- They saw it over the skies of Wilmington,
Loveland and Mount Healthy and as far south as Maysville, Ky.
- Lights flashed in a synchronized pattern.
A huge orange fireball disappeared, then reappeared. Smaller objects moved
in a triangular formation. Below, neighborhood dogs barked.
- In Maysville, Jamie Orme noticed the
activity in the sky that night in March 1997. It lasted, he said, no more
than two minutes. "I was astonished at what I saw," Mr. Orme
said at the time. "They were little balls of white light that appeared
and disappeared. Sometimes one, sometimes three or six little white balls
of light in the distance."
- Officials at the Ohio Air National Guard
in Springfield have confirmed that Tristate residents have indeed seen
colorful objects in the sky and may very well see them again.
- But they weren't UFOs.
- Military dog-fight maneuvers over the
skies of Southern Ohio -- which usually go unnoticed -- happen on a regular
basis. The Air National Guard conducts intercept training with F-16 "Falcon"
jets and flares in the skies over the region.
- In military jargon, airspace very near
Cincinnati is called the Buckeye MOA. Though most people have never heard
of this or any other MOA -- shorthand for Military Operating Area -- the
Buckeye MOA is a hotbed of high-altitude pyrotechnics and all-too-real-looking
- The training overhead includes air-to-air
refueling of F-16s by aerial refueling tankers, dog fights and low-altitude
exercises. There are also search-and-rescue exercises.
- In fact, similar war games are scattered
throughout the Tristate. To the west of Greater Cincinnati, pilots drop
bombs on the Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana, where the grounds remain
littered with 1.5 million rounds of unexploded ammunition.
- To the south, Blackhawk helicopters run
low-level exercises over Fort Campbell, Ky., near the Kentucky-Tennessee
border. From Louisville to Fort Knox, Ky., the C-130 "Hercules"
four-engine turboprops -- a transport aircraft -- conduct exercises along
Military Training Routes.
- On some nights, area residents may look
skyward and catch a glimpse of some training missions -- if the skies are
clear. What residents were actually seeing last spring were the F-16s'
afterburners and flares being ejected from the $17.5 million jet fighters.
- The pilots were simulating air-to-air
dog fights. And in actual combat, pilots drop hot, glowing flares during
enemy confrontations to confuse heat-seeking missiles, said Capt. Neal
O'Brian of the Air National Guard in Springfield.
- "They eject the flares and typically
that's what people see," he said, "a streak of flares that at
night burn very bright. It's not uncommon for people all across the country
to mistake the flares for some unidentified flying object.
- "They might see the aircraft or
hear it. More than likely, they will hear it. But the flares take a certain
amount of time to burn and that is what they're seeing in the sky."
- Mystery in sky
- On clear nights, the high-altitude training
missions inside the Buckeye MOA -- a large block of air space over an area
near Cincinnati, Springfield, Columbus and Portsmouth -- startle many Greater
- That was the case in March 1997.
- In Loveland, Ohio, Jake Ashcraft reported
seeing a "main object" and smaller objects in a triangular formation
in the sky. He said the main object was "absolutely huge" and
that many people "had to have seen it."
- Mr. Orme of Maysville, Ky., said what
he saw did not appear to be military maneuvers. "At first, it looked
like an asteroid and fireball, then it slowed down and came to a halt."
- Air National Guard officials said there
is no mystery to the sightings -- the military exercises have been conducted
for decades. The afterburners of a climbing F-16 give an appearance of
- Pilots at the 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield
spend an average of six hours a day flying in the Buckeye MOA, said Capt.
Ann-Maria Coghlin, public affairs officer for the 178th Fighter Wing. They
spend an average of 30 minutes a day training in a low-altitude training
area called the Brush Creek MOA, which is within the larger Buckeye MOA,
- Maj. Brian MacLeod of the 178th Fighter
Wing, recalled the night that area residents got a rare glimpse of the
air-to-air combat and maneuvers.
- "It was kind of a funny night,"
he said. "Most of the calls we got came out of Columbus."
- The jet flares actually burn bright white
when they are ejected from the jets, he said. But when viewed from ground
level and at a distance, the flares appear to flicker and burn orange because
of pollution in the air, Maj. MacLeod said.
- Restricted air space
- Exercises in the Buckeye MOA are conducted
at altitudes above 5,000 feet. Supersonic flight is done at 35,000 feet,
about seven miles above ground, said Maj. MacLeod.
- "We try to be very, very noise-conscious
because people live down there," he said.
- Some civilian pilots -- unaware of these
areas -- have flown their small planes into the training spaces. It is
a dangerous way to get an up-close view. Aeronautical charts warn pilots
of the many restricted training areas throughout the country.
- "MOAs are places typically where
aircrafts practice maneuvers," said Maj. Ken MacNevin of the National
Guard Bureau in Alexandria, Va. "We have special use areas, so that
other aircrafts know to be aware."
- In the United States, there are 388 MOAs,
said William Shumann, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration
in Washington, D.C. There are also much smaller Restricted Areas (RAs)
scattered throughout the region, as well as Military Training Routes (MTRs).
The MTRs "tend to be more like corridors, certain distances above
the ground. They also loop around communities, wildlife refuges and other
sensitive areas," said Maj. MacNevin.
- The restricted areas, such as the nearby
Jefferson Proving Grounds, are used by the military for air-to-ground target
training. Almost all the units in the region routinely deploy to wherever
the Air Force is conducting operations, making it vital that pilots receive
ongoing training, said Maj. MacNevin.
- End of article
- Interesting to note the skew that Hopkins
delivers to the piece, conveniently disregarding viable information conflicting
with the flare theory. Hopkins contacted me three times in March and April
of 1997 regarding this piece, so he was aware of the discrepancies against
the flare theory, yet selectively chose to delete that data.
- Yesterday, I spoke with Hopkins about
the article, which took over one year before appearing in the Cincinnati
Enquirer (recenly troubled by the Chiquita calamity involving reporter
Michael Gallagher), and reporter John Hopkins said that the editors of
The Cincinnati Enquirer simply wanted some "Fourth of July Fluff"
to run in their newspaper, which is why this story was a banner headline
and appeared at all. I also expressed that it was within my rights to complain
that Hopkins had utilized my research for his piece, to which I was given
no reference or attribution.
- I left Hopkins and his editors a letter
to mull over afterward.
- Kenny Young Cincinnati, OH
- UFO Research http://home.fuse.net/task/