MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In the Chicago Tribune today, this tantalizing headline - “In the sky: a bird, a plane, a UFO?” The report describes a number of workers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport who all say they saw more or less the same unexplainable thing on November 7th - a large, disc shaped object hovering in the sky over an airport gate, then shooting off into the clouds. Jon Hilkevtich wrote the story. He covers transportation for the Tribune and joins us now. Thanks for being with us.
Mr. JON HILKEVTICH (Chicago Tribune): You're welcome.
BLOCK: And Jon, you've talked with six workers at O'Hare. What more did they tell you about what they saw on November 7th?
Mr. HILKEVTICH: Well, it's very interesting because they all tell a very similar story from different vantage points at the airport. And they saw this gray, metallic object just below the cloud layer. And this object was stationary but standing there for some minutes, anywhere from five to 20 minutes, according to different accounts.
BLOCK: And how big was it, did they say?
MR. HILKEVTICH: The estimates are anywhere from six feet in diameter to 24 feet in diameter.
BLOCK: That's a pretty big difference.
MR. HILKEVTICH: That's a big difference. But these were some of the calculations that were made by some of the UFO watching groups based on the witness accounts that were given.
BLOCK: And then they described it very suddenly taking off.
MR. HILKEVTICH: That's one of the weird parts, too. A very thick cloud layer that day. This craft was hovering below it, but that one had streaked away. It burst through the clouds. And unlike an airplane or a helicopter that would just slice through the clouds, this thing created this big donut hole vacuum, indicating a tremendous energy force, as it burst through the clouds and leaving this hole of clear sky that was there for several minutes until the drifting wind pushed the clouds back together.
BLOCK: Now when you were talking to these workers at O'Hare, were they saying, you know, you're going to think I'm crazy, but this is what I saw?
MR. HILKEVTICH: Yeah. One of them, in fact, when he went to his manager, in an e-mail, the manager sent him an e-mail back, said, you know, hey, looks like somebody got a hold of your e-mail account and is pulling a hoax. But this is anything but. I mean that's what impressed me about this. It was all aviation professionals, very credible sources, and they're very serious.
They're not saying that what they saw was, you know, a spaceship from another planet. But it was unidentified it was in restricted airspace, and they were concerned from a safety standpoint that if this was something manmade, they needed to get it out of there because they were having busy flight operations in the early evening hours.
BLOCK: You know, in the course of doing your reporting on this story, you were working along with, in some ways, the UFO reporting center. Did that strike you as odd in some way?
MR. HILKEVTICH: Yeah. I mean they kept wanting me to say, you know, this was a visit from some other world and further proof that, you know, we on this planet are visited regularly by other beings. And, you know, to me, I'm not qualified. I wasn't a witness. What was interesting to me was that United Airlines, after receiving numerous reports, including from high level management officials, decided to deny that they got any such reports. I don't know if they were - feel embarrassment and maybe people would think United Airlines employees are kooks or something by reporting this.
But it's very odd. The FAA at first, too, said they didn't know what I was talking about when I went to them. They had no reports of this. It wasn't I put a Freedom of Information Act request in, and they got back to me saying, well, we're going through the communication tapes from O'Hare Tower, and by golly, there is a lot of chatter here about this UFO, so I am waiting for the full communication tapes on the FOIA request as well as radar data. And we'll see if there's some follow up.
BLOCK: Okay. We'll wait to see what happens. Jon Hilkevtich, thanks very much.
MR. HILKEVTICH: You're welcome.
BLOCK: Jon Hilkevtich covers transportation for the Chicago Tribune.
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