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’60 Minutes’ Interview Draws Attention To Illinois UFO Sightings

The Pentagon is finally taking UFOs — or unidentified aerial phenomena — seriously. Do they explain what you’ve seen in the skies over IL?

J. Ryne Danielson's profile picture
J. Ryne Danielson, Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff BadgePosted Tue, May 18, 2021 at 11:29 am CT

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This undated photo taken by Mrs. Paul Trent purports to show an unidentified flying object over McMinnville, Oregon. Each year, residents of Illinois submit reports to the National UFO Reporting Center.
This undated photo taken by Mrs. Paul Trent purports to show an unidentified flying object over McMinnville, Oregon. Each year, residents of Illinois submit reports to the National UFO Reporting Center. (Historia/Shutterstock)

ILLINOIS — Sunday’s report on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” about the U.S. government’s acknowledgement of unidentified aerial phenomena — UAP, or what are commonly known as UFOs — naturally caused a buzz about flashes of light and other phenomena that can’t be explained in the skies over Illinois.

Correspondent Bill Whitaker reported for “60 Minutes” that the Pentagon has walked back decades of public denial about the existence of mysterious sightings in the sky. The director of national intelligence and secretary of defense are to deliver a report ordered by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee next month that could shed more light on what’s out there.

Whitaker interviewed former military pilots and intelligence officials who are increasingly concerned about potential national security threats posed by UFOs in restricted U.S. airspace. A former Navy pilot told the CBS correspondent he saw UFOs that outperformed U.S. military aircraft “every day for at least a couple of years.”

Lue Elizondo, who spent 20 years running military intelligence operations and served in the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or AATIP, told Whitaker there are simple explanations for some of the things people are seeing in the sky, “but there are some that are not.”

“We’re not just simply jumping to a conclusion that’s saying, ‘Oh, that’s a UAP out there.’ We’re going through our due diligence,” Elizondo said. “Is it some sort of new type of cruise missile technology that China has developed? Is it some sort of high-altitude balloon that’s conducting reconnaissance?

“Ultimately, when you have exhausted all those what-ifs, and you’re still left with the fact that this is in our airspace, and it’s real, that’s when it becomes compelling, and that’s when it becomes problematic.”

Read the entire “60 Minutes” interview transcript.

More than 5,500 UFO reports from around the world have been made to the National UFO Reporting Center in the last 15 years. As Elizondo pointed out, some UFO sightings are easily explained, but some inspire a deeper curiosity.

So far in 2021, there have been 17 UFO sightings in Illinois.

For example, someone saw two glowing blue rectangles fly over a Meijer grocery store in St. Charles around 8 p.m. on April 15.

On April 4, “three lit objects [flew] below the cloud line” in Palatine, according to another report. The sighting happened around 10 in the morning and lasted about 10 minutes.

On the evening of March 11, a person in Quincy saw a “small orb of bright light” they said was “moving very fast and seemed to disappear into thin air.”

And shortly before 5 a.m. on Feb. 23, an Illinois resident saw a “triangle of 3 lights moving west in the sky just west of Normal Illinois.” That sighting lasted about 10 minutes.

Those are just a sampling of hundreds of crowd-sourced reports of mysterious sightings in the sky over Illinois dating back to 1947, the same year as the legendary Roswell crash.

Those interviewed by “60 Mintues” included retired Naval Cmdr. David Fravor, who was conducting a training mission off the coast of California in 2004 when he saw an oblong craft flying erratically through his airspace at incredible speed, maneuvering in a way that defies accepted principles of aerodynamics. Fravor didn’t know what to make of it but said it was not like anything he had ever seen in nearly 20 years of flying.

He called it “otherworldly.”

Fravor told Whitaker the wingless, approximately 40-foot-long object was shaped like a Tic Tac and about the size of his F/A-18F fighter jet. It seemed to mimic his plane’s moves.

Fravor said he wanted to get closer to the craft as it continued to gain altitude, but “when it gets right in front of me, it just disappears.”

“So your mind tries to make sense of it,” added Lt. Alex Dietrich, who spoke publicly for the first time in the “60 Minutes” interview about what she had encountered. “I’m gonna categorize this as maybe a helicopter or maybe a drone. And when it disappeared. I mean, it was just —”

Couldn’t get anyone to listen in 2004. Now everyone wants to talk about it. What changed? https://t.co/WVKNZtcYmK
— Alex Anne Dietrich (@DietrichVFA41) May 17, 2021

UFO hunting has been a popular pursuit in the United States since the mid-20th century, when Kenneth Arnold, a businessman piloting a small plane, filed the first well-known report in 1947 of a UFO over Mount Rainier in Washington. Arnold claimed he saw nine high-speed, crescent-shaped objects zooming along at several thousand miles per hour, “like saucers skipping on water.”

Although the objects Arnold claimed to see weren’t saucer-shaped at all, his analogy led to the popularization of the term “flying saucers.” And since then, Americans have been more or less obsessed with the idea that alien life is among us.

It may be easy to scoff at some of the eyewitness accounts on the National UFO Reporting Center, but the idea of intergalactic travel got a boost when information emerged from the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a $22 million, multi-year program that began in 2007 to investigate “unidentified aerial phenomena,” according to reports by The New York Times and Politico.

Former Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid slipped in an earmark for the program into the Pentagon budget. Nevada, of course, is the home of a U.S. Air Force facility known as Area 51, the source of multiple alien conspiracy theories, including claims that interstellar visitors are held there; that the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, crash wasn’t a weather balloon at all but a Soviet aircraft piloted by mutated midgets; and that the 1969 moon landing was filmed by the U.S. government in one of the Area 51 hangars.

The Pentagon program was defunded in 2012. A report released in late 2017 included Fravor’s account of the wingless object, about 40 feet long and shaped like a Tic Tac, which he described to ABC News in 2017 as “not from this world.”

“I’m not crazy, haven’t been drinking,” he said at the time. “It was — after 18 years of flying, I’ve seen pretty much about everything that I can see in that realm, and this was nothing close.”

In the “60 Mintues” interview, former Navy pilot Ryan Graves, whose F/A-18F squadron began seeing UAPs over restricted airspace southeast of Virginia Beach in 2014, told Whitaker that pilots speculate on whether the UAPs are the result of secret U.S. technology, an adversary’s spy vehicle or something else.

Of those, he said, “the highest probability is it’s a threat observation program,” possibly using Russian or Chinese technology.

“I am worried, frankly,” he said. “You know, if these were tactical jets from another country that were hanging out up there, it would be a massive issue. But because it looks slightly different, we’re not willing to actually look at the problem in the face. We’re happy to just ignore the fact that these are out there, watching us every day.”

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