By Billy Cox
As the new point man for the Mutual UFO Network, David MacDonald likes to tout the numbers: 3,000 members in 39 countries, 947 of whom are field investigators. With those sorts of resources, one would expect the 43-year-old outfit to have an inside track on collecting UFO data in the USA.
But according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Control manual, updated on Feb. 9, “Persons wanting to report UFO/unexplained phenomena activity should contact a UFO/unexplained reporting data collection center, such as Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) (voice: 1-877-979-7444 or e-mail: Reporting@baass.org), the National UFO Reporting Center, etc.”
MUFON = “etc.”
MacDonald, who succeeded Clifford Clift (of Colbert Report fame) as MUFON’s International Director in February, hopes to turn the visibility thing around in a big way. He recently hauled MUFON’s entire inventory — from 17 filing cabinets of reports, photos and tapes to an old Vanguard rocket engine — from its previous headquarters in Colorado to Ohio’s Lunken Airport, the municipal reliever for Cincinnati International. It took four men five hours to unload the stuff, some of which MacDonald hopes to showcase in the near future.
At 65, MacDonald is a longtime pilot, and president/CEO of Flamingo Air Inc., which its website proclaims as “Cincinnati’s most outrageous airline.” That’s because, among other things, it offers hour-long “Mile High Club” flights in a Cherokee 6 that advertise chocolates, champagne, curtains, and “one very discreet pilot.”
Two months into the MUFON gig and MacDonald says everything’s coming up roses. The HQ staff is small — MacDonald and his wife, plus a third assistant — but they’ve managed to unscramble a slack records-keeping system, and having its logo on display at an airport doesn’t hurt.
“Hundreds of people see us now, and I’m not just talking local people either,” says MacDonald. “I’m amazed at the number of airport people who come up and say ‘Dave? I’ve been a member of MUFON for years.’”
MacDonald wants to promote MUFON’s commitment to professionalism, which covers not only a front-end screening for volunteer field-investigator applicants, but recurring tests for certification renewal. Not to mention continued public-records background checks, a fractious issue among some MUFON investigators a couple of years ago. MacDonald says it paid off:
“We weeded out a number of criminals and scam artists and at least one pedophile. Can you imagine sending a thief or a pedophile into someone’s house? I don’t even want to think about those liability issues.”
MacDonald also talks about more aggressive PR, press releases alerting media to new interesting cases, maybe even a year-in-review roundup. But what about the Bigelow outfit, where the FAA is steering public UFO queries? Robert Bigelow, the deep-pocketed hotel-chain tycoon hoping to cash in on space tourism, briefly financed MUFON’s research efforts a few years back before terminating the contract.
“We have little or no contact with Bigelow,” MacDonald says. “I don’t know what’s going on with that. MUFON and the FAA have not exactly been on the friendliest of terms over the years.”
Meanwhile, in an email reply to De Void, a Bigelow rep stated, “BAASS is still actively seeking reports of unidentified aerial phenomenon. This includes reports from the FAA, pilots, air traffic control personnel, as well as from other sources.” However, “Our policy does not allow us to provide any information on case numbers or investigations.”
De Void would rather think about Flamingo Air’s Mile-High Club …