A video uploaded by La Tercera, Chile’s largest daily newspaper, containing several clips of audio communications between pilots and air traffic controllers released by the Chilean government’s Committee for the Study of Aerial Anomalous Phenomena (Spanish acronym CEFAA), was recently picked up by several American and international UFO websites. The material was actually released back in late January 2011 by CEFAA under the Transparency Law and the full audio communications of four UFO cases were posted in CEFAA’s own website shortly thereafter.
I outlined the history and background of CEFAA in the current issue of Open Minds magazine in the article “South American Governments Open New Official UFO Agencies,” which also covers the Uruguayan Air Force project CRIDOVNI and Peru’s OIFAA. A second part covering the recent launching of the Argentinean Air Force commission CEFAE and the official studies undertaken in Brazil and Ecuador will be published in the next issue of Open Minds. It looks like most of South America is currently taking a very proactive official and publicly open effort to tackle UFOs.
The tape from La Tercera is a bit confusing since the cases are not titled or dated, and so I had to figure it out based on my own first-hand knowledge of Chilean ufology. I also contacted by email Gustavo Rodríguez, a retired air traffic controller (ATC) who is CEFAA’s Executive Secretary, to clarify some details. I’ve known Mr. Rodríguez for several years and I interviewed him once at length in the late 1990s during a trip to Santiago.
The video begins with a case known as “Eco Inka” registered in the northern city of Arica back in 1997, which is important because it was one of the incidents that triggered the creation of CEFAA later that year. The CEFAA website gives the following summary of this case: “On April 2, 1997, at 21 hours local time, an aircraft from the Chilean Army was doing a nighttime instrumental test flight in the Chacalluta Airport in Arica. When contacted by the controller, who was receiving several phone calls from the city, the pilot responded that he could see a light to the west that was changing position at high speed.” Here are the relevant excerpts from the audio communication:
TOWER: Sir, from your position, can you observe toward the sector of Chuño Hill an object somewhat different from normal?
AIRCRAFT: I understand, toward the sector of Buitre?
TOWER: Correct, sir.
AIRCRAFT: From my position apparently I am not seeing anything unusual… Now I have an object approximately at 3 o’clock from my position, I estimate a light which is a little bit higher than the last lights of the city [Arica].
TOWER: Received, could you describe the type of light?
AIRCRAFT: Uh…now it disappeared! It looked similar to the yellow lights of the city… now it appeared again, but more forward… it disappeared again…
TOWER: Received, we have received different [phone] calls saying that in that sector there was an Unidentified Flying Object. We want to be alerted of any report.
AIRCRAFT: Look, it was incredible, I hadn’t seen it, but it really changed position very fast, I had the opportunity of seeing it.
The Tobalaba case
Most of the video posted by La Tercera is devoted to a case reported in an airfield in the Santiago suburb of Tobalaba. The video doesn’t provide a date and an article published in the newspaper La Tercera on January 29, 2011, gives a dates of October 1990. However, this is incorrect, according to the email from Gustavo Rodríguez. The CEFAA website gives the following summary of the Tobalaba case:
“In the year of 1978, a round object which reflected the morning sunlight was observed by the personnel of the control tower of the Eulogio Sánchez airfield in Tobalaba. After making circular movements to the east of the airfield, the object landed in the side of the hill located in front of the airfield. In the next minute the unidentified object took off and disappeared at great speed toward the northwest.”
The video utilized a UFO footage which seemed to correspond to what was being described by the pilot and air traffic controller. I was surprised because I was familiar with this case and wasn’t aware that it was supposed to include clear daytime UFO footage, so I checked with Gustavo Rodríguez. He responded that the footage was not part of the CEFAA files and did nor correspond to the 1978 Tobalaba case. It was provided by a friend of a CEFAA advisor from a collection of hundreds of UFO footages from around the world to illustrate the case because it was somewhat similar in terms of terrain and shape of the object. At this time, the man has not been able to find it again so that we don’t know when and where it was taken.
I any case, here are some relevant excerpts of the audio communications of the Tobalaba case:
TOWER: Tobalaba Terminal, I am reporting that we have in front in the direction of the mountains a round craft lit with the sun moving north, in a slow trajectory toward the north.
AIRCRAFT: Correct, can you repeat the information?
TOWER: Affirmative, a round object lit with the sun over Tobalaba with a slow displacement toward the north.
AIRCRAFT: Can you confirm the approximate altitude?
TOWER: I estimate around eight to nine thousand feet.
AIRCRAFT: Correct, received, keep me informed.
TOWER: OK! Now it’s moving toward the south, in a southern direction and making ascending and descending circles… slow, now it’s gaining speed.
TOWER: A glider, I’m afraid it’s not, it’s not an airplane either because it developed very high speeds, at times very slow, it descended and ascended rapidly and now at this moment it’s landing on the side of a small bank of a hill.
This is undoubtedly an important case because of the following factors: it happened in daytime; there were multiple witnesses including qualified air traffic controllers at a Chilean airfield; the object changed trajectory and speed several times; the object landed nearby and then took off very rapidly.
The CEFAA investigations
There was no official UFO investigation in Chile at the time of the Tobalaba case in 1978. Gustavo Rodríguez, in fact, was one of the pioneers who encountered several pilot cases in the course of his long career as an ATC. He began collecting them on his own and by the mid-1980s published two landmark articles in Información Aeronáutica, the official magazine of Chile’s General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC, the equivalent to our FAA), urging ATCs throughout the country to preserve any tape where UFOs were reported. His efforts paid off in 1997 when he was named Executive Secretary of CEFAA, an agency which is under the DGAC, and then regained his position when the committee was reactivated in 2009.
In the January 29 article in the newspaper La Tercera, Rodríguez explained that “we are worried when the phenomenon occurs within our controlled airspace and it manifests very close to an aircraft.” That was the case indeed of the third audio excerpt posted by La Tercera—a near collision case with the Chilean Air Line (LAN) flight 045 at the El Tepual airport in the southern city of Puerto Montt in 1988. We provided excerpts of this tape in a previous article in this website, discussing the release of the book Ufología Aeronáutica by Captain Rodrigo Bravo of the Chilean Army, in which this case was analyzed by the military officer.
Again, we have a fascinating multiple-witness case involving qualified ATC personnel and airline pilots. The pilot of LAN flight 045 almost freaks out in the tape when he says, “listen, I have an airplane, I have a light here in front, right on our flight path!” The controller looks out of the window and can clearly see “a white light coming to the airport from the north,” following it for about 5 minutes. He described it at one point, “I had the impression that this lower part was flat and with a metallic aspect; I estimate that it was circular and with a diameter of about 60 meters.”
Gustavo Rodríguez explained to La Tercera that CEFAA had received 183 cases from civilian and military pilots, of which 12 (6.6%) remained “unidentified” at this time. The majority of the cases (74.8%) are explained in prosaic terms like weather balloons, planets, aircraft and birds. Another 11 cases were catalogued as “stealthy,” a term used by CEFAA for cases when a person takes a photo or video which shows an unexplained object or phenomenon which was not visually observed by the witness and whose origin cannot be explained after scientific analysis.
An example of this “stealthy” category is a photo taken in the reservoir of El Yeso in Cajón del Maipo in the outskirts of Santiago on the afternoon of February 14, 2010. A family took several photos but only one showed a mysterious object, which they didn’t see visually. The case was discovered and analyzed by Eric Martínez of the civilian UFO group CIFAE, who send it to the Committee. The CEFAA report states: “CIFAE suspects that the object could be a reflection since it maintains that the photo in question was taken from inside a vehicle. The photos were sent to NARCAP [Dr. Richard Haines’ group in California which works with CEFAA], which concluded in a long report that it shows a solid object with its own light. Conclusion: Open case, pending.”
We asked Gustavo Rodríguez to send us the list of the 12 unexplained cases, which he did. With the exception of the El Yeso photo, they are all aeronautical cases. Eight took place in 2010, three in 2009 and one in 2003. There is one additional “stealthy” photographic case taken by a pilot in the Tuqui airfield in Ovalle on November 22, 2009. According to CEFAA’s Conclusion, “the result of the analysis done by NARCAP shows that it’s a solid structure shaped like a disc. Conclusion: Open case.” We don’t have the time or space to discuss the twelve cases in detail here, but I want to mention at least one of them, a report by the crew of a B 737-200 airliner, which had taken off from the Cerro Moreno Airport in Antofagasta 26 minutes after midnight on November 14, 2003. Here is the description of the phenomenon provided by the flight commander to CEFAA:
“There were three ultra white spheres, fluorescent and of equal intensity, very intense, placed in a triangular shape with a separation between them of no more than one meter; they were heading over us. My first reaction was to duck toward the floor because I though we were going to crash. I saw absolutely independent spheres flying in an exactly triangular formation. It was a big scare and I don’t have an explanation.”
The co-pilot provided the following testimony to CEFAA: “A few minutes after take-of I observed a dark mass of triangular shape heading toward our aircraft. It approached us rapidly in a collision angle with us and I was able to skip it by making a right turn. When it passed next to us I observed a metallic object with a steely gray color which passed very quickly near the window of the commander of the aircraft. We consulted with the control center if they had any traffic, report of birds or anything of the sort; the response was negative. The fear was major.”
Although the sighting lasted just 2 or 3 seconds, because of the proximity and near collision it made a lasting impression on the crew. The object was not detected on radar. CEFAA’s Conclusion: “Open case, pending.”
The material thus far released by CEFAA is highly interesting, dramatic and worrisome from a point of view of air flight safety. We’ll be able to find out much more about the official investigations in Chile at our next 2012 International UFO Congress in February 21-26 in Fort McDowell since the director of CEFAA, General (Ret.) Ricardo Bermúdez, has officially confirmed that he will be one of the speakers. This is the first time ever that an American UFO conference will count with the participation of an air force general who is the head of an official government UFO project. Needless to say, we are very excited at Open Minds with this important breakthrough.