becomes possible.
I also agree with DR in that the modification of space time suggested by some UFO reports is one of the stronger arguments in favour of the ETH, although again there have been theoretical developments (Hill, Alcubierre. Puthoff. Davis and White etc) which begins to make this seem a little less outlandish than it perhaps did thirty years ago.
Above all the ETH is testable. It predicts humanoid aliens, psychic functioning and space time modification ( the latter would be challenged by proponents of MHD propulsion). We might also predict how certain words in the Ramey memo will come out as relevant technology improves. The paranormal hypothesis does not lend itself to testing as far as I can see and therfore is not scientific at this time.
If I had to state an opinion... I am undecided between the core puzzle being a very odd natural phenomenon linked to atmospheric plasma or the ETH being correct, but going down the route of fairies etc ( other than recognising cultural contexts in which events have been interpreted) is a retrograde step, but I can see how Vallee's arrived at his argument in the context of the best theoretical models available at the time.

Terry the Censor said...

Mr. Sparks gives very good reasons for doubting the story. But I am disappointed he did not simply ask an air traffic controller if such a mistake were possible. That would seem a prudent thing to do before hallucinating a foam-flecked conspiracy about unnamed debunkers.

Certainly, the attacks on Hendry in the comments are shameful.

Don Maor said...

Terry the Censor said:

"the attacks on Hendry in the comments are shameful."

Attacks? I only see criticisms (which by the way can be also critizised).

cda said...

The idea of Venus coming in to land is not new. I seem to recall Keyhoe talking about a similar case, or cases, in FS TOP SECRET chapter Viii ('November Crisis') in which two separate incidents happened at White Sands on November 3, 1957.

The first was of a round device "obviously under intelligent control" (Keyhoe's words) making a "completely controlled landing" at White Sands at 3 AM, the second was at 8 PM and was a projectile shaped object "two to three hundred feet long" taking off from the same base.

The AF press release put the first down to Venus and the second to the moon. Make of that what you will, but apparently the spokesman got the two sightings mixed up and the explanations in the wrong order! A ghastly error. Keyhoe had a wonderful dig at them for what were two obviously wrong answers.

Regardless whether the answers were correct but reversed, it is obvious that the first one never got clearance to land and second never got clearance to take off. Thus if both Venus and the Moon had got their takeoff/landing clearances first, presumably the mix-up would not have occurred.

BTW, is Hendry still around to comment on Sparks's critique?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.