Thursday, August 28, 2014

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics - UAP study

Hi all,

After posting two recent articles about SIGMA and SIGMA2 of the 3AF, I recalled a parallel story from forty seven years ago. To refresh my memory, I turned to my hard copy of  the book "The UFO Enigma," (1999) by Peter A Sturrock, (click here)  published by Warner Books, New York, (click here for a book review) for the story.


"...I learned that some positive action had been taken by one professional organization: the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) (click here to look at their website) In 1967, the Board of Directors of the AIAA asked two of its technical committees, namely the Atmospheric Environment Committee and the Space and Atmospheric Physics Committee, to form a subcommittee to arrive at an unbiased assessment of the status of the UFO problem.

Its chairman was Dr Joachim P Kuettner, a distinguished atmospheric scientist at the Environmental Research Laboratories of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder. Kuettner also had the distinction of holding some world records as a glider pilot (click here for further information on Kuettner.)

The other members of the subcommittee were Jerold Bidwell (Martin Marietta), Glenn A Cato (TRN Systems), Bernard N Charles (Hughes Aircraft), Murray Dryer (NOAA Environmental Research Laboratories), Howard D Edwards (Georgia Institute of Technology), Paul McCready Jr. (Meteorology Research Inc.). Andrew J Masley (McDonnell Douglas Missile and Space SDystems), Robert Rados (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Donald M Swingle (US Army Electronics Command), and Vernon J Zurich (NOAA Environmental Research Laboratories.)

The question:

The subcommittee addressed the very basic question: Does the UFO problem present a legitimate scientific problem deserving the attention of the scientific and engineering communities? They delved deeply into theoretical and philosophical aspects of the problem and Condon met with the subcommittee more than once.

The subcommittee published its report in 1970 in the widely read aerospace journal Astronautics and Astrophysics (Kuettner, 1970). Unlike the Condon report, this was a committee report, subscribed to by all members of the subcommittee. The subcommittee also arranged for publication of two notable radar-visual cases that had been considered by the Colorado Project. Articles by Gordon D Thayer (who had been a member of the Colorado Project) and by McDonald gave more detailed accounts of the 1956 "Lakenheath" case (Thayer, 1971) and the 1957 "RB-47" case (McDonald, 1971) respectively.

In referring to Condon's "summary of the study", the Kuettner subcommittee stated that "[we] did not find a basis in the report for his prediction that nothing of scientific value will come of further studies." On the contrary, they found that "a phenomenon with such a high ratio of unexplained cases (about 30%) should arouse sufficient scientific curiosity to continue its study."

Subcommittee finding:

It was the opinion of the subcommittee that "the only promising approach [would be] a continuing, moderate-level effort with emphasis on improved data collection by objective means and on high quality scientific analysis." (pp50-51.)

References given in Sturrock:

Kuettner, J P et al. (1970.) "UFO:An Appraisal of the Problem, A Statement by the UFO Subcommittee of the AIAA." Astronautics and Aeronautics, 8, No. 11, pp 49-51.

McDonald, J E (1971.) "UFO Encounter I, Sample Case Selected by the UFO subcommittee of the AIAA, Lakenheath, England: Radar-Visual Case, Aug 13-14, 1956." Astronautics and Aeronautics, 9 No 7, pp 66-70.

Thayer, G D (1971.) "UFO Encounter II, Sample Case Selected by the UFO Subcommittee of the AIAA, Lakenheath, England: Radar-Visual Case, August 13-14, 1956." Astronautics and Aeronautics, 9, No.9, pp.60-70.

Despite an Internet search, I could not locate digital copies of the above three Journal articles. If any blog reader has copies, I would appreciate hearing from you at


  1. Hi
    Not quite the original journal but both the McDonald and Thayer papers can be copied from the ufo
    If you do a Google search on Thayer 1971 UFO encounter II etc they will show up ( pasting the link from my phone has rather defeated me this morning so apologies for the less than precise reference). Haven't found a copy of the Kuettner paper, sorry.

  2. Ps...I probably don't need to mention, but just for anyone else reading this, both the RB-47 and Lakenheath cases have evolved significantly since these papers were written. In terms if RB-47 see, for example, papers by Brad Sparks and, from a sceptical point of view, by Tim Printy, both of which add to the overall picture.

    Lakenheath is far more complicated than it appeared even by 1971...