While hundreds of known encounters between airliners and UFOs are unexplainable, the reason why the majority of these incidents are not made public, and not even reported to authorities in some cases, is rather mundane. UFOs simply are not good for business.
The airline industry operates under enormous financial pressures, and maintaining a balance between passenger and cargo revenues and extremely high operating costs is a difficult task even under normal circumstances. An accident, a shortcoming in maintenance, or misbehavior on the part of an airline’s employees can wreck passenger confidence and drive revenues to competitors.
What has developed is a climate in which the “no harm, no foul” attitude prevails, which government regulatory agencies are obliged to accept as much as possible, because they are operating under their own set of unique pressures. The public demands safety, but not at the expense of higher fares or fewer flights. For the regulators and the airline industry, the formula is very simple: do the least necessary to keep planes full of passengers moving from place to place. As long as the airplanes are not running into each other or falling out of the sky due to poor upkeep or operator error, there is no reason to say anything to scare passengers away. No harm, no foul. The non- or under-reporting of encounters with UFOs is just one small part of this greater problem.
Consider a hypothetical encounter between an airliner and a UFO, one similar to incidents that have been reported over the last half-century: an airliner on a cross-country flight in the U.S. is approached by a unidentified flying object within the “near-miss distance,” which under FAA regulations is five miles horizontally and 500 feet vertically. The object might be another aircraft, a piece of military hardware, an atmospheric phenomenon, or a busload of little gray men from Zeta Reticuli, but neither the pilots of the airliner nor the air traffic controllers on the ground can identify it or make radio contact, so it is officially registered as an “unknown contact.” Since it passed within a regulated distance from the airliner, the pilots and the ground controllers dutifully make the required log entries of the incident, and report it to the FAA.
Even though the incident passed harmlessly, if the FAA strictly followed its investigative procedures the following things would happen: First, the air traffic controller would be temporarily relieved of his duties until investigators had an opportunity to interview him.
Next, the flight crew of the plane, upon reaching their destination, would also be temporarily suspended from duty. They would be interviewed and most likely subjected to drug and alcohol testing, and possibly also psychological screening or further medical tests if the investigators suspected those might be warranted. Their plane would also be temporarily taken out of service and inspected, and the flight data and cockpit voice recordings retrieved. Finally, the passengers would be interviewed to determine if they saw anything that could shed light on the mysterious object or the behavior of their plane or pilots.
It is finally concluded in this case that no harm was done. The object still cannot be identified, but there was no apparent danger to the airliner. The flight controller acted according to procedure, as did the flight crew, and there is no evidence of any of them being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering any other medical or mental problems. The plane’s systems are found to be in good working order. And none of the passengers saw anything, nor can recall any unusual behavior on the part of the flight crew or their aircraft.
So what was accomplished? Absolutely nothing. The airline in the meantime lost money due to having an airplane out of service, and undergoing unscheduled maintenance procedures. The impact on their business was effectively doubled, because a flight crew was also unavailable for service. The affected air traffic control center had to compensate for the unscheduled absence of one of its personnel, increasing the workload on the rest of its staff and potentially increasing the risk of an accident. And none of this takes into account the reactions of the passengers of the affected flight, which can only be speculated upon; in any case, it seems reasonable to presume that not all of them would react favorably, which would result in additional business losses for the airline.
All things considered, it does not require much imagination to see why an encounter with a UFO would go unreported or otherwise be covered up, and the disturbing realization is that the “no harm, no foul” mindset in the airline industry is applied to far more dangerous situations than a UFO encounter. It puts a trusting, unsuspecting traveling public at risk in favor of keeping the wheels of commerce turning.
And in those cases where an incident involves an encounter with a UFO, the unwillingness to openly examine the event does the public a disservice in different ways. UFOs and extraterrestrial visitations are controversial issues which the government has traditionally handled in ways that inflame suspicions, which has marginalized legitimate research into those phenomena. As a result, the public’s attitude on the matter has been affected, with people either viewing it as either a realm of crackpots, or accepting UFOs as real based on questionable evidence and unscientific methods.
Openly investigating UFO encounters with aircraft will not prove or disprove the existence of extraterrestrial life, but it would expose a wealth of data to the light of day, so to speak, that might help solve the mystery one way or another. And just as importantly, it would demonstrate a good-faith effort on the part of the airline industry and the government to ensure public safety, by showing that no anomaly, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to some, will not be examined. The industry would probably cry foul, but how many potential passengers have airlines already lost due to the recurring stories of close calls that were not revealed until long after the fact, or intoxicated pilots at the controls of airliners? How many of those would the industry win back, if only the public was secure in the knowledge that nothing was being overlooked? This may be one time that honesty would be good for business; for an industry that seems to be constantly struggling financially, it does not seem they would have much to lose by trying.