[00:00:00] Jordan Heath-Rawlings: We tend to have impressions in our minds of the sorts of folks who report seeing UFOs. It’s not a very good impression. You can probably blame Hollywood for that. We see them as misfits or weirdos and loners, the guy at the end of the bar slurring his words before last call. Strangely enough, though, those aren’t the people who report seeing UFOs. Or maybe they do at the bar, but they’re not the people filing official reports.
Those official reports exist. They’re cataloged. You can look at them. They come from all over Canada, all across North America, really, but we’re talking about Canada today. The reports are made by trained pilots and aircraft crew. They are made by people who not only would tend to recognize most identifiable aircraft, but also people who aren’t [00:01:00] likely to want to make the kind of impression I described being the person who thinks they saw a UFO. That’s not a great look for a professional pilot, but still many of them file these reports. They put down on paper what they saw, and the real question is what happens once they do? And are we taking them seriously enough?
I’m Jordan Heath-Rawlings, this is The Big Story. Daniel Otis is a freelance reporter who’s written for a number of publications, but wrote about UFOs for Vice Canada. Hello, Daniel.
Daniel Otis: Hi.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Why don’t you start by just, how did you come across this story? How did you end up asking for the intelligence report that started it?
Daniel Otis: Um, well, to rewind a little bit, uh, my interest in the topic was, uh, developed, uh, by some reporting that the New York [00:02:00] Times has done, particularly their journalists, Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal. And they’ve, uh, spoken about, um, sightings of unidentified objects by military personnel. Um, as well as they also in 2017, revealed that the Pentagon has a program that actually investigates these kinds of things.
So after I read that, I started digging around to see if I could find any relevant Canadian cases to contribute to the conversation because nobody was really putting out stories on the topic in Canada. Uh, in July and August, the repair of stories published in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail uh, that made reference to something called CADORS. CADORS is an acronym for the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Report System, which is essentially an aviation incident database that’s operated by Transport Canada.
Um, so after I saw that sort of mentioned in passing in two stories on UFO sightings, I started digging into that system, [00:03:00] uh, literally read thousands upon thousands of aviation incident reports, and started finding some that are kind of unusual, um, involving Air Canada, WestJet, and other major airlines operating in Canadian airspace.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: When you say unusual, what does that mean? Can you just describe, uh, some of the reports that you found in detail?
Daniel Otis: Yeah, sure. I can read some of them for you. Um, here’s here’s one I printed out a bunch. Here’s one from, uh, January, 2019, where a medical transport flight in Northern Manitoba, uh, quote, reported that an inexplicable bright light followed them, uh, at the same altitude and speed. Uh, there’s one there.
Um, here’s another one, this is from 2018. Uh, this is a American cargo flight from New York, uh, to Alaska. They’re at about 34,000 feet. When they quote, reported an object flying sporadically estimated [00:04:00] at 60,000 to 80,000 feet, and moving at Mach 4. So just for some context, uh, the fastest known aircraft in the world was the SR-71 Blackbird, which was retired by the US I believe in 1999. And that had a maximum speed of approximately Mach 3.3. Now there’s no particular way that, uh, this cargo flight could have measured that speed, but, you know, according to this report, they saw something moving sporadically and very fast, which, you know, that’s strikes me as unusual.
And I flagged a lot of these reports in my research. I pulled about, you know, close to 200 and, uh, I, I selected some and ran them by, um, some members of, uh, the Royal Canadian Air Force, um, some commercial pilots who, uh, you know, provided some off-the-record guidance and helped me sort of sift through the reports that really were kind of unusual and those that clearly had uh conventional explanations on closer scrutiny.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: So [00:05:00] this database is public and all you had to do was sort of wade through everything enough to, to pull these interesting ones?
Daniel Otis: Um, pretty much, you know, you’re not gonna find any UFOs, or you’re not gonna find many UFOs or unidentified flying objects in the system, but you know, there are, uh, you know, maybe I would say dozens of, uh, things that are objects, lights, possible drones. Um, which is interesting because you know, you, if a trained aviator, uh, can’t immediately identify something, um, that’s probably worthy of a further investigation.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: So what happened when you did investigate further and you took some of these reports to people who would be intimately familiar with them?
Daniel Otis: Yeah. I got a real mixed reaction. Um, Transport Canada, which operates this database, uh, didn’t really want to talk about it. So [00:06:00] they referred all questions to Nav Canada, which is a private company that operates, uh, civilian air traffic infrastructure, so, you know, radar installations, things like that. As a private company, they did, they gave me a brief outline of how the reporting procedures work, but they didn’t really want to talk about it.
The military answered some questions, but you know, what they revealed is that these reports come into them, um, and that they’re sort of punted off, uh, to Transport Canada. So, you know, I, the reports exist, reporting mechanisms exist for these sorts of unusual sightings, but I’ve yet to uncover any evidence that they’re being investigated by the military. I could be wrong. I mean, you know, maybe they do, but so far, all indication is that, you know, reports come in and everybody sort of shrugs and they end up in a drawer.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: What could these things be? Did anybody give you ideas? I know, you know, I [00:07:00] personally kind of hope they’re aliens, but there’s gotta be a million explanations for them, right?
Daniel Otis: Sure. Uh, drones, weather balloons, weather phenomenon. There’s lots of possible explanations for sightings like these. And I think, you know, in my reporting, I’m pretty clear that unidentified does not necessarily equal extraterrestrial. But, you know, in a similar vein there’s been some, uh, prominent US politicians who’ve spoken pretty openly on this topic.
Uh, one example would be, um, Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida, who was also, um, he is the ranking Republican in the US Senate Intelligence Committee. And in a interview this past year, uh, he was asked about this topic and he confirmed that he reviewed material, um, on it, and he said something interesting.
He said that he sincerely hopes that, uh, some of these sightings are [00:08:00] extraterrestrial in origin. ‘Cause he said that if, um, you know, uh, adversaries like China or Russia develop- had developed this type of technology, it would mean that the United States, uh, is at a serious technological disadvantage compared to its enemies.
Uh, I found that interesting, but you know, there’s no evidence to me that any of the reports that I mentioned in my writing are aliens per se. Um, they could all have conventional explanations. I think what’s important here isn’t so much, um, you know, what it could be just that, one: there’s a pattern where trained aviators are spotting things they can’t identify it. Um, I think it takes a great deal of courage to report those types of sightings. Cause there’s a lot of stigma around UFOs and I think any pilot that goes out of their way, uh, to report something like this at risk to their own career, uh, deserves to have it looked into and investigated, not to be ridiculed or ignored.
[00:09:00] Jordan Heath-Rawlings: So about that, what does the Canadian government or military or NORAD do because you know, to your, well, I guess to Marco Rubio’s point, um, we do need to figure out if this is another country with new tech, right?
Daniel Otis: Yeah. I. In terms of what, if there’s any sort of research and investigation into these sightings in Canada? Uh, from under, in terms of the military, I just don’t know. The evidence I have right now says that the reports come in and that the military is then punting them off to Transport Canada. Um, you know, I have, from freedom of information, uh, sorry, from access to information requests, I have documents that prove that, you know, these reports are coming into the military.
Uh, but as far as I’ve yet to uncover any evidence that they’re investigated further. And the members of the military that I’ve spoken to, uh, privately about this matter, uh, say to me that they’ve uncovered [00:10:00] no real evidence that this stuff is investigated in our country.
So, you know, some people have suggested that there might be a, you know, UFO cover up in Canada. Um, right now I don’t see it that way. I, I just don’t think there’s anything that’s being covered up. I just feel like it’s a issue that hasn’t really been looked into and hasn’t really been taken seriously by the military.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Does it need to be taken seriously by the military when you speak to people, uh, who are experts in this field? And this is what I keep coming back to and why, I guess I’m, I’m fascinated with this story beyond aliens. Because it does really seem like something we should be working to figure out unless people already know what it is and aren’t telling us. And I’m not trying to sound conspiracy minded, but it just seems, it seems very confusing that we wouldn’t be digging into this if we didn’t have answers.
Daniel Otis: Absolutely. And I think, you know, I think the reluctance, uh, to dig into this topic is probably [00:11:00] directly related to this stigma that surrounds UFO sightings. You know, um, people make jokes about little green men and this and that. And a lot of people who have observed, uh, or allegedly seen these types of things, you know, they’re subject to ridicule. Those who are in the UFO research community, you know, and a lot of people in the general public see it as though that they’re hunting for something that’s akin to looking for, you know, leprechauns.
It’s just, I think the big problem is that, you know, the topic isn’t taken seriously and I think it should be, if the, I have a story that came out, came out today that mentions 10 recent reports. One of them involves a Porter Airlines flight in 2016, that’s approaching Toronto’s downtown Island airport, and it had a near miss with a round object that appeared like a, to be like a donut or inner tube. And when the plane dove to take an evasive maneuver from this object that was in its [00:12:00] flight path, uh, two flight attendants were injured, uh, when they were thrown into the cabin structure of the plane.
So there’s clearly some flight safety implications, uh, with some of these stories. And in terms of, should the military be interested? Yes. You know, I found multiple reports where they mention that, you know, a commercial pilot is seeing something kind of unusual, uh, and the reports specifically mentioned that in some cases that, you know, air traffic controllers called, uh, NORAD or the, uh, Canadian Air Force, who were able to detect nothing on the radar systems.
So if things are operating in Canadian airspace, causing near misses with commercial flights, with passengers. Uh, if things are coming into our airspace and they’re not being picked up by civilian or military radar, then you know, there is flight safety and national security implications with these kinds of sightings.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: How do we divorce, um, [00:13:00] investigating these types of occurrences from the stigma of yelling about aliens? Because, you know, I see the military’s point, that they don’t want headlines talking about how many millions they spent last year investigating UFOs. Um, I can already see, you know, a campaign commercial or whatever is to come of that, but how do you break that apart and make the point to the general public who’s going to hear about this, that like, forget about the aliens, these are things we don’t understand?
Daniel Otis: I think one way to break that sort of stigma is, you know, by having more reporting like this, you know, reporting that’s based on government documents with testimonies, from experts in the field. Stories that involve, you know, guys having, uh, on a camping trip, seeing something unusual, I don’t think have the same sort of weight as you know, official reports from credible trained observers, such as, um, pilots and military personnel.
I think we’re seeing an increasing [00:14:00] number of reporters willing to take a serious look at this topic. That’s definitely happening in the United States. There’s been very sober stories on UFOs in the New York Times, Forbes, uh, the Washington Post, CNN, you know, these, those are outlets that aren’t known for producing wacky stuff.
I think the way that we can change public perceptions on this topic is really just to, as journalists, to be willing to take a serious look at this topic, and to do so in such a way that doesn’t involve any speculation, and that just focuses on the documents and the reports that we’re able to obtain, and testimonies from experts.
Um, I think a problem with a lot of the reporting on UFOs in the past is that a lot of it has come with a sort of wink and a nudge and a joke. Um, you know, always there’s some kind of jab or, uh, some kind of joke about little green men. Um, I think we need to remove that, you know, we just need to [00:15:00] focus on the reports on the objective facts that are being presented to us, and focus the reporting on that.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: I will ask you on the flip side of that question, did you ask, or have you heard from, uh, people in the UFO community on your reporting and what do they think of that?
Daniel Otis: I have actually, the feedback has actually been very, very positive. Um, and they see my reporting as sort of vindication of their efforts. So the CADOR aviation incident report system I researched, as well as the service intelligence documents I wrote about, these aren’t new to the UFO community. Um, the UFO community has known about these resources and these types of documents, and they’ve been utilizing them in their research. But there’s been very, very little mainstream media coverage that focuses on these sorts of government reports.
So yeah, the UFO community, the re, uh, the response has been very positive [00:16:00] and they, yeah, they see it as vindication of, you know, a topic that they’ve been engaging with, uh, for many, many years.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Last question, what needs to happen next if we’re going to seriously investigate this and figure out whether or not they are aliens? Because let’s be real, that is the real question that people clicked on this podcast to hear answered.
Daniel Otis: I would like to see more openness from, uh, the Canadian military, um, you know, in the US the Pentagon now openly admits that this is something they look into. Um, I personally would like to see, uh, the creation of a unit within the Canadian military that actually collects these reports, follows up, follows up on them, um, you know, researches them, analyzes them. Um, you know, in the story, one of the stories I published, I have a quote from a former, uh, Canadian Air Force pilot, um, who’s [00:17:00] basically- basically says that anyone who’s going through the trouble of reporting something like this deserves to have it investigated.
And as I said before, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that’s happening in Canada. And I really think that, whether it be, you know, the military, perhaps CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service], um, perhaps even a parliamentary committee, uh, someone in Canada needs to be taking a look at these reports to ensure that we don’t have foreign adversaries, um, causing uh near misses with our planes, things like that.
And as to your question, you know, should we be investigating to see if it’s aliens, uh, you know I’m so reluctant to talk about aliens, ’cause I feel like it impacts the credibility of the reporting. I think what we need to just focus on for now is, you know, there’s a national security and flight safety implications. Trained aviators are seeing things they can’t explain. And there’s no evidence that the Canadian government or military takes that [00:18:00] seriously, and that needs to change.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Daniel, thank you for all your reporting on this. Um, it’s fascinating. Appreciate it.
Daniel Otis: Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure chatting today.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Daniel Otis, writing for Vice Canada. That was The Big Story, for more from us, head to thebigstorypodcast.ca. Find us on Twitter at @TheBigStoryFPN. Email us, you can report UFO sightings, we’ll file them, at least to Daniel. We’re at thebigstorypodcast, all one word, all lowercase @rci.rogers.com [click here!]. And as always, we are in whichever podcast player you prefer, Apple, Google, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music Canada, doesn’t matter, check us out.
Stefanie Phillips, Claire Brassard, and Ryan Clarke produce The Big Story. I am Jordan Heath-Rawlings, thank you for listening. Have a great weekend, stay safe. We’ll talk Monday.
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