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What did FAA radar track over Pennsylvania in October 2008?

February 8, 2011Comments 7 comments

Retired radar analyst and author Glen Schultze got more than he bargained for when he requested Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records relating to a UFO sighting over Ohio in October 2008. His original request was for radar readings from October 23, 2008, but instead he received readings from the following day, October 24, 2008.

Curiously, the FAA radar readings that were sent to him — taken from three stations 150 km apart — paint a peculiar picture of the early morning sky over western Pennsylvania. The below animation shows 30-40 unknown targets that were tracked from 2 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. on that particular morning.

Mr. Schultze explains the radar images:

Approximately 3 dozen radar reflective slow speed skin paint targets are seen transiting the area of interest to the northeast in an operational pattern that is consistent with what can be argued is a coordinated search or survey mission extending over 10,000 square nautical miles of Western Pennsylvania.

According to Schultze, the targets lacked transponders and had signatures different from the few planes that were present in the area at the time. The targets were cruising from south to northeast at an altitude of about 1,200 to 1,500 meters (4,000 to 5,000 feet), which is well within the flight height of migratory birds.

The bird hypothesis is not favored by bird expert Dr. Greg Butcher, however, who notes that migratory birds are heading south, not north, in October. Also:

[...] what you see with flocks of birds on radar is, they form a big cloud. It looks like a mushroom cloud. I don’t know what we’re looking at, but they’re not birds.

So what are they then? We’ll probably never know. This is yet another case among many others where strange objects that can’t be explained have been picked up by radar. Unfortunately, those who are interested in investigating these cases lack the resources and those who have the resources (FAA), lack the interest…

(Source: De Void at Herald-Tribune)

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  1. Totally remove the ET hypothesis for a second and just think about this. Three dozen objects picked up on radar that had no transponders and were not likely birds and no one seems to care?

    I mean, there is 3 Mile Island and other nuclear plants in PA. Unless the FAA “knows” this is a natural phenomenon or a military test, it’s awfully bizarre that no one would be concerned in the slightest by this.

    All of this assumes that Glen Schultze is on the level, but from what I can see, he does have credibility here.

    • That’s a good point Gil. Perhaps it would be more apt to say that those who have the resources to investigate cases like these, don’t necessarily have the interest to convey their findings to the public. After reading Leslie Kean’s book, I don’t know what to believe when it comes to the handling of unexplained aerial phenomena in U.S. skies.

      • John, you’re right – there is, at least, a public face of a lack of interest. But in this hyper-security world we live in, I find it unfathomable that something like this went unnoticed. I guess I will ask Billy Cox if he’s since followed up with the FAA to see if they have an official position on what this was.

        • It didn’t go unnoticed or it wouldn’t be in this blog. Like John says, those with resources don’t have the interest. You ask why. Because they already know what it is and they can’t talk about it to the public. The same thing is happening all over the world.

  2. I took a look at these animated radar readings, & I noticed right at the ’135′ mark, a spot appears on the convergence of the two lines, minus 90, & 90 at the top, & approximatly at the same time, in the grid box between 50 & 60. If they were birds, would they not streak in, and/or across, like those other hits? To come into radar range like that, it would have to had come in from further out. It appears, & then makes a slight movement northwards, just curious on how a bird would accomplish that.

    • Yep. I’m far from a radar expert, but I agree that the bird hypothesis sounds far-fetched.

  3. I know nothing about ATC radar, but I am familiar with interpreting rainfall radar images. My first suspicion would be anomalous propagation (anaprop) which is common under certain conditions and can lead to spurious returns from ground-based objects (terrain, buildings, vehicles etc) or from installations such as high-power wifi relays, TV transmitter masts etc. Also, radar stations go down (or are taken down) in the event of breakdowns or maintenance.
    I’m not qualified to comment on the animation shown here, but I agree that it’s hard to conceive that this would have gone unnoticed or failed to provoke concern and debate.
    ATC radar in the States is available online via live feeds and the aviation industry is as leaky as an old sieve. I’ve seen no mention of this at all on aviation forums, which I visit regularly.

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