By Neil Spring
I don't believe in visitors from Mars. Perhaps aliens exist somewhere in the vastness off space, but I don't believe they are visiting this planet. If that were so, we would surely have seen better evidence of their presence by now.
But something strange is haunting our skies, and it is curious that the Ministry of Defence appears to think otherwise. The failure of our MPs to acknowledge as much is at best a typical example of the human evasion; at worst, it a disingenuous and recklessness oversight deserving of urgent redress.
Last week it was confirmed that the pilot of a Thomas Cook aircraft flying to Manchester International Airport on 19 July 2013, experienced a near miss with an unknown object. The captain ducked as a cigar shaped bright, silver and apparently metallic craft came within feet of his aircraft. It wasn't a balloon and it wasn't tracked on radar. The official investigation found that 'it was not possible to trace the object or determine the likely cause of the sighting.
One might be tempted to dismiss the incident as a one off, were it not for the fact that this has happened before. In 1995, the Civil Aviation Authority conducted an intense investigation when the captain of a passenger aircraft coming into land at Manchester Airport nearly collided with a dark, wedge shaped object that was so close that the first officer instinctively ducked. The case remains unexplained to this day, along with many others.
What on earth is going on?
When it comes to UFOs, the MOD would have us think that it has been entirely transparent with the public on the subject. That the UFO problem isn't a problem at all and that official interest is at a minimum, which is why it closed its official reporting desk in December 2009 and has declassified its UFO-related files. The department has found no evidence of a UFO threat to the UK and sees no benefit of any investigation into the subject, believing it would divert resources from tasks "more relevant to defence."
But the paradox here is obvious. How can we know that flying craft capable of fantastic manoeuvres and evading radar represent no defence significance, unless no attempt is made to investigate them in the first place? Lights in the sky are one thing, near misses quite another, and as much as the MOD is happy to publicise the dubious (and often humorous) reports from members of the public, they aren't nearly as forthcoming as to remind us that the National Air Traffic Control Services detect around one unidentified flying object every month.
The release of previously classified documents on the subject demonstrates that UFOs have attracted the attention of those at the top of government. 'What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to,' asked Winston Churchill in 1952. 'What is the truth?'
Then, at the height of the Cold War, defence officials were soberly concerned about UFOs, and whilst the public was encouraged to think the subject was nonsense, official discreet enquiries were being made.
Are such enquiries ongoing now?
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe that officials secretly know what was glimpsed by the captain of the Thomas Cook Flight. Nor do I think that the military or BAE Systems would be so foolish as to test one of its prop type stealth aircraft in one of the busiest air corridors in the UK.
But if unknown objects possessing impressive manoeuvrability are flying in the UK airspace without detection and within striking distance of passenger jets, then the official line of 'no defence significance' is puzzling at best. Either the MOD is taking a close and secret interest in the phenomenon, or it is not. To the passengers on the jet that escaped its near miss, both possibilities must be equally concerning.
It is suave effrontery on the part of the MOD to pretend that near misses involving UFOs do not matter. Perhaps their lack of interest is a convenient evasion for the fact that they cannot explain these events - but that doesn't mean the matter should be allowed to rest, not when the safety of passenger aircraft is at risk.
The Parliamentary Defence Select Committee has never investigated the UFO problem, or the MOD's policy on the subject.
Perhaps now it should do so.